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Star Mazda Drivers Test Indy Lights At Sebring
Conor Daly, 2010 champion of the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear, will claim part of his career-enhancing prize package on the morning of Thursday, October 28th in Sebring, Florida when he climbs into the seat of an Andersen Racing Indy Lights car to begin a day of intensive testing to help prepare him for his next step up the open-wheel ladder.  The Andersen team expects Daly to run 150 test miles during the day.  2010 Andersen Racing Star Mazda drivers Tristan Vautier and Nick Andries will also test the team's Indy Lights cars at Sebring. 

Andersen Racing is the 2010 Star Mazda team champion and one of the leading development teams in North America; the team awards Firestone Indy Lights tests to its full-season Star Mazda drivers. 

Daly's test is being made possible by Performance Friction and is part of a previously-announced expansion of the Indy Racing League's 'Road to Indy' program in which the 2009 and 2010 Star Mazda series champion is guaranteed a test with a top Firestone Indy Lights team.  Andersen Racing is testing Vautier and Andries as part of its own development program.   

"I'm really looking forward to the test and expect to learn a lot," says Daly, who graduated from his Indianapolis high school earlier this year.  "Anytime a driver has the chance to get in a car with more horsepower, more downforce and more speed, it's both a pleasure and an opportunity.  I'd like to thank Star Mazda, Performance Friction and Andersen Racing for all the effort they're making to help me take my career to the next level."

Daly, the 2008 Skip Barber Nationals presented by Mazda champion, drove his first season of Star Mazda Championship competition with backing from the MAZDASPEED Motorsports Driver Development Ladder; this unique driver development program which reaches all the way from karting to the top levels of motorsports, awards champions at each level a fully-funded ride in the next series up the ladder. 

In his first season, driving for Andersen Racing, he won from the pole in Round 4 and scored six podiums to finish third in the championship.  Switching to the Juncos Racing team in 2009, Daly won seven races and broke the series' all-time record with nine starts from the pole.  His racing resume also includes winning the prestigious Walter Hayes Trophy at Silverstone, England in 2008 and the Stars of Karting Eastern TAG championship in 2007.

"Our goal has always been to provide our drivers with the most competitive, cost-effective and comprehensive opportunity to advance their careers," says Star Mazda Championship founder and CEO Gary Rodrigues.  "Conor is obviously a superb open-wheel racer destined to rise to the top of the sport and we're happy to help him take the next step.  This test is made possible by Performance Friction Company and Andersen Racing, and we'd like to thank them for their support."

The test is being conducted in cooperation with Performance Friction, the exclusive brake pad and disc supplier to both the Star Mazda Championship and the newly-announced Cooper Tires Presents USF2000 National Championship Powered by Mazda; Performance Friction is also the overwhelming brake component choice for teams competing in the Firestone Indy Lights.  All three series are part of the Indy Racing League's 'Road to Indy' program.  PFC also supplies a variety of open-wheel series in Europe, Japan, Australia as well as NASCAR, IZOD IndyCar Series, ALMS, FIA, ACO, JGTC, V8 Supercar and Grand-Am just to name a few.

"The Star Mazda Championship is a terrific series that produces some of the top racing talent in the sport today," says Don Burgoon, President of Performance Friction.  "Open-wheel racing is in our company DNA and we're doing all we can to support these rising stars as they climb the motorsports ladder.  It is our goal to support the Road to Indy program at every level and provide these drivers with the very best equipment on the way up."

Daly's Indy Lights test is one element of a comprehensive package of cash and prizes valued at more than $1.5 million for which drivers in the 2010 Star Mazda Championship were competing.  Another top prize is the VISITFLORIDA Cup, a 7-race championship-within-a-championship; the grand prize for the top-finishing driver in those events is a custom-designed dream vacation in Florida courtesy of VISITFLORIDA, the state’s official tourism marketing corporation and sponsor of the 2010 Star Mazda Championship television package which reached fans in more than 155 million homes worldwide. 

In addition to the MAZDASPEED Ladder, the Star Mazda Championship is also part of the IndyCar 'Road to Indy,' an innovative and high-profile new driver development program designed to bridge the gap between the premier open-wheel racing divisions and the entry level open-wheel series by creating a clear career path for aspiring racing drivers; Road to Indy series include Firestone Indy Lights, The Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear and the Cooper Tires Presents the USF2000 National Championship powered by Mazda. 

“With Andersen Racing’s involvement in all steps on the Road to Indy ladder, we are delighted to work with Performance Friction and Star Mazda in providing Conor with a full-scale Firestone Indy Lights test," says Andersen Racing co-owner Dan Andersen.  "My long term relationship with the folks at PFC, coupled with our involvement in and support of the Star Mazda Championship for the past seven years, makes this an easy decision. So many Star Mazda drivers in recent years have successfully transitioned into Indy Lights, and now with the support of PFC, more drivers can sample the next step properly. We look forward to seeing what Conor can do at the wheel of one of our cars at Sebring.”

Two drivers who competed for Andersen Racing in the 2010 Star Mazda Championship will also test Indy  Lights cars at Sebring.  French racer Tristan Vautier (right), a veteran of several European open-wheel series, won two Star Mazda races this season and finished 5th in the championship.  Nick Andries, who made his Star Mazda debut at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, ran nine of 13 races, finished in the top-10 four times, including a 6th-place finish in the season-ending race at Road Atlanta.  And, competing in the Skip Barber Pro Series concurrently with his Star Mazda effort, he won the season finale at Road Atlanta and finished 6th in that championship.

Firestone Indy Lights is the premier ladder series for drivers and teams striving to compete in the IZOD IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500. Run in conjunction with the IZOD IndyCar Series, the Firestone Indy Lights’ 13-race schedule features eight races on road courses/street circuits and five races on ovals, including the famed 2.5-mile circuit at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Teams compete for nearly $4 million in prize money in cars that are second only in speed to the IZOD IndyCar Series at most tracks they visits.

"The Star Mazda race car is just the right vehicle, with the right horsepower and driving characteristics, to produce drivers ready to hit the ground running in Firestone Indy Lights," says Roger Bailey, Executive Director of Firestone Indy Lights.  "And this test for the Star Mazda Champion is just the sort of opportunity that the Road to Indy was designed to create, both for the driver in the car and the company sponsoring the test.  This is the first of many more such things to come for the Road to Indy program."

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