Star Mazda Series – 2009 Season Review
Battle for the Championship:
Headed into the home stretch for the 2009 Star Mazda Championship, rookie Adam Christodoulou and Peter “The Irish Steamroller” Dempsey were locked in a battle for the lead. Coming to Quebec, Dempsey had a slight edge on Christodoulou, but with four races left Peter’s 19-point lead was tenuous at best. The first weekend for the series north of the border wouldn’t turn out great for either contender, but especially not for Peter. He and his team missed the call to the grid and inspite of qualifying in P2, Dempsey had to start from pit lane. After working his way back up to P9, a problem with his nose cone put him in the pits and eventually shuffled him back finish in 13th and a lap down. Christodoulou failed to take full advantage of Dempsey’s errors and only managed a fifth place finish. His JDC Motorsports teammate and series veteran Alex Ardoin, however, finally had everything come together. Alex started in P3 and over took the pole winner, Rusty Mitchell on a last-lap restart to claim the lead and the win. This was the first win for Ardoin this season.
Mosport International Raceway
The second and final Canadian race of the season was at Mosport International Raceway and again we see Dempsey and Christodoulou struggle to make top finishes. Although they both finished better than at Trois-Rivières, their fourth and third place finishes, respectively, didn’t help either of their causes much. Dempsey still retained a slim lead, but finishing behind Christodoulou rather than in front of him for the second race in a row had cut that lead down to a mere seven points. Richard Kent was the class of the field at Mosport securing the pole amidst tretcherous conditions, he went on to win the race and joining Dempsey and Christodoulou as a multiple-race winner in 2009. Conor Daly had overtaken Kent early in the race, but a spin in Turn 10 midway through took him out of contention. Daly did manage to fight his way back into a second place finish, but his chances of a win were lost in that spin.
Joining the Atlantics Championship, ALMS, Speed World Challenge series for the Petit Le Mans weekend at Road Atlanta game the series a larger that usual crowd. Peter Dempsey showed that all of those spectators, and perhaps more importantly all those other team owners and scouts, were a motivation to him, not an intimidation. Dempsey won his fifth race of the year from the pole, leading each and every lap of the event.Conor Daly finished well behind Dempsey in second, and was followed a few seconds later by Adam Christodoulou. Although things could have gone worse for Adam, his podium finish still kept him in the championship hunt, if only just. Peter stretched out his lead to 15 points, more than doubling the gap after the race at Mosport. This strong finish put Dempsey in a dominant position heading into the final round of the championship, needing only to finish sixth or better at Laguna to clinch the series title. Joel Miller and Alex Ardoin both finished in the top five, but their continued lack of podium appearences or race wins will likely relegate them to being in Star Mazda again next year.
Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca
Championship weekend at the home track of the series sponsor, Mazda, would see some serious drama. Peter Dempsey was in the prime position to take the series championship, needing only to finish sixth or better. Starting from the pole position was a great was to help out his cause, and it looked like we were going to see a repeat of his Road Atlanta performance. Securing the pole earned Dempsey an extra bonus point which meant that now he only needed to finish P7 or higher. However, headed down to the Andretti Hairpin, JDC Motorsports teammates Adam Christodoulou and Alex Ardoin both passed him, putting Peter back in third position. The drama wasn’t over though, as third JDCM teammate Joel Miller rear-ended Dempsey punting him off course and forcing him to rejoin in last place. Dempsey fought his way up to P11 with a race car that was still quick enough to set the fast lap of the race, but further contact with Rusty Mitchell ended his day. Dempsey’s last place finished opened the door wide open for Christodoulou. Adam and Alex continued to run in first and second and finished the race in that order. The race win for Adam and the last place finish for Peter gave the series championship to Adam Christodoulou. So did Miller punt Dempsey on purpose? What there team orders to harass Dempsey? It’s certainly suspicous, but if Peter had a better start, there might not have ever been an issue.
Thoughts on Next Year:
The Star Mazda field is filled with some seriously talented drivers, and I for one am looking forward to seeing these young drivers continuing to hone their skills and move up to the Firestone Indy Lights series and the IZOD IndyCar Series. That progression might become easier in the coming seasons than in the past. The Star Mazda Championship has already offered logistical support to the reborn U.S. F2000 National Championship, with whom they will share many race weekends in 2010, and the series is lined up to share race weekends with the IndyCar Series at St. Petersburg and at the Iowa Speedway. With the Milwaukee Mile seeming to be an unlikely destination for ANY type of racing next year, the series is slated to join USF2000 and USAC at the O’Rielly Raceway Park (formally IRP, Indianapolis Raceway Park) for a Saturday event the night before the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race. That’s definitely an event that I’ll be working hard to attend! Right now, the Atlantics Championship is an apparent dead-end, and the Firestone Indy Lights series is really the prime development series for young open-wheel drivers seeking to race in the IndyCar Series. Here’s the current 2010 schedule for the Star Mazda Championship:
|March 19||Sebring International Raceway||American Le Mans Series|
|March 26||St. Petersburg||IndyCar Series|
|May 22||Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca||American Le Mans Series|
|May 29||O’Reilly Raceway Park||USAC|
|June 19||Iowa Speedway||IndyCar Series|
|June 26/27||New Jersey Motorsports Park||Feature|
|July 31/Aug 1||Autobahn Country Club||Feature|
|August 15||Circuit Trois-Rivières||Feature|
|August 21||Road America||American Le Mans Series|
|August 28||Mosport International Raceway||American Le Mans Series|
|October 1||Road Atlanta||American Le Mans Series|