2001 Results - Star Mazda Series - North American Series
Texas Motor Speedway
Last Lap Maneuvers Net Bradley First Pro Victory
SUNDAY, MARCH 4, 2001/TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY--In what's becoming typical Star Mazda fashion, the winner of the first round of the nine-race championship wasn't decided until the last lap. In fact, in the days before electronic transponders were used to determine a close call to within 0.001sec, the victor in this race would have been decided by the starter or by photo finish.
Scott Bradley, who finished fourth in last year's Star Mazda Series Best Western Championship, recorded his first Star Mazda win after starting fifth in the 40-car field. Bradley actually took advantage of mistakes by race-long leader and polesitter Scott Jenkins and then dueled last year's SCCA national Formula Mazda and Red Line Oil Oval champion Matt Beardsley to the checker. "On the last lap, I think Scott (Jenkins) missed his braking point into the chicane and I tried to go inside, but we went side-by-side all the way around to the infield when Matt pulled alongside and took the lead," Bradley said. Coming off the oval into the infield, Bradley and Jenkins were fighting for second, but Bradley had the inside line for the next right-hander. "I went in there hard and suddenly I felt a
pop in the back of my car and then I saw part of Scott's (Jenkins) wing flying off," Bradley explained.
Beardsley held onto the lead as the trio exited the infield and headed back onto the banking, but Bradley caught a draft between the oval Turns Three and Four. Beardsley went low and Bradley waited until they were both on the straight to pull out as the pair headed for the checker. "I waited as long as I could to get a good run on him," Bradley said. Just yards before the finish line, both drivers pumped their fists in victory, but the Star Mazda timing system recorded Bradley as the victor by a scant 0.016sec.
"I thought if I could just hold off Bradley I'd have it," said Beardsley, who drove the race with his right-front wing missing from a lap-five incident. "Scott (Bradley) went high and from then on it was just a drag race to the finish."
Jenkins was understandably disappointed after leading all but two laps of the 25-lap event (Beardsley led the second lap). "The race was going well until that yellow," said the 18-year-old Jenkins. "I got on it a little early on the restart and the pace car was still out there and then I was startled to see the white flag (indicating the last lap) and I just went too deep into the chicane." Jenkins troubles continued when the contact with Bradley dislodged a front wing and he lost 13 positions. "The
middle of the race was great and I was concentrating on running low 28s and continuing a good pace out front."
Official practice started Saturday morning, but not before race officials decided the Star Mazda group would have to utilize the front-straight chicane. In previous "roval" races, the Star Mazda Series opted to race without a chicane, but too many on-course incidents during Friday testing forced the issue and the chicane was instituted. For the start, however, the field was allowed to bypass the chicane. Thanks to the PSCR emergency crew at Turn One, the cones were replaced in time for lap
two and the running of the chicane for the remainder of the race.
As the green flag was shown, the field funneled past the chicane and headed around the oval for the infield portion. Everyone made it through cleanly, completing lap one with Jenkins leading rookie Oliver Rowen, Chad Block, David Sterenberg and Beardsley. On lap two, Beardsley caught a tow off Sterenberg and found himself in the lead on the south end of the oval. Jenkins, however, fought back and reclaimed the lead, which he held until the race's only full-course caution on lap 19.
Gear oil leaking from Nur Ali's car made track conditions slippery and caught Rick Waddell off guard in Turn Two on the oval. Unfortunately, Waddell couldn't save the spin and side-slapped the wall, bending the frame on his World Speed racer. Fortunately, he was OK, but done for the day. This development set up the dash for the checker as time was running short and the race was cut from 28 laps to 25. "That yellow changed the whole complexion of the race," Jenkins said.
Joining Bradley and Beardsley on the podium was Block, who hounded Beardsley for most of the race, but still managed to register his first "pro" series top-three finish. "I drove four tires in the grass a few times chasing Matt," Block said. "I tried to get him to make a mistake because I knew he was missing that front wing."
Two rookies rounded of the top five finishers. Rowen, who replaced his friend Jason LaPoint (who's now racing in the FF2000 series) on the Valley Motor Center team, qualified on the front row next to Jenkins, but fell back to fourth on the start. "I was on the outside for the start and I just didn't want to get in a wreck in my first race," Rowen said. "I was just being cautious. I tried to catch the leaders and was trying new lines throughout the race."
Guy Cosmo, driving with the Racer's Edge Motorsports team, came from ninth on the grid to finish fifth in his first Star Mazda race. Despite missing the chicane and losing six positions for a penalty on lap eight, the Long Island native with extensive open-wheel experience impressed all with his top-five finish that he earned passing two cars on the last lap.
The rest of the top 10 included a mix of series veterans as well as rookies. Last year's Las Vegas race winner Sterenberg finished sixth, admitting he was disappointed with his performance. "I was at the top of the time sheets all weekend," Sterenberg said. "It was my fault. I should have been on the podium."
Sterenberg was followed across the line by 19-year-old rookie Michael Stephens (Cosmo's Racer's Edge teammate) and Team Bucknum Racing's 17-year-old rookie Marc Cota-Robles. Rounding out the top 10 was Sterenberg's teammate Scott Kusy and 18-year-old Marc DeVellis. Also of note is the performance by series veteran Dan Weyland, who started last after a post-qualifying technical infraction claimed his 21st-place time. The Eurosports team driver moved steadily through the field, climbing to 17th by the checker to claim the series' unofficial "hard changer" award.
The Speedvision telecast of the Texas race, featuring commentators Greg Creamer, Johnny O'Connell and Calvin Fish, will be shown Monday, April 16 at 8 p.m. Eastern time. Please check your local listings to confirm the dates, airtimes and any repeat broadcasts.
For more information about the Star Mazda Series North American Championship, please log on to the Star Mazda Series website at www.starmazda.com or contact series administrator Gary Rodrigues at (818) 909-5319. --Jane Anderson
TOP 10 NORTH AMERICAN CHAMPIONSHIP POINT STANDINGS
(After 1 of 9 rounds):
1. Scott Bradley, 44; 2. Matt Beardsley, 40; 3. Chad Block, 37; 4. Oliver Rowen, 34; 5. Guy Cosmo, 32; 6. David Sterenberg, 30; 7. Michael Stephens, 29; 8. Marc Cota-Robles, 28; 9. Scott Kusy, 27; 10. Marc DeVellis, 26.
TOP 5 NORTH AMERICAN CHAMPIONSHIP MASTERS SERIES POINT STANDINGS
(After 1 of 9 rounds):
1. Scott Kusy, 20; 2. Doug Peterson, 16; 3. Day Weyland, 14; 4. John Faulkner, 12; 5. Tom Mabey, 11.
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