Cosmo conquers Mid-Ohio, becomes first repeat winner of season. June 29, 2002. Lexington, Ohio. In his eight previous starts at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, covering a range of vehicles, Guy Cosmo had come up victorious six of those times....
Cosmo conquers Mid-Ohio, becomes first repeat winner of season.
June 29, 2002. Lexington, Ohio. In his eight previous starts at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, covering a range of vehicles, Guy Cosmo had come up victorious six of those times. So when he saw that the Star Mazda Series North American Championship would take to the famed 2.2 mile road course for the first time he set his sights on victory number seven. With a good luck kiss from the Hawaiian Tropic girls emblazoned on his helmet, Cosmo accomplished that task in commanding fashion, starting from pole and leading all twenty-five laps to become the first repeat winner of the season.
"What an incredible track and an incredible weekend," Cosmo exclaimed after the race. "I had been looking forward to this race as soon as I saw the calendar and the Racers Edge Motorsports crew set up my KC-Baggers Mazda perfectly. Once I took to the track in qualifying I knew we had a winning setup, and the car didn't change the entire race, it was flawless."
Even with the apparent ease that he could pull away from the rest of the field during the start, and two subsequent restarts, Cosmo admitted that he did have some anxious moments over the course of the race, particularly when the full course caution flags flew on lap eleven and again on lap fifteen. "While I knew our car was good," Cosmo explained, "I was nervous when the caution flags came out because I knew there were some fast cars moving through the field behind me and a driver never likes to lose the gap he built up."
A serious threat never emerged though as Cosmo rolled off blistering laps on the restarts, quickly re-establishing space between him and the rest of the field. Behind him however an intense battle was raging between the rest of the competitors running in the top ten.
Leading the charge in second place for most of the event was Tim Jennings, in his Team Jennings Mazda, who had made a strong move up into second place on the opening lap from his fourth place starting position. As the race developed though he started to fight a loose condition as his tires went away, and minor contact late in the race with Scott Speed opened the door for Justin Pruskowski to jump into the second spot in the closing laps. Jennings explains the early part of his race, "I was able to jump into second quickly as Moses Smith and Jamie Bach were working on each other at the start and get a bit of gap from them and started to focus on Cosmo when the first caution came out and they were right back behind me."
Jennings was able to hold onto his position at the restart, once Tom Nastasi's MacTank Mazda was moved into a safe area after a battery cable had failed, cutting power to his car and forcing him to pull off the track. The green flag laps wouldn't last long this time though as Pikes Peak winner Smith, battling a loose condition of his own, lost control while trying to hold down the fourth place spot and became mired in a gravel trap in the Keyhole. "We had been battling with oversteer all weekend and I got caught trying to push it a bit too hard," Smith explained afterwards.
With Smith, who started the event second in the championship, out of the race, it was now championship leader Speed's turn to challenge Jennings for the second spot on track, and as they raced down the front straight in the closing laps they bumped nose to tail, slowing their momentum and damaging the nose of Speed's Star Race Cars sponsored machine. "I had been pushing him for a couple of laps hoping to force him into a mistake as I could see that his car was loose and as I was we came down towards turn one I was right up on his gearbox when it seemed like he missed a shift and we hit," Speed explained of his encounter. "We were both able to keep our cars under control but it definitely slowed us down."
Lurking in fourth was Justin Pruskowski in his Quantum Autosports Mazda. The son of a new father-son team in the series, Pruskowski seized the opportunity to make a highlight reel pass of both Jennings and Speed as the cars came through the Keyhole and onto the back straight. "Coming into the Keyhole I saw them both set up towards the left and there was an opening on the inside so I dove to the inside and was able to make the pass stick," Pruskowski elaborated.
Jennings admitted a bit of surprise that the pass came through, adding, "I saw him at the last second otherwise we would've both been out of the race, but we gave each other room to race and he just had the advantage at that point."With all the jostling for position the battle for second briefly became a seven car battle as they raced down the backstraight two and three wide before settling into single file for the tricky right-left-right combination, with Pruskowski coming out in second, Speed emerging in third, and Bach, Jennings and Paul Dallenbach all looking to take fourth. "I was happy to be running as well as I was in my first pro weekend," Bach commented later. "We were racing hard but we respected each other and were giving each other room to race. Finishing in the top five here against these drivers was great."
While Pruskowski might get credit for the most exciting pass of the event Doug Peterson in his 3-Dimensional Services Mazda gets credit for making the most passes during the event. After having to start from the back of the 31 car for field, relinquishing his second fastest qualifying time for a technical infraction, Peterson blazed his way through the field to finish ninth overall, directly behind fellow Master's Championship competitor Joe Pruskowski. "Obviously I was disappointed to have to start from the back of the field," Peterson explained. "However I knew I had a strong car and just had to focus on moving up. I was able to gain spots quickly and those cautions helped bunch the field again and allow me to work my way back up into the top ten."
In the thick of the battle with an in-car camera recording all the action, Dallenbach was able to claim sole position on the top of the Expert Series leaderboard over Rob Walker with a solid sixth place finish in his Eurosport Racing Mazda.
With Round Four of the Star Mazda Series North American Championship in the book, Speed holds onto a four point lead over Cosmo as the teams travel to Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, in the Series' first visit to Road America July 4-6, 2002.