Star Mazda Awards $1.5 million Hours after concluding the 2009 season in the most dramatic fashion possible, with a hard-fought, championship-clinching victory by English racer Adam Christodoulou, drivers, teams, crew and officials of the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear gathered at the Chateau St. Julien winery in the scenic Carmel Valley for the Series awards presentation ceremony.
In addition to the fully-sponsored ride in the 2010 Atlantic Championship won by the Series champion, the $575,000 in cash and prizes presented to the top-15 finishers and various other prizes awarded both at the ceremony and on a race-by-race basis during the season, the 2009 Star Mazda Championship prize fund totaled $1.5 million.
The Top-3 Finishers / $971,000 total
Christodoulou, with a season record of three wins, two poles and nine podium finishes driving the #11 JDC Motorsports / Molecule / Alpinestars / Miller Milling Company Mazda, won not only the series championship but also 'Rookie of the Year' and collected checks for $100,000 and $10,000 respectively. He also collected a $1,000 check for being the top-finishing driver participating in the Racing for Kids program, with the presentation made by RFK public relations director Ron Hingst. An equal amount was donated to the children's hospital of Christodoulou's choice.
His big prize, valued at $750,000, came in the form of the ceremonial presentation of a MAZDASPEED driving suit and helmet that symbolizes a full-season sponsorship in the 2010 Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda. Christodoulou will test with several Atlantic teams and an announcement concerning his 2010 plans will be made in coming weeks.
The Star Mazda Championship is a major rung on the MAZDASPEED Motorsports Driver Development Ladder, the only automaker-supported ladder system in auto racing today that reaches all the way from karting to the top levels of the sport. 2008 Star Mazda champion John Edwards won the 2009 Atlantic Championship in the season finale at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Star Mazda Championship graduates also include Indy Racing League stars Marco Andretti, Graham Rahal and Raphael Matos (the 2005 Star Mazda champion), as well as rising NASCAR stars Michael McDowell (the 2004 series champion) and Colin Braun. 2007 champion Dane Cameron currently races full-time in the #30 Racers Edge Mazda RX-8 GT1 car.
Finishing second, with a record of five wins, five poles and six top-10 finishes, was Peter 'The Irish Steamroller' Dempsey, racing the #3 Juncos Racing / The Collection / Motorsport Ireland / Queyside.ie Mazda. Heading into the season finale at Mazda Raceway, Dempsey was the championship leader and needed finish only sixth or better to clinch the championship. After qualifying on the pole, Dempsey (who won four Star Mazda races in 2008) was spun out on the first lap by contact from another car, ending his championship hopes. He still collected a check for $70,000 and his attention-getting performance this season makes it highly likely he will advance his career next season.
Finishing third in the championship and collecting a check for $50,000 was Conor Daly, the 2008 Skip Barber Pro Series champion and winner of the MAZDASPEED Motorsports Driver Development Ladder scholarship that provided funding for his 2009 Star Mazda Championship season at the wheel of the #22 Andersen Racing / College Network / Indeck / Cytomax Mazda. Daly, the son of racing legend Derek Daly, scored one win, one pole and six podium finishes in his rookie season in the Star Mazda Championship. He tested open-wheel cars in Europe between races toward the end of this season and seems firmly on the path to a career in Formula One.
It's also worth noting that the two young Americans who won the Team USA Scholarship to race in England's prestigious Formula Ford Festival and Walter Hayes Trophy in coming weeks – Skip Barber Pro Series champion Connor De Phillippi and Jim Russell Championship racer Bret Smrz – are driving cars fielded by Cliff Dempsey Racing (Peter Dempsey's father). De Phillippi will race in the Star Mazda Championship in 2010 with backing from the MAZDASPEED Ladder program.
4th through 15th-place finishers/ $296,500 total
More than 35 drivers participated in one or more Star Mazda Championship races during the 2009 season, with a top field of 33 cars (a number equaled only by the Indy 500) in Round 3 at Miller Motorsports Park. The Series pays prize money down to 15th place in the points, including;
4th / $40,000 -- Alex Ardoin driving the #51 JDC Motorsports / Oral & Facial Surgery Center / Twister Trailer Mazda (one win, five podiums, six top-5s and ten top-10s)
5th / $35,000 – Joel Miller driving the #2 Andersen Racing / Doug Mockett & Co. / Allied Interior Products Mazda (three podiums, seven top-5s, nine top-10s)
6th / $30,000 – Anders Krohn driving the #27 Mundill / Trallfa / Colosseum Mazda (one win, one podium, three top-5s and nine top-10s)
7th / $27,000 – Richard Kent driving the #33 Andersen Racing / Traka Allied Interior Products Mazda (two wins, four poles, two podiums, six top-5s and nine top-10s)
8th / $25,000 – Caio Lara driving the #19 JDC Motorsports / MLD / ATW/ Molecule Mazda (four top-5s, eleven top-10s. He also won the VP Fuel "Most Improved Driver Award" worth an additional $5,000)
9th / $22,500 – Jorge Goncalvez driving the #72 AIM Autosport / Mazda (three top-5s, seven top-10s)
10th / $20,000 – Michael Furfari driving the #13 Team Mundill / Furfari Paving Mazda (eight top-10s)
11th / $18,000 – Denis Navarro driving the #21 Andersen Racing / Navarro Medicines Distribution / Allied Interior Products Mazda (eight top-10s)
12th / $16,000 – Rusty Mitchell driving the #66 Mitchell Motorsports / Motorola Mazda (one pole, one podium, two top-5, four top-10s. He also won the Quartermaster "Clutch Performer Award" worth an additional $5,000)
13th / $14,000 – David Ostella driving the #71 AIM Autosport/Global Precast Mazda (one podium, six top-10s)
14th / $12,000 – Toshihiro Deki driving the #80 Juncos Racing /D-Techniques Mazda (five top-15s, nine top-20s, three in-class victories in the Expert Series (drivers 30-44 years old). He also won the BBS "Hard Charger Award" worth $5,000 and was second in the Expert Series for an additional $5,000)
15th / $10,000 – Kevin Toledo driving the #77 Eliseo THL Mazda (two top-10s, ten top-20s)
Experts and Masters / $35,000 total
The Star Mazda Championship is unique in featuring race-within-a-race categories for more mature drivers in whom the competitive fire still burns brightly. The Expert Series is for drivers 30-44 years of age and the Master Series is for drivers 45 and older. In 2009, Chris Cumming, the Vancouver, B.C. resident who drives the #16 World Speed Motorsports Mazda scored seven in-class wins and won a repeat of his 2008 championship; he collected a check for $10,000. Finishing second was Japanese racer Toshihiro Deki, driving the #80 Juncos Racing / D-Techniques Mazda. In addition to finishing 14th overall in the series, he scored three Expert Series victories and won $5,000. Finishing third was Californian Patrick O'Neill who scored two in-class victories driving the #64 Mundill / O'Neill Construction Mazda.
In the Master Series, Californian Mike Guasch clinched the championship early, with a win in Round 10 on the road circuit at the legendary Grand Prix de Trois Rivières in Quebec, Canada. Driving the #91 JDC Motorsports / Molecule / MG4 Manufacturing Mazda, Guasch scored six in-class wins and won $10,000. Finishing second was North Oaks, Minnesota resident Gerry Kraut, co-owner of the championship-winning JDC Motorsports team and CEO of a venture capital firm. Driving the #55 JDC Motorsports / Dougherty & Co. / Dougherty Funding LLC Mazda, he scored three in-class wins and won $5,000. Finishing third was Tarpon Springs, Florida racer Walt Bowlin, driver of the #23 Team Mundill / Hooters / Tampa Bay Jaw Surgery Mazda. He scored six in-class top-3 finishes and was awarded $2,500.
Team Championship / $22,500 total
The Star Mazda Championship 'Team Championship' is based on points earned by each team's two highest-finishing cars. Even in the case of larger teams, only the top-2 count toward the championship. Smaller, one-car teams get a bonus of 5 points per race to compensate and allow them to compete against larger teams.
Winning the team championship, and a check for $10,000, with a total of 366 points was JDC Motorsports. The team, co-owned by John Church and Master Series racer Gerry Kraut, won the series championship with Adam Christodoulou and JDC drivers took two poles (Christodoulou) and won four races in 2009 (three of Christodoulou and one for Alex Ardoin); JCD also won the team and overall series championship in 2007 with Dane Cameron.
Finishing second in the team championship was Andersen Racing, last year's series and team championship winner with John Edwards, who went on to win this year's Atlantic Championship. Andersen Racing drivers won five poles (four for Kent and one for Daly) and four wins (three for Kent and one for Daly). Andersen Racing scored 333 points and won $7,500.
Awards of Merit / $19,000 total
The Quartermaster "Clutch Performer Award" is designed to keep drivers motivated in the home stretch by scoring the most points earned by a competitor in the final six races of the season. The trophy and check for $5000 was presented to Rusty Mitchell, driver of the #66 Mitchell Motorsports / Motorola Mazda.
The BBS 'Hard Charger Award" is scored over all 13 races during the season and is presented to the driver who gains the most places in total from the beginning to end of the races. The prize, a custom-made coffee table made from a polished BBS wheel and etched glass top, plus a set of four BBS racing or BBS road car wheels (valued at $5,000), was presented to Toshihiro Deki.
The VP Fuel "Most Improved Driver Award" is a consensus award that is nominated by all participants, drivers and teams, in the Star Mazda Championship. It is awarded to the driver who has shown the most growth and improvement as a driver. A trophy and check for $5,000 were presented to Brazilian racer Caio Lara, driver of the #19 JDC Motorsports / MLD / ATW/ Molecule Mazda.
The Performance Friction Company "Crew Member of the Year Award" is also the result of nominations from all Star Mazda Championship participants and is awarded to the team member who has done a consistently outstanding job throughout the season. The award, and a check for $1,500, was presented to Lead Mechanic Allen Oppel of Andersen Racing.
The President's Cup, also known as the "Spirit of the Star Mazda Championship Award" is also a consensus award, ultimately decided by the President of the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear, Gary Rodrigues. It, along with a check for $2,500, is awarded to the person who most typifies the qualities and character that the Star Mazda Championship values and promotes; for 2009, that person was Ricardo Juncos, owner of the Juncos Racing team that so nearly won the championship in its first year of Star Mazda competition with driver Peter Dempsey.