Rzadzinski leads four-car effort in Florida with podium finish in Round Three MINNEAPOLIS, MN. – The Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda doubleheader on the streets of St. Petersburg this past weekend (March 23-24) proved to be an up-and down affair for multiple junior formula car champion JDC MotorSports. Rookie Stefan Rzadzinski earned a well deserved podium finish in Round Three, that, however, proved to be the highlight of the event, as Michael Johnson, Arthur Oliveira, and Clark Toppe were unable to translate their pace and racecraft into representative results. The Minnesota squad is now poised to build on the top-three finish when the title fight continues in late May via the lone oval event on the series calendar.
One week after starting the chase for USF2000 Championship top honors at the historic Sebring road course, the JDC drivers and crew were back on track facing the challenges of street racing. Given JDC Motorsports' record of success on street circuits, confidence was high entering Rounds three and Four in conjunction with the IZOD IndyCar Series season-opener.
With only one racer - Johnson - having raced an USF2000 entry previously around the 1.8-mile concrete-lined track, the goal during the two practice sessions was to steadily build speed as the racers became familiarized with the circuit and worked on car setups. The foursome did just that, with Rzadzinski indicating his intentions to be among the front-runners right away by going fourth fastest in P1, and second quickest in P2. Johnson likewise was a driver to watch in his No. 54 Universal Coating/SpeediCath/FlatOutNation.com/Red Line Oil/Bell Racing/Alpinestars/JDC MotorSports entry, turning the ninth best lap in the second session.
Aware that starting positions often play a vital role in success on street circuit, Saturday morning's lone qualifying run started with all four JDC drivers keen to post a true flyer. That, however, proved to be a challenge, with traffic often compromising a fast lap. Rzadzinski managed to find some space during the session, ultimately placing the No. 93 CanTorque/Christenson Developments/Red Line Oil/JDC MotorSports racer fifth on the speedcharts. Toppe and Oliveira, both contesting their inaugural street race, never got the lap they desired, ending the session 21st and 22nd respectively. Johnson was poised to have a solid outing, before an electrical issue ended his session prematurely, placing the lone paralyzed driver in the Mazda Road to Indy program 27th on the grid.
Despite the less than desired results in qualifying, spirits remained high under the JDC awning prior to Round Three, with the drivers and crew confident of success come race time. When the green flag waved late in the day, that confidence initially looked well placed, with all four drivers showcasing their racecraft skills.
Rzadzinski led the JDC contingent battling for positions among the top-three, while Johnson, Toppe, and Oliveira engaged in multi-car fights. The march forward, unfortunately, ended for two of the racers just prior to the halfway mark. For Toppe, a rare mechanical issue resulted in a premature end to his run. Oliveira though was even less fortunate, as he was caught out by another racer, not only preventing him from continuing, but significant damage to his No. 12 Hula Veiculos/Future Stars Development/JZ Concepts/Racelite Protection/ Red Line Oil/JDC MotorSports racing steed meant an end to his event.
While disappointed with the sudden turn of events, the JDC crew remained upbeat, as both Rzadzinski and Johnson were enjoying great runs behind the wheels. Rzadzinski in the end captured his and the team's first podium finish of 2013, taking the checkered flag in well deserved third place. Johnson meanwhile further showcased his talents by advancing 13 positions, earning a hard fought 14th place finish.
When the drivers returned to the cockpits one day later, the goal was simple for the three JDC drivers still competing... avoid trouble and make the most of every opportunity. Rzadzinski, Toppe, and Johnson took that message to heart, mixing patience and aggression to steadily move forward during the 21-lap encounter. Right until the closing stages, it appeared all three drivers were poised to end the race having advanced multiple positions.
Rzadzinski in fact appeared set to add another podium finish, until contact and subsequent front wing damage resulted in an unrepresentative 11th place result. The No. 19 Toppe Motorsports/Red Line Oil/JDC MotorSports entry followed not far behind at the checkered flag, with Toppe having advanced an impressive seven places on the tight street circuit en route to 16th place. Johnson completed the JDC push forward in race two, fighting his way from 26th to 21st.
"First of all the CanTorque/Christenson Developments/JDC Motorsports car was incredible all weekend," stated Rzadzinski. "We were fast out of the box. I started the races with a car that I felt had the capabilities of fighting for a win. In the end, it was nice to get the monkey off my back with a podium in Race One. I was going for another podium in Race Two, but unfortunately made contact with another driver with a few laps left, which forced me to limp home without a front wing. Not the weekend we were looking for in the points, but I’m confident our pace is there going forward."
"I'm disappointed with how the weekend turned out," commented Oliveira. "I was steadily building speed and enjoying a good run in Race One before the incident. I had already overtaken at least five drivers. I can understand these things can happen in a race, but it was a meaningless move by the other driver. It took me out of the race and kept me from racing on Sunday. There is no other way to describe how I feel other than disappointed."
"St. Petersburg is an amazing circuit," said Toppe. "Although we faced some electrical issues in qualifying and Race One, I was able to gain positions in the second race of the weekend thanks to the stellar car JDC MotorSports gave to me. Thanks also go to Phil Lombardi of JJRD for the great coaching support. I'm looking for the season to only improve from here on out."
"The St. Pete weekend went pretty good," added Johnson. "With this being the first street race of the year, everything was hectic and busy. I liked the track quite a bit when it was cool and dry out. I had a better day on Saturday for the race. I would have liked to have finished better in second race, but I got good points and no crashes or damage. I'm looking forward to the next race at Lucas Oil Raceway."
The quest for Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda top honors now takes a break for JDC MotorSports and its skilled foursome of Johnson, Oliveira, Rzadzinski, and Toppe, as the next race does not take place until May 25th. As part of the Indianapolis 500 festivities, Round Five features the lone oval race on the series calendar at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indiana during the prestigious 'Night Before the 500'. JDC MotorSports enters the premier event currently fifth in the team standings, while Rzadzinski leads the driver contingent via fifth place in the championship standings.
JDC MotorSports races with associate sponsorship from www.RedLineOil.com.
Additional information on JDC MotorSports can be obtained from the team’s website @ www.jdcmotorsports.com For direct contact, please contact John Church @ 952-233-3075
Learn more about Michael Johnson at michaeljohnsonracing.com and keep up to date via Twitter @ Racer54isCool and Facebook @ Michael-Johnson-Racing.
Learn more about Stefan Rzadzinski at www.rzadracing.com and keep up to date via Twitter @ rzadracing and Facebook @ Stefan-Rzadzinski.
Learn more about Clark Toppe via Twitter @ ClarkToppe and Facebook @ Clark-Toppe-Motorsports.
### About JDC MotorSports:
Involved in formula car racing since its inception in 1994, JDC MotorSports has established itself as one of the leading junior open-wheel teams in North America. Initially making its mark in the F2000 class of club racing competition, JDC MotorSports was soon a team worth watching in the pro ranks. Competing in the Formula Ford 2000 Zetec Championship, the team not only won races, but also helped develop multiple young drivers. In 2005, JDC MotorSports expanded its efforts, entering the Star Mazda Championship. Quickly becoming one of the top teams in the series, JDC captured both the driver and team titles in 2007, as well as Rookie of the Year honors, with Dane Cameron scoring a series-high three wins. In 2008, JDC MotorSports was the runner-up in the Star Mazda Championship and finished fourth in its inaugural season of F2000 Championship Series competition. The Minnesota-based team won the Star Mazda Championship title with Rookie of the Year Adam Christodoulou, and the F2000 Championship Series title with Chris Miller in 2009. The following year, JDC continued its winning ways, earning the Rookie of the Year award in the Star Mazda Championship with Connor De Phillippi, and scoring a non-points win in the USF2000 National Championship. In 2011, the Minneapolis-based squad captured its third Star Mazda Championship title with Tristan Vautier, scored a win in the USF2000 National Championship, and made its Prototype Lites Championship debut, earning five podium finishes. JDC MotorSports added to its Star Mazda Championship win tally, USF2000 Championship podium total, and finished as the Prototype Lites Championship runner-up in 2012.