Team MER - GP of Houston Race Report, MX-5 cup
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Team MER made a huge step in defending their driver and team championship from last season. Jason Saini (Team MER / TheAutobarn.com) led every lap en-route to his first win of the 2007 SCCA Sirius Satellite Mazda MX-5 Cup season. In addition, 16-year-old, Brett Smrz (Team MER / AutismSpeaks.org) logged the fastest lap in qualifying to start from pole and had a race-long battle for 2nd place before finishing on the final spot on the podium in his professional car-racing debut.
What a great feeling this is, said Saini. Our entire team has put in a tremendous amount of effort and to be rewarded with a win is just fantastic. Everyone on the team is deserving of credit for this weekend's accomplishments, especially our car chief, Juliann Pokorny, and Eric Foss for helping to engineer the cars. The reason why we have so many good front-running cars is a large part due to their efforts.
Joining Saini on the podium was Brett Smrz, who started the race from pole before slipping back all the way to fourth early on. Smrz worked his way back up to an epic battle for second before impressively finishing the race in the 3rd position in his pro racing debut.
Team MER has a great testing program and that really helped me this weekend, said Smrz. I have learned a lot with help from both Jason and my driver coach, Marc Miller. I don't think I could have been any more prepared for the first event but was still shocked when Marc came on over the radio and told me I was P1 in qualifying. I want to thank the entire team and Autism Speaks for making my first pro weekend a memorable one.
At one point in the race, Team MER cars occupied the first three positions with Saini, rookie Andrew Caddell and Smrz showcasing the team's car preparation skills. Caddell began to run down the leader and in the process clocked the fastest lap of the race to take home the Hawk Hot Lap award. Only a few laps later he would be forced to retire from the race after contact with the wall and gearbox issues.
We had a very good weekend, there is no doubt about that, said Shannon McMasters. On the weekend, the team took home the pole, the win and fastest lap awards spread over three different drivers on the team. We have several new drivers in these cars on the team and they all performed like veterans. This was certainly a team effort.
Rick Bellew drove his Team MER / B&W Supply machine from the back of the pack after early contact all the way up to 8th place by the checkered flag. Following him through the pack was Forest Barber (Team MER / Feed the Need Racing), who had put in a stellar display from his 25th starting position to get in the top-15 before being forced wide and losing several spots. He would bounce back to 15th place by the end of the race, making up ten positions, tied for the most by any driver.
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