Rookie Devin Cunningham Scores His First Win at PIR June 9, 2007. Portland, Oregon -- Surviving a first-lap, first-turn melee that took out both top qualifiers -- and a handful of full-course yellows in between -- rookie Devin Cunningham raced...
Rookie Devin Cunningham Scores His First Win at PIR
June 9, 2007. Portland, Oregon -- Surviving a first-lap, first-turn melee that took out both top qualifiers -- and a handful of full-course yellows in between -- rookie Devin Cunningham raced his #33 Discovery Channel/AIM Autosport Mazda from 10th on the grid to victory at Portland International Raceway in Round Five of the 2007 Star Mazda Championship Presented by Goodyear.
Cunningham won the 2006 Discovery Channel competition, called 'Star Racer,' designed to find the next great Canadian racing driver. The 8-part docu-reality series aired last fall and Cunningham is now making the most of his prize, a full-season sponsorship in the 2007 Star Mazda Championship.
"We didn't do well in practice and didn't qualify particularly well, but the team kept working at it and we got the job done in the race," said the native of St. Bruno, Quebec. "I paid attention to where other guys were going off course and was extra careful in those places. Beyond that it was a question of patience and picking cars off one at a time. This time last year I was struggling to pay for my go-kart racing and to find myself winning my fifth formula car race, in the rain, is something that will take a while to sink in."
Finishing second, after qualifying 15th, was Cunningham's AIM Autosport teammate, Natacha Gachnang of St-Gingolph, Switzerland, driving the #35 AIM Autosport Mazda. Gachnang is the first female driver in the modern history of the Star Mazda Championship to finish on the podium.JThe first was Lynx Racing driver Sara Senske, in the older tube-frame cars, on the Chicago oval ten years ago.
"This is a great sensation for me, because I did not expect anything like a podium finish," she said. "My practice times were in the top-10, but qualifying was bad and I did not expect much from the race until I see everyone spinning in the first turn and suddenly I am in fifth. Then I spin in the second turn and am twelfth, but I was able to keep it on the road after that and the car was good. I worked to really heat the tires up during the yellow flag laps and that helped a lot on the re-starts. I'm very happy for the team that we could be 1-2 at this race."
Santa Clara, California racer Ron White qualified 4th in his #69 Team G.Fro/Wunder-Bar Mazda and led a good portion of the race before tire problems allowed Cunningham and Gachnang to slip by. This is his second year in the series and his second podium of the year. He scored five podium finishes in 2006."I had a really good car for the race and was running easily at the front until something happened to one of my rear tires and I had trouble with handling and putting the power down coming out of corners," said White. "The track kept changing as it dried out toward the end of the race so I just drove within the limits of the car and kept it on the road. I worked hard on getting a run on Natacha on the last lap but came up about a foot and a half short. That's okay, though, we'll bring it on and get them next time."
Finishing fourth was Dallas, Texas native Russell Walker in the #28 Pavecon/John Walko Racing Mazda, while pole-sitter Marco Di Leo of Toronto, Canada, who was caught up in the first-lap mayhem, brought his #21 Maxwell Paper Products Mazda home in fifth.
Provisional points calculations show Dane Cameron, despite his DNF, still in the lead with 177, followed by James Davison with 165 and Marco Di Leo in third with 164. Third-place finisher Ron White is 4th with 155 points while PIR winner Devin Cunningham is in 8th with 135 points..Seven races remain in the 2007 championship as the series continues its travels with the Champ Car series to Cleveland for Round Six of the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear on June 22 - 24. Round Five from Portland is scheduled to air on Sunday, July 1 at 2:00 pm (ET), with a re-broadcast on Thursday, July 5 at 4:00 am (ET).