Star Mazda Iowa Test Day 1 Iowa Speedway – A scheduled two-day Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear test at Iowa Speedway in advance of the upcoming Pizza Ranch 100 on July 10 got off to a late start today despite the best efforts of track workers to dry a racing surface still weeping the residue of earlier rains.
Thirteen cars finally took to the track in the afternoon, with Louisiana racer Alex Ardoin ultimately turning the fastest lap of 22.109 (145.589 mph) in his #51 JDC Motorsports / Oral & Facial Surgery Center / Twister Trailer Mazda. By the time the final lap was run, the top-9 cars were within 3/10ths of a second of each other, and speeds are expected to increase still further with ideal weather – and several more cars - expected tomorrow.
Ardoin, currently fourth in the 2009 Star Mazda Championship battle, has scored two top-10s and a podium in the first three races. This is Ardoin's third season of Star Mazda competition; In 2008, he finished 4th in the championship with a record of four podium finishes, one start from the pole and six top-10 finishes. In his rookie year, 2007, he won the season-ending race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, finished on the podium twice, started from the pole once, scored four top-10 finishes and finished 6th in the championship.
"The drivers worked their way up to speed gradually, which is what we like to see, and as a result there were only two incidents, both relatively minor," says Star Mazda Championship founder and President Gary Rodrigues. "When they first started, straight-line top speeds were around 143 mph and by the end of the afternoon that was the average lap speed. The sky was overcast all day and the humidity was high, so we got the most realistic simulation possible of the conditions we'll be racing in later this season when we run a hundred laps under the lights with the ARCA RE/MAX series."
Although the Star Mazda Championship has raced on ovals previously, including Pikes Peak and the Milwaukee Mile, this will be the first visit to the 7/8ths mile Iowa Speedway Oval by the rotary-powered, 250-horsepower Star Mazda Championship cars. By way of comparison, the fastest lap by a V-8-powered, 420 horsepower Indy Lights car at this track last year was 20.0971 sec. Michael McDowell (the 2004 Star Mazda series champion), raced to a 2nd-place finish in the 2007 ARCA RE/MAX Prairie Meadows 250 after qualifying 7th with a lap of 23.999 mph in his No. 2 Z-Line Designs / Mission Residential / Beck Dodge. McDowell, who graduated from Star Mazda to Indy Cars and prototype sports cars before moving to stock cars, went on to race NASCAR Sprint Cup in 2008 and is currently driving the #47 in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.
The Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear is scheduled to make its first appearance at the Iowa Speedway in the Pizza Ranch 100 on July 10. The format will feature 100 laps of flat-out racing under the lights during an ARCA RE/MAX weekend, with the green flag scheduled to wave at 8:30 pm.
The Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear is now in its 19th year as one of the most successful open-wheel driver development series in North America. The Star Mazda Championship the college basketball, the triple-A baseball of auto racing, a high-speed training ground for future stars of the sport and a major step on the MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development Ladder and automaker-supported scholarship program that provides funding for young champions to move up to the next level of racing. Graduates of the Star Mazda Championship included three drivers in last weekend's Indy 500 field; Marco Andretti, Graham Rahal and Raphael Matos, as well as seven of 21 drivers in the Indy Lights series.