2001 Results - Star Mazda Series - West
Jenkins captures Red Line Oil Oval Championship at Irwindale
|Dominating the Red Line Oil Oval Championship by winning all three races (as well as claiming the three pole
positions), not only netted 18-year-old Scott Jenkins his first Star Mazda
title, but also the right to brag about his oval prowess. "I've never done
anything like this before," said Jenkins, whose racing background before his foray into Formula Mazda focused mainly on road racing go-karts. "Just
to get an idea of what to expect, we took a street car out to a flat, empty
parking lot at home and I just drove it around in circles to see what it would do."
The Red Line Oil Oval Championship was part of the 12-race Star Mazda Series West Division schedule and consisted of a race at Phoenix Int'l Raceway, Mesa Marin Raceway and Irwindale Speedway. Separate points were tabulated with the champion, Jenkins, awarded $3,000, a customized Red Line Oil drivers suit and Red Line products. Second in the championship went to series veteran Bob Negron, who won $2,000. Finishing third in points was another long-time series competitor, Jim Hall II, who will net $1,000. Both Negron and Hall will also receive a driver's suit and product from Red Line.
After qualifying Friday afternoon, the 11-car Star Mazda field took the green as the first main event Saturday evening before an enthusiastic crowd of more than 4,300. With Jenkins on pole, the cars maneuvered cleanly by start/finish for a great start. Falling back from his impressive
fourth-place position, however, was Larry Couture, who looked to be down on power and later reported it was a carburetor-related problem. The opening laps, however, were exciting as the leaders ran nose-to-tail and side-by-side. The only cause for concern was a spin by Gary Hutto in Turn One on lap two, but he was able to safely continue without forcing a yellow.
For the opening 20 laps, it was a four-car battle with Jenkins heading Hall II, Smith and Negron. A few car lengths back, Bob Hatle battled with Scott Kusy, and behind them, Irwindale favorite Wally Pankratz led Taylor Fletcher (who'd started last after a post-qualifying technical infraction), Rob Walker, Couture and Hutto. Up front, not only was Negron pressuring Smith, but Smith was looking for a way by Hall ... and all three were hunting down Jenkins.
On lap 26, the leaders encountered traffic, which Negron used to look under Smith. Smith, however, was concentrating on Hall and on lap 34 got a good run using the low line and took away second from Hall with less than 15 laps to go.
The only yellow of the race came out on lap 40 when Walker spun between Turns Three and Four. He eventually restarted the car, but not before officials threw the yellow to round-up the field. Racing resumed on lap 44 with Jenkins leading Smith, Hall and Negron. Smith, who turned in the race's fastest lap, looked one more time on the restart at passing Jenkins, but couldn't and ran out of time when the checker flew on lap 50. "I really thought I could get Scott on that restart," Smith said. "Unfortunately, that one move cost me five car lengths and I just ran out
"That was the closest race of the year," Jenkins said. "Luckily, my car stayed neutral for the most part, but it did start to get a little loose in Turns Three and Four toward the end. The high line was my theory from the beginning and the car's set up was perfect to run up there."
Hall's fifth third-place finish of the season has him considering changing his name from Jim Hall II to Jim Hall III. "That was really a fun race, but I developed an understeer and the radios quit working," said the owner/operator of the Ventura-based Jim Hall Karting School. "Wally
(Pankratz) told me it would go to push, so I put in a little, but I should have believed Wally more."
The 10th round of the Star Mazda Series West Division is July 21, at Sears Point Raceway, which is also the third round of the Star Mazda Series North American Championship. The weekend is hosted by ALMS and is the X-Factor Grand Prix of Sonoma.
For West Division points, Smith's lead over Hall is 12, 328 to 315, with Hatle third at 279. In the Masters championship (for drivers 45 years of age and older), Kusy and Hatle are tied for the lead with 134 points each. Negron holds third at 124.
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
TIME OF RACE: 16m26.089s
MARGIN OF VICTORY: 0.237sec
RACE AVERAGE SPEED: 91.270mph
FASTEST RACE LAP: Smith 18.074sec (99.592mph)
LAP LEADERS: Jenkins 1-50
TOP 10 WEST DIVISION POINT STANDINGS
(After 9 of 12 rounds):
1. Smith, 328; 2. Hall II, 316; 3. Hatle, 279; 4. Jenkins, 270; 5. Kusy, 256; 6. Negron,
247; 7. Chris Emanuel & Larry Couture, 195; 9. Pierre Ehret, 167; 10. Walker, 86.
TOP 5 WEST DIVISION MASTERS SERIES* POINT STANDINGS
(After 9 of 12 rounds):
1. Kusy & Hatle, 134; 3. Negron, 124; 4. Emanuel, 88; 5. Ron Island, 28.
*For drivers 45 years of age and older.
TOP 10 RED LINE OIL OVAL CHAMPIONSHIP
(After 3 of 3 rounds):
1. Jenkins, 60; 2. Negron, 44; 3. Hall II, 42; 4. Smith, 36; 5. Hatle, 33; 6. Couture, 24; 7. Walker, 18; 8. Ehret, 12; 9. Kusy, 10; 10. Chris McMurry & Hutto, 9.
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