Conor Daly wins 8th pole, shatters record
Conor Daly, currently leading the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear points battle with five wins, captured his 8th pole of the season to start on the inside of the front row for this afternoon's Round 11 of the 2010 Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear at the Time Warner Cable Road Race Showcase at Road America. On the 5th lap of the morning qualifying session, Daly turned a lap of 2:05.615 (116.012 mph) in the #22 Juncos Racing / INDECK / The College Network / Merchant Services Ltd. Mazda.
|Conor Daly on way to pole position at Road America|
What made the qualifying battle interesting was the sudden emergence of the other Con(n)or in the field, Connor De Phillippi, as a credible challenger for this afternoon's 45-minute race, scheduled to get the green light for the series' traditional standing start at 1:00 pm. De Phillippi, after languishing mid-pack in testing and practice, jumped up to the sharp end of the time sheet in yesterday's final practice sessions and backed it up this morning with a lap of 2:05.932 (115.728 mph) in the #11 JDC Motorsports / MAZDASPEED Motorsports / Skip Barber Mazda.
Adding to the speculation about the outcome of today's race is the fact that both De Phillippi and Daly were Champions in the Skip Barber Pro Series (Daly in 2008, De Phillippi in 2009) – and both won Skip Barber Pro Series races at Road America. Both moved up from Skip Barber to the Star Mazda Championship via scholarship funding provided by the unique and highly coveted MAZDASPEED Motorsports Driver Development Ladder. De Phillippi is the current 'ladder driver'; Daly is in his second season of Star Mazda Championship competition and is racing with sponsorship from several big-name companies.
Starting on the inside of the second row will be another driver who has shown a surprising turn of speed at Road America, Venezuelan racer Jorge Goncalvez. He has three podium finishes this so far this season driving the #9 Team Apex / Wabash Capital Investments Mazda and his 3rd-quick lap of 2:06.056 (115.606mph) puts him squarely in contention for yet another. And all three of the top qualifiers will have substantial competition breathing down their necks from the moment the starting light goes green; both the 4th and 5th-place starters are previous race winners this season. Quebec racer Mikael Grenier, who won from the pole in Race 1 / Round 8 at Autobahn on July 31 and is currently 4th in the championship battle, starts on the outside of the second row with a lap of 2:06.103 (115.563 mph) In his #17 Andersen Racing / Slow Cow / April Super Flow / NAPA Auto Parts / HS Telecom / Desharnais Mazda. And rounding out the top-5 is Frenchman Tristan Vautier, winner of two races so far this season (the season-opener at Sebring and Race 2 / Round 7 at New Jersey Motorsport Park). He turned a lap of 2:06.293 (115.389 mph) in the #38 Andersen Racing / Moulin TP / Cecibon / Circuit du Laquais / Fontanel Mazda.
It's worth noting that the top-8 cars in the field all qualified within one second of each other, and on a high-speed, 14-turn, 4-mile road course, this is a remarkable level of performance equality that promises an exciting race.
Among the Experts (drivers 30 – 44) and Master (45 and older) Series drivers, Texan J.W. Roberts, who currently leads the Expert championship with seven in-class wins, set the quickest qualifying time of 2:09.375 (112.640 mph) in his #65 Team GDT / General Data Tech Mazda. Roberts is the owner of Team GDT and swept the honors last weekend at Trois-Rivieres when his team scored their first-ever overall race win with Alex Ardoin and won both the Expert (Roberts) and Master (Carlos Conde) races. And it is Puerto Rican racer Conde who set the quick time in the Master Series of 2:09.424 (112.597 mph) and will start 17th.
||Connor De Phillippi
This is the second event of a 3-race, back-to-back 'road trip' for drivers and teams in the Star Mazda Championship. The next event, Round 12 at MOBIL1 Presents the Grand Prix of Mosport will take the green at 1:15 pm Saturday, August 28. The series' finale, also with ALMS at the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta, will take place October 1.