July 17, 2004 – Sonoma, California. Michael McDowell has launched himself back into the championship hunt in the Star Mazda Series North American Championship presented by Goodyear, as he captured his third consecutive victory today at Infineon Raceway as part of the American Le Mans Series supporting races.
McDowell, who finished third at Infineon in his Star Mazda Series debut in 2002, and repeated the feat again in 2003, was pleased to finally make his way to the top of the podium at this event. "Even though I'm from Arizona this is a sort of a home track for me," McDowell said afterwards. "I've always managed to run well here only to fall inches short of the victory so it's nice to bring the win home for everybody at Star Race Cars that who put in long hours to give me a great car."
Joining McDowell on the podium in a repeat performance of the Mid-Ohio event were Scot Jenkins in the Environmental Fibers/Team Bucknum Mazda and series points leader Daniel DiLeo in the Select Auto/Star Race Cars Mazda. Jenkins, who started second, and DiLeo who started seventh found themselves locked in a fierce battle in the closing minutes of the 25-lap event, with Jenkins holding off DiLeo by less than half a second.
"I was just driving the wheel of the car trying to chase down McDowell while holding off DiLeo," Jenkins related. "This season has been going really well and I'm are in the heart of the championship battle as we head up to my home race in Portland next weekend. Team Bucknum has given me a great car week in and week out and I'm looking to end Michael's streak at Portland."
Though disappointed that he didn't come away with a victory, DiLeo was pleased with his drive from seventh place that enabled him to retain the points lead. "You always want to leave with the victory but our ultimate goal is the championship," explained DiLeo, who has climbed onto the podium in each of his first four races in the championship. "Scott drove a great race and I was out there hoping for some lapped traffic or another caution to perhaps create an opening for me but it wasn't to happen."
The 25-lap event was slowed by two caution periods, the first to clear an incident in turn two on the opening lap that forced Frank McCormick and Emmett Murphy out of the event with the second full course caution period occurring several laps later when Brad Coleman impacted the tire barrier in the Carousel corner.
Once the racing resumed the most intense on track action would be between series rookie CR Crews III, who turned 16 just three weeks before the Mid-Ohio event, and Nick Steele, who returned to the series after running one season back in in 1998. Crews and Steele swapped the fourth spot numerous times before crews was finally able to edge away to lock down the fourth spot. "We were having a good race out there but I knew I could finally get ahead," Crews said. "I was hoping to catch Jenkins and DiLeo and get into their battle but there weren't enough laps."
38 cars took the green flag at the start of the race and by the fall of the checkered flag 25 remained on the lead lap as the new Pro Formula Mazda made it's first appearance on the west coast.
With four rounds complete Toronto, Canada, resident Daniel DiLeo retains the points lead with 159 points while McDowell vaults into second place with 139 while Jenkins sits in third place with 136. Round Five of the championship will be help at Portland International Raceway on July 24th as part of the American Le Mans Series Portland Grand Prix weekend.
Round Four of the Star Mazda Series North AMerican Championship presented by Goodyear will be televised on Speed Channel on August 1st at 2 PM Eastern Time. For more information on the Star Mazda Series please visit www.starmazda.com.