EVENTFUL MX-5 CUP SEASON-OPENER RESULTS IN TOP-FIVE FINISH FOR SMRZ American up-and-comer overcomes early race incident at Road Atlanta to score vital championship points BRASELTON, GA. (May 2, 2009) -- The first race of the 2009 Playboy Mazda...
EVENTFUL MX-5 CUP SEASON-OPENER RESULTS IN TOP-FIVE FINISH FOR SMRZ
American up-and-comer overcomes early race incident at Road Atlanta to score vital championship points
BRASELTON, GA. (May 2, 2009) -- The first race of the 2009 Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup at Road Atlanta this past weekend proved quite eventful for rising American talent Brett Smrz. Overcoming both an early race spin and a broken gearbox, the left-leg amputee finished an impressive fifth, earning valuable points and setting the stage for a title contending campaign.
Smrz entered the first round of the nine-race Mazda MX-5 Cup season confident that he could challenge for top honors, given both the pace that he had shown in a tune-up SCCA Club Racing National race this previous weekend and the fact that he had scored his first Skip Barber National win in the weeks leading up to the season-opener. This optimism proved justified, as when the cars rolled on-track at the famed Road Atlanta road course, the 18 year-old posted the second fastest time in the opening practice session. Following another practice session, in which Smrz worked on the handling of his car on used tires, the stage was set for an exciting qualifying session.
In the official timed run, the Idaho native initially had a draft partner, which is vital in order to post a fast time on a track such as Road Atlanta, but a spin by another competitor resulted in Smrz running virtually the entire qualifying session alone on-track. Despite the set-back, the Atlanta Motorsports Group race pilot still managed to post a solid time, earning an eighth place starting position in the highly-competitive 22-car field.
Returning to the cockpit of the No. 6 RaceSimsRus.com/In Touch Physical Therapy car one day later, overcasts skies and threats of rain greeted Smrz and the rest of the Mazda MX-5 Cup drivers when the green flag waved for Round One. Smrz timed his launch to perfection, quickly advanced three places, exiting turn one in fifth place. However, just as it appeared things were going according to plan early on, the car directly in front of Smrz dropped a wheel and went off-course, resulting in Smrz leaving the racing surface as well. Despite getting airborne and spinning out, the talented American was able to continue, rejoining the race in 15th place just as the yellow flags waved around the track.
Smrz then put the incident behind him and enjoyed another good get-away when the racing action resumed, rapidly working his way back into the top-10. Regularly posting lap times on par or faster than the leaders, the left leg amputee - the result of a freak trampoline accident in 2007 -- continued his march forward, becoming involved in a heated battle for fourth through sixth place. While Smrz was able to get to the front of the pack, continued contact while fighting for position eventually resulted in both fifth and sixth gear failing in Smrz's car during the final two laps of the 22-lap race. Overcoming the setback, Smrz crossed the finish line in fifth place, turning the second fastest race lap in the process.
"The weekend went well overall," commented Smrz after the race. "I had a bit of a moment in turn five, but luckily was able to get going again. I just kept my head down, as I knew that I was quick, and would be able to work my way back up through the field if I kept it clean. There was a bit of pushing and shoving between a couple of drivers on the way into the top-five, but I was expecting it, as we have bumpers in these cars, unlike the open wheel Skip Barber car. I am very happy with the Atlanta Motorsports Group team and I think we are going to have a strong season this year. I am looking forward to Laguna Seca in two weeks, which is AMG's previous home track."
Smrz continues his busy 2009 race season on May 16-17 with Round Two of the Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup taking place at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Northern California. The talented young American returns to the cockpit of a BF/Goodrich Skip Barber National presented by Mazda car on June 13-14, for Rounds Five and Six at New Jersey Motorsports Park.