Star Mazda Series – 2009 Season Review
The Mid-Season Grind:
The first double-header of the season was at the New Jersey Motorsports Park. Both races were won from the pole, Race 1 by Conor Daly and Race 2 by Richard Kent, and it was the first victory of the year for both race winners. Conor struggled on Sunday inspite of winning the pole and race on Saturday. On Sunday, his car was not the same and he fought an oversteering car all day, finishing Race 2 exactly where he started in P9. Kent had exactly the opposite experience. Saturday, he struggled to secure a top ten finish ending Race 1 in P8. Overnight, he and the team found something and they came out with a monster car for Sunday. Kent broke the track record by four tenths on his way to winning pole during qualifications. Once again, Alex Ardoin finds himself in the bridesmaid position in Race 2. It was a better result that he had in Race 1 where an ignition wire was jostled loose as result of an off.
The next two races feature a rare thing in a single-seater development series, oval racing! The Star Mazda series starts a two race series on short ovals with the first at the Milwaukee Mile. The race was fast and action-packed as open-wheel racing at Milwaukee usually is. Richard Kent, fresh off of his win at New Jersey, grabbed the pole position, but he and Conor Daly got didn’t make it through the first turn of the first lap. The often quoted saying by Sterling Moss is never so true as on an oval, “To finish first, you must first finish.” Another common cliche also comes to mind here, “You can’t win the race in the first turn, but you sure can lose it.” That’s exactly what Kent and Daly did, they lost in Turn 1 by trying to be too aggressive. Anders Krohn, who started seventh, took full advantage of all the chaos and mayhem in front of him and steadily moved forward and with a great final restart took the victory, his first in the Star Mazda Championship. Peter Dempsey, arrived at Milwaukee with a new team, Juncos Racing, after leaving Andersen Racing. Turns out to have been a good fit. Although Peter finished in fourth, he set the fast lap of the race at 28.652 sec, 126.40 mph. To put this in perspective, the track record for the NASCAR Nationwide cars is 29.365 sec, 122.60 mph. …just sayin’.
Dempsey’s switch to a new team paid off in spades at the next and final oval-track race of the season at the Iowa Speedway. He won the race from pole position, putting in a dominating performance all weekend long. As with Milwaukee, many of the young drivers in the Star Mazda Championship were learning the value of patience, even if that learning was done at the School of Hard Knocks. The race was littered with debris and collisional shards as drivers tended to overdrive their cars and push a bit too hard. None of that phased Dempsey as he drove in clean air all day long scoring his second win of the season and the first for Juncos Racing. The win at Iowa put Dempsey in the points lead over Adam Christodoulou, the only other driver to have multiple wins so far.
Proving that Iowa was no fluke, Dempsey pulled off what the Star Mazda writers called the “equivalent of pitching a perfect game in baseball.” In the double-header at the Autobahn Country Club in Joliet, IL, Dempsey was perfect in every session; fastest in every practice, fastest qualifier for both races, and two race wins. There’s no way you could ask for more. This sets up the young Irishman in a strong position for the season championship being the only driver yet to win four races this season. His closest competitor, Adam Christodoulou stayed as close as he could through the weekend, finishing second in both races. Although Dempsey did stretch out his lead, it was still only 342 for him compared to Adam’s 323. Nineteen points is an easy swing if Dempsey has a bad result in even one race. With four races left in the season, it’s still anyone’s championship!
To see more pictures from these and other races from the 2009 Star Mazda Championship, check out their online galleries.
Tomorrow – The Battle for the Championship