|August 2, 1998 - Portland International Raceway - Rounds Nine and Ten|
Wins Dominate Portland Weekend
Leading all but four of the 61 laps contested by the Star Mazda Series drivers during their double race weekend at Portland International Raceway--held in conjunction with Oregon Region's Double Regional club races--Ian Lacy extended his win streak to three, adding a sixth victory to further secure his 41-point lead in the championship over three-time race winner Mikel Miller.
With four Stacy Suspension Systems drivers finishing in the top 10 on both days, Lacy led not only teammates Bruno Lambert, Kevin Jenkins and Sara Senske to the checker, but also other front-running drivers like World Speed's Jeff Bucknum and Miller, as well as Valley Motor Center's Jim Hall, Daniel Muniz and Nick Steele. Eurosport's Brandon Peterson finished eighth and ninth on the consecutive race days with privateer Joey Hand (Joey Hand Racing) claiming fifth- and sixth-place finishes.
"This was really a great weekend," Lacy said. "We concentrated on getting the car balanced so it would be just as fast at the end of the race as it was at the beginning, but I still had to work hard both days."
Lacy, who spends the time between Star Mazda races as an instructor at the Sears Point-based Russell Racing School, was especially challenged on Sunday by a gaggle of formidable opponents that included Miller, Bucknum and Jenkins with Miller and Bucknum actually leading the opening laps and Bucknum then sneaking ahead again during the mid-point of the 30-lap race to lead twice more. On Saturday, however, Lacy was out front for all 31 laps, despite some close calls with traffic.
"Lapping cars was tough because you really have to judge the whole situation carefully," Lacy said. "In fact, I dropped a couple wheels in the grass at Turn Nine one time on Saturday."
With lots of track time offered by the Double Regional schedule, all but 10 or so of the 41 entered Star Mazda drivers gladly took advantage of the regular club racing groupings to work on set-up and track familiarity before the Star Mazda sessions. In fact, the time Steele and Brian Snyder--who were the respective Regional Formula Mazda winners--devoted to the Regionals was evident in their Star Mazda qualifying or race outcomes.
Saturday's race took an extra lap to get started as anxious drivers in some of the middle rows spanned out to more than three cars wide before the green was shown. On the next attempt, Lacy held onto his pole position with Miller charging up to second from his fourth-place starting spot. On lap five, the course went to full-course yellow to safely clear the cars of Smokey Basler and Tom Mabey from the track. Also under this yellow condition, Muniz was forced to abandon his ninth-place running position to duck into the pits for a new left-front tire, apparently punctured from debris.
The track went green on lap eight with Lacy again maintaining control, but Miller lost his second-place position to Jenkins, and almost fell back to fourth when Bucknum made a move.
"Ian had great starts, even on cold tires," Miller said. "Then, Kevin (Jenkins) and Jeff (Bucknum) made runs on me, too. That was some great racing."
Bucknum agreed with Miller's assessment of Lacy's starts. "I couldn't get any grip on cold tires and it took me two laps to warm them up, and by that time, Ian was out front."
At the lap-16 mark, the double yellows were out again, this time for an incident involving Brian Snyder and Bryan Willman. It took the efficient Oregon Region just three laps to clear the course, as the green waved on lap 19. Again, Lacy took control of the lead, but Bucknum squirted by Miller to take over third and start his charge up to Jenkins in second.
With four laps remaining, the battle for second was a three-car race among Jenkins, Bucknum and Miller. But, as the trio encountered lapped traffic in Turn Nine, Jenkins made the decision to go one way while a slower driver tried to move the same way to make room for the leaders. That sent Jenkins hard into the dirt, which ultimately broke a shock but, more importantly, allowed Miller and Bucknum to slide by. Jenkins recovered, but not before Lambert, Hand and Hall scooted by as well.
Sunday's race was shortened one lap to 30 circuits to ensure that the event would not only finish in its allotted time frame, but that the drivers wouldn't run low on fuel--as had been a slight fear on Saturday. With Lacy again on pole, Bucknum, Miller and Jenkins swapped second- through fourth-fastest positions with Lambert re-claiming fifth on the grid.
This time the 41-car field was lined up perfectly for the green, but Miller had the better start, beating Lacy into Turn One. In fact, Bucknum took Miller's cue and followed his teammate, which relegated Lacy to third behind the World Speed cars. Lacy recovered quickly, however, moving past Bucknum and Miller as the trio headed down Portland's long front straight three-wide.
Remembering Saturday's race when Lacy pulled away slightly, Bucknum and Miller kept the leader in their sights with Bucknum moving ahead of Lacy in Turn One to lead for the first time all weekend on lap 17. Lacy, though, took advantage of Bucknum's bad luck in traffic and re-claimed the lead just before the track went to full-course yellow on lap 21 for an incident involving Chuck Helm.
"I was really tip-toeing through the corners," Bucknum said. "Lapped traffic didn't work well for me today, and Ian seized every opportunity."
With the course clear and seven laps remaining, Lacy started to pull away from Bucknum--who had gotten by Miller on the re-start. Jenkins, who'd made some changes to his car's set-up after qualifying, was fourth--some four and a half seconds behind Miller.
"We were way off the pace today," Jenkins said. "I started with a little push in the car and ended up with a big push."
Fifth was Michael Potekhen, who had improved on his 11th-place finish on Saturday. Despite starting last because he arrived late to the pre-grid, Lambert charged through the field to finish eighth behind Muniz.
With three races remaining on the 1998 calendar, Lacy has 284 points to Miller's 243. Bucknum is still third with 226, followed by Jenkins at 211 and Hall at 198 to round out the top five. a close fourth at 168. In the Master Series, Bob Hatle holds onto first with 148 points. Second is Frank McCormick at 124 and Will Hill is third with 117 points.
|Finishing Order Round Nine|
|6th||Jim Hall II|
|Time of Race: 43m26.250s
Race Average Speed: 82.129mph
Lap Leaders: Lacy 1-31
Fastest Lap: Lacy, 1:08.709 (100.494mph)
Margin of Victory: 2.569sec
Top 10 Point Standings (After 10 of 13 rounds):
1. Lacy, 284; 2. Miller, 243; 3. Bucknum, 226; 4. Jenkins, 11; 5. Hall, 198; 6. Hand, 193; 7. Senske, 183; 8. Muniz, 173; 9. Steele, 162; 10. Potekhen, 138.
Top 5 Master Series Point Standings (After 10 of 13 rounds):
1. Hatle, 148; 2. McCormick, 124; 3. Hill, 117; 4. D. Downs, 106; 5. Weyland, 95.
|Finishing Order Round 10|
|13th||Jim Hall II|
|39th||Steve Broderson Jr.|
|Time of Race: 41m16.604s
Race Average Speed: 83.640mph
Lap Leaders: Miller 1, Bucknum 2, 17-18; Lacy 3-16, 19-30
Fastest Lap: Lacy, 1:09.350 (99.565mph)
Margin of Victory: 1.553sec