STAR MAZDA FEATURES A FOUR TIME WINNER LOOKING TO MAKE IT FIVE AND A TOP MOTORCYCLE RACER TRADING TWO WHEELS FOR FOUR IN FEATURE DOUBLE-HEADER AT NJMP THIS WEEKEND New Jersey Motorsports Park (June 21, 2010) -- The battle for the 2010 Star Mazda...
STAR MAZDA FEATURES A FOUR TIME WINNER LOOKING TO MAKE IT FIVE AND A TOP MOTORCYCLE RACER TRADING TWO WHEELS FOR FOUR IN FEATURE DOUBLE-HEADER AT NJMP THIS WEEKEND
New Jersey Motorsports Park (June 21, 2010) -- The battle for the 2010 Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear hits the half-way mark this weekend with a double-header on live HDnet TV at New Jersey Motorsports Park -- and two interesting stories.
The first involves a hot young driver looking to make Star Mazda history. Thus far this season, it's pretty much been the Conor Daly show, with the Indianapolis teenager and son of racing legend Derek Daly winning the last four races in a row driving the #22 Juncos Racing / INDECK / The College Network / Merchant Services Ltd. Mazda -- and headed for the New Jersey track where he won in 2009. But the gods of racing are nothing if not fickle, and he'll be facing some stiff -- and experienced -- competition this weekend.
There are a number of potential spoilers hoping to bring an end to Daly's '5 in a row' scenario. Among the leaders is Quebec youngster Mikael Grenier driving the #17 Andersen Racing / Slow Cow / April Super Flow / NAPA Auto Parts / HS Telecom / Desharnais Mazda. Currently 4th in the championship with a pole and podium finish in the Night Before the 500 at O'Reilly Raceway Park, Grenier brushed the wall mid-way through last weekend's second annual Star Mazda Pizza Ranch 100 at the 7/8ths-mile Iowa Speedway oval. The contact relegated him to a 15th-place finish and did a bit of mischief to his standing in the championship, dropping him from 2nd to 4th, but Star Mazda awards 44 points for a win and while Daly's 216 points gives him a comfortable cushion over Grenier's 163, it's hardly insurmountable.
Other top contenders with experience at the New Jersey Motorsports track include Brazilian racer Caio Lara (#19 JDC Motorsports / MLD / ATW Mazda) who scored a pair of top-5 finishes at this event in 2009, and other top contenders with experience on the New Jersey Motorsports Park track include Jorge Goncalvez (#9 Team Apex / Wabash Capital Investments Mazda) driving for a hot new team that put two drivers on the podium in the Night Before the 500 Round 5 at O'Reilly Raceway Park in Indianapolis on Memorial Day weekend. Norwegian racer Anders 'The Viking' Krohn scored a top-6 finish at NJMP last year, in addition to winning on the Milwaukee Mile Oval. This year he's back with the team that helped him with the 2008 F2000 championship and is second in the championship battle driving the #47 Andersen Racing / Norse Cutting & Abandonment / Trallfa / Colosseum Mazda to a pole at the Sebring season-opener, a podium and four top-5s.
Another driver who changed teams, albeit more recently -- between Rounds 4 and 5 of this season -- is Texan Rusty Mitchell. After two seasons with the family Mitchell Motorsports team, he's now in the cockpit of the #66 Juncos Racing / Motorola / Petro Communications / HRP Racing Products / Texas Autosports Mazda. Juncos Racing is currently the hottest team in the Star Mazda Championship; in their rookie year, 2009, they won four races with Irish phenom Peter Dempsey and have already won four with American phenom Conor Daly.
Also keep an eye on a hungry young driver named Connor De Phillippi, driving the #11 JDC Motorsports / MAZDASPEED Motorsports / Skip Barber Mazda. He won the 2009 Skip Barber Pro Series and is driving in the 2010 Star Mazda championship with backing from the MAZDASPEED Motorsports Driver Development Ladder, the unique and prestigious automaker-backed program that helps champions at each level of open-wheel racing move up the ladder. He has three top-5s and two top-7s this year and is currently 5th in the championship.
The other interesting story this weekend involves a brand-new driver who is unlikely to win the race, but will certainly attract a good deal of attention from fans and media, given the popularity of SuperBike racing at NJMP. Larry Pegram is one of the top motorcycle racers in North America (currently 5th in the AMA Pro American SuperBike championship) making an exploratory run in the Star Mazda Championship.
Pegram has scored one win, four podiums and seven top-5 finishes so far this season riding the #72 foremost Insurance/Pegram Racing Ducati 1098R. He scored two top-5 finishes in the SuperBike race at NJMP in 2009. Pegram brings with him a film crew shooting a reality series about his exploits as he makes the switch from two wheels to four. He is making his Star Mazda debut with the help and support of friend and fellow Star Mazda driver Walt Bowlin. Pegram will compete in the Expert Series for drivers between 30 and 44 years of age while Bowlin races in the Master Series (45 and older). Let's hope we don't see a 'reversal of fortune' this weekend involving these two: Bowlin missed several races earlier this season due to a broken collarbone, an injury he suffered while test-riding Pegram's SuperBike.
All the racing action this weekend at New Jersey Motorsports Park, including the Star Mazda Championship, the Cooper Tires Presents USF2000 National Championship powered by Mazda, Mazda MX-5 Cup, IMSA Prototype Lites and the Patron GT3Challenge, will be broadcast live on HDnet. The pre-race show takes place 12:30 pm -- 1:00 pm, and 1:00pm -- 4:00 pm will be live coverage of the Playboy Mazda MX 5 Cup, USF2000, and The Star Mazda/Visit Florida Cup. All times are Eastern. Rick Benjamin will call the play-by-play, and a pair of well-known racers, Johnny O'Connell (USF2000 and Star Mazda) and Elliott Forbes-Robinson (Mazda MX-5 Cup) will be the on-air analysts. Todd Lewis will be the pit reporter. In addition to the live broadcast, both Playboy Mazda MX 5 Cup races and one of the two Star Mazda Championship races will be cable syndicated across the USA, Canada and worldwide.
The NJMP weekend is part of the partnership between MAZDASPEED and VISIT FLORIDA that includes the 5-weekend, 7-race VISIT FLORIDA Cup, a championship-within-a-championship in which the driver scoring the most points during the five VISIT FLORIDA weekends will win both the VISIT FLORIDA Cup and a personalized Florida dream vacation.
Star Mazda Championship on-track action begins with a 'promoter test day' on Thursday, June 23 with 40-minute sessions in the morning and afternoon. Practice continues on Friday, June 24, with qualifying for Race #1 from 9:45 am -- 10:30 am Saturday, June 26. The traditional Star Mazda standing start gets the green light at 3:00 pm Saturday afternoon. Qualifying for Race #2 is from 9:05 am -- 9:50 am Sunday, June 27 with the race start scheduled for 3:05 pm that afternoon.
-source: star mazda