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12th is better than 13th!
By Doyle Potenteau
The Okanagan Sunday

Thirteen is better than 12. So says Mike Richardson. In 2003 Barber Dodge Pro Series season-opening action Saturday afternoon, the Kelowna resident drove his way to a 13th-place finish in the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in Florida. Richardson's mid-pack placing in the 27-car field was a great way to start the year, but it wasn't officially his best finish. In his rookie campaign last year, Richardson placed 12th in Vancouver.That race, however, was marred by several crashes, and Richardson benefitted greatly from other people's mistakes. "That really wasn't an honest 12, as everyone it seemed crashed out," said Richardson. "This here was an honest 13, and to me, it's the best finish I've ever had. It's a good way to start the season. "I just wish I could have cleaned up a couple more positions. But I really can't complain. I'm honestly happy with how everything turned out. Now all I have to do is improve from here on in." Taking the checkered flag was Leonardo Maia of Oakland, Calif. The 22-year-old rookie finished the timed, 30-lap race 2.068 seconds ahead of runner-up Dan Di Leo, a 20-year-old rookie who hails from of Markham, Ont. Memo Rojas of Mexico City was third, .2.799 seconds behind Maia on the 1.806-mile street circuit that wound its way through St. Petersburg.

Maia claimed the pole position in qualifying earlier in the day. Friday's provisional pole winner, Josh Beaulieu, clipped the wall on lap two and earned a DNF. Richardson, who qualified 17th earlier in the day, crossed the white stripe on the lead lap, 17.568 seconds behind the inner. Richardson figures that gap could have been closed considerably had he not been surprised near race's end. With two laps remaining, a backmarker dipped into the wall, and the yellow caution flag was brought out. Richardson figured they'd finish the race under caution, but was proven wrong when officials brought out the green and white flag at the starting line. "That caught me off-guard," said Richardson. "I'm going around the last corner, and I see the green being dropped. I go 'Holy Smokes!' and pin it. I was totally surprised and I misjudged the restart. Thankfully I didn't lose any positions, but it did cost me time. "Had there been no yellow flag, I don't know where I would have finished. But near the end, I was posting better and better times and I was making up ground." Of the top-15 racers on the last lap, the sophomore posted the fifth-fastest time. That, he says, is giving him loads of confidence. "Last year, being three to four seconds behind the leaders, it was kinda tough," said Richardson, who will arrive at Kelowna International Airport around 2 p.m. "Now I'm about a second off the pace, and I know I can close that (gap). "I'm a lot more comfortable in my second season. I started in the eighth row and slowly picked my way up. I know a race isn't won in the first corner, and with the confidence that I can run up front, it should go a long ways." The next Barber Dodge race is March 22 in Mexico.