2003 Southwest Formula Mazda Series Opens Season
by Sandy Magrath

The 2003 Southwest Formula Mazda Series opened its season at Motorsport Ranch on March 22-23 with a 40 minute race held on both days.  Motorsport Ranch offers some of the best racing for drivers and exceptional entertainment for spectators since 95% of the track can be seen from the stands. 

For Saturdays qualifying, the track was damp.  It was not wet enough for rains, so everyone went out on slicks.  Darryl Wills qualified on the pole with Nur B. Ali in second and Walter Gragert in third.

By race time, it was raining steadily and the rain tires came out.  At the completion of Lap 1, Keith Verges had worked his way up from 4th to 2nd.  On Lap 2, Verges passed Wills for the lead.  It was a very exciting race between Wills and Verges.  Wills chased Verges around the entire race but would spin out every time he attempted a pass. 

Frank Tomlinson, starting in 5th, made his way up to 3rd and held that position until Lap 15 when Bill Daniel overtook him.  Tomlinson got his position back for 3 laps, but Daniel perservered and finished the race in third.  There were spins everywhere, by everyone, all during the race.  Fortunately, the drivers did a great job of keeping the spins out of the way of others and there were no collisions.  Verges won the race with Wills in second and Bill Daniels in third. 

On Sunday, the sun was shining and the temperature was perfect.  However, the track was wet in spots for qualifying.  Wills qualified on the pole again with Verges in second and Ali in third.  Nur B. Ali, 2 Time SWFM Fall Series Champion, did well in both qualifying sessions over the weekend but not so well in both races.  With old rain tires on Saturday and a problem with a wheel on Sunday, he had a very disappointing weekend. 

Wills had full control on Sunday holding a safe lead throughout the entire race.  R. David Jones was doing very well early on in the race getting all the way up to 2nd place.  However, as the race progressed he found trouble and ended up toward the end of the pack .  Verges settled into 2nd place about Lap 9 and held that position till the end. 

Dr. Greg Byrne and Walter Gragert had some great battles going on during the race.  Walter, concerned with his stamina over a 40 minute race, had no problems either day.  Hes hoping for a longer race next time.  Top Gun Novice awards were presented to Keith Verges on Saturday and Bill Daniel on Sunday.  Darryl Wills and Keith Verges, each with a 1st and 2nd, are now tied for the lead in the Series.  Stay tuned, looks like we are going to have a very exciting year!


Round 1 (MSR NASA Regional 3/22/03) 

Qualifying (wet) Race (rain)
1. Darryl Wills (1:28:71)                 1. Keith Verges (1:46:39)
2. Nur B. Ali (1:29:60)                 2. Darryl Wills (1:44:73)
3. Walter Gragert (1:29:69) 3. William Daniel (1:46:93)
4. Keith Verges (1:30:69)                 4. Frank Tomlinson (1:49:19)
5. Frank Tomlinson (1:31:34) 5. Ben McCrackin (1:50:04)
6. Dave Defnet (1:31:50)                 6. Walter Gragert (1: 50:69)
7. William Daniel (1:31:81) 7. Dave Defnet (1:48:78)
8. Ben McCrackin (1:33:19) 8. R. David Jones (1:55:52)
9. Greg Byrne (1:33:88)                 9. Greg Byrne (1:56:76)
10.R. David Jones (1:34:67) 10.Nur B. Ali (2:02:84)
11. Michael Tari (1:47:06)                 11.Michael Tari (2:07:99)
12. Charlie Brown (no time)                   Charlie Brown (DNS)

Total FM car count 14 including non Series participants
Hard Charger Bill Daniel

Round 2 (MSR NASA Regional 3/23/03)

Qualifying (wet in spots) Race (dry)
1. Darryl Wills (1:18:84) 1. Darryl Wills (1:13:94)
2. Keith Verges (1:19:07) 2. Keith Verges(1:15:07)
3. Nur B. Ali (1:21:45) 3. William Daniel (1:16:18)
4. Greg Byrne (1:22:01) 4. Walter Gragert (1: 16:15)
5. R. David Jones (1:23:58) 5. Greg Byrne (1:16:95)
6. William Daniel (1:23:65) 6. Charlie Brown (1:16:47)
7. Frank Tomlinson (1:24:24) 7. Frank Tomlinson (1:16:45)
8. Ben McCrackin (1:24:44) 8. R. David Jones (1:16:01)
9. Dave Defnet      (1:27:22) 9. Ben McCrackin (1:15:40)
10.Walter Gragert (1:29:93) 10.Michael Tari (1:19:05)
11. Michael Tari (1:34:73) 11.Nur B. Ali (1:16:30)
12. Charlie Brown (1:36:83) 12.Dave Defnet (1:19:72)

Total FM car count 14 including non Series participants
Hard Charger Walter Gragert


Point Standings (as of 3/26/03) 

1. Keith Verges (Dallas, Tx)    54
1. Darryl Wills (DeerPark, Tx) 54
3. William Daniel (Austin, Tx) 44
4. Walter Gragert   (Tomball, Tx) 38
5. Frank Tomlinson (Hutto, Tx) 37
6. Greg Byrne (m)  (Southlake, Tx) 34
6. Ben McCrackin (m)  (Corpus Christi) 34
8. R. David Jones (m)  (Ft Worth, Tx) 32
9. Dave Defnet (Montgomery, Tx) 29
10. Nur B. Ali (Euless, Tx) 27
10. Michael Tari (New York, NY) 27
12. Charlie Brown (m) (Baytown, Tx) 18
13. Greg Labadie (m) (Kingwood, Tx)
= Rookie   (m) = Master
Drivers are scored on their best 11 out of 13 races.  Drivers that attend all races will drop 2 of their worse finishes.