|July 31, 1999 - Portland International Raceway|
|Hand's Repeat Performance Nets Portland Win
Joey Hand picked up where he left off one week earlier--out front and on his way to winning another Star Mazda race. Just seven days before, Hand won the Sears Point round of the combined Star Mazda Series Best Western Championship and Star Mazda Series West Division race and, especially after qualifying at Portland, looked like the best bet to be the first to the checker during Professional Sports Car's Rose Cup weekend event.
It took two tries to get this one started as the 36 anxious Star Mazda drivers fanned out on Portland's too-tempting front straight too early for officials to display the green. On the second attempt, Hand got away almost immediately, leading second-fast qualifier Grant Ryley and third-quick man Tim Enoch into the chicane and Festival turns. By the end of lap one, the composition of the front group--with the exception of Hand--had changed and now after a terrific start, fifth-fast qualifier Sara Senske was leading the pack that was chasing Hand. Behind Lynx Racing/S3 driver Senske, Enoch, Jeff Bucknum, Valley Motor Center's Brandon Peterson, Ryley, series newcomer Tom Dyer, Belgian native Bruno Lambert, Sports Car Ltd's Michael Potekhen, German Pierre Ehret, Canada's Darren Millar, northwest driver Dave Gaylord and Valley's Matt Beardsley were all within striking distance of taking over the hunt for Hand.
By the lap-five mark, however, Hand and his Red Line Oil/Maaco Auto Painting/Emmick Racing Karts, S3-prepared car enjoyed about a six-second lead over Senske and the gaggle of cars behind her. Enoch, however, took over second place on lap six after a brushing pass by Senske in Turn One. Enoch then worked to distance himself from Senske, who was now defending third from Bucknum. "The car was understeering and we touched a little going into Turn One," said Valley Motor Center team driver Enoch. "Sara was tough because she brakes later than anyone into that turn."
Up front, Hand extended his lead, eventually pulling out to more than an eight second lead ahead of Enoch by lap 12. "The car was totally hooked up," Hand said. "I ran three or four fast qualifying laps to get that big lead. Then, I backed off a little to save tires and fuel."
While Hand maintained control up front, Enoch stretched his second-place cushion as Bucknum--now running in third--tried to distance himself from a six- and sometimes eight-car pack that included Senske, Ryley, Peterson, Dyer, Lambert, Potekhen, Gaylord and Alan Benson, who had raced into the top 10 from his 14th-place starting position. "I was having trouble finding a balance for the car," said the Shames Construction/Red Line Oil-sponsored Bucknum. "It seemed after the American LeMans cars were on the track, my car was absolutely different and it never got good again."
On lap 19, full course yellow flags were displayed for stalled and spun race cars in the chicane. Eurosport's Joel Janco was stuck in the sand pit and needed to be dragged to a safer location with the help of the rescue team. Instantly, Hand's comfortable margin was gone, but a lapped car separated Hand and Enoch with another lapped driver between Enoch and Bucknum. On the restart, Hand got his second good jump, as did Senske who
slipped past Bucknum to regain third. With two laps remaining, it looked as if Hand was cruising to the checker, towing Enoch and Senske. Before anyone could declare the race concluded, however, the re-started Janco spun again in Turn One, this time depositing water and coolant on the track surface.
"Coming into Turn One, I smelled water," Hand said. "I knew it wasn't rain, so I just hung on all the way through Turn Seven."
Enoch made it through the slippery conditions--just barely--but, Senske wasn't so lucky and spun going into Turn One. That was all Bucknum needed as he took advantage of Senske's miscue to reclaim third. With less than four miles to go, Bucknum tried to reel in Enoch, but ran out of time. "My goal was to get points and as many positions as I could," World Speed team driver Bucknum said. "I tried to be as steady as possible, holding my ground, not making any mistakes and trying to catch Tim."
With the race near completion, Enoch backed off slightly, but not enough to let Bucknum get close. "I felt lucky to finish second," Enoch said. "I knew Jeff was coming, but I had to conserve the car as well."
Senske quickly recovered, but not before Dyer, Peterson, Lambert and Gaylord whisked by to move her back to eighth. "I just hit that water and it was gone," said Senske, who from the pole position went on to win Sunday's Women's Global GT event.
Finishing an impressive fourth was Cycle Shack/Bell Helmets/FMR Industries-sponsored Dyer, whose father, Buzz, was a regular Trans-Am competitor in the late 1980s and early '90s. "I learned a couple things, but our goal was to finish in the top 10, so we're pretty happy with the outcome."
Valley's Brandon Peterson kept himself in the race with a spirited drive from seventh on the grid to finish fifth. "Luckily, I got through that coolant OK and then I was trying to reel in Tom (Dyer)," said the Vail, Colo. resident.
Bad luck befell several usual front runners, including Michael Potekhen, who ended up in the tire wall at Turn Three after a lap-13 collision with Carol Siska on lap 13 while running in ninth place. Matt Beardsley, who had been running as high as 11th despite gearbox problems, faded back to 12th. Post-race inspection also produced changes to the final results, including a disqualification for Gaylord, who was found to be using non-spec fuel.
With one race remaining in the Star Mazda Series Best Western Championship points race (Nov. 6, San Diego Grand Prix), Hand still leads Enoch 204 to 195 with Bucknum retaining third at 190. Senske takes over fourth in points with 158 and Lambert is fifth at 157.
In Star Mazda Series West Division Championship point standings with five races remaining, Hand is also in the lead with 276 points. Enoch holds second at 261 with Bucknum third at 254. Potekhen is fourth with 228 and Senske rounds out the top five at 226.
This race is scheduled to be televised on espn2 on Thursday, Nov. 25 (Thanksgiving), at 6:30 p.m. EST, with a second air date of Tuesday, Nov. 30, at 3 a.m. EST. Please double check your local listings to confirm dates and time of broadcast.
The final round of the Star Mazda Series Best Western Championship is slated for Nov. 6 at the San Diego Grand Prix, again in conjunction with Professional Sports Car's American LeMans weekend. This race will also count as the Star Mazda Series West Division championship finale. The next West Division race is Aug. 15 at Thunderhill. For more information about either the Star Mazda Series Best Western Championship or Star Mazda Series West Division Championship, please contact series administrator Gary Rodrigues at (818) 909-5319.
Star Mazda Series Best Western
Star Mazda SeriesWest Division Championship
|35th||Brad Drew - DNS|
|36th||Dave Gaylord - DQ|
Race Average Speed: 82.898 mph
Lap Leaders: Hand 1-29
Fastest Lap: Hand, 1:16.996
Margin of Victory: 5.273 seconds