Last lap incident dashes McDowell's victory ambitions at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. September 22, 2002. Monterey, CA. --The official results will show that Michael McDowell finished ninth in the Star Mazda Series North American Championship race...
Last lap incident dashes McDowell's victory ambitions at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
September 22, 2002. Monterey, CA. --The official results will show that Michael McDowell finished ninth in the Star Mazda Series North American Championship race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, however those results only tell a small portion of the story. Returning to the series for only the second time this season, this time with Star Race Cars, McDowell continue to show his driving potential, setting fast lap in the race and challenging for the victory on the final lap, before contact in the second to last corner scuttled his victory hopes.
"Despite the tough finish this was a tremendous weekend," McDowell said afterwards. "You're always nervous when driving for a new team but my engineer Sean Mellick and I had instant chemistry, and every session we were able to fine tune my MMI Karting, Western Titanium, Mega Metals Star Mazda just a little bit more until we were the fastest car on the track."
Fresh from the karting ranks, the seventeen-year-old McDowell has quickly come to grips piloting full sized open wheel cars and entered the weekend with the goal of climbing the podium, as he had done in his only previous Star Mazda race at Sears Point earlier in the season. His goal was within his grasp. After qualifying third overall McDowell maneuvered around several on track incidents during the twenty-four lap affair to battle for the win in a two-lap shootout to the checkered flag with Justin Pruskowski.
"Coming up to the white flag Pruskowski had a five or six car length lead and I knew I had to 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 but I kept my foot down and did a complete 360, unfortunately by the time I got back onto the track a whole swarm of cars had gone past."
Despite having his hopes of victory dashed right at the end of the race, McDowell remained upbeat about the weekend, and the support he received from Star Race Cars. "When the opportunity to drive for the factory Star Mazda team presented itself I jumped at the chance," McDowell said, adding "and I want to thank the Rodrigues family and everybody at Star Race Cars for their support. In addition I want to thank all my sponsors, Western Titanium, Mega Metals, Jim Russell Racing School, Sparco, No Fear and especially MMI Karting, without their support I wouldn't be where I am today."
The Star Mazda Series is a featured support series at American Le Mans Series events in the United States and Canada with all nine rounds televised nationally on Speed Channel. For more information about the series please visit www.starmazda.com.