|August 28 , 1999 - Heartland Park|
Win Makes It Four In A Row For Hand
Get this numerology buffs: Joey Hand won his fourth consecutive Star Mazda Series West Division race by driving his Stacy Suspension Systems-prepared #26 race car and pacing the 26-car field to the checker when he took over the lead on lap 16 of the 26-lap event that was held over the NASCAR Craftsman Truck/PSCR weekend in Topeka.
Polesitter Grant Ryley made his first appearance on the podium by finishing second, just ahead of World Speed teammate Jeff Bucknum. Crossing the line in fourth was Valley Motor Center's Tim Enoch, who raced S3s Alan Benson and Sports Car Ltd.'s Michael Potekhen to the checker in a three-car photo finish. Enoch, however, was penalized two positions after officials determined he blocked Potekhen down the front straight on the last lap, moving Benson up to fourth and Potekhen to fifth.
Ryley and Enoch shared the front row, but Enoch had the better start, beating Ryley into the first turn. Somehow, everyone made it through the first turn, including Matt Beardsley, who got one of the better runs from his third-row starting position and found himself in third at the end of lap one. Hand, however, played it conservatively and managed to steer clear of any impending trouble while using the off-track concrete area. "It got thick in Turn One and I got out of it because I didn't want to throw the race away in the first turn," he said.
From his third-place starting position, Hand went wheel-to-wheel with Ryley in the chicane on the first lap to pursue Enoch--a battle that continued until lap 16 when Hand made a move to the outside heading into the sweeping left-hander. "I went to the inside, but followed Tim into the turn the first time I tried it," Hand said. "On the next lap, I went to the inside twice and then went to the outside. I was hanging it out, but it worked."
Enoch's lead over Hand evaporated when a incident involving Brandon Peterson, Camilo Zurcher and Bruno Lambert brought out a full-course yellow. Apparently, while running in seventh place, Peterson found himself in the middle of a Zurcher-Lambert sandwich in the chicane, touched wheels with Lambert and ended up sidelined for the rest of the race with a severed right-rear wheel assembly.
"I think without that yellow I would have been alright," Enoch said. "After those slow laps, I just wasn't hooked up anymore. The car was sliding all over the place."
Now in second, Enoch faced challenges from Ryley and Bucknum with the Potekhen, Benson and Beardsley battle not far behind. Ryley and Bucknum, however, were applying pressure on Enoch and were there to take advantage when they all exited the last turn onto the front straight. "I could see Tim's car was getting to be a handful," said Bucknum, who had already had his share of racing frustrations earlier in the weekend. "I radioed Grant and told him not to worry about me and just concentrate on getting by Tim." Bucknum was driving the car Alex Figge usually races after a Thursday testing mishap (flip on outside of Turn One!) rendered the car he was racing--Pierre Ehret's--inoperable.
Both Ryley and Bucknum got by Enoch, who then fell within reach of Potekhen and Benson. Up front, Hand was well ahead and Ryley looked to be comfortably set in second with Bucknum third. Who would finish fourth was still a race as Enoch, Potekhen and Benson exited onto the front straight three-wide and headed for the checker.
With Enoch in the middle, Benson went low and Potekhen went high. At the checker, Enoch looked to be the first one there with Benson heading Potekhen. After official review, however, Enoch was assessed the blocking penalty.
Beardsley finished seventh with rookie driver Zurcher an impressive eighth. Rounding out the top 10 was David Sterenberg in ninth, who came from 15th on the grid, and Texas Autosports' Tim Magrath, who was driving with a sprained left foot, in 10th.
In Star Mazda Series West Division Championship point standings with three races remaining, Hand still holds the lead with 365 points. Enoch maintains second at 328 with Bucknum third at 317. Potekhen is fourth at 292 and Peterson is fifth with 280 points.
The next event on the West Division schedule is a double race weekend, Oct. 16-17, at Buttonwillow Raceway Park, in conjunction with the 30th Anniversary Formula Ford Festival. For more information about the Star Mazda Series West Division Championship, please contact series administrator Gary Rodrigues at (818) 909-5319 or check out the Star Mazda Series website at www.starmazda.com.--Jane Anderson
STAR MAZDA SERIES WEST DIVISION CHAMPIONSHIP
STAR MAZDA SERIES WEST DIVISION CHAMPIONSHIP
Race: 40m14.589 seconds
Race Average Speed: 81.405 MPH
Lap Leaders: Enoch 1-15; Hand 16-26
Fastest Lap: Hand, 1:23.805
Margin of Victory: 5.527 seconds