World Speed continued their run at the front of the Star Mazda Best Western Championship as Alex Figge captured his first victory in the series and World Speed’s third straight as the series moved to the cooler climate of Portland International Raceway after the sweltering heat of Texas the previous week. Figge was joined at the front of the field by third place finisher Chantz Wade and sixth place finisher Scott Bradley as various incidents sidelined the other World Speed drivers.
“This is unbelievable,” an excited Figge said afterwards, “I just want to thank Chuck West, my engineer Mark Milazzo, and the rest of the World Speed crew for all their work. We’ve been flirting with the top of the charts and the podium all season and everything finally came together this weekend.”
Grant Ryley, in the #14 Cupertino Electric/Del Monaco Specialty Foods Mazda, led the World Speed contingent in qualifying as he piped Figge for the second spot on the final lap of qualifying, only to be edged out himself seconds later by Jason LaPoint. Scott Bradley fought lapped traffic and two red flag situations in qualifying to bring his #19 Polycom/Radvision/Peak Travel Mazda into the fifth spot while Chantz Wade came through in ninth in the damp morning conditions.
That it would be an unusual race was apparent even before the green flag fell as several competitors were sidelined with mechanical problems on the pace laps opening space in front of Wade when seventh place qualifier Michael Potekhen dropped out with electrical problems. LaPoint, Ryley and Figge opened a small gap at the start with Wade coming through into sixth place at the start while Bradley collected damage to his front wing on the start and wound up seventh after the first lap. Frank McCormick was also caught up in a first lap incident collecting damage to the suspension of his car that would eventually force him out of the race on lap 20.
The storyline of the race changed on lap 14 when Figge inherited the lead after LaPoint and Ryley made contact in the first corner chicane forcing LaPoint out of the race immediately and Ryley into the pits, and out of the race six laps later, with a damaged suspension piece. “I was trying to put some pressure on LaPoint by pulling out and feigning a pass when he broke earlier than I expected and turned into the corner, at that point I was alongside and out of room,” a disappointed Ryley said afterwards.
With open track in front of him, Figge worked to maintain the lead from series points leader Bernardo Martinez while conserving his tires for the final laps. “My front tires started going off towards the end of the race and I really had to manhandle the car around the track. Mark was working with me on the radio telling me where Bernardo was and I’d alternate a fast lap with a controlled lap to keep the gap between us. It got close there at the end but I had enough car to make it to the line first.”
Wade managed to reel in David Sterenberg close to the end to position himself third at the checkered flag while Bradley managed to bring his car across the line sixth. “The damage to the wing didn’t help a bit on the straightaways here and the engine didn’t want to pull in the higher gears,” Bradley said of the days battle, “I just couldn’t pull anybody down the straight after I’d get the run through the corners, fortunately we were able to pick up some points on the drivers that were ahead of me coming in to this weekend.”
The series returns to competition at Road Atlanta for Round Six of the Best Western Championship on Friday, September 30th as part of the Petit LeMans weekend.