Star Mazda and USF2000 Battle at the Milwaukee Mile

The world’s oldest operating motor speedway, the Milwaukee Mile, is distinct among ovals for being one of the least banked. The turns boast less than 10 degrees of incline, and the straights are just 2.5 – forcing competitors to feather that throttle ever so gingerly through the curves, a greater challenge than pinning it in similar sections on tracks with steeper banking.

Mazda Road to Indy open-wheel driver development series the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear and Cooper Tires Presents the USF2000 National Championship Powered by Mazda joined the IZOD IndyCar Series at the flat track in June for the Milwaukee 225 weekend.

Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear

Sage Karam held the competition over the fire as his No. 88 Andretti Autosport MAZDASPEED Comfort Revolution Mazda was on point for 93 of 98 laps around the Milwaukee Mile to score its first victory of the season in Round 4 of the 2011 Star Mazda Championship.

Karam, the 2010 USF2000 champion who moved up to compete in the 2011 Star Mazda Championship via a MAZDASPEED scholarship from the Mazda Road to Indy, started from the inside of the second row but took the lead on Lap 5 and stretched it to a 13.430-second margin of victory over Martin Scuncio in the No. 60 Juncos Racing Bia Comunicaciones Cable Del Pacifico Mazda.

In winning, Karam also turned the fastest lap of the race, a 27.763 (131.614 mph). Pole-winner Nick Andries claimed the final podium spot in his No. 81 Team Pelfrey Lithionics Battery GS610 Brake Fluid Trademark Garage Floors Mazda.

"The car was just hooked up. After falling back to fifth place at the start, we didn't expect to do this well. We just had to go through and pick everybody off. I couldn't believe how good the car was during the race tonight; it was really great to drive. I have to thank everyone on the Andretti Autosport team, from the crew to Michael Andretti to J-F Thormann, as well as Comfort Revolution and Mazda.”

The night’s biggest drama was a Lap 14 crash involving Jérimy Daniel in the No. 26 Daniel Racing FixAuto Sherwin-Williams Mazda. The yellow flag lasted eight laps, with the field returning to green-flag racing on Lap 22.

The restart provided the one opportunity Andries had to challenge for the lead. The final pass of consequence took place on Lap 81 when California racer Gustavo Menezes in the No. 28 Juncos Racing Truecar Safety Park Mazda took a run at Andries, a move that cost them both as Scuncio, who started seventh, made a perfectly-judged pass to move into second.

Menezes wound up coming home fifth, while French racer Tristan Vautier, who came into the race leading the championship, finished fourth in the No. 5 JDC Motorsports Cecibon Circuit du Laquais Mazda. Connor De Phillippi, the only two-race winner so far this season, started from the outside of the front row in the Team Pelfrey Justice Brothers Products Trademark Garage Floors Mazda, but handling problems saw him slowly drift back through the field to finish sixth.

With his second fourth-place finish in a row, Vautier actually stretched his lead in the championship battle; he came into the Milwaukee race with just one point separating him from Connor De Phillippi, who won Round 1 at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg and Round 3 at the Night Before the 500. Now the gap is five points, 151 versus 146. Andries is in third with 139 points, Scuncio moves up to fourth with 136 and Karam climbs to fifth with 131 points.

Cooper Tires Presents the USF2000 National Championship Powered by Mazda

The fireworks continued when the USF2000 National Championship cars took to the track to contest the sixth round of the 2011 campaign. Northern Ireland’s Wayne Boyd was the big winner of the night, taking control of the race on the first lap then keeping pole-sitter Zach Veach at bay for the 50-lap event. It was the first trip ever to winner’s circle for Boyd and his Belardi Auto Racing team.

Boyd, 20, who qualified second in the No. 4 Belardi Auto Racing Van Diemen-Mazda, made a poor initial getaway from the rolling start and fell momentarily to third place behind Veach and a fast-starting Petri Suvanto (No. 3 Viseko Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing), who ensured the leaders were three-wide on the entrance to Turn One. When the first two found their lines slightly compromised, Boyd was able to carry more momentum onto the back straightaway, and then ducked to the inside of Veach as they swept into Turn Three.

The gap between the top two cars was rarely more than a few car lengths as Veach, driving the Andretti Autosport No. 7 Zakosi Data Backup entry, kept piling on the pressure. Boyd eked out a little breathing space when the leaders encountered some slower traffic at around two-thirds distance, but Veach again closed down the deficit. Their battle raged all the way to the finish before Boyd held on to become the fifth different winner from six races this season. The final margin between them after 50 laps was a mere 0.304 second.

“I started on the front row in P2 beside Zach. He made a good start and I didn’t. I really struggled and went into the first turn in third or fourth. I had to commit to the outside line and it really paid off. I went around the outside behind Zach and caught a good draft off of him going into [Turn] Three and was able to get him on the inside.

“After that, I just put my head down and kept consistent because I knew Zach had a good pace under him as well. I put my head down, judged the traffic accordingly and it was a good race for us. I want to say a massive thanks to Belardi Auto Racing for all their help. They were a brand new team this year and they got their first win. Also, a massive thanks to the Milwaukee Irish Fest for their continued support.”

The final step on the podium was filled by Mexico City-based Colombian Juan Piedrahita, whose No. 19 Petrosur GFK Motors Montopharma Colombia es passion Red Line Oil entry just edged out JDC Motorsports teammate Luke Ellery (No. 85 Melbourne IT/Luke-Ellery.com/Red Line Oil).

With the season half done, Suvanto leads the drivers championship with 156 markers, trailed by Veach at 139 and Spencer Pigot at 138. For the team title, Andretti Autosport has the most points, 182, ahead of Cape Motorsports at 132 and JDC Motorsports at 106.