Indianapolis native Conor Daly, riding the momentum of three straight wins joined an elite group of drivers with his fourth win in a row, leading flag-to-flag from the pole to dominate the second annual Star Mazda Pizza Ranch 100 at the 7/8ths-mile Iowa Speedway. He extends his lead in the championship battle to 216 points.
The one yellow flag during the 100-lap race had no measurable effect on the race as competitors – even those a lap down -- raced three-wide in an oval track battle royal that had IRL officials on their feet and, up in Race Control, 4-time Indy 500 winner Rick Mears smiling like a proud parent. The only other drivers to win four Star Mazda Championship races in a row all won the championship and went on to stellar motorsports careers, including Joey Hand (1999), Michael McDowell (2004) and Raphael Matos (2005).
"It may have looked easy on TV to win that race, but I have to say that it was a struggle," said Daly. "The track changed a lot between qualifying and the race, and the car behaved completely differently in turns one and two than it did in three and four. There were a couple of times there where the car nearly backed out from under me, so it was a battle of concentration and focus to keep the same level of performance for 100 laps. We had a full-course yellow about mid-way through the race and I saw lots of cars diving for the pits for adjustments and new tires, so it was like an IndyCar race in that respect. The Juncos Racing team and I worked hard this weekend and we plan to just keep executing like we're doing now and hope to go into the next race at New Jersey with the same strength we showed here."
Also smiling, and justifiably so, was James Exline, owner of Team Apex, an experienced team in their first season of Star Mazda competition and showing some serious strength as their drivers finished 2nd and 3rd. Venezuelan driver Jorge Goncalvez, who qualified 5th in the #9 Team Apex / Wabash Capital Investments Mazda brought it home in second place, a little over a second behind Daly. He is now 7th in the championship with 150 points.
Brazilian Joao Victor Horto, who started next to Conor Daly on the front row in his #18 Team Apex / Wabash Capital Investments Mazda, scored a 3rd-place finish. He moves up from 4th in the chmapionship to third with 165 points. The sole Expert Series (drivers 30 to 44 years old) competitor in the field, Texan J.W. Roberts, scored a top-10 finish in his #65 Team GDT / General Data Tech Mazda.
Rounding out the top-5 was Connor De Phillippi, who qualified 7th and drove his #11 JDC Motorsports / MAZDASPEED Motorsports / Skip Barber Mazda to his third top-5 finish of the season. De Phillippi, the 2009 Skip Barber Pro Series champion, is the MAZDASPEED Motorsports Driver Development ladder scholarship winner for 2010 and is racing in the Star Mazda Championship with backing from Mazda and the MAZDASPEED Ladder program. De Phillippi, 6th in the points going into this race, moves up to 5th with 158 points.
Norwegian racer Anders 'The Viking' Krohn, qualified 4th and finished 5th in the #47 Andersen Racing / Norse Cutting & Abandonment / Trallfa / Colosseum Mazda. Krohn, who was third in the championship before the race, moves up to second with 171 points.
Possibly the most disappointing outcome of the evening was Quebec racer Mikael Grenier, who started from the pole and finished 2nd on Memorial Weekend in the Night Before the 500 at O'Reilly Raceway Park. He came into the event second in the championship but finished last, 52 laps down, due to contact with the wall. Grenier was 2nd in the championship before the green flag, but drops to 4th with 163 points.