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Hearn Motorsports Sears Point Wrapup
Submitted by Dan Mazzella on Monday, July 18, 2005 - 11:03am

Hearn Motorsports added another top-ten finish and one more top-five qualifying effort to its team tally this weekend at Infineon Raceway this weekend. The 2.53-mile, 12-turn facility played host to two rounds of the Star Mazda Series North American Championship presented by Goodyear and each race provided mixed results for the team owned by IndyCar star Richie Hearn (Henderson, Nev.). The Las Vegas, Nevada-based operation brought two cars to Sonoma, Calif. with Alan Sciuto (Orange, Calif.) piloting the No. 70 Hearn Motorsports Star Mazda while Brian Thienes (Huntington Beach, Calif.) was behind the wheel of the No. 77 Thienes Engineering/ Hearn Motorsports entry. Thienes would leave with a career high fifth-place qualifying effort for Sunday's 45-minute event while Sciuto gave the weekend's best race result, seventh, in Sunday's show.

No. 70, Alan Sciuto- Sciuto Motorsports/ Hearn Motorsports Mazda
Saturday: qualified: 7th (1:29.818), finished: 43rd
Sunday: qualified: 8th (1:29.670), finished: 7th

Alan Sciuto showed himself well in only his second Star Mazda Series drive despite suffering from mono this weekend. The young karting star qualified seventh-quick for Saturday's race but was sidelined before the green flag flew due to an odd turn of events. Sciuto's safety harness shoulder belt wrapped around the cord for the fuel cut-off switch as he entered the "Carousel" turn. The No. 70 immediately lost power and was not able to be restarted for the race. Sciuto would finish 43rd despite the potential of a top-ten qualifying effort. However, Sunday dawned anew giving the Californian another shot at the course. He would qualify eighth and race within that group throughout the day eventually grabbing seventh-place for his highest career finish in the Star Mazda Series.

Alan Sciuto, driver, No. 70: "Being sick made it a little bit harder since it is about 100 degrees out there. But I've been trying to stay hydrated and I am feeling better today. Yesterday was my first race that I had a decent starting position and felt like I had a shot to win. So, I was pretty disappointed with what happened. I wanted to come out and prove myself today. We've made some pretty good progress so far."

Richie Hearn, owner: "It was a pretty good weekend. Alan did really well. He's still young and learning. We feel bad about the fuel cut-off switch but it wasn't in our control. It was just sort of a fluke deal. That was the first time one of our cars has not finished a session because of something mechanical but, at the same time, it really wasn't something that we did. I think Alan was a little faster yesterday so missing that race hurt. It would have helped him today to have run those laps yesterday. But, we're really happy with how fast he's progressing."

No. 77, Brian Thienes - Thienes Engineering/ Hearn Motorsports Mazda
Saturday: qualified: 14th (1:30.532), finished: 11th
Sunday: qualified: 5th (1:29.576), finished: 38th

Brian Thienes entered this weekend's Star Mazda double-header with enthusiasm as Infineon Raceway is the start of a series of tracks that the west coast driver knows well. The weekend would prove to be a very dramatic for the third-year driver. He had a quiet Saturday qualifying 14th and finishing 11th. However, on Sunday he attacked qualifying with the realization that a faulty read on the car's electronic brake pressure sensor was forcing him to set the No. 77 with too much rear brake bias. Now with that remedied, Thienes- who is in his second season with Hearn- grabbed the fifth fastest qualifying time for Sunday's event. However, frustration would return before the end of lap one. Thienes moved up to fourth-place by the first turn but was then forced wide by another car. That car, unable to make the corner, used the No. 77 to slow its speed. Thienes' entry suffered a bent control arm and his day would end a disappointing 38th.

Brian Thienes, driver, No. 77: "We're back to tracks I know a little bit better. Darrell [Soppe, engineer] understands what I want now and the guys are doing a really good job putting the car together. We started looking at the brake bias on my car. I have brake pressure sensors and I thought a certain setting was the right setting. It was so far off it wasn't even funny. So, all year I've been driving with a ridiculous amount of rear brake bias. We went out in qualifying this morning with the bias set properly and I was amazed at how much better the car handled. Richie said something was wrong but I thought I had it set right. Now that we have that problem behind us, Richie and Darrell can put the 42 year-old guy out front. I feel really positive about the rest of the year. We had a good start today in fifth. Came out of turn one in fourth and another driver tried a bonsai run underneath me. I gave him all the room I could, even get out in the marbles, but he still tagged me. Instead of running off the track he ran into me. It is pretty disappointing because I felt like I had a good shot at the podium. I'm going to keep that mindset and hopefully we'll get there at Portland."

Richie Hearn, owner: "I'm also really happy for Brian. We found a brake bias problem yesterday and that seemed to make a big difference. He went out and qualified fifth which is the highest he's run on a road course in this Series. I think that is the first time, on a road course, that we have had two cars in the top-10 in qualifying. So, we're pretty happy. Brian's car was damaged a little with the run-in with another car today but that is an easy to fix. It is just disappointing because it ended his most promising day early. Overall, I think it was a pretty good weekend for us and we're looking forward to doing some testing this week and then racing at Portland the following week."

Television coverage of the Infineon events can be found on SPEED Channel. Round 1 will air at 2 PM (EDT) on August 7th while round 2 will be shown at 1 PM (EDT) a week later on August 14th.

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