Hearn Motorsports Returns to Top-Five at PPIR Oval FOUNTAIN, Col., July 8, 2005 -- Hearn Motorsports made its way back into the top-five in a Star Mazda Series North American Championship event at Pike Peak International Raceway (PPIR) in ...
Hearn Motorsports Returns to Top-Five at PPIR Oval
FOUNTAIN, Col., July 8, 2005 -- Hearn Motorsports made its way back into the top-five in a Star Mazda Series North American Championship event at Pike Peak International Raceway (PPIR) in convincing style. Again showing the prowess of the organization itself, the team overcame what could have been a devastating last minute change to score its third top-five finish of the five race-old season. The PPIR oval's Rocky Mountain Classic played host to the only oval appearance of the open wheel, formula car series and one of the most impressive runs the series has seen to date. Michael Potekhen (Silverthorne, Col.) was a last minute replacement for Hearn-regular Brian Thienes (Huntington Beach, Calif.) in the No. 77 Thienes Engineering/ Hearn Motorsports Mazda and made the most of it. Starting last in the 29-car field, Potekhen charged to the front finishing only a second behind the winner when the checkered flag flew on the 75th lap of the one-mile oval.
Potekhen's impressive run came after Thienes had qualified a career-best second for the event. However, a minor rules violation immediately following Thienes' qualifying run disqualified the third-year Star Mazda driver and relegated him to the back of the field. After being directed to the garage area by a Series official rather than to the post-qualifying technical inspection, Thienes returned to the team's transporter following his qualifying laps. Because he was to have gone directly to inspection, his qualifying times were disallowed forcing the Thienes Engineering entry to start from the back of the field. A disagreement over whether the "punishment fit the crime" ensued and a final decision drug out over the next 24 hours. In the end, due to the disagreement and not the original infraction, Thienes was not allowed to compete in the event as a driver. However, the No. 77- which passed every phase of the inspection- was allowed to start at the back of the field. Hearn and Thienes agreed to allow Potekhen to run the car.
Potekhen and the Hearn team put on an overwhelming display, slicing through the field in the short event. As the Hearn entry entered the top-five for the first time, a yellow flag waved late in the going. To the disappointment of Potekhen's home state crowd, when the green flag flew with only three-miles left in the race, he was not able to claw his way into the top-three. Despite knowing they had one of the quickest cars on the track, the Darrel Soppe (Phoenix, Ariz.) engineered team hoped only to make the finish before the race started. When one considers that the agreement for Potekhen to race was reached three hours before the drop of the green flag, he had few practice laps leading into the race and had not driven a Star Mazda since the season-ending race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in October of last year, a top-five was an unexpected reward for a hard weekend.
Hearn Motorsports will next race in the Star Mazda North American championship presented by Goodyear at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif. on July 16 and 17th.
Richie Hearn, owner:
"If we had just finished that race after everything that happened, I would have been happy. To come out of here with another top-five is kind of surprising to be honest. Michael really ran a good race. He was the only guy that was passing anyone all race long. I am disappointed for Brian because he really was running well in qualifying and practice. That was his best chance so far in his career to start up front and race with the front pack. I am really pleased with the team's performance though. Everyone worked very hard and never let down. We had the truck packed and were ready to go home before the decision to have Potekhen run the car. As soon as we decided to race, the team stepped right back up to the job at hand."
Michael Potekhen, driver:
"The Hearn Motorsports car was incredible today and was definitely capable of winning. It's been about six months since I've raced anything and I only had a few laps yesterday to shake off the dust. But, having the car this good really helped me back into the flow. I have to thank Richie Hearn and Brian Thienes for putting me in the car. If it weren't for the caution flag at the end, we could've made the podium."