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2009 Star Mazda honors champions
The Chateau St. Julien winery in the California's famed Carmel Valley recently hosted series awards banquet honoring the 2009 champion and award winners of the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear.
Taking top honors was 2009 Champion Adam Christodoulou, who won a hard-fought battle for the title in one of the most competitive seasons in Star Mazda history.

With a total 2009 Star Mazda Championship prize fund of $1.5 million, including a fully-sponsored ride in the 2010 Atlantic Championship and various cash and other awards at each event.

The Top-3 Finishers collected a total of $971,000 between them, which is impressive for a support series that is a couple of rungs below IndyCars.

Christodoulou tallied three wins, two poles and nine podium finishes for JDC Motorsports / Molecule / AlpineStars / Miller Milling Company, and garnered championship and 'Rookie of the Year' honors, along with checks of $100,000 and $10,000 respectively. As the top Racing for Kids driver, he also added another $1,000 check to his treasure chest of cash and awards, which was matched in a donation of the same amount by Racing for Kids to the children's hospital of Christodoulou's choice.

The big prize presentation of the evening was a MAZDASPEED driving suit and helmet that will be his uniform for a full-season sponsorship in the 2010 Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda. Christodoulou has plans to test with several Atlantic teams in the coming weeks in making his choice for 2010.

In second place with the most wins (5), five poles and six top-10 finishes, was Peter 'The Irish Steamroller' Dempsey of Juncos Racing / The Collection / Motorsport Ireland / Queyside.ie. At the season finale at Laguna Seca, Dempsey was in the championship lead, looking for only sixth or better to secure the championship. Starting from the pole position, Dempsey spun out on the first lap after contact from another car, dashing his championship expectations. His second place finish on the season collected a check for $70,000, and his performance will surely bring the notice of teams up the racing ladder.

With a third place award of $50,000, Conor Daly, the official MAZDASPEED Motorsports Driver Development Ladder scholarship poster boy and son of racing legend Derek Daly, scored one win, one pole and six podium finishes in his rookie season in the Star Mazda Championship. The Anderson Racing driver has his eye on Formula One, and has shown well in Eurpean racing as well.

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.

Other prize winners were as follows:

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)

The Star Mazda Championship also makes sure to recognize the more mature racers who race equally as hard, but have a few more years under their belt. The Expert Series is for drivers 30-44 years of age and the Master Series is for drivers 45 and older. In 2009, Canadian Chris Cumming,  scored seven in-class wins and won a repeat of his 2008 championship and a check for $10,000. Finishing second was Japan's 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 a $5,000 prize. Third place went to Californian Patrick O'Neill with two 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. Driving the #91 JDC Motorsports / Molecule / MG4 Manufacturing Mazda, Guasch scored six class wins for $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.

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