Edwards Wins Star Mazda at Miller
Joel Miller’s dominant win at the 2008 Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear season-opener at Sebring seems a distant memory in the heat of the Utah afternoon as newcomer John Edwards and the AIM Autosport team celebrate a clean sweep of Round Two at Miller Motorsports Park with the pole, leading every lap, and a 14.514-second margin of victory over 2nd-place finisher Charles Hall and a 22.136-seconds gap back to Miller in 3rd.
Rounding out the top-5 were Irishman Peter Dempsey, who started 5th and finished 4th in the #21 Andersen Racing/Center Jewellers.ie/Quayside.ie/Allied Mazda and Tom Gladdis who qualified 4th and drove the #5 Andersen Racing/Law firm of Marrache & Co./Allied Mazda to a 5th-place finish.
Combined with the results from the Sebring, Joel Miller continues to lead the driver championship battle with 82 points, Hall is in second with 80, Dempsey is third with 71 and Gladdis is fourth with 64.
The race opened with a bit of drama; after a textbook standing start, the 29-car field barreled into Turn One at top speed… and 23 cars emerged. The carnage claimed JDC Motorsports driver Cody Jolly and Mundill‘s Ciao Lara among others, while several of the wounded were able to make repairs and return to battle. The re-start was not without controversy either, as Edwards’ #7 AIM Autosport Mazda and Miller’s #20 JDC Motorsports/Mazda/K&N Air Filters Mazda appeared to touch wheels heading into the first turn, an incident that worked out well for Edwards and less so for Miller who lost several places in the process of sliding wide on the exit.
“Joel gave me a good run for my money, but I was able to make a somewhat brave move on the outside of Turn One and make it stick, which was the defining moment of the race for me,” says Edwards, now a resident of Cincinnati, Ohio. “He had a better start, and a better re-start, but I was on newer tires and when I drafted past him to take the lead, it was just a matter of driving smooth and bringing it home. The AIM team did a remarkable job in a really short amount of time and I’m delighted to be able to respond with a win in my first race.”
Hall, who also finished 2nd at Sebring, qualified 6th in the #77 Andersen Racing/Blimpie/ AccentBanking.com/ Pardoes Solicitors/Allied Mazda. His race was a relatively calm affair, once he made it through the first turn melee.
“I didn’t qualify where I would have liked, but I got a good start and was able to work my way up to third,” said Hall, who was close to signing a Formula One testing contract before a serious accident in a street car derailed his career and put him in physical therapy for a year. “I saw the fight up front and knew from Sebring that Joel was a clean racer, so I thought I wait and see how it sorted itself out. The team gave me a really good car for the race, and it was a good clean race with no problems, but there was just no catching Edwards today.”
Miller’s slide back through the field to as deep at 9th was the result of a temperature spike in his car’s on-board data system that required some consultation with the team to determine if the problem was serious enough to pit, or if he could continue.
“I drove most of the race with a big red warning light on my dashboard, but the team said to stay out and go for it, so I did,” said the 2007 Skip Barber Pro Series Champion who won his 2008 Star Mazda ride courtesy of the MAZDASPEED Motorsports Driver Development Program. “I don’t know if John and I made contact on the re-start, I guess we’ll look at the tapes in slow motion and see, but the JDC team and my engineer Rick Cameron gave me such a good car that I was able to drive back up through the field to finish on the podium and keep me leading the championship.”
Phil Fogg, Jr., of Portland, Oregon, won the Expert Series class (for drivers 30 to 44 years old) in his #29 Northwest Autosport/Consonus Health Services Mazda; he finished 11th overall after qualifying 18th.