Michael Potekhen captures second win of year at Portland July 22, 2006. Portland, Oregon. Michael Potekhen, of Tempe, Arizona, narrowly avoided a first corner incident to drive on to victory in Round Seven of the Star Mazda Championship...
Michael Potekhen captures second win of year at Portland
July 22, 2006. Portland, Oregon. Michael Potekhen, of Tempe, Arizona, narrowly avoided a first corner incident to drive on to victory in Round Seven of the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear at Portland International Raceway. Driving the #53 Apex Racing Avenue Communities Mazda, Potekhen led every lap to beat Kevin Lacroix in his #74 John Walko Racing Uni-Select Auto Parts Mazda to the stripe by 2.289 seconds to earn his second victory of the season. Hometown hero Ryan Justice would complete the podium in his #38 Northwest Autosport J&M Body Shops Mazda.
"After the disappointment of last weekend and the early exit from that race it feels great to come back and win this weekend," a jubilant Potekhen expressed afterwards. "All the credit has to go to the team for giving me a great car. I was able to go out there and build a little gap and just manage my tires throughout the race to stay out in front for my second win. With this being a brand-new team early in the season we were a little behind the curve but now we have really hit our stride as the crew continue to learn things each weekend."
For the third consecutive weekend trouble struck on the opening lap as pole-sitter Adrian Carrio spun as the field of thirty-two cars entered the first turn at the start of the race, in the ensuing melee Carrio and seven other drivers had their races cut short. "Coming into the first corner on the start I got pinched down by Potekhen and I clipped the apex curbing trying to avoid contact and spun as a result," Carrio, the championship points leader entering the weekend, explained. "It was a disappointing way for the race to end after all the work my team had done to give me a pole winning and a car I'm sure was capable of winning the race."
While others were getting collected in the incident both Lacroix, who started in third place, and Justice, who lined up fifth on the grid, were able to slip through the chaos and continue the pursuit of the checkered flag. As laps clicked off Potekhen was able to open up a gap ont he duo as they battled for second place with Lacroix just holding off a hard-charging Justice to the finish line for his best finish of the season. "I'm very glad that there wasn't another lap because at that point Ryan was very fast and I was very slow," the seventeen-year old French-Canadian driver admitted. "This was another difficult race for some people and I managed to have my best finish of the season so I will leave here happy as we head to Trois-Rivieres in Quebec."
Lacroix may be looking forward to heading closer to home but Justice was relieved to finish on the podium in his hometown race. "We always have a big crowd out here for this race and I don't know if I put pressure on myself in the past but for some reason I've never been able to have a solid finish so I am very happy to deliver a podium finish today," Justice said. "I came in with a different approach this year and before the race didn't speak to many people so I'm looking forward to visiting with all our sponsors, friends and family. The start of the race was pretty crazy but I was able to follow Kevin through the first corner and avoid any contact and after that spent the race battling with Kevin for second place."
Despite getting knocked out of the race on the opening lap Carrio continues to lead the championship with 251 points overall. Potekhen was able to climb back into second place in the championship with 236 points as he becomes the second driver besides Carrio to win multiple races this season. Though he missed the opening round at Sebring International Raceway, Lacroix jumps into third place with 218 points after scoring his fourth podium finish in six races.
In the Expert Championship, for drivers aged 30-44, Gerardo Bonilla, of Orlando Florida, captured his fifth class victory in his #9 Andersen Racing Team NVG Residential Mazda, finishing sixth overall to stretch his championship points lead with 122 points. Brian Thienes, who was caught up in the first lap incident in #77 JDC Motorsports Thienes Engineering Mazda remains in second place in the championship with 94 points. Dan Tomlin III sits in third place in his #56 Team Tomlin Mazda with 82 points.
In the Masters Championship, for drivers aged 45 and older, Jay Poscente, of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, captured his first class victory of the season in the #85 AIM Autosport NDA Mazda, finishing twelfth overall. John Faulker, who finished second in class in his #93 Phenom Racing Group Molecule Mazda, climbs into the championship points lead with 97 points while John Pew, in the #15 Velocity Motorsports NVG Residential Mazda drops to second with 95 points. Ken Losch, teammate to race-winner Michael Potekhen, would finish third in class in his #52 Apex Racing Avenue Communities Mazda to jump up into third in class with 94 points.
In the Team Championship John Walko Racing takes a one-point lead over World Speed Motorsports with 130 points to World Speed Motorsports' 129 points. AIM Autosport holds down third place in the team championship with 117 points.
Five races remain in the 2006 championship as the series now travels back into Canada in two weeks time as the series becomes the featured event at the Grand Prix of Trois-Rivieres for Round Eight of the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear on August 4-6. Round Seven from Portland is scheduled to air at 1:00 PM Eastern Time on Saturday, August 5th. For more information please visit www.starmazda.com