2004 Star Mazda Series North American Championship presented by Goodyear – Round 2 at Mid Ohio

American Le Mans at Mid Ohio
The Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course – Lexington, Ohio
June 24 – 26, 2004

Michael McDowell victorious at Mid-Ohio

June 26, 2004. Lexington, Ohio. Shaking of the effects of a difficult qualifying session, Michael McDowell fought his way from eighth place on the grid to emerge victorious in Round Two of the Star Mazda Series North American Championship presented by Goodyear held today at the Mid Ohio Sports Car Course in conjunction with the American Le Mans Series race weekend. McDowell, the 2003 Star Mazda Series Rookie-of-the-Year, deftly worked his way towards the front of the field, and was able to pounce when pole-sitter Scott Jenkins accidentally cut his ignition briefly while making an adjustment to the fuel trim of his Pro Formula Mazda.

“Winning today was extremely important in my championship efforts after having my tire go flat while leading at Sebring, and I have to thank my crew and everybody at Star Race Cars for putting in the extra effort to give me a fast car all weekend,” an excited McDowell commented afterwards. “We had a bit of trouble in qualifying that led me to start eighth, but once the green flag dropped the car was right back to where it had been the rest of the sessions of the weekend. I was able to pick up spots to challenge Scott if the opportunity came up and when he briefly lost power I was able to pounce.”

Though he lost the lead in the mishap Jenkins was able to recover quickly enough to maintain second place ahead of the winner of the opening round of the series, Daniel DiLeo. “I was trying to adjust the fuel trim on the car to lean it out a bit when I hit the ignition switch and powered the car off,” Jenkins explained. “It only took me a couple of seconds to get it back on but Michael had been coming on strong and was able to get through. This was the second time this had happened this weekend so we will definitely have some sort of cover for that switch at Lime Rock.”

While McDowell had smooth sailing, and Jenkins had his mishap, third place finisher DiLeo was fighting to maintain the position from a hard charging Moses Smith with a less than perfect car, edging out Smith by three-tenths of a second at the checkered flag. “We were battling some problems all weekend that left me consistently slower than others on the straights here at Mid-Ohio,” explained DiLeo. “The crew put in a lot of long hours working on the car and while I would’ve preferred another victory I’m pleased that we were able to finish on the podium.”

Smith, who has finished in the top three in the championship each of the past two season, sits in second place through two events. “This string of races is really going to test the drivers and the teams as they work for the championship and my crew at American Speed Factory have prepared my 3-Dimensional Services/Hasa Pool Products Mazda perfectly,” Smith said. “This series is so competitive that you can’t afford to make many mistakes so it’s a relief to leave a challenging track like Mid-Ohio with a finish at the front of the field.”

Making an impressive start in his series debut was Brazilian standout Raphael Matos. Matos, driving for IndyCar driver Richie Hearn, who in turn was making his debut as a team owner, rounded out the top five in his Showtime and Samsung sponsored Pro Formula Mazda. Hearn, who has also competed in ChampCar and earned the Pro Atlantic title, admitted that this event caused some butterflies. “It’s terrible,” Hearn joked afterwards when asked of his first taste of being a team owner, “I was so nervous and I kept looking at the sheets and laps seemed to be going slower. When you’re out there driving you don’t worry about things like how you’re going to fix the car if it goes off, but Raphael did an awesome job and now I’m looking forward to next week.”

There were several other drives of not starting with sixth place finisher Michael Potekhen, who was able to overcome a difficult qualifying session that left him eighteenth in the field of forty-one, to gain twelve spots at a track that can make passing difficult if drivers are closely matched. As impressive as Poteken’s passing success was the driver that gained the most positions would be Guy Cosmo. Cosmo, making a one-off appearance to help shake down a new car delivered to American Speed Factory, where he serves as driver coach, wound up setting the fastest time in qualifying only to be moved to the back of the field for a technical infraction. Despite the setback, Cosmo remained optimistic and through what he termed “sheer determination” was able to jump thirty spots up the chart to finish just outside of the top ten, an even more impressive feat as the green flag flew over the track for the entire 28-lap race.

With two races in the record books DiLeo maintains his place atop the leaderboard with 82 points, while Smith continues in second place with 74 points. Jenkins has moved into the third position with 70 points, dropping Potekhen down one position with 67 points. McDowell, on the strength of his victory, has moved into eleventh place with 49 points.

The Star Mazda Series North American Championship presented by Goodyear now heads directly to Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, CT, for Round Three of the championship on July 2 – 3. The Mid-Ohio round of the championship will be aired on Speed Channel on July 11, at 12:00 Noon Eastern Time. For more information on the Star Mazda Series please visit www.starmazda.com.

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