PHOENIX, Arizona -- Seventeen-year-old rookie Jonathan Klein of Long Grove, Ill. took the checkered flag in third place in the Star Mazda race Saturday at Phoenix International Raceway. Unfortunately his Andersen Walko Racing entry did not pass the post-race technical inspection and was disqualified.
The problem was a simple human error. Team members mistakenly didn't install the designated oval-track sway bar required for this event, run on the only oval the series visits in 2004. Instead the usual road-course sway bar was inadvertently still in the car. Although the sway bar that was used actually made the car slower on an oval, it was not the correct one to be used here and the series officials disqualified the effort.
"It was a simple human error; we made a mistake," said team co-owner Dan Andersen. "Although it didn't give Jonathan a performance advantage, it was not the correct sway bar. The series officials followed the rules; we don't fault them for having to enforce them.
"We all feel badly that Jonathan did not get the podium finish which he deserved at PIR, but this is a team sport and we'll stand together as a team," he added. "We're proud of the run than Jonathan gave our entry and we're proud that we prepared a car that was definitely a contender in this race. Now we'll look ahead to the season finale at Laguna and try our best to get on the podium there."
Klein has to have added confidence going into the season finale due to how well he ran at Phoenix. Although it was his first oval track race ever, he handled both the traffic and a slipping clutch with the expertise of a seasoned veteran.
"Right at the start of the event my clutch started slipping, so when I stepped on the throttle I had no drive from the rear wheels," Klein explained. "Restarts were difficult and I lost a position to [Daniel] DiLeo on the second restart, but the car worked well and I was able to negotiate traffic and work my way back around him."
Michael McDowell led every lap of the 75-lap race, which was presented by Goodyear.
Klein's entry is sponsored by Kalfact Plastics; Fettes, Love and Sieben; Nexus Distribution Corp.; Midwest Steel & Services; Ironclad and ProStar.
Klein qualified sixth with a lap in 26.365 seconds for an average speed of 136.545. He was second in the warm-up session Saturday morning with a 26.313 (136.815 mph), second only to McDowell.
The season finale will be held at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif. on Oct. 16.
"With running second at Road Atlanta prior to a tire failure and running third at Phoenix before the problem in tech, we know we'll be strong at Laguna Seca and even more so for the entire 2005 season," Klein said. "Even with the wrong sway bar and the handling being worse than everyone else's, Eric [Langbein] and John [team co-owner John Walko] set the car up well enough to finish third. On to Laguna!"
The recent Road Atlanta race will be televised on SPEED at noon Eastern time on Oct. 10.
Saturday's race from Phoenix will be broadcast on SPEED on Oct. 17 at 2 p.m. Eastern time.
Andersen Walko Racing's office is in Fairfield, N.J. and its shop is in North Versailles, Pa. For more information please see www.andersenwalko.com, www.starmazda.com, www.americanlemans.com and www.restartcommunications.com