Two AWR Drivers End Up in the Top Four In Star Mazda Action at Road America ELKHART LAKE, Wis., Aug. 20 -- Andersen Walko Racing's Robbie Pecorari made a terrific move around point leader Raphael Matos for second place with three laps to go in...
Two AWR Drivers End Up in the Top Four In Star Mazda Action at Road America
ELKHART LAKE, Wis., Aug. 20 -- Andersen Walko Racing's Robbie Pecorari made a terrific move around point leader Raphael Matos for second place with three laps to go in Saturday's Star Mazda race at Road America. He tried to get around James Hinchcliffe at the very end too but the Aston, Pa.-based driver finished second in the crash-marred race with his SAI Hydraulics No. 23.
AWR's Mike Andersen of Green Pond, N.J. just missed a podium position even though he was only competing in his second pro Star Mazda race of the year. He ended up fourth behind Hinchcliffe, Pecorari and Matos in the Andersen Interior Contracting No. 15.
At 4.048 miles Road America is the longest race track that the Star Mazda series competes on, but space still ran out for many different drivers throughout the event. Unfortunately that was the case for the other three AWR drivers -- Graham Rahal of New Albany, Ohio; Pablo Donoso of Santiago, Chile and Jonathan Klein of Long Grove, Ill. -- who were all involved in an eight-car crash in the first turn on the first lap of the 34-car race. Luckily no one was hurt but plenty of drivers were frustrated afterwards and plenty of mechanics will be very busy making repairs before the next race. Donoso's Cristal Beer No. 22 became airborne in the crash, and Rahal's No. 12, which is sponsored by The Bobby Rahal Automotive Group, Bosch, Renier Construction and Norwalk Furniture, was hit in the rear and then T-boned.
In addition to Rahal, Donoso and Klein, other drivers who ended up in the gravel trap in that one included Ryan Justice, Brad Jaeger, Brandon Thomas, Adrian Carrio and Marco Andretti.
Klein and Andretti were able to restart, only to crash again in turn six on the second restart on lap four. Klein's No. 26, which is sponsored by Nexus Distribution Corp., Midwest Steel & Services, Ironclad Performance Wear and ProStar, received extensive damage but protected its driver well.
Klein's official finishing position was 29th; Rahal's was 31st and Donoso's was 32nd.
Right before the second accident Hinchcliffe passed Matos for the lead on that restart, and he was never again headed. Pecorari qualified second but he had slipped to third behind polesitter Matos and Hinchcliffe on the initial start.
Hinchcliffe, Matos and Pecorari ran nose-to-tail for many laps before Pecorari charged by Matos for second on lap 12 of what was originally scheduled to be a 20-lap race but ended up being a timed event of 45 minutes or 15 laps. Even as it was, almost half of those 15 laps were run under yellow.
Andersen started fifth and moved into fourth at the start, oblivious to the carnage that was occurring behind him. Ross Smith passed him on lap six to push him to fifth, but then Smith was involved in another wreck four laps later to move Andersen back up to fourth, which is where he finished.
Pecorari was only 0.374 of a second behind Hinchcliffe at the end of the race, which was presented by Goodyear and supported the Generac 500 American Le Mans Series headliner on Sunday. He set the third-fastest lap of the race. All three were done in last-ditch efforts at the very end.
The next Star Mazda race will be at Mosport International Raceway in Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada Sept. 1-3, followed by Road Atlanta Sept. 28-30 (part of the Petit Le Mans) and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif. Oct. 13-15.
Unofficially Matos still leads the point standings with 347 points. A driver can earn 45 points at each event. Pecorari and Hinchcliffe are now tied for second with 318. Rahal is still fourth with 259. Andretti is fifth with 241 and Donoso is sixth with 238. Klein is 11th with 193. Andersen isn't counting points because he is only doing two of the 12 races this year.
Star Mazda events are broadcast on a tape-delayed basis on SPEED. The second half of the Infineon doubleheader is slated to air at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 27. Rahal's victory at Portland will be shown at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 18. Saturday's race at Road America is scheduled to be shown at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 2. All times are Eastern.
Andersen Walko Racing is one of the premier formula car teams in North America. Its offices are located in Fairfield, N.J. and its shop is in North Versailles, Pa. For more information please see andersenwalko.com, starmazda.com, americanlemans.com, speedtv.com and restartcommunications.com or call (973) 244-1900. The drivers' Web sites are located at grahamrahal.com, robbie pecorari.com, pablodonoso.com and jonathankleinracing.com.
Robbie Pecorari: "In the first turn on the first lap I felt a little bump from behind, but that was it. I passed [Raphael] Matos on the outside of turn five. At the end I tried [James] Hinchcliffe in Canada corner, but I couldn't get him.
"I think the yellows hurt me. The car was getting better and better as the race went on."
"The wind didn't affect anything, and the tires were fine. Everything felt good. It was good, close racing."
Mike Andersen: "Robbie [Pecorari] passed me going into five on the first lap, and then I looked around and there was nobody there. I had no idea they all crashed until I came around and saw them all in the gravel."
"Our car was a little loose. I think the rear tires are shot. We probably used them up in qualifying. They never really seemed to come in."
"I had an incident too. Ross Smith had passed me on the first restart. Then on the second restart he spun and almost backed into me in turn one, but he missed me."
"The track was a little dirty, but not too bad."
Jonathan Klein: "On the first lap I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. I had to go off to avoid hitting Graham [Rahal]. They pulled me out of the gravel last, even though I was one of the cars that could continue, and we went two laps down."
"Then on the second restart, Marco [Andretti] and I crashed in turn six. He moved me over and then he hit me. He was being overly defensive."
Graham Rahal: "I never like to point fingers, but as a driver you have to always watch the person in front of you at the start so that you don't hit him. That didn't happen. I got hit in the rear and another driver was punted into me. I'm the one that got taken out, so I'm really, really disappointed."
"I was quickest all the time here in the afternoon; the other day I was quickest by nearly a second in the afternoon. We had no problems at all with running in the afternoon, and I think we could have won this one. But as it turned out we got taken out, and it really hurts our chances for the championship."
Pablo Donoso: "I can't tell you anything because I haven't seen the tape. I was in the middle of three cars running side by side. I touched the grass, and somebody hit me in the rear. I flew up in the air and into the gravel. If I hadn't braked, I was going to hit the car in front of me."