California driver looking to build on top-10 finish heading to Alabama event this weekend
Leeds, Alab. – Gustavo Menezes and TrueCar.com made their 2011 debut in the Star Mazda Championship at St. Petersburg on Saturday, March 26. The 16-year old from Santa Monica, Calif. avoided an incident-plagued event on the Florida city streets to navigate his TrueCar Star Mazda to an eighth place finish. This weekend will mark Gustavo’s second start in the series as he travels to the beautiful Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama.
Unable to participate in the series official spring training test sessions the week prior to the St. Petersburg event, Menezes only laps in the TrueCar Star Mazda car came during two private test sessions with the Juncos Championship Racing operation during the winter months. Menezes, making his first start in an open wheel car following a successful karting career to this point, got his first taste of the street circuit Friday morning (March 25) during the 40-minute practice session one. Menezes completed as many possible laps and recorded the tenth quickest time of the session. The afternoon 35-minute practice round saw Menezes improve his pace slightly, still learning the course and the feel of the TrueCar Star Mazda car.
The qualifying session took place the morning of race day, with Menezes slotted into the first of two groups to take the track. While the session was witnessed a lengthy stoppage, Menezes was still able to improve on his time from practice with a 1:13.249 lap time to start the race from the 13th grid spot.
“While the session was delayed because of the wreck by another driver, the session was more about gaining more track time for me,” commented Menezes. “The Juncos Championship Racing team made the right changes for the session and I was more comfortable behind the wheel each time out. I was not happy with the position we ended up but all four corners of the car were undamaged, so that was a positive step for us.”
Launching from the 13th grid position for his first Star Mazda Championship start, Menezes was able to get off the line and make it through the opening lap without an incident. The remainder of 29-lap event, Menezes avoided the numerous wrecks on-course while improving his pace from his qualifying laps. When the checkered flag waved, Menezes earned an eighth-place finish.
“It was really good for me to earn my first checkered flag in my first race,” said Menezes. “With the little experience I have in the TrueCar Star Mazda car, I feel fortunate to place where I did. I was able to get off the line not having practiced a start before, avoid the accidents through the race, and bring the TrueCar Mazda home in one piece. I’m still learning the limits of the car, and I hope I can continue to learn as the season goes on.”
This weekend’s event in Alabama will be a unique one for the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear schedule. The series will hit the track April 7 with one practice round and the qualifying during the morning hours. The green flag will wave for round two on April 10, prior to the start of the IndyCar Series event. Menezes, who was unable to attend the pre-season test at the Birmingham facility, will attempt to produce another strong result on an unknown circuit.
“I’m really looking forward to jumping back into my TrueCar Star Mazda machine this weekend,” stated Menezes. “I’ve heard wonderful things about the Barber Motorsports Park and I’m excited to continue my development behind the wheel of our TrueCar Star Mazda racecar. My teammates participated at the test last month, and should help us to begin the event with a solid setup baseline and I’ll be able to work with them as I learn the course.”
Gustavo is able to compete at this level thanks to his many sponsors, including TrueCar.com, Clearbook.com, Safety Park, Oakley, Performance Physixx, Fitness Concepts, and CXC Simulations. Additional information on Gustavo Menezes can be obtained from his personal website, www.gustavomenezes.com or follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/gustavom28
About Gustavo Menezes:
At just 16 years-of-age, Santa Monica, California’s Gustavo Menezes is considered one of the most promising young karters in America. Gustavo contested an international schedule in 2009 and 2010 that included the WSK International Series and various major events in Europe and the United States, running for Italian karting manufacturer Tony Kart in the KF3 and KF2 categories. In 2007 and 2008, he was the vice-champion in the Junior Intercontinental A (JICA) class on the Stars of Karting national tour, scoring race wins and multiple podiums. For 2011, Menezes will move up the motorsports ladder and campaign his rookie season in the Star Mazda Championship with Juncos Racing. Gustavo’s ultimate goal is to one day become a driver in the IndyCar Series and win the Indianapolis 500.