West Coast round four Phoenix report

Star Mazda Series West Coast Championship - Round Four. Moses makes it three straight at Phoenix. After winning two straight races in the 2002 Star Mazda Series West Coast Championship, Moses Smith was hoping to make it three in a row, as ...

Star Mazda Series West Coast Championship - Round Four.
Moses makes it three straight at Phoenix.

After winning two straight races in the 2002 Star Mazda Series West Coast Championship, Moses Smith was hoping to make it three in a row, as the series took to the one mile oval at Phoenix International Raceway, and while ultimately successful he had his work cut out for him.

The Arizona native, looking to cement his place in the points lead, faced close competition for the top spot as Jim Hall II knocked him off of pole position by one thousandth of a second, and HASA Pool Products teammate Mike Anderson was close on his heels with a time only a tenth of a second behind Smith. "The car was working perfectly," Hall said, "everything came together and my second qualifying lap was the fastest I had been all weekend."

As the green flag fell Hall and Smith continued their evenly matched battle as they drove side by side through turns 1 and 2 before Smith was able to gain the advantage and the lead heading into turn three. "I got off to a conservative start and was down low while Moses took the high line," Hall said, describing the start, "I'm not sure if he had more momentum but he was able to move into the lead on the back-straight."

"Qualifying just one one-thousandth of a second off-pole, just about guarantees an exciting race," Smith said, "I knew Jim would be tough, but I was also confident that we would have a clean start when the green flag dropped and that certainly was true as Jim gave me plenty of racing room as we ran side by side. My momentum paid off as we entered turn three"

Smith, driving aggressively, built a one second gap between him and Hall over the next ten laps before Hall started to mount a charge, only to be thwarted by lapped traffic. "For the first few laps Moses was pulling away from me, then my car started working and I was gaining on him," Hall said. "About twenty laps into the race I came up on lap traffic in turn one and was hoping to catch a draft through the turn when the driver slowed unexpectedly and I had to lift and downshift to avoid hitting him."

Anderson, who had been sitting back in third place about one second behind Hall, was able to take advantage of Hall's misfortune to sweep into second place. "I tried to stay as close as I could but at the same time conserve tires, as we had blistered a tire in practice the day before," Anderson explained. "When we came up on lapped traffic there was my opportunity to take second from Hall, he had to slow slightly in turn two but I never lifted and somehow I squeezed between the two cars on the back straight and took second."

Smith, whose aggressive driving early I the race had led to a blistered right front tire, now came under attack from a hard charging Anderson, whose conservative tire strategy at the start looked to be paying off as he closed the gap and attempted to move into the lead. "I drove the a little to aggressive during the first half of the race causing my right front to blister," Smith stated afterwards. "Luckily the Goodyear tires, and the set-up the R-Sport had on the car remained very predictable and I was able to hold off Anderson."

The battle would be slowed briefly as the caution flag came out when series rookie Matt Kurdock drifted high into the marbles and contacted the wall. "The yellow was not what I wanted, but I thought I might be able to take advantage of the restart," Anderson said. "I got a good restart and was able to pull along side of Moses in turn one, but was still unable to complete the pass."

Hall was also hoping the restart would allow him the opportunity to regain the spot he lost earlier to lapped traffic but a mistimed jump forced him to slow and eliminated any chance to make a run for the front. Taylor Fletcher, who had been sitting in fourth place, moved around lapped traffic to mount a charge on Hall but the laps wound down before he could find a way past. "I could see Hall was having a bad push coming off of turn two and I was gaining on him every lap, I just did not have enough time to get the job done."

With the victory Smith opens a thirteen-point lead over Anderson as the series moves to Buttonwillow Raceway Park for Rounds Five and Six on April 27-28. Foe more information please visit www.starmazda.com or contact Gary Rodrigues at (818) 686-3350

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About this article
Series Pro Mazda
Drivers Moses Smith , Matt Kurdock , Taylor Fletcher