Rookie Camilo Schmidt Wins Wet and Wild Star Mazda Race 1 at Edmonton

Star Mazda Race 1 at this weekend's Edmonton Indy was a wet and wild affair, and when all the rooster tails finally faded away, it was Venezuelan rookie Camilo Schmidt, a top South American kart racer making the jump directly to Star Mazda, who was leading the flock. 

 Given that his previous best finish in the series was 9th... and having qualified 15th in his #21 Linares Racing Mazda... and with the race ending in a green/white/ checkered melee, it would be easy enough to write his victory off as luck-- except for the fact that he got a monster start when the lights went green and climbed from 15th to 5th by lap 5. 

Then of course the rain came, and the carnage, and the confusion, and the collisions, so yes there was luck, but also a tremendous drive from this talented 16 year-old who speaks about five words of English.

"It was the craziest race I was ever in," he said through his teammate/interpreter Carlos Linares.  "But I got a very good start and was able to move up a lot of places before the rain came down really heavy, and we decided to stay out on dry tires while a lot of people went into the pits.  When the race went to green, everyone started spinning and crashing and I was able to stay out of the way.  I'm very proud to be able to have this result for the Linares Racing team."

Finishing 2nd in the #88 Andretti Autosport / Comfort Revolution Mazda was pole-sitter Sage Karam, who, though clearly unhappy with the outcome, himself put in a tremendous drive after pitting - along with half the field - at the mid-way point to change to wet tires.  He re-joined in 10th, with the race still under a long yellow, and, in a fast-forward repeat of his charge from last to 3rd at the Toronto Indy two weeks ago, he powered his way through the field from 10th to 2nd during the green/white/checkered finish lap.  Turning in yet another finely-driven performance was Colombian racer Gabby Chaves, his fourth podium of the season so far in the #19 JDC Motorsports / CLARO / Marca Colombia / Tecpro  Mazda.

Martin Scuncio drove an aggressive and lucky race to move up from 6th and finish 4th in the #22 Juncos Racing / Pullman Bus / Gobierno Regional del Bio-Biol Mazda.  Another beneficiary of the pandemonium was Connor De Phillippi, who came to Edmonton second in the championship but battling a long run of bad luck.  An early collision forced a visit to the pits for a new nose, and a second visit for further adjustments, yet he still moved up from 13th to finish 5th in his #2 Juncos Racing / ModSpace Racing / One24 Mazda.

And also putting in a drive of note was Young American Ryan Tveter, who had the worst of all possible weekends in Toronto, as he moved up from 16th on the grid to finish 6th.  Another surprise came in the form of Blair Robertshaw, the Alberta businessman/racer making his professional open-wheel debut in Star Mazda here this weekend.  He qualified his #42 Robertshaw Racing / SEKO Construction / Web Mechanical Mazda 19th and survived to finish 12th.

As for the rest, how even to begin to describe what happened?  There was a portent of things to come between this morning's qualifying and this afternoon's race; a 60-second downpour that seemed to fulfill the promise of the day's cloudy skies and gloomy weather forecast.  Cars rolled to pre-grid on wets, but one of the top teams changed to drys and that started the stampede.  The track was fairly dry, just a few leftover wet spots, and it seemed a reasonable enough decision that every car in the field started on dry tires -- until the skies started spitting again just a few laps into the race.  Even at that point is was more entertaining than threatening, with the slippery track offering opportunities for the young drivers to slide around and show their car control.

Then the sky stopped fooling around and the race turned into a skating lesson conducted largely under yellow flags.  Petri Suvanto, the Finnish 2011 USF2000 champion who is racing in Star Mazda this season on a Mazda Road to Indy scholarship, was the first car out, dropping from 5th on the grid to finish 19th.    Local driver Stefan Rzadzinski also took an early hit in his #93 JDC Motorsports / Mazda and dropped from 9th to 17th.  Zach Veach, starting from the outside of the front row, spun and finished 9th in the #77 Andretti Autosport / K12 / Zakosi Data Backup Mazda.

The major drama was provided by Jack Hawksworth, one of the eight drivers who stayed out on dry tires and seemed set to win -- despite an apparently quixotic decision by his team -- as the full course yellow lengthened until only a few minutes remained in the 30-minute race.  On the green/white/checkered re-start, he was leading in his #82 Team Pelfrey / TORGOEN Swiss Watches / EXA Networks Mazda with teammate Gustavo Menezes (also on drys) in the #83 Team Pelfrey / / Oakley Mazda alongside as they entered Turn 1.  Even with what seemed like plenty of room between them, the super-slick track caught both out and Menezes slid into Hawksworth under braking. Both spun and continued, but Schmidt, with his car twitching but still under control, had already taken full advantage.  Hawksworth finished 7th and retains a strong lead in the points championship, and Menezes, who crashed heavily into a concrete wall several turns later, finished 13th.

Championship points at the conclusion of Race 1 show Hawksworth still in the lead with 212, followed by De Phillippi with 175 and Chaves in third with 172.  Sage Karam moves up from 5th to 4th with 166, followed by Martin Scuncio rounding out the top-5 with 160.  For complete points, click here.

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