Memorial Day Weekend turned in to something to
remember for Star Mazda Series competitor Mike Anderson as he used the
double race weekend at Thunderhill Raceway Park to put on a command
performance. In a dominating display of driving, Anderson piloted his HASA
Products into two pole positions and two victories and was able to reduce
the gap to Moses Smith, the championship points leader, down to ten points
with two races remaining.
"Thunderhill couldn't have gone any better for the DARE team," a
triumphant Anderson exclaimed. "I really enjoyed the Thunderhill
course, and while track conditions changed throughout the weekend we were
able to stay on top of them and set the fastest time in every
While Anderson was having a trouble free weekend, Smith in the R-Sport
HASA Swimming Pool Products Mazda had to battle back from adversity
several times over the three-day event to claim two second place finishes.
"This weekend's race schedule offered very little track time as
Saturday with an early test session followed by a qualifying session for
the first of two races," Moses
explained. "We hoped to use the first session to get familiarized
with the track and make sure that the set-up on the car was close,
unfortunately during this first session the car was experiencing
electrical problems and the crew went to work to sort out the
With repairs complete Smith, set out to challenge Anderson for the top
spot in Sunday's race and actually had the fastest time for most of the
session before Anderson posted a flying lap as the session was coming to a
close to earn his first career pole in Star Mazda competition. "I am
very impressed with Ron Roland's ability to give such a great car with the
limited amount of track time" Moses commented about the qualifying
session. "With the HASA team 1 and 2 on the grid this line up will
make for an exciting race Sunday morning."
Running with an SCCA regional event, fifteen cars lined up for the start
of Sunday's fourteen lap race around the 2.95 mile circuit, with half of
the drivers entered in the championship while the rest fought for regional
points. Leading the charge at the drop of the green flag, Anderson and
Smith continued to display their skills, as they raced side-by-side for
three corners before Anderson took the advantage. "We have started
alongside each other several times this year and while we race each other
hard we always give each other racing room," Anderson said of the
start and those first few
While Anderson and Smith drove away, the battle for third place was
shaping up between series rookies Brian Thienes and Brian McAtee.
Thienes, driving the Thienes Engineering Mazda, gained the advantage and
earned third place points with his best finish in Star Mazda competition.
Afterwards Thienes credited Tom Moore Autosports and coaching from Moses
Smith as helping him
get to where he finished, commenting, "With their help I have been
able to exceed my expectations in the Star Mazda Series."
Victory celebrations quickly subsided as the team all had to get back to
work and prepare for Sunday afternoon's qualifying session for Monday's
sixteen lap race. With the addition track time under their belts the
drivers all looked to better their qualifying times from the previous day,
and as times started dropping once again Anderson would top the time
sheets as he was able to shave almost 1.5 seconds off his previous
qualifying best. Smith again set the second fastest time followed by
regional competitors Sean Kelly, Jim Mali, and Bill Weaver.
While it appeared that spectators would once again get to watch a tense
first corner showdown between Anderson and Smith, electrical problems
would strike Smith's R-Sport Mazda as the car was being warmed up for the
event. The team was able to enact repairs but Smith was moved to the
back of the field for arriving late to the grid. "I was
disappointed, but also a bit excited that I was going to have to do a lot
of passing" Smith remarked about the decision made by the officials.
As Anderson took the green flag and was chasing open track, Smith fought
his way past eight cars in the opening lap and would work his way back
into second place when the checkered flag fell. "I had a lot of fun
working my way through the pack, but I really wanted to run with up front
with Mike" Smith summarized about the race "R-sport made the
right call with the changes before the race, I was able to drive the car
real hard through out the whole race".
Also battling it out through the field, Star Mazda rookie Matt Kurdock
earned his highest finish ever in his R-Sport MK Racing Mazda as he
finished sixth overall but earned third place points in the championship.
"My R-Sport crew played a big role in the racing action with the
radio, letting me know where I was quicker than my competitors so I could
get a run and make the pass stick," Kurdock said afterwards. "It
was some of the best wheel to wheel racing I have done this season.
Ron Roland and R-Sport consistently give me a great car and lots of
motivation to make things happen out on the track when it counted."
Rounding out the field of championship competitors was McAtee, with his
second consecutive fourth place points finish in his Performance
Motorsports Mazda, followed by Masters Championship leader Bob Hatle, and
Thienes, who like Smith was moved to the back of the grid for the start
but was able to move up into ninth place overall. Making his Star
Mazda Series debut, Kelly Gallant finished thirteenth and was the final
championship points scorer, earning seventh place points.
The points race in has closed up through nine rounds as Smith's advantage
falls to only ten points over Anderson, 378 to 368 respectively, while Jim
Hall remains third with 227 points despite missing the Sears Point and
Thunderhill events. With Hall's absence the battle for third has
tightened up with Masters Championship leader Hatle holding 219 points and
rookie contender Kurdock with 212 points.
Round Ten of the Star Mazda Series West Coast Championship will coincide
with Round Three of the Star Mazda Series North American Championship on
June 16, 2002, at Pikes Peak International Raceway as a support race to
the Indy Racing League event on the one-mile oval.
For more information about the Star Mazda Series please contact Gary Rodrigues at (818) 686-3350.