FROM THE BOTTOM TO THE TOP – IRISHMAN PETER DEMPSEY SCORES AN OVERDUE FIRST WIN AT ROAD AMERICA
Irishman Peter Dempsey scored a long-overdue first win in the 2008 Star Mazda Championship in an intense see-saw battle in round 6 at Road America. Driving the #21 Andersen Racing / LotusWorks/ Center Jewellers.ie/Quayside.ie/ Allied Building Products Mazda, Dempsey qualified on the front row fought a race-long battle with pole-sitter John Edwards and made the pass for the lead on the next-to-last lap. Edwards, with victories at Miller Motorsports Park and Race 2 at Portland, started from the pole and finished second in the #7 AIM Autosport Mazda. Rounding out the top-3 was Watkins Glen winner Charles Hall, who started from 5th in the #77 Andersen Racing / Blimpie / AccentBanking.com/Pardoes Solicitors / Allied Building Products Mazda.
The top-finishing Master Series driver (45 and older) was the current points leader in the category, Californian Chuck Hulse. Driving the #12 JDC Motorsports / Silicon Salvage Mazda, he has now scored three class wins and finished 11th overall at Road America. Making his first visit to the podium as winner of the Expert Series (drivers 30 to 44) was J.W. Roberts. Racing the #65 Team GDT / GDT Mazda, he has finished top-3 in class at every race this season and was 16th overall in today's race.
"After how things went for us in Portland, and earlier this weekend, I'm just over the moon about finally winning my first race," said Dempsey, who suffered assorted mechanical problems in Portland and finished 18th in Race 1 and 19th in Race 2. "There I was with almost a two-second lead in the closing laps and another full-course yellow comes out… they didn't make it easy for me. But I got a good re-start and almost threw it away going too wide in turn 8 on the last lap, but the Andersen team gave me a great car for the race and I was able to hold on to it. It worked out good for the points championship and if we can have another good result next weekend at Trois Rivières, we'll be right back in it."
The race was a nail-biter right from the start, including a first-turn, first-lap incident that saw two cars off into the gravel trap. That seemed to set the tone for the race, a series of full-course yellow flags interspersed with some extremely high-caliber racing. Sebring race winner Joel Miller led in the early stages in the #20 JDC Motorsports / Mazda / K&N Air Filters Mazda, but slowed in the closing stages of the race with mechanical problems. The battle throughout the field was so fierce that the final race action occurred when two cars crashed on the front straight 50 yards past the finish line. In the battle throughout were Alex Ardoin, who qualified 6th and finished 4th in the #51 Mundill Racing / Oral & Facial Surgery Center / Twister Trailer Mazda, as well as Tom Gladdis, the 17 year-old racer from the British territory of Gibraltar who won both poles and one of the two races at Portland. He finished 5th in the #21 Andersen Racing / LotusWorks/Center Jewellers.ie/Quayside.ie/ Allied Building Products Mazda. Kristy Kester, one of the cars involved in the post-finish crash, followed up a 4th-place finish in Portland with a 9th-place finish at Road America and sits 8th in the championship battle. She drives the #48 Kester Racing / Texas World Speedway / Unifirst Mazda.
After round 6 at Road America, Charles Hall leads the championship battle with 211 points, followed by Alex Ardoin with 202 and Joel Miller with 200. Rounding out the top-5 are race winner Peter Dempsey in 4th with 184 points followed by tom Gladdis in 5th with 182.
2nd place finisher John Edwards: "I'm so far behind Charles in the points that I have to forget about the championship and go out and try to win every race. I had a great battle going with Peter and thought I had him in the closing laps, but I got into his dirty air and had to lift just as he was getting on the gas and that was the race right there. I'm happy and disappointed at the same time, but we'll see how it plays out in the next race at Three Rivers."
3rd-place finisher Charles Hall: "We had a little problem in qualifying, but the Andersen team took care of it and I knew we'd have a good car for the race. It was a very hectic race with all the yellow flags and re-starts, so it was difficult to get into a rhythm but I've been making good starts and re-starts all season, so it was not a big problem. I'm less than entirely happy about finishing third, but very happy about leading the championship points."
Master Series winner Chuck Hulse: "I popped an engine earlier in the weekend, but it was about a year and a half old and had a million miles on it, so no problem there. They put in a new one and it was a real bomb, so I had a great time during the race. I was doing more holding on than racing at the end, but I kind of just hung in there, minding my manners and watching the people around me and was able to bring home another win."
Expert Series winner J.W. Roberts – " I saw Chris Cumming, my main competitor in the Expert class, go into the tire wall early in the race, so that took off a lot of pressure. This is my first full season in the series, so I'm trying to be consistent and finish every race. We took a gamble and put on an entirely new setup just before the race; it was risky, but it worked out well."
The next event on the Star Mazda Championship schedule takes place next weekend at the 30th annual Grand Prix of Trois Rivières, a historic and notoriously technical street circuit in the middle of this small Quebec city. On-track action begins with two practice sessions on Friday, August 15. A 45-minute qualifying session will be held from 10:00 to 10:45 am, Saturday, August 16, with the 55-minute race, Round 7 of the 2008 Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear, scheduled to take the green flag at 11:15 am Sunday, August 17. The race will be broadcast on SPEED TV at 12 noon (ET), Saturday, August 30.
The Star Mazda Championship is in the middle of a 3-race 'road trip' that began at Round 6 at Road America on August 9, a race that was won by Peter Dempsey. Following the GP3R event is Round 8 at the Mobil1 Presents Grand Prix of Mosport on Saturday, August 23. Action at Mosport begins with a 'promoter's test day' on Thursday, August 21. Official practice sessions begin on Friday, August 22, with a 45-minute qualifying session scheduled for 8:00 to 8:45 am, Saturday, August 23. The 45-minute race, Round 8 of the 2008 Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear, is scheduled to take the green flag at 3:50 pm Saturday afternoon. The race will air on SPEED TV at 12 noon (ET) on Sunday, September 7.
The final four rounds of the 2008 Star Mazda Championship begin with a double-header at the brand-new New Jersey Motorsports Park on September 13 and 14, followed by Road Atlanta on October 2 and the season finale at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on October 18.