Road Atlanta II: AWR Friday race notes

AWR's Pecorari and Rahal Totally Dominate Friday's Star Mazda Race At Road Atlanta BRASELTON, Ga., Sept. 30 - Andersen Walko Racing's Robbie Pecorari of Aston, Pa. led all 30 laps of Friday's Star Mazda race at Road Atlanta while one of his ...

AWR's Pecorari and Rahal Totally Dominate Friday's Star Mazda Race At Road Atlanta

BRASELTON, Ga., Sept. 30 - Andersen Walko Racing's Robbie Pecorari of Aston, Pa. led all 30 laps of Friday's Star Mazda race at Road Atlanta while one of his teammates, Graham Rahal of New Albany, Ohio, ran in second place the whole way to give the team its second one-two finish of the season in this very demanding series, which is presented by Goodyear.

What's more, half of the top eight cars were prepared by Andersen Walko Racing, as Pablo Donoso of Santiago, Chile finished seventh and Jonathan Klein of Long Grove, Ill. placed eighth in the 29-car field.

To say that Pecorari dominated is putting it mildly. Besides leading every lap after winning the pole, the 18-year-old sensation had more than a 10-second lead over his 16-year-old teammate two-thirds of the way through the 45-minute race.

Rahal also did a tremendous job, as he successfully withstood a hard charge from the point leader, Raphael Matos, for the last third of the race.

At the end Pecorari's SAI Hydraulics No. 23 took the checkered flag 5.244 seconds before Rahal crossed the finish line in his No. 12, which is sponsored by the Bobby Rahal Automotive Group, Bosch, Norwalk Furniture and Renier Construction. Matos finished third.

It was the second victory of the season for Pecorari, although he also got first-place points at Mosport since the winner of that race wasn't entered in the championship. Rahal, who became the youngest winner in the history of the series when he was victorious at Portland, finished second when Pecorari won at Pikes Peak too.

Although Pecorari and Rahal had things well in hand at the front of the field, their other two teammates had a bit more eventful races. Donoso was as high as fifth and he had a fierce fight with several different drivers, including Matos. His Cristal Beer car developed an understeer, however, which pushed him to seventh at the end.

Klein had his hands full too. Early in the race a suspension piece broke on his car, which is sponsored by Nexus Distribution Corp., Midwest Steel & Services, Ironclad Performance Wear and ProStar, but he still finished eighth.

Pecorari earned all the points he could possibly earn here, and now trails Matos by 17 points going into the season finale at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif. Oct. 13-15.

Forgetting about the point for the pole, if Pecorari wins the season finale at Laguna Seca, Matos would still win the title if he places seventh or above, unofficially.

Matos now leads the unofficial point standings with 424 points to Pecorari's 407. James Hinchcliffe is third with 388, while Rahal is fourth with 333. Marco Andretti is fifth with 288 followed by Donoso in sixth with 267, Ross Smith with 256, Adrian Carrio with 253, Ryan Justice with 251 and Micky Gilbert with 243. Klein is 14th with 197.

Star Mazda races are broadcast on a tape-delayed basis on SPEED. The race from Road America is scheduled to be broadcast at 2 p.m. this Sunday. The race from Mosport is scheduled to be shown at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 23. Today's race from Road Atlanta, which supported tomorrow's Petit Le Mans ALMS race, is scheduled to air at 1 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 6, and the season finale from Laguna Seca is scheduled to be shown at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 19. All times are Eastern.

Andersen Walko Racing is one of the premier formula car teams in North America. It is located in Fairfield, N.J. and 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 robbiepecorari.com, grahamrahal.com, pablodonoso.com and jonathankleinracing.com.

Post-race quotes follow:

Robbie Pecorari: "Andersen Walko gave me a great car. It was quick all weekend. We got as many points as we could get here. Now we'll try to get as many points as possible at Laguna and see what Matos does there.

"Towards the end my car got a little loose in the rear, but for most of the race it was perfect.

"I was hoping there wouldn't be a yellow, and there wasn't. I got a little worried when I saw a car spun on the outside of turn three; I was hoping that wasn't going to cause a yellow, and it didn't.

"One of the Tomlin cars got off too; I think it spun in five. I really didn't want a yellow.

"This is my second victory of the year, and we scored the maximum points possible. That's all we can do."

Graham Rahal: "I just thought, 'I don't care how many races Matos has won; we're not going to let him by.'

"Robbie and I certainly had the fastest cars this weekend. We talked about the start before the race, and we knew that if we could get ahead at the start we'd be OK. Unfortunately he got ahead more than I'd have liked him to.

"I started to lose my tires in the middle of the race, and Matos got close. I had to be even more careful. The last 15 laps or so we held him off, so that was pretty good for me. He was quicker in six than me for sure. I made sure every lap that I was perfectly straight through seven to get the power down.

"At the other race we had here in the spring, I had a cracked tub and we didn't know it. Today we had a car that was consistent.

"We had a harder tire compound here this weekend too, and it worked well. I started to lose my tires during the race; I lost the rears more than the fronts. I messed around with the bars some.

"I don't think we can get any higher than fourth in the standings, but this has been a learning year for me and it's been good."

Pablo Donoso: "I had understeer. I passed Wilkins and Matos, but everybody passed me back again.

"I went full soft with the bar, but it didn't help.

"It seems like we do well on a slower track; on a faster track like this we have problems it seems.

"We'll just have to try harder at Laguna."

Jonathan Klein: "I broke a bearing in my right-rear suspension; a rod end. It broke three or four laps into the race, probably from me hitting the curbs too hard. It made the car loose and tough to drive. Had that not happened, we would have finished higher, because I just drove the hell out of it today.

"I'm not too unhappy about it. At least we finished, and we finished in the top 10. Andersen Walko had 50 percent of the top eight, which is very good for the team."

-awr-

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Series Pro Mazda
Drivers Bobby Rahal , Graham Rahal , Marco Andretti , Ryan Justice , Robbie Pecorari , Pablo Donoso , Adrian Carrio , Jonathan Klein , James Hinchcliffe