Dempsey wins again in Star Mazda
Peter 'The Irish Steamroller' Dempsey, starting from his fourth pole of the year, scored his fifth win of the year in the 2009 Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear, leading green-to-checker driving his #3 Juncos Racing / The Collection / Motorsport Ireland / Queyside.ie Mazda at the Petit Le Mans Presented by MAZDA6 at Road Atlanta. Dempsey -- who won four races in 2008, only to finish third in the championship after a disastrous race here at Road Atlanta in which he started from the pole and finished 19th after an on-track collision with another car – extends his slim lead in the heated championship battle and provokes an all-the-marbles shootout at the series finale in two weeks at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
Dempsey has 444 points to Adam Christodoulou's 429; with 45 points remaining to be won in the final race (44 for a win and one for pole), the 2009 Star Mazda championship will be decided between these two drivers -- with Dempsey only needing to finish 6th or better to clinch the championship… and the fully-funded drive in the 2010 Atlantic Championship, courtesy of the MAZDASPEED Motorsports Driver Development Ladder, that goes with it.
Finishing second, 7.7 seconds back, was Conor Daly, driving the #22 Andersen Racing / College Network / Indeck / Cytomax Mazda, with Dempsey's sole remaining title contender, Englishman Adam Christodoulou, rounding out the podium finishers with a 3rd-place drive in the #11 JDC Motorsports / Molecule / Alpinestars Mazda. Daly, son of racing legend Derek Daly, was the 2008 Skip Barber Pro Series Championship and won his ride in the 2009 Star Mazda Championship courtesy of the MAZDASPEED Motorsports Driver Development Ladder. He has won one race so far this season, from the pole at New Jersey Motorsports Park, finished on the podium five times and is third in the championship with 382 points. Christodoulou, the 2008 UK Formula Renault Champion, has won two races so far this year, including the season-opener at Sebring and Round 3 at Miller Motorsports Park; with six podium finishes this year, he is second in the championship with 429 points.
"I can't thank the Juncos Racing team enough for the heroic effort they're making to give me such a good car every weekend, and they gave me a great one today," said Dempsey, who was also the top-finishing driver in the Racing for Kids program and won a cash donation for the local Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite. "I got a good start and was able to control the race and pull a bit of a gap, which made it easier for me than having to race while protecting my position. My parents flew in from Ireland to watch me race here in American for the first time this weekend, so I'm really happy with the result. There's still a bit of concern in the fact that the championship isn't won yet, the it all comes down to what happens at Mazda Raceway on October 10, but I feel confident in myself and my team, and we're just going to keep our focus until the job gets done."
Rounding out the top-5 were Joel Miller, who finished 4th after starting 3rd in the #2 Andersen Racing / Doug Mockett & Co. / Allied Interior Products Mazda, followed by Alex Ardoin, the Louisiana racer who was the recipient of Dempsey's on-track mistake here last year. Ardoin, who won an emotional victory in Round 10 at Trois-Rivieres, qualified 7th in the #51 JDC Motorsports / Oral & Facial Surgery Center / Twister Trailer Mazda and moved up to 5th by the finish. Miller, who finished 3rd in the 2008 Star Mazda Championship, is 4th in the 2009 championship battle with 370 points and Ardoin, who finished 4th in last year's championship, is currently sitting in the 5th spot with 361 points.
Among the Master (45 and older) and Expert (ages 30-44) Series drivers, Gerry Kraut, the co-owner of JDC Motorsports, persevered despite a drive-through penalty and a first-lap spin to score his third in-class victory of the season driving the #55 JDC Motorsports / Dougherty & Co. / Dougherty Funding LLC Mazda; Kraut started and finished 16th overall. The Master Series Championship has already been clinched by his JDC Motorsports teammate, Californian Mike Guasch, driver of the #91 JDC Motorsports / Molecule Mazda.
Chris Cumming, the 2008 Expert Series Champion, also fought his way back from stalling his engine on the grid to score his 7th in-class victory of the year; after qualifying 17th, he moved up to finish 12th overall in the 20-car field. The Expert Series championship will also be decided at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, between Cumming and Japanese racer Toshihiro Deki, driver of the #80 Juncos Racing Mazda. Deki, in his first season of Star Mazda Championship competition, has scored three in-class wins and has 172 points vs. 168 for Cumming.
Round 13, the season finale, takes place at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on October 10.
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