M1 Racing's Horak Earns Expert Championship; Rabe Posts Solid Results at Reliant Park Too
 October 8, 2013| 
  • Team News

HOUSTON, Texas — Just 10 months after it was formed, Dallas-based M1 Racing has earned a championship.

The skies over Reliant Park Houston were ominous Sunday morning during the season finale for the Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires due to a pending storm. M1 Racing's Jay Horak was still able to find the proverbial end of the rainbow, however, when he finished tenth overall and first in the Expert class, earning the class championship for drivers over the age of 30.

Horak, from Mesa, Ariz., won the Expert class in the first half of the doubleheader on Saturday too with a 12th-place finish overall for Paul Mata's young team. Horak, 42, a rookie in the series, drives the AutoEnginuity No. 37.

Jason Rabe of Millville, N.J. finished 11th in both races, which were his first two Pro Mazda races ever. He drove M1 Racing's No. 19 sponsored by Delaware Investments, the Monticello Motor Club and Fuel Clothing.

Due to an error in paperwork it was believed that Horak had clinched the Expert class title in August, but actually he went into this weekend's doubleheader 18 points down to World Speed Motorsports' Bobby Eberle. The latter crashed in Turn 10 during qualifying on Saturday morning, however, and did not start Saturday afternoon's race.  Eberle drove a spare car in Sunday's race but finished second in the class to Horak and 12th overall.

In the end Horak won the title by eight points, 110 to 102.

Rabe qualified 13th with a time of 1:16.533 for the 1.69-mile, 10-turn street course, while Horak qualified 15th with a 1:20.078. Most drivers only completed two or three laps in that session due to the yellow flag for Eberle's crash. The event's only practice session on Friday was also short, so Horak, Rabe and their rivals didn't get much of what they craved — track time. Both of M1's drivers moved up one position on the grid for Saturday's race with Eberle's departure, however.

A chicane was added to the very bumpy track before Saturday's race and the length of Saturday's race was shortened by 10 minutes due to schedule constraints. The contest ended up being a 20-minute event held under extremely hot and humid conditions.

Rabe maintained 12th place for the first three laps before he dropped to 13th when Michele Bumgarner passed him. He got the position right back, however, when Bumgarner was involved in an accident in Turn 4 on lap four that eventually caused a full-course yellow on lap seven.

Rabe moved up to 11th following the restart on lap nine when Juan Piedrahita ran into trouble and was forced to use a runoff area off Turn 6. Rabe set his fastest lap of the race on lap 11 with a 1:18.613, and he was still in 11th place when the race ended under a full-course caution flag on lap 13 to retrieve Piedrahita's car.

When Eberle didn't start, preservation was paramount in Horak's mind.  He ran in 14th place overall at first and then moved up to 13th and finally 12th due to attrition.  He set his fastest lap of the race on lap three with a 1:20.696.

Horak started 14th in Sunday's race, which was a 30-minute contest held just before rain hit the area. Eberle was right behind him in 15th when they took the green flag, but Horak was able to keep Eberle behind him and advance to 11th when Shelby Blackstock spun in Turn 3, Zack Meyer had contact and Horak passed Bumgarner before one lap was in the book.

Rabe started 12th and stayed in that position initially, as the race got off to a slow start due to the early full-course caution. The green waved again on lap five and both Horak and Rabe lost a spot on lap six when a recovering Blackstock passed them.  Horak remained in 12th and Rabe in 13th as all the drivers tried to gain some momentum. Horak set his fastest lap of the race on lap eight with a 1:16.304 and Rabe set his on the very next lap with a 1:17.354, but then another full-course caution waved on lap 10 when Michael Whelden crashed.  That moved the M1 drivers up one more position.

There was just one additional green-flag lap, however. The race ended under yellow on lap 16 after another full-course caution waved on lap 15 when Kyle Kaiser and Lloyd Read had contact in Turn 8. That advanced Horak and Rabe up two more spots, with Horak finishing tenth and Rabe 11th, before rain hit the area and wiped out qualifying for the IZOD IndyCar Series headliner.

Series champion Matthew Brabham won both Pro Mazda races, leading every lap.

Quotes follow:

Jay Horak: "The 2013 Expert championship was to be decided at the Houston race. The venue was difficult and came with some technical challenges.

"Bobby Eberle and I had only a few laps before qualifying on the circuit. It wasn’t the best of qualifying for me. Eberle was strong out of the gate and I knew I had to find the confidence and comfort level he had so early in the session.

"Saturday’s DNF from Eberle, coupled with a first-place finish, gave me the points I need to secure the lead for the championship. Sunday I would have to win again to clinch the title. Eberle was back in the car, so I had to find the speed to win.

"I found my confidence quickly and my lap times were significantly reduced to pull out a strong lead early in the race. I was able to keep my speed and composure throughout the race, securing a first-place finish.

"The Expert championship was hard fought and I am thankful to M1 Racing and all the crew for making the car fast and helping me find the speed I needed to finish first.”

Jason Rabe: "It was a weekend of ups and downs.  With never driving a street circuit, and with limited seat time in a Pro Mazda car, I was chasing some handling issues, and a lot of it was me getting comfortable in the car. Plus with all the schedule changes and delays, we had even less actual on-track time. It was also hard to get in a rhythm with all of the cautions.

"I couldn't have picked a more challenging weekend to have my debut in the series.  I really jumped into the deep end.

"All and all, there were a lot of positives to the weekend and days prior to Houston.  We showed really good pace during testing at the Eagles Canyon road course!  I now have some street circuit experience, gained respect from competitors, completed all the laps, and successfully finished both races without any incidents.  Those were really my main goals for the weekend.

"The road to get into a seat of a Pro Mazda car has been rough, and three years ago if I told you I'd be racing in the Houston Grand Prix in a Pro Mazda, I'd be crazy!

'"I'm definitely looking for more sponsorship going into the off season for next year, and to keep my feel-good story alive and going into more professional racing!

"Overall it was a great experience and I wouldn't trade it for the world!"
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