Andersen Racing Sebring race notes

Kent and Daly Get on the Podium For Andersen Racing In Star Mazda Season Opener Friday at Sebring SEBRING, Fla., March 20 - The first day of spring traditionally signals the time when flowers start to bloom, birds start to chirp, and Andersen ...

Kent and Daly Get on the Podium For Andersen Racing In Star Mazda Season Opener Friday at Sebring

SEBRING, Fla., March 20 - The first day of spring traditionally signals the time when flowers start to bloom, birds start to chirp, and Andersen Racing drivers start to record podium finishes.

Two of those drivers - Richard Kent and Conor Daly - did just that Friday at Sebring International Raceway here in the season opener of the Star Mazda championship presented by Goodyear.

Kent, of Clifton Reynes, England, started on the pole, led briefly, and finished second in the 45-minute race in his No. 33 sponsored by Traka and Allied Interior Products to lead the charge for the Palmetto, Fla.-based team.

Insiders went to see if the wheels were still on Daly's car after the race, because he proverbially drove the wheels off his No. 22 coming from 16th to fourth at the line after gearbox problems in qualifying. The 17-year-old from Noblesville, Ind., one of the drivers in the MAZDASPEED motorsports driver development program, had almost as memorable a race here as his father, Derek Daly, did when he won the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring in 1990 and 1991. Although Conor Daly crossed the line in fourth place, officials advanced him to third in the final rundown and penalized the driver originally ahead of him one spot for blocking on the last lap. In addition to Mazda, Daly's effort is backed by Indeck, Cytomax, College Network and Merchant Services.

Another resident of the Hoosier state, Joe D'Agostino of Brownsburg, Ind., started 11th and finished a solid seventh in a car carrying the logos of Classic Mazda of Orlando, Fla., Allied Interior Products, Lafarge and Arai Helmets.

Andersen Racing's fourth driver here, Denis Navarro of Sao Paulo, Brazil, had to start 25th in the 26-car field due to a problem with his car's suspension in qualifying. He not only brought his car home in one piece, he improved his position 10 spots to finish 15th for his sponsors, Navarro Medicines Distribution and Allied Interior Products.

The top five in the race were Adam Christodoulou, Kent, Daly, Caio Lara and Joel Miller.

Kent had clutch problems at the standing start and both Alex Ardoin and Christodoulou got by him. On lap three Ardoin served a stop-and-go penalty for jumping that start, which pushed Kent into second place right before a full-course yellow waved on lap five for a car that had spun out.

Kent got the lead going into Turn 1 on the restart on lap six, but Christodoulou got him back in Turn 10 to lead that lap. The top two spots never changed again, although Kent hounded Christodoulou the rest of the way. One more full-course yellow on lap 17 for Toshi Deki stopping on the track gave Kent one more shot, but Christodoulou had learned his lesson from the earlier restart and didn't give Kent even a tiny opportunity that time. Christodoulou had a 0.504-second margin of victory over Kent when the 45-minute time allotment ran out with 20 laps complete.

Daly's start was the complete opposite of Kent's, as he advanced six positions to reach the top 10 by the end of lap one. He was eighth by the end of lap two and then settled into sixth place from laps three through 11. He got by Jorge Goncalvez for fifth on lap 12 and Peter Dempsey for fourth on lap 19, and then got third when the original third-place finisher was penalized.

D'Agostino dropped back two spots initially, but then started to climb back up through the field. After a good battle with Joel Miller he was right behind Daly in seventh place by lap eight. Miller got him back on lap 10 but D'Agostino ran in seventh place from lap 12 until the checkered.

Navarro had his work cut out for him due to his starting spot, but he methodically worked his way up to 15th at the end. He got that position at the halfway point. He was 14th on laps 16 through 18, and took the checkered in 15th position.

The next Star Mazda race is April 25 at VIRginia International Raceway in Alton, Va. Check starmazda.com for future TV broadcast information.

Andersen Racing is sponsored by Allied Building Products Corp. and Lafarge North America. It is the official development team of Rahal Letterman Racing. In addition to Star Mazda, it fields cars in karting, Formula BMW Americas and Firestone Indy Lights.

The team's Web site is located at andersenracingteam.com. Information on the team's 1-mile road course test track at its headquarters can be found online at andersenracepark.com.

Richard Kent: "Every time I got close to Adam [Christodoulou], I didn't have the aero push to get by him. He drove a flawless race. He never made a mistake, and without one there was nothing I could do.

"I had a terrible start because my clutch was binding a bit, and that put me back to third. Alex [Ardoin] had a penalty, and then the race settled down a bit.

"Then I had a good battle with Adam. I was able to get the lead back when I got by Adam on one restart. But then I made a mistake and went too deep and locked up going into the hairpin, and he got me back going into Turn 10.

"But it was a good race; Adam and I both drove cleanly. I was pushing 100 percent the whole time. I want to thank everyone at Andersen Racing, Traka and Allied. With the pole yesterday and the second today, it was a good start to the year."

Conor Daly: "It was a long race. I just worked my way up. I was in a pretty good position by the first caution. Once I got by [Peter] Dempsey in Turn 1, I did my best to get a podium. I ran into a problem with Caio Lara in Turn 7 on the last lap.

"The car was pretty good. The track changed dramatically during the race, but our Goodyear tires held up well. I may have flat-spotted both of my front tries, but that's because I went into turns really hard lots of times. I think the wheels are scuffed, and there might be some damage to some of the end plates.

"I want to thank everyone at Mazda, Andersen Racing and all my sponsors."

Joe D'Agostino: "I'm very happy with the race. I was a little rusty with my race craft, but I didn't forget how to pedal. The whole team did a great job and gave me a good car. There was no point to bring back a trashed race car.

"It was pretty wild. Some guys were blocking. Joel Miller was very good and very clean to race with though. I just tried to work with Conor and come up through the field with him, and I think we worked together well.

"It's great to be back. It's nice to find a good home in the United States with Andersen Racing. I have to thank Classic Mazda of Orlando for their help. Hopefully I can continue on from here."

Denis Navarro: "I had a clutch problem at the start. From then on I tried to come through the pack, but it was difficult. There were some inconsistencies in how some drivers reacted to overtaking cars. Some people ran you into the grass rather than let you by.

"But I'm glad to have come up from 25th to 15th. I'm in the points, and I can't wait for the next race at VIR."

-credit: andersenracingteam.com

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Series Pro Mazda
Drivers Derek Daly , Joe D'Agostino , Alex Ardoin , Jorge Goncalvez , Caio Lara , Joel Miller , Peter Dempsey , Richard Kent , Conor Daly , Adam Christodoulou , Denis Navarro