2002 Results - Star Mazda Series - West Division
Buttonwillow Raceway Park
Teammates trade victories at Buttonwillow Raceway Park
Mike Anderson proved the fifth time is the charm as he
broke through to his first career Star Mazda Series West Coast
Championship victory at Buttonwillow Raceway Park, after scoring two
second place and two third place finishes in the first four rounds of the
championship, by holding off series points leader Moses Smith in a series
of weekend battles that would see the R-Sport/HASA Pool teammates split
the top spot on the podium for the double race weekend.
“The race couldn’t have worked out any better for me,”
Anderson explained afterwards, “I’m so excited for myself and for my
sponsors at HASA Pool Products.”
Running with the SCCA as a double national weekend, the races
were split into Saturday and Sunday events, with separate qualifying
sessions for each race, and early indications were that Smith was aiming
for his fourth straight victory as lapped the 2.97 mile course half a
second faster than Anderson in Saturday’s qualifying session. “Ron Roland gave me an excellent car,” Smith said of his
qualifying session. “We didn’t have to make many changes to get dialed
in, and with Mike alongside me on the front row I knew it’d be an
exciting start to the race.”
Those in attendance were not disappointed, as Smith’s
predictions came true and Anderson made a successful challenge for the
lead as the field of thirteen cars headed for turn two. “Moses pulled ahead at the start just a bit so I ducked to
the inside in turn one and pulled along side of him,” Anderson said.
“Going into turn two I pulled out of line and was able to complete the
pass for the lead.”
"Mike made an awesome pass on me into turn two."
Moses commented on the maneuver that cost him the race.
"It was a late pass, but he gave me plenty of racing room, and
he drove a great race."
While the leaders cleared turn two without incident, series
rookie Matt Kurdock was nudged from behind and was quickly forced to play
catch up with the rest of the field.
“I qualified way back for the race but was able to get a good
start when I got hit from behind and turned around,” Kurdock explained. “Fortunately I was able to recover and then focus on
chasing the field down.” His
efforts were rewarded with a ninth place finish.
Rounding out the podium was Jim Hall II, winner of the first
round of the championship, who continues his strong 2002 campaign with his
third consecutive third place finish as he returns to west coast
competition after a two year hiatus. “While I’m happy for Mike and his
first victory in the series, this weekend was a bit disappointing for me
as I was experiencing carburetor problems in the low speed corners and I
could only watch as they would pull away,” Hall commented on his
weekend. “I had a couple of interesting moments out there due to
local yellows where the tow truck would arrive just before me and block
the track, but with the leaders off in the distance and no pressure from
behind I used the race as a lapping session and started thinking about
Sunday opened up with clear and sunny skies for the drivers,
a welcome change from the wind, drizzle and cool conditions they faced
early on Saturday, but by the end of the session the first five drivers
would start in the same positions they occupied the day before. Matt Kurdock registered the most improvement over
Saturday’s session as he shaved four seconds off his previous qualifying
time, and would start seventh overall.
With Smith and Anderson on the front row for the second
consecutive spectators were looking forward to another exciting start,
with some still talking about Anderson’s Saturday maneuver that netted
him the victory.
As the green flag flew Smith and Anderson charged into turn
one side-by-side and as they raced down to turn two the fans were primed
to see another amazing pass, however Smith was not to be fooled twice in
the same corner and was able to hold off Anderson and retain first place.
“I was hoping to get by Moses in the first couple of turns,” Anderson
said, explaining his strategy. “Moses
learned his lesson though and protected the inside so I was forced to try
and pass on the outside of turn one.
I was along side of him on the stretch leading to turn two but was
unable to complete the pass this time.”
Anderson and Jim Hall were able to keep the pressure on Smith
early in the race however he was able to maneuver smoothly through the
lapped traffic to keep the challengers at bay. Five laps into the race
Hall started slipping back as the carburetor problems resurfaced, and
then, once he had adjusted his driving style to the conditions, felt one
of his master cylinders start to fail, making his brake pedal feel spongy.
“Once again I watched as they pulled away,” Hall said, “but
fortunately I wasn’t getting pressured for the third position and could
nurse the car home.”
In sharing the podium for the fourth consecutive event, the
points gap between Smith, Anderson and Hall is only 26 points as they’ve
crossed the halfway point in the season. Kurdock, who finished eighth,
leads all rookies with 111 points while his closest challenger Brian
McAtee has 88 points. Larry
Couture leads the Masters Championship over former champion Bob Hatle and
Round Seven of the Star Mazda Series West Coast Championship
will be held in conjunction with Round Two of the Star Mazda Series North
American Championship at Sears Point Raceway on May 16-18, as part of the
American Le Mans Series Grand Prix of Sonoma.
For more information please contact Gary Rodrigues at (818) 686-3350.
1. Smith, 253; 2.
Anderson, 238; 3. Hall II, 227; 4. Couture, 175; 5. Hatle, 155;
Star Mazda Series West
Division Masters Championship Top Five
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