This report is gonna be short and sweet, not because the racing was lacking, but it was simply a clean,
green-to-checker run for polesitter Scott Jenkins, who backed up his first
Star Mazda win on Phoenix Int'l Raceway's oval three weeks ago with a repeat victory at Mesa Marin.
"I think it's really important to have oval experience in your racing background," said the 18-year-old Team Bucknum Racing driver. "To
get the car to work on an oval, especially at night when you've only practiced during the day, is something you really have to think about,"
Jenkins said. "In the end, what we learned during the day worked at night,
Jenkins had to watch his mirrors early in the 75-lap race and then again when the pack found itself running together at about the halfway
point. Lapped traffic allowed Hall and Smith to close in on Jenkins, but neither got close enough to make a strong challenge for the lead. "Yeah,
Moses and Jim got close in traffic. It was close there for a while when we
went back to green after the yellow."
Valley Motor Center's Moses Smith jumped into second on the first lap, taking over the position from Jim Hall II, who from third place paced
Masters Series points leader Bob Hatle, Bob Negron, Larry Couture, Taylor Fletcher and first-time oval racer Rob Walker, who was later credited with
fast race lap.
Hall reclaimed second on lap 16 with Smith in third, fending off hard challenges from Negron. On lap 50, however, second was handed back to
Smith when Hall and Hatle made contact between Turns Three and Four that brought out the race's only yellow. Hatle had lapped Walker the previous
lap, and thought the car making a move to pass him on the next lap was again the #65 Valley Motor Center driver. Instead, it was Hall, whose paint
scheme is similar to Walker's, and under the shadows and lighting, looked like Walker.
"Unfortunately, I thought Jim was Rob and I raced him into Turn Three and that forced Jim to the dirt," Hatle explained. Hall understood
the confusion, but was nonetheless disappointed when the yellow came out and he was relegated back to fifth after a brief off-course excursion.
Behind the Mazda Miata pace car, Jenkins, Smith, Negron, Fletcher and Hall held the top five positions. When the green came out, Smith's
hopes of a podium finish vanished, however, when he went too high out of Turn Two and brushed the outside wall. The slight impact bent a suspension
piece on the right rear. "The car was unbelievable in Turns Three and Four," Smith said. "I was trying really trying to catch Scott." Smith was
able to continue and finish the race, but was off the pace.
This development with Smith elevated Negron to second with Fletcher third, who had a spirited drive from last on the grid after a
post-qualifying technical infraction erased his times. "My plan was to pass
three cars on the first lap," Fletcher said, "but, I didn't pass any."
Fletcher credited his podium finish to his team and a great spotter. "On an
oval, it definitely helps to have an extra set of eyes."
Negron, who matched his PIR finish, was pleased with how fast his car was in the race. "I think I was faster than Scott and Jim, but it's
tough to do anything on an oval, so I hung back to see what would happen and as it turned out, that strategy worked," Negron said.
The fifth round of the Star Mazda Series West Division is this weekend,
April 29, at Buttonwillow Raceway Park, in conjunction with an SCCA National road racing event.
For West Division points, Hall has moved into the lead with 148 points, followed closely by rookie Smith with 147 points. Hatle is still
third at 128, although Couture is now fourth at 112 with race winner Jenkins fifth at 90. In the Masters championship (for drivers 45 years of
age and older), Hatle has opened his points lead to 64 over the tie for second between Scott Kusy and Negron at 40.
For the Red Line Oil Oval Championship, points are calculated using the Master's Championship system. Jenkins leads with 40 points, followed by
Negron at 32 and Hall with 28.
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: 25m46.551s
MARGIN OF VICTORY: 1.057sec
FASTEST RACE LAP: Walker 19.127 (94.108mph)
LAP LEADERS: Jenkins 1-75
TOP 10 WEST DIVISION POINT STANDINGS
(After 4 of 12 rounds):
1. Hall II, 148; 2. Smith, 147; 3. Hatle, 128; 4. Couture, 112; 5.
Jenkins, 90; 6. Ehret, 87;
7. Negron, 80; 8. Emanuel, 79; 9. Block, 78; 10. Kusy, 74.
TOP 5 WEST DIVISION MASTERS SERIES* POINT STANDINGS
(After 4 of 12 rounds):
1. Hatle, 64; 2. Kusy & Negron, 40; 4. Emanuel, 38; 5. Island, 28
*For drivers 45 years of age and older.
TOP 10 RED LINE OIL OVAL CHAMPIONSHIP
(After 2 of 3 rounds):
1. Jenkins, 40; 2. Negron, 32; 3. Hall II, 28; 4. Hatle, 22; 5. Smith, 20; 6.
7. Ehret, 12; 8. Walker, 11; 9. McMurry, 9; 10. Emanuel & Swanton, 7.