Ardoin wins Star Mazda at Trois Rivières
With a perfectly-judged, last-lap, first turn pass during the green/white/checkered re-start of a hard-fought race, Louisiana driver Alex Ardoin took the lead from pole-sitter Rusty Mitchell to win Round 10 of the 2009 Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear at the 40th running of the GP3R at Trois Rivières. After qualifying third on the grid in the #51 JDC Motorsports / Oral & Facial Surgery Center / Twister Trailer Mazda, Ardoin hounded pole-sitter Rusty Mitchell in the #66 Mitchell Motorsports / Motorola Mazda in the closing laps of the race and, calling on three seasons of experience in Star Mazda Championship competition, scored the second win of his career; his first victory came in the 2007 season-closer at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, finished 4th in the 2008 championship and in 2009 has endured a string of bad luck that would have defeated a weaker personality.
"I really need to thank the JDC Motorsports team, this win is more theirs than mine and without them I wouldn't even be racing, much less taking the podium here in Trois Rivières," said Ardoin. "We had a really good car in the race, but Rusty was driving extremely well and I had to hope for some re-starts to give me a chance to get by. I got my wish in the last few laps when there was a full-course yellow and when they re-started we were all bunched up tight and had to get it done in one lap before the checkered came out. I've always liked this track and the fans in this town so that makes this victory very special to me."
Mitchell, the young Texan who qualified on the pole – the first of his two-season Star Mazda career – led every lap but the last one. He followed perfectly the plan he laid out after qualifying; "Get a good start, pull out a gap and try to run away with it." His plan worked well for most of the race with a 5-car feeding frenzy behind him all slowing each other down and allowing him to open up a lead of three seconds at one point. His second-place finish is the best of his career so far, though he has showed recent strength with a 6th-place finish on the Milwaukee Mile oval and 4th on the 7/8ths mile at Iowa Speedway.
Finishing third, and happy to do so after a long string of terrible luck, was Californian Joel Miller. He qualified 5th in the #2 Andersen Racing / Fader Higher Productions / eSoles / Doug Mockett & Co. Mazda and drove an aggressive race to take this third podium finish of the year. Miller was the 2007 Skip Barber Pro Series Champion and moved up to the Star Mazda Championship in 2008 with sponsorship from the Ladder drive, Conor Daly, qualified 7th, ran as high as 4th early in the race, but a late-race accident took him out of contention.
Carrying the flag for the Quebec racing fans and turning in one of the best drives of the race was Mikael Grenier, a 16-year old 'phenom' from Quebec City who is now a student living in Stoneham and attending Georges-Vanier High School in Montreal. He battled mechanical difficulties in practice and qualifying, starting the race from the last row in 19th. He drove #17 Andersen Racing / NAPA Auto Parts / CAA-Quebec / HS Telecom Mazda to a 4th-place finish. He scored a pair of 3rd-place podium finishes earlier in the season.
"The Andersen Racing team found the problem we had last night and gave me a really good car for the race so it was possible for me to move up and have a good finish," said Grenier. "I got my tires a little too hot so the final yellow flag laps behind the pace car were good for me to let them cool down and I was able to be very strong at the finish. This is probably my last race of this season, but I hope to come back for a full season with the Andersen Racing team in 2010."
The top-finishing Expert Series driver (ages 30-44) was Texan J.W. Roberts, winning in his first race back from becoming a new father in the #65 Team GDT / General Data Tech Mazda. Winning the Master Series (driver 45 and older) was Californian Mike Guasch, who has dominated the class this season with six in-class wins so far driving the #91 JDC Motorsports / Molecule Mazda. Guasch clinched the Master Series title with his victory today.
Trois-Rivières unfortunately marked the end of a three-race winning streak for Peter 'The Irish Steamroller' Dempsey. After winning four races this season on both ovals and road courses, he qualified on the outside of the front row at Trois-Rivières but had to start from pit lane in last place after a miscommunication with his team resulted in his car not being present before the closing of pre-grid. Dempsey worked his way up to 9th early in the race but a loose nose cone on his #3 Juncos Racing / HOOTERS / Motorsport Ireland / Queyside.ie Mazda forced a pit stop during a full-course yellow. In an effort to get him out without going a lap down, the Juncos Racing team sent him out without a nose on the car and the lack of aerodynamics and track position put an end to his charge and left him with a 13-th place finish, his worst of the season.
That said, his previous results leave him with a 10-point lead in the championship heading into the final three rounds (Mosport, Road Atlanta and Mazda Raceway). In second, driving the #11 JDC Motorsports / Molecule / Alpinestars Mazda, is Englishman Adam Christodoulou. He has won two races this season (the only driver besides Dempsey to do so) but today he qualified 4th and finished 5th. Joel Miller is third in the points with 312, followed by Conor Daly with 302 and today's race winner, Alex Ardoin with 301. With a maximum of 135 points remaining to be won in the remaining races, twelve drivers remain in the championship battle.
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