Gerardo Bonilla Races to Victory in Star Mazda Season Opener at Sebring March 17, 2006 -- Making his series debut at his home track, Gerardo Bonilla, from Orlando, Florida, pulled away to victory in his Skip Barber Racing/Carmela Sausage Mazda...
Gerardo Bonilla Races to Victory in Star Mazda Season Opener at Sebring
March 17, 2006 -- Making his series debut at his home track, Gerardo Bonilla, from Orlando, Florida, pulled away to victory in his Skip Barber Racing/Carmela Sausage Mazda in Round One of the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear this afternoon at Sebring International Raceway in Round One of the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear. Joining Bonilla on the podium at the famed 3.7-mile road course were Daniel Herrington and Adrian Carrio.
"I've been teaching other drivers at the Skip Barber Racing School for so long and wondering when it was going to be my turn, and I'm finally getting my chance," an excited Bonilla exclaimed. "It's my first race in the series, and to win it feels amazing. It's the result of a lot of hard work from the Andersen Racing Team, as they did an engine change right before qualifying and we qualified fifth, and then they went right back to work."
The race, originally scheduled for 20-laps, became a timed 45-minute race due to several caution periods in the first half of the event. "The start of the race was rough as the second row didn't quite get the jump they needed and had a side-by-side battle into turn one," Bonilla said. "Ryan Justice and another car got close and spun. I felt bad for them for about a quarter of a second and then I got back to work. I was able to pass Brad Jaeger on the restart to take the lead by using the draft down the front-straight ."
Daniel Herrington, of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, also making his series debut at Sebring, drove a smart race to finish second after lining up tenth on the grid driving the Bluetooth SIG AIM Autosport Mazda. "We were strong from the get-go this weekend but with the chaos of qualifying and starting tenth I was focused on just finishing because points are so important," Herrington explained. "From the start I just started taking what I could get and after a few laps I had moved up into second, but Gerardo did a fantastic job on the restarts."
World Speed Motorsports driver Adrian Carrio, in his second year of competition, would capture his first podium finish in the series with a third place finish in his Rockford Fosgate Mazda. "The start at turn one was little bit crazy when a couple of cars went off and my race started off slowly, but I just took my time and started working my way through the field," the seventeen-year old driver from Monument, Colorado, said. "I just focused on hitting my marks and driving a smart race and have to thank my engineer Mike Doyle, driver coach John Olsen and my mechanics for giving me a great car today."
While the top three drivers had solid races moving up to the podium, the busiest driver on the track was another series rookie, Matt Varsha, who sliced his way through the field to finish fourth after starting last due to an incident in qualifying. "I've been through the worst 24 hours in racing after yesterday afternoon," Varsha said. "I was down and the team was down but we just went back to work and the car today was awesome. We'd been through so many ups and downs this weekend so when I crossed the finish line I was pumping my fist like I'd won the race, excited not just for myself but for the whole Racers Edge Motorsports team that had worked so hard to give me an awesome car."
With one round complete, Bonilla holds both the overall and Expert Series points lead for drivers aged 30-44. In the Masters Series for drivers aged 45 and older, defending champion John Pew finished at the top of the class, running as high as fifth before finishing twelfth overall.
The 2006 Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear will be featured on SPEED Channel with one-hour broadcasts for all twelve rounds, starting with Round One from Sebring International Raceway, which is scheduled to debut on Sunday, April 9th at 4:00 PM Eastern Time.
Round Two of the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear will be held in conjunction with the American LeMans Series and ChampCar race weekend in Houston, Texas, on May 13th and 14th. For more information please visit www.starmazda.com.