After what could be considered an optimistic debut at the Mazda Road to Indy, Mazda Philippines-backed driver Michele Bumgarner is back in town after achieving a top-10 finish during a test race in preparation for her 2014 Mazda Road to Indy campaign under the Pro Mazda Championship.

The 24 year-old IndyCar hopeful joined World Speed Motorsports team for the Pro Mazda season finale during the IndyCar Grand Prix of Houston weekend at Reliant Park Street Circuit in Texas. This is her second stint in the Mazda one-make series as she took part in the Star Mazda series in 2008 competing in 5 events.

Bumgarner drove the #6 Mazda Philippines-sponsored car to 14th on the grid for qualifying after the session was shortened due to a crash. Race 1 was quite a forgettable experience for Bumgarner as she sent her car to the wall while trying to make up for grid position.

With the team working overtime to finish the car in time for Race 2, she made a complete turnaround, managing to get ahead of four drivers to claim 9th behind teammate Kyle Kaiser. Bumgarner’s efforts did not come unnoticed as organizers decided to give her the Staubli and Quarter Master Hard Charger Award.

“Certainly, the race weekend wasn’t everything I wanted,” Michele said of her performance. “As a driver, you always want the best results. But this really was a warm-up for me, so to get the solid finish in Race 2, I’m happy. I just want to thank everyone, especially Mazda Philippines for all the support, the love! It’s been amazing.”

Bumgarner also expressed delight with the warm reception of Filipino-Americans residing in Houston who welcomed them with open arms and went on to watch and support her Road to Indy debut.

Michele Bumgarner and Mazda Philippines

For its part, Mazda Philippines has underlined its continued support for the talented racer, who will compete in her first full season of the Pro Mazda Championship next year. “You have to look at the context of Michele’s historical accomplishment to fully appreciate where she is now, and where Michele is heading,” said Steven Tan, President of Mazda distributor in the Philippines, Berjaya Auto Philippines Inc. “She came into the Pro Mazda Championship on the back foot, with far fewer testing and practice kilometers under her belt compared to the other drivers. So to finish ninth in her first race weekend is quite an achievement. Sure it’s talent, but it’s also hard work.”