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May 17, 2014 - 10:40 AM
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Duerson Making Smooth, Fast Transition To New Series
Posted by: newsla on May 17, 2014 - 10:39 AM
Sports Cars
Duerson Making Smooth, Fast Transition To New Series


Craig Duerson will be the first to admit he has a Type A personality, always on the go, ready to compete and looking for his next challenge.

 

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So it should come as no surprise he has wasted little time emerging as a championship contender in the 2014 Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Powered by Mazda just one event into his transition from the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama.

Duerson, a native of Gulfport, Mississippi, finished second and third, respectively, in the first two rounds of the season March 13-14 at Sebring, Florida, in a Performance Tech Motorsports Elan DP02 powered by a Mazda engine. He is tied for second in points with Dalton Sargeant entering the next event June 6-7 at Kansas Speedway.

"This is about where I thought I would be," Duerson said. "I knew coming into the series that I would be behind a little bit. It's my first time in the car, and I didn't have a lot of testing, a lot of seat time. I'm still getting used to the car.

"I'm happy with where I am. Even when I was driving in the Porsche series, I strived really hard to run up front. I try and prepare myself to be at the front."

Craig Duerson
Craig Duerson
Running up front was a familiar spot for Duerson, 50, during the 2013 season in Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA competition. He finished sixth overall in the standings in an NGT Motorsport entry, winning the Platinum Masters (age 45 and older) championship. The highlight of his season was an overall victory at Road America, the only Masters driver to win a race last season.

That success led Duerson to seek new challenges for the 2014 season. Plus he wanted to race with his son Hayden, 22, in cars after competing against each other in shifter karts. So father and son decided to compete in the Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Powered by Mazda this season with the powerful Performance Tech team.

"The Porsche is a great car," Craig Duerson said. "But there's something about open-cockpit cars and prototype cars that draw your attention. They're exotic. I did the Porsche series. I was thrilled with driving it. It was a great challenge. I was just looking for a new challenge and to be able to run with Hayden."

That experience has been very rewarding for the Duersons. When they're at the track, the father-son dynamic disappears. Hayden Duerson raced with adults, including his father, in shifter karts, so he grew up quickly.

Craig and Hayden are teammates in the paddock and fierce, clean competitors on track. But Craig, an endodontist in the St. Petersburg, Florida, area, is making sure he takes time to absorb and appreciate the subtleties and special moments of these priceless days with his son.

"Part of this, I tell my kids life is about just creating memories," Duerson said. "That's part of it, just having a great time with him.

"With Hayden, there's not really a father-son. It's just, 'Hey, we're friends, and we're enjoying having a good time together.'"

Craig had the upper hand on his son in both races at Sebring, as Hayden finished fourth and 13th, respectively. But Craig doesn't expect his advantage to last forever.

"I know Hayden's ability, I know his competitiveness, I know his drive," Craig said. "I know his expectations of himself. He beats me in karting. It's not even a question, I hate to say.

"Right now, the field is more level toward me, which is great. We're close right now time-wise. It's just a great experience to be able to run with him. I expect him to be ahead of me at some point. But I won't let him by."

That's the same unrelenting competitive approach Craig Duerson takes with all younger drivers in the series. His aim is the top step of the overall podium at every race.

"My goal is never to win the Masters," Duerson said. "My goal is to prove the older guys can still drive. We still have talent. We still have a lot of racecraft. I was very happy last year that I finished on the podium a couple of times, as I call it 'the real podium.' I won a race. My goal is to try and win the championship but definitely be there at the end."

Achieving or approaching that goal could lead Duerson to his next objective in racing: Climbing to the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship and competing for the Prototype Challenge title with his son as a teammate.

"Just consider I'm a Type A personality, so I'm going from one extreme to the other extreme," Duerson said. "I'm not sitting on the beach drinking a margarita. Racing, if you're a thrill-seeker, it's what I do. It's just part of your DNA. I love it.

"I want to do this while I still have the ability, and right now I still have the skillset, the mindset and the ability."

For more information on the Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Powered by Mazda, visit www.imsa.com and @IMSA on Twitter with the hashtag #CTPL. Live commentary for all series races is provided on Twitter at @IMSALive.

Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Powered by Mazda

The two classes of competition in the Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Powered by Mazda series take drivers and teams down unique, exciting roads of prototype sports car racing. Nimble, high-tech, purpose-built Lites 1 machines pack in the power with a 230-horsepower, 2-liter Mazda engine designed to prepare aspiring professionals for prototype competition in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship. Equally capable and affordable Lites 2 machines offer world-class competition for semi-professional drivers. Both formulas take competition to the next level, producing thrilling, high-speed action at premier venues across North America.

IMSA

The International Motor Sports Association, LLC (IMSA) is the sanctioning body of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, the professional road-racing series resulting from the merger of the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila PatrĂ³n and the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series. IMSA also sanctions the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge and the Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Powered by Mazda, as well as four single-make series: Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama; Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Michelin; Ferrari Challenge North America; and Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America. IMSA is the exclusive strategic partner in North America with the Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO), which operates the 24 Hours of Le Mans as a part of the FIA World Endurance Championship. The partnership enables selected TUDOR Championship competitors to earn automatic entries into the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans.

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