Laguna Seca race report

Moses Smith triumphant at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca September 7, 2003. Monterey, CA. Moses Smith spent most of the practice sessions working on a fast race setup for his Team Tomlin Star Mazda, letting others fight for the pole position, and the...

Moses Smith triumphant at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca

September 7, 2003. Monterey, CA. Moses Smith spent most of the practice sessions working on a fast race setup for his Team Tomlin Star Mazda, letting others fight for the pole position, and the tactic paid dividends on Sunday as he captured Round Eight of the Star Mazda Series North American Championship at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca ahead of Michael McDowell and Jamie Bach.

"We came into this weekend focused on raceway and the 44 points available to the winner, rather than the single point given to the pole sitter," Smith explained. "Managing the tires over the course of a race is so important and we knew that our setup would allow us to post consistently fast times throughout the race, provided that we made it through the first corners without any trouble."

Smith got the start he was looking for, moving into second at the start as the cars raced to turn two before falling back to third as he avoided a spinning Luis Schiavo, who looped his machine at the apex of the corner as he fought to hold onto first place. "I was able to get a good run at the start and looked inside on Schiavo as we came down the hill and he moved into the dirty area of the track to defend," Smith said. "I checked up a bit when he started to spin and lost a spot but knew we had a lot of laps to work our way to the front."

Benefiting the most from the start was Michael Potekhen, who was able to move his Eurosport Racing Mazda up from fifth and into the lead by turn three on the opening lap. Potekhen looked to have the upper hand as he held onto the lead for the first half of the race, but brake problems would slow his pace, and while fighting to bring the car home on the podium a caliper failure would force him off in the corkscrew. "We're disappointed because the car was working so well early in the race and the Eurosport Racing crew gave me a car with a race winning setup," Potekhen stated. "I was just trying to hold on when the caliper failed five laps from the finish."

With Potekhen sidelined, the focus turned to Smith and McDowell, currently third and second in the points battle, as they fought their way to the finish, hoping to maximize the opportunity created by Schiavo's spin. Despite making several determined efforts, McDowell was unable to get around Smith, but was pleased to finish second and pull within one point of Schiavo. "Moses was quick out there today and I did all I could but in the end it came down to scoring points and keeping the pressure on Schiavo," McDowell reasoned. "The Star Race Cars team gave me a great car and I have to thank them and sponsors like MMI Karting, Western Titanium, Mega Metals, Sparco and HDT for keeping me in the championship hunt."

Making a strong run late in the season, and appearing on the podium for the second consecutive race was series rookie Jamie Bach in the BK Motorsports Mazda. Despite struggling in the early stages of the weekend, Bach came on with a vengeance to qualify on the front row and carry his car home third. "We lost a few positions on the start when Luis spun but the BK Motorsports car was working well and I was able to hold off Schiavo for the final podium spot."

The busiest driver on the track had to be Schiavo. After the spin in turn two dropped him down to the seventeenth position, Schiavo had another scare on the opening lap when his teammate, John Faulkner, spun ahead of him in turn ten, collecting Bob Negron, and just missing his Racers Edge Motorsports Colors 99.5 Energyfreign.com Mazda. "I made a mistake going into turn two and was relieved when I was able to drive away without any damage and then my heart stopped for a second when John spun in front of me," the Caracas, Venezuela native explained, "I slowed and pulled to the right and he slid left and I escaped for a second time."

With new life, a determined Schiavo focused on getting back to the front. By lap eight he had worked his way into the ninth position, and he stood sixth just past the halfway point. As the laps wound down though the cars ahead became more difficult to pass and he had to settle for fourth place just ahead of Kyle Kelley, who put in an impressive performance in only his third North American Championship event.

The 24-lap event was slowed by two caution periods, the first lasting from lap two through five to remove the stricken machines of Faulkner and Simon Enrich, who was damaged in an unrelated incident in the corkscrew, and the second coming on laps fourteen and fifteen when Phil Fogg Sr made contact with the inside wall in turn six.

The Red Line Oil Championship, for west coast drivers, held it's final event of the season in conjunction with today's North American Championship. Scored separately from the North American Championship, Kyle Kelley had the highest finish and would claim first place points ahead of John Green and Brian Thienes. Mike Anderson, driving the DARE/HASA Pool Products Mazda, claimed the championship, making it the third consecutive time a HASA Pool products driver has claimed the West Coast Championship.

With one race remaining in the 2003 Star Mazda Series North American Championship, Luis Schiavo holds a one-point lead over Michael McDowell, 304 to 303 respectively, while Smith lurks in third place with 279 points. The season will wrap up on October 17th at Road Atlanta.

-www.starmazda.com.

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Series Pro Mazda
Drivers John Faulkner , Michael McDowell , Moses Smith , Kyle Kelley , Michael Potekhen , Luis Schiavo , Brian Thienes , Phil Fogg