|November 6 , 1999 - Las Vegas Infield Road Course|
| Hand Wins Star Mazda
Race, Both Championships
Joey Hand, of Sacramento, Calif., was crowned the Star Mazda Series Best Western champion and West Division titlist after a flawless green-to-checker victory at Las Vegas Motor Speedway's 2.26-mile road course. Las Vegan Jeff Bucknum, who is the son of Formula 1 driver Ronnie Bucknum, finished second on the track and in both championship tallies. Third in the race was Grant Ryley, of Saratoga, Calif., who finished seventh in the point standings.
From the pole, Hand led the 31-car field off the front straight's banking and onto the Turn One apron. Despite a few off-course excursions, everyone made it around for lap one with Bucknum, Tim Enoch, Ryley, Tophie (short for Christopher) Stewart, Michael Potekhen, Alan Benson, Matt Beardsley, Scott Bradley and Bob Negron pursuing the leader. Just three laps into the race, however, a full-course yellow was displayed for debris on the track--a lucky break for Bucknum, who needed a second run at Hand. "I was happy to see the yellow because it gave me a chance to re-group," said Bucknum.
When the green flew again on lap six, Hand again got the better jump, increasing his margin over Hand and Ryley with each passing lap. The top three drivers--Hand, Bucknum and Ryley--looked secure, but the battle for fourth was intense among Enoch, Potekhen, Stewart, Beardsley and Camilo Zurcher, who had fallen back to 11th from his impressive fifth-place qualifying position after a spin on the first lap. By mid-race, Potekhen, Zurcher and Beardsley broke away from the pack and were joined by Brandon Peterson. Enoch, who fell back to eighth on lap 14 to battle with Sara Senske after contact with Potekhen, then found himself low on fuel with less then three laps to the checker. The Valley Motor Center driver coaxed the race car to the finish, but lost two positions to Senske and Zurcher.
Back up front, Hand was well in command of the race and hoping the monkey on his back at Buttonwillow was instead in a casino gambling. "I just didn't want anything to happen this time," said the Red Line Oil/Maaco Auto Painting/Emmick Racing Karts, S3 team driver, who forfeited two race most nerve-wracking moments of the race for me."
World Speed teammates Bucknum and Ryley drove steady races, but weren't able to reel in Hand. Bucknum, who will debut his own Formula Mazda team in 2000 (Team Bucknum Racing), admitted this was Hand's day. "He just had the whole package, but I have to give credit to Grant for the great start we both had," Bucknum said. Grant, who is eyeing the 2000 Star Mazda championship, agreed. "That was the best start of the year for me."
In other news, it was a beautiful weekend in the Las Vegas area, which is apparently well into fall weather by this time of the year. Blue skies and temperatures in the upper 70s greeted racers all three days, and helpfulness was the theme as several teams pitched in to make sure all drivers got the opportunity to race. In fact, Senske and David Sterenberg were both recipients of this generosity. On Friday, Senske's Lynx Racing/S3 car caught on fire, sustaining damage beyond simple weekend repair. In
stepped Sports Car Ltd.'s Rich Thorner, who offered one of his spare cars. Then, at the tail end of Saturday morning's qualifying session, Sterenberg crashed his Sports Car Ltd. Formula Mazda, and like Senske's mount, wasn't repairable at the race track. With Thorner's extra car on loan to Senske, Tom Moore Autosports stepped up and offered a spare car for the Phoenix driver.
This weekend was the final round of both the Star Mazda Series Best Western Championship and the Star Mazda Series West Division. Hand, who won both, left the banquet Saturday night at The Orleans Hotel & Casino with more than $30,000 in cash and prizes that included a new model year 2000 Mazda Miata and test sessions with BMW Team PTG in a BMW M3 and with World Speed Motorsports in a pro Formula Atlantic car.
Other notable awards included Rookie of the Year honors, which went to Enoch. The "Spirit of Star Mazda" recipient was series registrar Suzi Shinji. The West Division Masters Series champion was Bob Hatle, while Best Western Master Series champion Dick Downs received a session with Race, Inc., of Toronto, to drive a Formula 1 car.
News about the 2000 Star Mazda racing schedules can be obtained by contacting series administrator Gary Rodrigues at (818) 909-5319. - Jane Anderson
QUALIFYING: 1. Joey Hand, 1:18.921; 2. Jeff Bucknum, 1:19.504; 3. Grant Ryley, 1:29.702; 4. Tim Enoch, 1:20.011; 5. Camilo Zurcher, 1:20.287; 6. Tophie Stewart, 1:20.416; 7. Alan Benson, 1:20.611; 8. Scott Bradley, 1:20.774; 9. Mike Potekhen, 1:20.790; 10. Matt Beardsley, 1:20.851; 11. Bob Negron, 1:21.034; 12. Sara Senske, 1:21.034; 13. Pierre Ehret, 1:21.058; 14. Brandon Peterson, 1:21.364; 15. Alex Figge, 1:21.399; 16. Brady Gross, 1:21.440; 17. Chad Block, 1:21.471; 18. Kevin Schrantz, 1:21. 514; 19. Chris McMurry, 1:21.535; 20. David Sterenberg, 1:21.599; 21. Dick Downs, 1:21.842; 22. Will Hill, 1:22.203; 23. Dave McMillan, 1:22.269; 24. Frank McCormick, 1:22.363; 25. Bryan Willman, 1:22.579; 26. David Lewis, 1:22.825; 27. Bob Hatle, 1:22.922; 28. Scott Kusy, 1:23.290; 29. Dan Weyland, 1:24.351; 30. Ron Adams, 1:24.692; 31. Ginni Swanton, 1:24.890.
STAR MAZDA SERIES BEST WESTERN CHAMPIONSHIP
STAR MAZDA SERIES WEST DIVISION CHAMPIONSHIP
1. Hand, 435; 2. Bucknum, 420; 3. Enoch, 396; 4. Potekhen, 375; 5. Peterson, 347; 6. Senske, 346; 7. Ryley, 340; 8. Benson, 328; 9. Beardsley, 315; 10. Lambert, 295.
Race Average Speed: 92.870 mph
Lap Leaders: Joey Hand, 1-28
Fastest Lap: Hand, 1:19.754
Margin of Victory: 7.022 Seconds