Moses Smith wins dash to the flag at Road Atlanta Saturday, June 28, 2003. Braselton, GA. Moses Smith clawed his way to victory in a thrilling one-lap shootout with Michael McDowell and Luis Schiavo at Road Atlanta today in Round Four of the...
Moses Smith wins dash to the flag at Road Atlanta
Saturday, June 28, 2003. Braselton, GA. Moses Smith clawed his way to victory in a thrilling one-lap shootout with Michael McDowell and Luis Schiavo at Road Atlanta today in Round Four of the Star Mazda Series North American Championship after a late race caution slowed what had been an intense race between the three young drivers. "It feels great to be back on top of the podium after our disappointment at Nazareth when an apparent victory was taken away," an excited Smith explained, "Team Tomlin never gave up though and today we had an excellent car and an epic battle with Michael McDowell and Luis Schiavo all race."
For the duration of the 24 lap event the top three drivers were never separated by more than fractions of a second as they rolled through Road Atlanta's twists and turns, and peaks and valleys. Schiavo led they way to the green flag in his Racers Edge Motorsports/Guyon Racing/Rotelli Restaurants Mazda, backing up his victory at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca with the pole position here in a soggy qualifying session, but Smith and McDowell were quickly on the offensive and by the end of lap two Smith had worked his way into the lead with McDowell following through one lap later.
The top three held their positions in close formation as they battled over the next few laps before McDowell was able to guide his Star Race Cars/MMI Karting/Western Titanium/Mega Metals/Sparco Mazda past Smith as they navigated their way through the esses. "I was able to open up a little bit of space ahead of Moses once I got past him, and was working on relaxing and driving at my pace," McDowell said, 'unfortunately I relaxed a little too much and they were able to close back up to me."
While the top three were trying to get around each other, battles for position were breaking out all over the circuit. Star Mazda Series Red Line Oil Championship points leader Mike Anderson was working his way through the field from his 11th place starting position on the grid on his way to a fifth place finish as James Goughary, the 12th place qualifier, matched his every move to finish sixth. Roswell, GA native Glenn Cooper was shaking off a disappointing qualifying session on his home track to climb into the top ten after starting in the 22nd spot to wind up 8th. "I was disheartened when I saw the qualifying sheet today after running in the top five of all the practice sessions," Cooper explained, adding, "but we came back in the race and turned our best laps ever here and McDowell only edged us out of fast lap by a few hundredths of a second."
Back up front the race was heating up as Smith and McDowell swapped positions several times around the track with one driver gaining the upper hand in turn one only to lose the position coming into the chicane off of the back-straight. Smith was finally able to hold the lead as the laps wound down and what looked to be a wild four lap dash to the finish would be temporarily cut short when a full course caution came out to remove the damaged car of Bryan Watts from the circuit, setting up the one lap sprint to the checkered flag. "It looked like Moses' car was getting really lose in those closing laps and I was planning an attack to reclaim the lead when the yellow flag came out," McDowell commented. "With the yellow he was able to cool the tires back down as we followed the pace car."
On the restart the drivers would see the white flag, signifying the final lap, along with the green, and Smith set out to make sure he'd be the first to receive the checkered flag. "We'd been fighting pretty hard out there and I knew I had to make a strong restart to hold them off," Smith explained. "I was able to get a good jump and put a little space between us as we approached one of the prime passing zones in turn one." Smith was able to hold onto the advantage he had gained and came to the strip three-tenths of a second ahead of McDowell with Schiavo another half-second behind McDowell.
The championship points battle has seen a shift as well this weekend as McDowell, with 147 points, climbs back into the top spot ahead of Schiavo, with 140, while Anderson jumps up into the third position with 128. Nazareth race winner Alan Rudolph holds the fourth position in the championship with 127 points after finishing fourth in the event. John Olsen, the points leader entering the event dropped down to fifth in the points battle after struggling for most of the weekend, and once things started looking up in the race, got collected in an incident on the final lap and would limp home in the 23rd spot.
Round Five of the Star Mazda Series North American Championship will be held at Infineon Raceway with the American Le Mans Series on July 24 -- 26. For more information on the Star Mazda Series please contact Gary Rodrigues at (818) 686-3350 or visit www.starmazda.com.