Star Mazda Championship sends three more up motorsports ladder

January 16, 2006. The Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear class of 2005 continues to send drivers towards the top of the motorsports ladder with news of three more drivers graduating from the series as Marco Andretti, Jonathan Klein and James Hinchcliffe have all announced deals moving them closer to their dreams.

Jumping the highest will be Andretti. The Nazareth, Pennsylvania resident finished fifth in the 2005 Star Mazda Championship while driving for MJ Motorsports and has been signed by Andretti-Green racing to replace 2005 Indy 500 and Indy Racing League Champion Dan Wheldon. He will Join 2004 IRL Champion Tony Kanaan, Dario Franchitti and Bryan Herta starting in the Indy Racing League debut at Homestead-Miami Speedway on March 26th.

“I don’t have the oval experience, but to me that’s something you can learn,” Andretti said of the 11 ovals on the ’06 schedule. “What better way to learn. You can learn it so fast with three great teammates. They’re the best in the business. I think that’s what it comes down to, just how quickly you can learn how to do this. Every rookie has to make a jump. I think I can’t be any better off.”

Michael Andretti said his son’s performances and the one-day test at MIS prompted team principals to seriously consider an IndyCar Series entry with the teen-ager. When Wheldon’s intentions to switch teams became clear, so did AGR’s plans.

“We were able to get him in the car in Michigan the day after the race,” Andretti said. “He went out and did a fantastic job for the team. He was right on pace right away, had great feedback. The team was impressed with him.”

Andretti will be joined at Andretti-Green Racing by Jonathan Klein, who will compete for the team’s Infinity Pro Series effort. Klein, from Long Grove, Illinois, competed for two seasons with Andersen-Walko Racing in the Star Mazda Championship and was named the 2004 Most Improved Driver. He finished 13th overall in the 2005 Championship and scored a second place finish in the season finale at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

“This opportunity is overwhelming and exciting all at the same time,” said Klein. “I think it’s a great opportunity, and it’s quite an honor to be teammates with the four other IndyCar Series drivers, that’s great.”

James Hinchcliffe, from Oakville, Ontario, Canada, finished third overall in the 2005 Championship while driving for AIM Autosport and has announced that he will join 2005 series champion Raphael Matos, and fourth place finisher Graham Rahal in the Champ Car Atlantic Series, driving for Forsythe Racing.

"Signing with Forsythe is an amazing opportunity," commented Hinchcliffe. "I don't think that there is a driver in the Atlantic field this year who did not dream about driving with one of the best teams in Champ Car. It's great to be with a team that has such a strong and successful history with Canadian drivers. Many of my racing heroes have driven with Forsythe and it feels really good to add my name to that list.”

About the Star Mazda Series

The Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear has become the most competitive open-wheel development series in North America. Featuring the Pro Formula Mazda, which features a carbon-fiber chassis, six-speed sequential gearbox, and a 240-horsepower Mazda rotary powerplant, the series has helped propel the careers of drivers such as 2004 Champion Michael McDowell, now driving in ChampCar and a race-winner in the GrandAm Series; 2002 Champion Guy Cosmo, who along with fellow Star Mazda graduate Jamie Bach was named 2005 Rookie-of-the-Year in the American LeMans Series, and 2002 race winner Scott Speed, who will line up on the Formula One grid next season.