Moses Smith awarded victory at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Sunday, September 22, 2002. Monterey, CA. Moses Smith captured the Star Mazda Series Western Championship and will take the Star Mazda Series North American Championship points battle...
Moses Smith awarded victory at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
Sunday, September 22, 2002. Monterey, CA. Moses Smith captured the Star Mazda Series Western Championship and will take the Star Mazda Series North American Championship points battle down to the season finale at Road Atlanta after he was awarded the victory at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca when Justin Pruskowski's car failed a post-race technical inspection.
"We're in the thick of the North American Championship battle right now with Guy Cosmo and those extra four points for first place will definitely help," Smith said afterwards. " It's unfortunate that it happened this way and I feel bad for Justin Pruskowski because he drove a tremendous race. My sponsors, HASA Pool Products, held their shareholder meeting here this weekend and it feels good to give them a victory."
Returning to Star Mazda Series competition after a stint racing Porsche Cup cars in Germany proved to be rewarding for Pierre Ehret, as he scored a career best finish in Star Mazda competition with second place in his Team Bucknum/Flamingo Resort Mazda, while Tim Jennings brought his Jennings Motorsports Mazda home third overall. "I came into this weekend relaxed and every session I was getting better," Ehret said, of his race weekend. "At the start I was just looking to stay in the race and managed to avoid the incidents out there with a bit of racing luck."
Championship points leader Guy Cosmo entered the weekend at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca looking to lock up the championship with a strong run but found himself faced with an uphill struggle when his qualifying time, which would've placed him alongside Smith on the front row of the grid, was disallowed for a technical infraction. "We decided to go with new rubber for the race as we had nothing to lose starting from the back of the field, and when the green flag fell for the race I was still up in turn eight," Cosmo commented. "The Racers Edge Motorsports crew gave me a car that had the legs on anybody, but I was worried that I wasn't going to get a chance to move up with all the caution flags today."
Described by Cosmo as a game of dodge ball, the 24 lap event had three separate full-course caution periods for on track incidents. Contact between Joe Pruskowski and Bret Arsenault in turn two on the opening lap brought out the first caution of the day as the elder Pruskowski's campaign for the Masters Championship points lead were ended early with rear suspension damage.
Trouble reared it's head again on lap five when 2002 Star Mazda Series Western Championship Rookie of the Year Matt Kurdock impacted the tires in turn six. "Coming up into turn six it looked like somebody brake checked Dan Tomlin and he went into the gravel," Kurdock explained, "then I got pushed into the inside wall."
Luis Schiavo would lead the field to the restart on lap ten in his Rotelli Pasta/Racers Edge Motorsports Mazda, ahead of Smith and rookie sensation Michael McDowell, in his MMI Karting/Western Titanium/Mega Metals Star Race Car Mazda. His lead would be short-lived however when contact in the corkscrew with Smith knocked Schiavo out of contention.
With Smith's front wing damaged in the encounter, Justin Pruskowski was able to jump into the lead and open up a gap on the field. McDowell finally worked his way around Smith and was starting to close the distance on Pruskowski when the final caution flag of the day fell for Masters Championship points leader Scott Kusy's damaged Troon Golf/R-Sport Mazda. "John Mefford and I were racing pretty hard and as he pulled back in line behind me his front wing cut one of my tires," Kusy stated, "by turn three I was riding on the rim. It's just one of those unfortunate racing deals."
With the 45 minute time limit fast approaching, cleanup from the Kusy incident would lead to a wild two lap shootout to the checkered flag between Justin Pruskowski and McDowell. "Coming up to the white flag Pruskowski had a five or six car length lead and I knew I had push hard to catch him, he took a defensive line through the corkscrew and I was able to pull alongside through turn nine," McDowell said. "I was about half a car length ahead coming into ten but neither one of us was willing to lift and we made contact. We went into the gravel and I kept my foot down, did a complete 360, but by the time I got back onto the track a whole swarm of cars had gone past."
Pruskowski's comments echoed those of McDowell on his wild ride to the finish line in his Quantum Autosports Mazda. "When McDowell pulled alongside I was just praying that nothing would happen, but unfortunately we touched," Pruskowski commented. "All I could see was dust and dirt, but I was determined to make it to the finish, kept my foot in it, and when all the dust cleared I was pointed towards the last corner."
With the victory, Smith narrows Cosmo's points lead down to seventeen points as the Star Mazda Series North American Championship heads to Road Atlanta for the season finale as part of the Petit LeMans weekend on October 11. The Masters Championship is still wide open as Kusy holds on to a slight lead over Joe Pruskowski and Doug Peterson, who missed this round of the championship as he was competing in the SCCA Runoffs at Mid Ohio, where he finished second behind Jamie Bach.
In Western Series competition, Smith is crowned the series champion followed by Mike Anderson and Matt Kurdock, with Kurdock claiming Rookie-of-the-Year honors, while Larry Couture captured the Western Series Masters Championship.