Daly Victory Train De-Railed, Brazilian Lara Scores first win
The Gods of Racing have had their laugh. The more you talk about a record waiting to be broken, somehow the less likely it becomes. Starting from the pole for the fourth time this season, Conor Daly – starting from the pole for the fourth time this season -- was reasonably expecting to break the all-time Star Mazda Championship win record of four in a row. Until the green light signaling the traditional Star Mazda standing start, that is. What the officials saw on TV was both Daly and Vautier, starting side-by-side on the front row, accelerating before the green… which resulted in a drive-through penalty for both drivers that dropped them to the back of the field.
|NJ Race 1 podium Krohn (L), Lara (C) and Daly (R)|
Then there was one of those multi-car, 'what were they thinking' melees between several of the top runners, compounded by yet another incident as the re-formed field approached the starter's stand for a resumption of racing. Throughout this long full-course yellow, third-season Brazilian racer Caio Lara, driving the #19 JDC Motorsports / MLD / ATW Mazda, was in the lead… a lead he lost when 2nd-place finisher Anders 'The Viking' Krohn passed him briefly – and was re-passed in return on the same lap. And surely he must have been hearing in his headphones about the relentless charge of Conor Daly, a man on a mission who performed racing's version of kinetic miracles carving his way back up through the field to salvage a podium finish.
The top-finishing driver in the Master/Expert category was Master Series (driver 45 and older) racer Gerry Kraut, who qualified 16th and finished 13th overall in his #55 JDC Motorsports / Dougherty & Co. / Dougherty Funding LLC Mazda. Leading the charge among the Expert Series racers (drivers 30-44 years old) was Texan J.W. Roberts, who finished 14th overall at the wheel of his #65 Team GDT / General Data Tech Mazda.
"I'm so happy to finally score my first win in Star Mazda and all my thanks to the JDC Motorsports team for giving me a car capable of winning the race," said Lara, who has scored top-5 finishes in both races at NJMP last season and, by virtue of his victory today, has move up to 5th in the championship with 193 points. "The car was the best is has been all season, and now with the confidence of this win, we must work hard to qualify well tomorrow and try to repeat this outcome."
Lara has been a consistently fast competitor this year; he has already scored one podium -- and finished in the top-10 at every race. Daly remains in the lead with 254 points, four wins, four podiums and two podiums. Anders Krohn, who started from the pole at the 12 Hours of Sebring season-opener, remains second in the championship with 211 points, two podiums and four top-5 finishes.
Vautier, who started from the front row alongside Daly and suffered the same drive-through penalty- also slashed his way back up through the field in his #38 Andersen Racing / Moulin TP / Cecibon / Circuit du Laquais Mazda to finish 6th. In between, MAZDASPEED Motorsports Driver Development Ladder driver Connor De Phillippi moved up from 7th on the starting grid to finish 4th in his #11 JDC Motorsports / MAZDASPEED Motorsports / Skip Barber Mazda. And quick young Quebec racer Mikael Grenier, who started from 6th on the grid in the #17 Andersen Racing / Slow Cow / April Super Flow / NAPA Auto Parts / HS Telecom / Desharnais Mazda, raced his way up to 5th. Larry Pegram, the AMA SuperBike racer making his 4-wheeled debut in the #72 AIM Autosport / Tampa Bay Jaw Surgery / Foremost Insurance Mazda, started 19th on the grid and finished 17th.
||Connor De Phillippi