The next level of oval education for Star Mazda drivers Iowa Speedway / Newton, Iowa – The rising open-wheel stars of the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear head for Round 5 of the 13-race 2010 season at the 7/8ths-mile Iowa Speedway tri-oval this weekend. This is the second of two oval races during the season, and represents a graduation to the next level of oval education for this strong field of top young racers from around the world.
Having distinguished themselves with a clean, exciting 115-lap race during the 'Night Before the 500' at the 0.626-mile O'Reilly Raceway Park on May 29, during the course of which they were turning laps in the 120 mph range, drivers will now be averaging 145 mph in 100-laps of wheel-to-wheel competition in the second annual Star Mazda Pizza Ranch 100 on Saturday, June 19. IndyCar drivers who graduated from the Star Mazda Championship include Marco Andretti, Graham Rahal and Raphael Matos.
The field is expected to take the flag at 7:15 pm for a 45-minute race that is part of the 'Road to Indy' activities (including the USF2000 and Indy Lights races) leading up to the IndyCar Iowa Corn 250 on Sunday. On-track action for all three Road to Indy series will be broadcast live via streaming video available at both www.IndyCar.com and www.StarMazda.com.
Currently leading the Star Mazda Championship having won the last three races in a row is Conor Daly, driver of the #22 Juncos Racing / INDECK / The College Network / Merchant Services Ltd. Mazda. Daly, who graduated from his Indianapolis high school on May 14, is the son of Formula One and Indy Car racing legend Derek Daly (now a noted motorsports broadcaster). This is his second year of Star Mazda Championship competition and he finished 2nd in this race last year after qualifying 8th.
Of the drivers in the field for this event, five also competed here in 2009 when the Star Mazda Championship cars shared the stage with the ARCA RE/MAX cars at the Prairie Meadows 200 on July 10. They include Canadian David Ostella (#16) who started 5th and finished 3rd; Texan Rusty Mitchell (#66) who qualified 6th and finished 4th; Norwegian racer Anders 'The Viking' Krohn (#47) who qualified 9th and finished 6th; Brazilian Caio Lara (#19) who qualified 17th and finished 9th and Venezuelan Jorge Goncalvez (#9) who started 14th and finished 21st.
Rookies who bear watching on the strength of their performance at O'Reilly Raceway Park include Canadian Mikael Grenier (#17) who qualified on the pole and finished 2nd, Brazilian Joao Victor Horto (#18) who finished 3rd, Frenchman Tristan Vautier (#38) who crossed the line in 6th place and Californian Connor De Phillippi, the current MAZDASPEED Motorsports Driver Development Ladder scholarship winner. He was the 2009 Skip Barber Pro Series champion and is one of three open-wheel 'ladder series' champions in the field, including Chris Miller (#85) the 2009 Formula 2000 champion, and Carlos Linares (#20) the Venezuelan Formula 1600 champion.
Star Mazda drivers also benefit from two of the most unique driver development programs in racing today, the Indy Racing League's 'Road to Indy' and the MAZDASPEED Motorsports Driver Development Ladder. The Road to Indy provides a clearly-defined path for drivers whose ambition it is to race in IndyCars and the Indy 500: the Cooper Tires Presents the USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda; the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear and the Firestone Indy Lights Championship. The MAZDASPEED Ladder provides funding for series champions to move up to a funded ride; the winner of a 'shootout' among top kart racers moves up to Skip Barber; the Skip Barber Pro Series champion moves up to USF2000; the USF2000 champion moves up to Star Mazda; and the Star Mazda Champion moves up to the next Mazda-powered step up the ladder. 2008 and 2009 Star Mazda champions John Edwards and Adam Christodoulou are co-driving a Mazda-backed Mazda RX-8 in the Grand-Am GT class, scoring their first win at Lime Rock on Memorial Day.
“Pizza Ranch is excited to continue our sponsorship of the Pizza Ranch 100 Star Mazda Series. We are looking forward to another exciting night of racing action at Iowa Speedway,” says Gwen Lahrs, Senior Advertising and Marketing Manager. Pizza Ranch dignitaries on hand for the event will include Adrie Groeneweg, President and Co-founder Pizza Ranch, Honorary Starter Chad Ver Steeg, Owner/Operator of the Pella & Carroll Pizza Ranches and Grand Marshall James Buwalda, Owner/Operator of the Harlan Pizza Ranch. Riding in the pace car will be Rob & Carla Shultz, Owner/Operators of the Jefferson Pizza Ranch and presenting trophies on the podium will be Adrie Groeneweg and Troy Knight.
Saturday holds non-stop racing action with practice runs and races throughout the day. Parking lots for the event will open at noon, with spectator gates opening at 1:00 PM. The Star Mazda Race will take place at 7:15 PM.