ABRS GRAD PODIUMS IN STAR MAZDA SERIES
NEWTON, IOWA (June 25, 2011) – Less than a week after scoring his first-ever Star Mazda top-five finish in just his fourth series start, Gustavo Menezes took the next step forward in his career this afternoon at Iowa Speedway by finishing third in his #28 TrueCar Star Mazda. For the second weekend in a row, the 16-year-old former karting phenom was among the leading contenders from the moment his Juncos Racing Team rolled off the transporter for the series’ four-hour test session on Thursday. Menezes, from Marina Del Ray, Calif., posted the second-fastest time and maintained that form onFriday when he was third fastest, despite opting to remain on well-used tires. “The car was really good,” Menezes said. “I was third fastest but all of the other guys around me put on new tires. I had never felt so confident of being able to get onto the podium for the race.”
After this morning’s scheduled 45-minute practice session was delayed by rain and then cut to just 10 minutes, Menezes opted for a single four-lap run merely to scrub in a fresh set of tires for qualifying. The ploy didn’t quite play out in his favor, as the overnight rain washed all the rubber off the track and left him with too much understeer in qualifying, which restricted him to sixth on the starting grid for the 100-lap race. “I shouldn’t have been so confident going into qualifying,” he admitted. “The track was completely different and I probably should have done some more laps, but I learned the hard way.”
Undeterred, Menezes settled into sixth at the drop of the green flag and soon began to work his way forward. He passed Connor De Phillippi, twice a race winner this season, for fifth place on Lap 10 and immediately began to pile the pressure on championship leader Tristan Vautier. The more experienced Frenchman enjoyed a brief respite during the race’s only full-course caution, which came on Lap 44 when Menezes’ Juncos Racing teammate Martin Scuncio crashed out of second place, but only until the green flag waved again on Lap 50. Now elevated into fourth place, Menezes still had his eyes set firmly on his first podium finish. His pressure on Vautier finally paid off with 10 laps remaining when he made his move for third place in Turn Three. “I got a really good run on him down the back straightaway and just stuck it in there,” Menezes related. “It was a difficult race. I really wasn’t having a lot of fun until the race was over! It was hard but I was getting quicker and quicker from the first lap to the last lap and it feels great to get on the podium for the first time. Once again, I just learned so much. I really feel that with all the experience I’m getting, I’m going to be right with them when we go to Mosport (Canada) for the next (Star Mazda) race (on July 24).”
His intensive season will continue next weekend in Europe when he will compete in Round Four of the Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup at the Hungaroring in Hungary. Menezes’ ultimate goal is to one day drive in the IndyCar Series and win the Indianapolis 500. Website: gustavomenezes.com Twitter: https://twitter.com/gustavom28
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