English racer Jack Hawksworth scored his seventh victory of the season – leading from flag-to-flag -- in Saturday's Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear Race1 at the Indy Grand Prix of Baltimore. He was followed across the finish line, just 4/10th back, by Connor De Phillippi in the #2 Juncos Racing / ModSpace Racing / One24 Mazda and Gabby Chaves in the #19 JDC Motorsports / CLARO / Marca Colombia / Tecpro Mazda. The winner in the Expert Series race-within-a-race for drivers 30 and older was Walt Bowlin in the #23 AIM Autosport / Tampa Bay Jaw Surgery Mazda; he finished 14th overall.
The race ended several minutes early under yellow when Sage Karam's #88 Andretti Autosport / Comfort Revolution Mazda was tossed hard into the wall by the newly-installed chicane that has been the subject of much comment and cause of bent race cars this weekend. Karam slightly injured his right hand during the crash, but X-rays proved negative and though shaken – and his championship hopes damaged – he remains determined and his team had his badly damaged car nearly repaired within a hour of the checkered.
Driving the #82 Team Pelfrey / TORGOEN Swiss Watches / EXA Networks Mazda, Hawksworth has now matched Conor Daly's 2010 record of 7 wins in 13 races, and has captured the outright record for number of poles with 10 (having set the quickest lap of Race 1, he won the PEAK Performance Pole Award and will start from the inside of the front row for tomorrow's Race 2). There were only 13 races in Daly's 2010 season, but with Star Mazda's double-header format for 2012, Hawksworth still has three more races – a double-header next weekend at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and the single-race season finale at Petit Le Mans – to establish the 'modern day' benchmark.
"I'm not thinking about records right now or about the championship or about next year; I'm thinking about how I'm going to win tomorrow's race," said Hawksworth. "We had the best car and I was able to control the re-starts, but this was still a difficult race and I know Sage and Gabby and Connor will all be back tomorrow with more experience and more motivation, so I can't let my focus waver for even a second. The Pelfrey team keeps giving me perfect cars, and it's up to me to keep going like we are."
With the results of Race 1, Hawksworth increases his lead in the championship to 56 points over new 2nd-place driver Gabby Chaves (316 vs. 260). Karam, second coming in to today's race, drops to 3rd with 251, followed by Connor De Phillippi with 237. A maximum of 93 points remains to be won in the final three races, meaning four drivers – Hawksworth, Chaves, Karam and De Phillippi – are still in contention for the championship.
After days of controversy over the track, resulting in the Star Mazda starting grid being determined by points rather than qualifying times, today's race began with immediate drama, including two cars stalled on the grid, several cars who appeared to have jumped the start, and a first-turn melee that brought out the first of several full-course yellows. In the process, Stefan Rzadzinski, driver of the #93 JDC Motorsports / PoweredByAlberta.com Mazda managed to move from the back of the grid all the way up to 6th by taking the inside line and keeping his foot down. Ultimately he was judged to have jumped the start and given a drive-through penalty and finished ninth.
While this was happening, Gabby Chaves and Sage Karam got together, dropping Karam back to 10th on the re-start and setting the stage for another of his remarkable – and reliable – charges back up through the field to 4th within two laps. He continued driving with, as he put it "… blood in my eye." until, on Lap 7, the chicane that was ultimately to prove his demise made its intentions known by tossing the car of Indy Edmonton winner Camilo Schmidt into the wall and brought out yet another full-course yellow. The race seemed to have fallen into Karam's hands at this point, as the several second gap Hawksworth had built up was erased and they took the green nose-to-tail.
On Lap 10, with about 12 minutes left, Karam's accident, plus Carlos Linares completing a truly terrible weekend for his team by putting the #20 Linares Racing / Mindeporte Mazda into the wall… brought out yet another full-course yellow and caused the race director decided enough was enough; the white flag appeared from the starter's stand. Noteable drives included Finnish Petri Suvanto, who raced up from 6th of 4th in the #81 Team Pelfrey / Mazda Road to Indy Mazda. Suvanto, champion of the 2011 USF2000 National Championship Powered by Mazda, is racing in Star Mazda this season with scholarship funding from the Mazda Road to Indy.
Diego Ferreria, who started 9th in the #57 Juncos Racing / Team Viso Venezuela Mazda, moved up to finish 5th and Ashley Freiberg, the lone female driver in the field, continued her string of excellent finishes, moving up from 11th to 6th in the #91 JDC Motorsports / TrueCar Mazda. And Ryan Tveter, a true rookie with only a year of open-wheel racing on his resume, again demonstrated his potential with a drive from 19th to 11th in the #33 Team GDT / CIMIER Swiss Watches / Rogers TV / Motorola Mobility Canada Mazda.