In what developed into an inner-team challenge between Valley Motor Center teammates Moses Smith and
Scott Kusy, the Troon Golf-sponsored drivers each shared the Star Mazda limelight with Kusy claiming the pole by 0.035sec and fast race lap and
Smith eventually winning the race.
The fifth round of the Star Mazda Series West Division was held in conjunction with a Cal
Club-hosted SCCA National at the CSCC-owned road course in the San Joaquin Valley. Although the field was slim-just 10
entries-the racing was close, especially up front among Kusy, Smith and Bob
Negron. The combination of veteran series drivers, like Kusy, Negron, Bob
Hatle, Jim Hall II, David Lewis and Chris Emanuel versus the rookie Smith made the race particularly interesting. This wasn't an easy win for Smith
as the seasoned series drivers definitely made him earn it.
"At the start, I raced Scott very deep into the first corner, but he had the inside line, so I followed him, but Bob Negron was right on my
gearbox." Smith said. "The first few laps were very exciting and really close. I just kept the pressure on Scott, hoping he would make a mistake,
but he held his ground."
The top-three remained intact until lap 19 with three laps remaining when Smith made his move as he and Kusy approached the Star Mazda
turn on the north end of the West Loop. "We were full throttle through the
Esses and I made sure I was right on Scott's gearbox," explained Smith, who
has added new sponsor SierraSierra to his Star Mazda program. "At the last
minute, I made a move to out-brake him into the corner." The pair ran side-by-side through the turn with Smith emerging in the lead, which he
held-despite some late-race challenges by Kusy-to the checker.
"We started out a little slow this weekend, but the Valley guys worked late to fix the problem, so the weekend as a whole was awesome,"
As we mentioned above, Kusy did make a couple late-race charges, but came up just 0.621sec short at the finish. Negron, posting his third
podium result in as many races, followed Kusy across the line less than 30
seconds later. "I wasn't quite as fast as Moses and Scott this weekend,"
Negron said. "I managed to stay with them for the first five or six laps, but after that they started to get away from me."
The drive of the weekend, however, went to fourth-place finisher and long-time Formula Mazda driver David Lewis, who attributed this
weekend's success to everyone who helped him troubleshoot and wrench on his
car. "With all the things we did, the car felt like it had a new engine," Lewis said, referring to his 14-year-old, never-been-rebuilt rotary
powerplant. This was Lewis' best qualifying effort at Buttonwillow (fifth),
but his times were disallowed when he forgot to go to tech after the session. In the race, Lewis raced through the field, chasing down and then
passing Hatle, Hall and Emanuel, who finished fifth, sixth and seventh, respectively.
Hall, who won a Star Mazda race at Buttonwillow in 1997, was probably the most disappointed driver of the weekend after a very
successful session on Thursday. "We were in the mid-47s in testing, but Saturday morning everything changed," Hall said. Unfortunately, things
didn't get better as the weekend wore on, especially in Sunday morning's qualifying session when he hit a curb in the Esses and damaged the left
rear. "I was feeling a little spacey after that, plus we had to get the car
back together for the race," Hall said. With repairs and an abbreviated realignment completed with five minutes to spare, Hall made the line-up and
started the race. "Something still wasn't right," Hall explained. "I had no
pull off the corners and it was down on horsepower. We're gonna have to go
thorough the car and figure out what's wrong."
Larry Couture went for quite a ride during qualifying when he launched his Formula Mazda over a curb at the Bus Stop turn and almost went
over. The car landed upright, but the front-end damage forced him to a back-up car-loaned to Couture from the Tom Moore Autosports stable-for the
race. Couture eventually finished eighth, with Jim Billys and Glen Bjorkman
rounding out the rest of the field.
The sixth and seventh rounds of the Star Mazda Series West Division are May 19-20, at
Thunderhill Park, in conjunction with a NASA racing event.
For West Division points, Smith has moved into the lead with 191 points, followed by Hall at 178. Hatle is still third at 162. In the
Masters championship (for drivers 45 years of age and older), Hatle has an
18-point lead over Kusy.
For more information about the Star Mazda Series West Division 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
ROUND 5, STAR MAZDA SERIES WEST DIVISION
SUNDAY, APRIL 29, 2001/BUTTONWILLOW RACEWAY PARK
(2.81-mile road course, #26 counter-clockwise)
Driver/Hometown (Sponsors/Team) qualifying time. All drive Star Formula
Mazdas with 13B Mazda rotary engines on Goodyear tires.
QUALIFYING: 1. Scott Kusy/Scottsdale, Ariz. (Valley Motor Center/Troon
Golf) 1:47.472; 2. Moses Smith/Chandler, Ariz. (Valley Motor Center/Troon
Golf, SierraSierra, JOZ Enterprises) 1:47.507; 3. Bob Negron/San Jose,
Calif. (Raceland) 1:48.250; 4. Bob Hatle/Oceanside, Calif. (R.H. Racing)
1:48.491; 5. Jim Hall II/Ventura, Calif. (JHR/Jim Hall Karting School)
1:50.073; 6. Jim Billys/Visalia, Calif. (Tom Moore Autosports) 1:52.149; 7.
Larry Couture/Claremont, Calif. (Team Hope Racing/City of Hope National
Medical Center) 1:52.957; 8. Glen Bjorkman/Goleta, Calif. (Turning Point
Racing) 1:54.426; 9. David Lewis/Hermosa Beach, Calif. (Lewis Racing) no
time; 10. Chris Emanuel/Huntington Beach, Calif. (Airguard, Hawn/Valley
Motor Center) no time.
TIME OF RACE: 40m13.349s
MARGIN OF VICTORY: 0.621sec
RACE AVERAGE SPEED: 92.217mph
FASTEST RACE LAP: Kusy, 1:48.726 (93.041mph)
LAP LEADERS: Kusy 1-19; Smith 20-22