Capitalizing on the momentum of his victory last weekend at Milwaukee, his dominance in pre-race testing and the first-ever pole position he scored in cold, damp conditions during qualifying earlier today, rising star Sage Karam went flag-to-flag to score his second win of the season at Iowa Speedway. Crossing the finish line in his No. 88 Andretti Autosport / MAZDASPEED / Comfort Revolution Mazda, he had a 7.8-second lead over Brazilian runner-up J.V. Horto in the No. 18 Juncos Racing / Programa Leilões Mazda. Also of note, scoring his first Star Mazda podium ever, California driver Gustavo Menezes brought hisNo. 28 Juncos Racing / Truecar / Safety Park Mazda home in 3rd. Horto fought his way forward from his 4th-place qualifying spot, while Menezes advanced up through the field from sixth on the starting grid.
"It's been another great weekend for the No. 88 MAZDASPEED/Comfort Revolution team," said the native of Nazareth, Pa. "Right off the bat, I was flat out. With it being our second straight win, I couldn't be happier. The season is really coming together, and I have to thank the team for everything. Hopefully we can carry it over to Mosport next month. These two wins have really given me my confidence back from last season. Now the goal is to stay on the podium. We'll be working hard to do just that.”
The opening of the race was actually a bit more exciting than the big victory margin would suggest. Karam and Scuncio, both starting from the front row, had a six-lap, wheel-to-wheel battle in which neither had more than a 1-foot advantage at any one time. On Lap 6, Scuncio, then on the inside, got crossed up and did a tremendous job to save the car and keep from collecting Karam in the process. He was the only credible challenger for Karam until the halfway point of the race when a mechanical problem ended his day early.
Rounding out the top-5 were current championship points leader Tristan Vautier, slipping back from third on the grid to come home in 4th in the No. 5 JDC Motorsports / Cecibon / Circuit du Laquais Mazda and Colombian racer Tatiana Calderon, who started seventh, finished 5th in her No. 10 Juncos Racing / JAC Motors Mazda.
The top-finishing driver in the Expert Series for racers 30 and older is 2010 Expert Series champion J.W. Roberts. The Texas computer company CEO, who is both team owner and driver at Team GDT, qualified 11th and finished 10th in his No. 65 Team GDT / General Data Tech Mazda. This is his third in-class victory of the season.
Connor De Phillippi, the only other two-time winner so far this season (St. Pete and Barber Motorsports Park), qualified his Team Pelfrey / Justice Brothers Products / Trademark Garage Floors Mazda fifth but fell back with handling issues to finish seventh. His teammate, Nick Andries, who started from the last position after brushing the wall with his No. 81 Team Pelfrey / Lithionics Battery / GS610 Brake Fluid / Trademark Garage Floors Mazda in qualifying, fought his way forward to finish one lap down in seventh. The other notable change of position in the race was Gustavo Menezes, who passed championship points leader Tristan Vautier on lap 91 of 100 to move into podium position. Both Menezes and Karam are rookies, the youngest drivers in the series with birthdays only six months apart. Karam is the 2010 USF2000 champion and is racing in the Star Mazda Championship with scholarship funding from the Mazda Road to Indy.
With one win, one podium and three 4th-place finishes in a row, French driver Tristan Vautier clings to the championship lead with an 8-point margin over Sage Karam (185 vs. 177), who has now vaulted into 2nd-place with a podium and two wins in the last three races. Connor De Phillippi, who came to Iowa with two wins and 2nd-place in the championship, now drops to third with 171 points. The 4-driver Juncos Racing squad, which won the series championship last year with Conor Daly, leads the Team Championship fight with 129 points, followed by team Pelfrey with 123 and JDC Motorsports with 210.