Categories
Mazda Road to Indy Open Wheel

Telitz Bookends Indy Lights Season in Style as Kaiser Clinches Title

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – Aaron Telitz, from Birchwood, Wis., put on a clinic today in treacherous conditions to win the Mazda Indy Lights Watkins Glen Grand Prix Presented by Cooper Tires, while Juncos Racing’s Kyle Kaiser wrapped up the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires championship title with a steady seventh-place finish.
 
Telitz’s Belardi Auto Racing teammate, Santi Urrutia, from Uruguay, finished in second place, well clear of Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing’s polesitter Colton Herta, from Valencia, Calif.
 
Steady rain shortly before the start ensured the entire field was on wet-weather Cooper tires, and following an additional pace lap to permit the drivers an opportunity to assess the track conditions, it was Herta, the youngest driver in the field at age 17, who led on the long downhill run toward Turn One. Telitz, who started third, immediately thrust to the inside under braking to claim the advantage, only for Herta to fight back as they swept into the uphill Esses for the first time.
 
Urrutia, too, was in the mix, ensuring a spectacular first few laps as the three leaders traded positions numerous times before Telitz overtook Herta one more time in opportunistic style at Turn Eight. He then began to edge away as Herta and Urrutia continued to squabble over second place.
 
Urrutia finally made the position his own on Lap Seven, but by then the impressive Telitz was already nearly seven seconds up the road.
Herta couldn’t match their pace but still remained clear of Andretti Autosport teammate Nico Jamin, from Rouen, France, who had overtaken Zachary Claman DeMelo (Carlin), from Montreal, Canada, on Lap Four.
 
Urrutia set sail – almost literally – after Telitz, narrowing the deficit to around four seconds before Telitz responded with a new best lap of the race on Lap 14, just as the yellow flags flew after Andretti Autosport’s Dalton Kellett lost control and crashed at the Inner Loop.
The rain intensified during the clean-up process, leaving officials no choice but to display the red flag in the hope that conditions would improve. Thankfully, they did, and after a 12-minute delay the race was on again for a seven-lap dash to the finish.
 
Telitz was unfazed, despite intense pressure from his more experienced teammate, Urrutia, who, coincidentally, had preceded him as winner of the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires in 2015. The pair romped clear of the field, with Telitz posting three successive fastest laps of the race to seal the victory and ensure that he ended the season as he had begun it on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., in March – with an emphatic victory. He also claimed the Staubli Award.
 
In addition to cementing his unenviable position as championship runner-up for the second successive year, Urrutia’s second-place finish ensured a come-from-behind victory in the Team Championship for Belardi Auto Racing by a slender four-point margin over Andretti Autosport.
 
Herta finished third ahead of Carlin’s Matheus Leist, from Brazil, who earned the Tilton Hard Charger after a fine drive from ninth on the grid.
 
All three series which comprise the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires will celebrate with a traditional end-of-season banquet tomorrow evening, Monday, in Watkins Glen. A total of $2,682,000 in Mazda Scholarships and awards will be distributed, including a prize valued at $1 million which will guarantee Kaiser entry into three Verizon IndyCar Series races in 2018, including the 102nd Indianapolis 500.
 
Aaron Telitz (#9 Mazda/Rice Lake Weighing Systems-Belardi Auto Racing): “I think relief is my primary emotion – the team joked with me that I might not remember how to get to Victory Lane. But it was a great way to end the year. It gives me a lot of confidence going into the off season, thinking that all the hard work was worth it. But it was pretty slippery out there! The start was tricky but I had some rain experience here earlier in the year – we did a Cooper Tire test and it was raining in the afternoon, so I thought I would go out and run in the rain. I did about 10 laps, so I knew where the grip was going to be on the track, whereas everyone else was still figuring it out. But by the end of the race, Santi figured it out. I knew the red flag would be coming but I didn’t want to win it in the pits. The team was telling us that if we finished 1-2 we would win the team championship, so ‘don’t crash’ was definitely coming through on the radio.”
 
Santi Urrutia (#5 Belardi Auto Racing w/SPM): “Aaron and I had different setups and I had problems on the first part of the track. The car was good but I was struggling early to find the lines. I had some chances to pass Aaron, especially on the restart when he made a mistake in Turn One but after that we were running the same speed and I decided to stay in second place. That earned us the team championship and vice championship for me again. I had some issues early in the season but when we got them sorted out everything started going the right way. We had a really strong second half so we have been competitive. My goal was to win the championship but we were 11th after Road America. To finish second is good. It was a good year – I won my first oval, which was great, and I hope I can go to IndyCar next year.”
 
Colton Herta (#98 Deltro Energy Mazda/Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing): “It was hairy for sure, going side-by-side through the Esses on the first lap. It was my first time in the wet with the car so it was a learning experience for the first few laps but I got settled in and started working on getting my lap times in and not making any mistakes. We had an amazing year, just missed tying my dad for poles in a season – thanks, dad! It was a good year. I got a ton of experience in all different kinds of conditions and I loved it! I hope to be back next year.”
 
Kyle Kaiser (#18 Juncos Racing): “I never could have imagined this at age 7, getting into a kart for the first time. It has been an absolute dream. But it’s been a strange feeling today, because it wasn’t the best race. The championship never entered my mind during the race – I was just trying to manage the conditions. I think these were the trickiest conditions we’ve had all year. I tried pushing and that’s why I spun. But I just really wanted to bring the car home. We just won the Indy Lights championship and it’s time to celebrate. When I got to the podium and Dan Andersen, John Doonan and Chris Pantani were there to give me the champion’s trophy, I started to realize that it was real. 
 
“I am so appreciative of my time on the Mazda Road to Indy. The new Indy Lights car has been a perfect transition. The experience I’ve gained these past three years, not rushing it or wanting to move up too soon has been so valuable. All the race experience will translate into IndyCar.”
 
###
 
About Indy Lights: Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires is the third and final step on the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires. Sanctioned by INDYCAR, the series is operated by Andersen Promotions, which oversees all three levels of the ladder system. The Indy Lights champion is awarded a scholarship valued at $1M toward the Verizon IndyCar Series. The series has a rich history as a development platform for many of today’s top drivers. For more information, visit indylights.com and roadtoindy.info.
 
About Mazda, Mazda Motorsports: Mazda Motorsports boasts the most comprehensive auto racing development ladder system of any auto manufacturer in the world. The Mazda Road to 24 program offers a number of scholarships to advance drivers up the sports car racing ladder, beginning with the Global MX-5 Cup series and culminating with the Mazda Prototype team. The Mazda Road to Indy is a similar program that includes Mazda-powered categories of USF2000, Pro Mazda and Indy Lights. In grassroots road racing, more Mazdas race on any given weekend in North America than any other manufacturer. Mazda is also the title sponsor of the renowned Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif. Follow all of the latest news at MazdaMotorsports.com, @MazdaRacing on Twitter, and MazdaMotorsports on Instagram and Facebook. 
 
About Cooper Tire & Rubber Company: Cooper Tire & Rubber Company is the parent company of a global family of companies that specializes in the design, manufacture, marketing and sale of innovative, great-performing tires that you can count on to last for thousands of miles, getting you where you need to go, and back again. Cooper is proud to be the spec tire for all three levels of the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires, a development program within the IndyCar racing series. Cooper tires can also be seen on the track as a sponsor in the short course off-road TORC Series. Headquartered in Findlay, Ohio, Cooper, with its subsidiaries, has manufacturing, sales, distribution, technical and design operations in more than one dozen countries around the world. To connect with Cooper, visit www.coopertire.comwww.facebook.com/coopertire or www.twitter.com/coopertire.
Categories
Mazda Road to Indy Open Wheel

MRTI OBSERVATIONS: Cooper Tires Indy Lights Grand Prix of Toronto

TORONTO, Ontario — In the tight confines of the streets of Toronto, Kyle Kaiser showcased why he is the current series points leader, as he won both Cooper Tires Indy Lights Grand Prix’s of Toronto. As for his competitors, some of them left with smiles while others were frustrated.

Here are some observations from the weekend.

Kool Kaiser

Entering his third season of Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires competition, Kyle Kaiser is coming into his own as a racecar driver. He has been solid on a weekly basis, scoring only one finish outside of the top-six in the first 10 races heading into Toronto.

This past weekend at Exhibition Place, he accomplished something he has not done in his career to date – sweeping a weekend.

In the first race, he led all 35 laps after starting from the pole, followed by running second throughout the second event after a daring three-wide move on Lap 1. until Colton Herta experienced a mechanical problem on Lap 25, handing the lead over to Kaiser. From there on, he drove away from the field en route to the checkered flag.

“This has been a dream weekend,” he said. “I’ve never had a double win weekend before, so I didn’t come into the (second) race – obviously I always try to win, but I was accepting the realistic facts. We were starting third, two really good guys ahead of us, so I was coming in just set to finish the race, and keep it clean.”

The success for Kaiser is no surprise, though, as he entered the weekend with three third-place finishes and a ninth in four previous races.

“We’ve always had a good set-up here,” he said. “Spencer (Pigot) won here two times in 2015 and last year, we had good pace but got caught out in the first qualifier towards the back but raced up to third. I think we’ve always had a good street course set-up, besides St. Pete. We did what we had to do. We attacked and gave everything that we had, and it paid off.”

Now with his third victory of the year, he currently leads the standings, 51 markers ahead of Matheus Leist. If he can remain solid throughout the rest of the season, he could walk away with the championship, and an opportunity to race in the Verizon IndyCar Series.

“I think there are places that I could have done better,” he told POPULAR SPEED on Saturday. “I mean, there’s always room to improve every season. But, we’re leading the championship, and this was a really good day for the points, so I’m very happy. I can’t get too critical of myself.”

Hometown Struggles for Kellett

After scoring a third at Iowa Speedway, Dalton Kellet entered the Honda Indy Toronto weekend hopeful for a successful showing in front of the hometown fans. However, the event did not go as the Stouffville, Ontario native planned.

Going into the event, he was aware of the challenge at hand, telling POPULAR SPEED on Friday that the bumpy track conditions were going to present “a challenge for us to set the car up so we can be competitive.”

On Saturday, he would go off the track on three different occasions, before parking the No. 28 Andretti Autosport entry for a 12th-place finish. Then on Sunday, he ran up in the top-five for the first half of the race, before getting into the tire barrier on Lap 30. He was able to keep going, though crossed the finish line in ninth.

The finishes go along with the way his season has played out so far, running up front but not posting the warranted results with two top-fives and eight top-10’s in 12 races.

“We’ve been really strong on the ovals, and we’ve been quick on the road and street courses, but have not been able to put the results together,” he said.

Kellett will hope to turn things around at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, where he posted a ninth-place finish in 2016.

One Happy Canadian

Although Dalton Kellett was left frustrated, another Canadian driver gave the fans a reason to smile. Montreal’s Zachary Claman DeMelo ran up front in both events, posting a runner-up and third place finish.

“It’s a really good feeling to get two podiums in a row in Toronto,” he said. “It’s almost like my second home; I’ve kart raced here since I was eight years old, so it’s a nice city. It’s a shame that we didn’t have the car to win, but I’m really happy with the amount of points we gained.”

Claman DeMelo ran solidly in the runner-up spot in both events, though faded after the Lap 12 restart in the second race to third.

“The track was a bit slick,” he said. “We made some changes to the car, and it felt good at the beginning to challenge Kyle for quite awhile. After the restart, I just didn’t have the pace that he had. I just didn’t get a good restart so Aaron got by me and I tried to pressure him, but couldn’t so I had to settle for third today.”

While his season did not start out as warranted with two finishes outside of the top-10 in the first six races, he has turned it around with a top-10 in each of those that have followed, including a victory at Road America.

“I started off rough, but made a big push through the middle of the season,” he told POPULAR SPEED. “I went to the gym a lot, went and worked with the team a lot, and it’s starting to show as the last two races have been really strong for me. Qualified on the front row at Iowa – the race didn’t go quite how I wanted, and then the win at Road America. So things are going well, and hopefully, we can carry this strong momentum.”

Currently sitting fourth in points, he is only 21 markers behind Matheus Leist for second heading to Mid-Ohio, where he placed seventh in both events last year.

“We just need to stay consistent every race and try to get as many points as we can,” he said. “I think we can challenge for a win at Mid-Ohio there, as well.”

Rough Start to Race 2

Although the first event of the weekend went cleanly, the second race did not start off smoothly with a big wreck on the opening lap, taking out several key contenders.

Going into the first corner, Kyle Kaiser dived left underneath Santiago Urrutia for the second position, while Nico Jamin went to the right. Now three-wide in one of the tightest corners of the circuit, Jamin made slight contact with the outside wall, bottling up the field behind them. As a result, Shelby Blackstock was left nowhere to go as he drove over Jamin’s rear tire, followed by Neil Alberico catching a good piece of the action.

“That was pretty wild,” eventual race runner-up Aaron Telitz said. “Three cars tried to go three-wide all the way around the corner, which obviously didn’t end up going well for them. It bottled up and my teammate Shelby (Blackstock) went up and over Nico (Jamin), and I could see the bottom of Shelby’s car, so I thought it’d be a full course yellow, and sure enough it came out.”

Kaiser would go on to win the race, but Jamin, Blackstock, and Alberico all were done for the event. Urrutia was also able to continue but eventually came to a stop on the front stretch on Lap 12 en route to finishing 11th.

The incident just added to the frustrations of the weekend for Jamin and Blackstock, who both failed to post a top-10 finish in the first race of the weekend. Jamin was running up in the top-five but got front end damage when he ran into Matheus Leist after he spun on Lap 5. Meanwhile, Blackstock began the race with a mechanical issue, going seven laps down before joining the action.

While both drivers were expected to be part of the championship conversation, they have now fallen outside of the top-five in points with Jamin seventh and Blackstock 12th. The pair could use a good run at Mid-Ohio as Jamin has only one top-10 in the last four races, while Blackstock has failed to post a top-10 in the last three.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
Mazda Road to Indy Open Wheel

MRTI Observations: Indy Lights Barber Race 2

In the 400th Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires event, Colton Herta led every lap en route to his second career victory in four starts.

Here are some observations from the event.

Familiar Faces

Throughout the event, Herta remained unchallenged as he held a lead of at least seven seconds over the field. It marked a solid rebound after a 10th in Race 1 this weekend. The success didn’t come surprising, though, as the Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing driver posted a win and runner-up to kick off 2017 at St. Petersburg. Now boasting a 16-point lead over Kyle Kaiser, he’ll look to keep it going into Indianapolis next month.

Kaiser and Nico Jamin finished second and third, to give them both two podiums on the weekend. Jamin won yesterday, while Kaiser finished second.

For Kaiser, he has yet to finish outside of the top-six in the first four races this season, following a sixth and fourth to start this season. Early projections had the Juncos Racing driver as part of the championship battle after finishing third in points in 2016. The California native put together an impressive campaign last year, scoring two wins and nine podiums.

Meanwhile, Alberico was hit or miss at St. Petersburg as he posted a second in Round 1, before finishing 15th in the second event. Now with two podiums at Barber, he certainly has made up some of the lost ground. In his rookie campaign last year, the California native finished 10th in points following six top-10s in 18 races.

Urrutia Left Upset

Santiago Urrutia will will want to forget Barber as soon as possible as he finished outside of the top-12 in both rounds this weekend. He was involved in the first lap incident on Saturday, followed by contact with teammate Shelby Blackstock on Lap 4 causing a spin and front wing change.

Urrutia came into this season hopeful to fight for a title but has started off this season poorly as he finished 13th in Round 1, followed by a runner-up in the second event.

With three finishes outside the top-10 in four races, Urrutia will need to start picking up wins and podiums if he wants to contend this year, given they only run 16 events a season.

Telitz Rebounds

Following a 13th-place finish on Saturday, Aaron Telitz rebounded with a solid fifth-place finish in Sunday’s event.

The Belardi Auto Racing began his rookie campaign with a win and a fifth at St. Petersburg. He enters the series after winning last season’s Pro Mazda Championship.

Eliminated Early

Zachary Cleman De Melo and Pato O’Ward saw their races end on Lap 1 as contact from Claman De Melo to O’Ward on Lap 1 sent both drivers off-track, with O’Ward, stuck in the gravel trap for a full course caution. Claman De Melo was able to continue but parked his car on Lap 3 due to damage.

“We were going to the outside of turn two with Alberico and someone behind me – De Melo – accidentally ran into my right side as I don’t think he intended to and bent my front right, and then kind of kept hitting me, so we lost it, we both went out,” O’Ward said. “It’s a shame.”

Claman De Melo said he couldn’t turn the wheel anymore and tried to give him room, but “we just made contact.”

“I started off the weekend behind due to a missed flight through testing,” Claman De Melo said. “We just got better and better, and I was happy with the race pace. I was happy with yesterday’s solid result.”

The Andretti Autosport driver started this season with a seventh, eighth and fifth before this incident.

For O’Ward, he finished top-five in both St. Petersburg races, before placing eighth. While set to run a full IMSA sports car schedule this season, he has yet to announce any additional Indy Lights races for 2017.

“We had a terrible day yesterday, and today is even worse,” O’Ward said. “I don’t know what that’ll do for the next few races. I’ll have to play the next few weeks and see what happens. It’s just a negative weekend all the way around.”

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER:@ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
Mazda Road to Indy Open Wheel

MRTI Observations: Barber Day No. 2

On Saturday, fans at Barber Motorsports Park were treated to a pair of exciting Mazda Road to Indy events. Oliver Askew continued his strong start in Cooper Tires USF2000 Presented by Mazda, sweeping the weekend with his third victory in four races. Meanwhile, Nico Jamin made it three winners in three races for the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires.

Here are some observations from Saturday’s action at Barber.

Mixing It Up

While both USF2000 races at Barber saw Askew win ahead of Kaylen Frederick, there were a couple new faces behind them.

Parker Thompson scored his first podium finish of 2017 with Exclusive Autosport.  The Alberta native has finished in the top-five each race so far, and is hoping to win the championship after a runner-up last year to Anthony Martin.

Meanwhile, Toby Sowery made his debut this weekend with the BENIK team, following up Friday’s 11th-place finish with a fifth in race two. Whether he will return for Indianapolis has yet to be announced.

Ready to Battle

As Andretti Autosport shows speed in the Verizon IndyCar Series, their Indy Lights team is just as strong.

Following Colton Herta’s victory at St. Petersburg, Nico Jamin gave the organization their second win of 2017, leading 27 of 30 laps. It marks a solid rebound as Jamin failed to post a top-five in St. Petersburg, with finishes of seventh and 14th. Dalton Kellett also came back strong, finishing sixth at Barber after kicking of 2017 with a pair of 12ths.

With two podiums at St. Petersburg, Herta continues to lead the points despite finishing 10th at Barber. Notably, Herta had to make a pit stop on Lap 1 after contact with Kyle Kaiser on the aborted start.

Dickerson Fights Back

While the first USF2000 event was clean, the second didn’t go as smoothly with three separate incidents on the opening lap. One of those who found himself facing the wrong way was Dakota Dickerson. Dickerson fought back, though, passing Darren Keane for 10th on the last lap.

Switching to Newman Wachs Racing for 2017, Dickerson has solidly started off 2017 with three straight sixth-place finishes, followed by Saturday’s 10th. As the team grows used to USF2000 competition, Dickerson could possibly be fighting for podiums.

Notably, this is the second year for Dickerson in USF2000 after scoring nine top-10s in 2016, with a best finish of fourth at the Honda Indy Toronto in July en route to placing ninth in the season-ending standings. Newman-Wachs Racing already announced plans to move Dickerson up to Pro Mazda Presented by Cooper Tires for 2018.

Talented Field

As Nico Jamin became the third straight different winner, he was followed to the line by Kyle Kaiser and Neil Alberico.

The runner-up marks Kaiser’s best finish of 2017 following a sixth and fourth to start this season. Early projections had the Juncos Racing driver as part of the championship battle after finishing third in points in 2016. The California native put together an impressive campaign last year, scoring two wins and nine podiums.

Meanwhile, Alberico has been hit or miss so far this season as he posted a second in Round 1 at St. Petersburg, prior to finishing 15th in the second event. Now with a third to kick off Barber, it will be critical for the momentum to carry through Sunday. In his rookie campaign last year, the California native finished 10th in points following six top-10s in 18 races.

Strong Starts Spoiled

Rookies Calvin Ming and Andre Castro both started off their USF2000 campaigns solidly, scoring a top-10 finish in each of the first three rounds. Unfortunately, they finished 21st and 22nd on Saturday after being involved in first lap incidents.

Consequently, both Ricky Donison and Bayley Mickler probably want to leave Barber in the rearview after failing to post a top-20 in either event. Donison entered this weekend following a pair of 13th at St. Petersburg, while Mickler made his debut at Barber.

Looking to Rebound

When Indy Lights starts their second race of the weekend, Aaron Telitz and Santiago Urrutia will be looking to get up front. Both drivers finished outside the top-12 due to being involved in the first lap incident.  

Urrutia knows how to make it happen as he kicked off his sophomore campaign with Belardi Auto Racing at St. Petersburg with a 13th in Round 1, followed by a runner-up.  He also finished second in points last year to Ed Jones.

Meanwhile, Telitz began his rookie campaign with a win and a fifth at St. Petersburg. He enters the series with Belardi after winning last season’s Pro Mazda Championship.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER:@ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
Mazda Road to Indy Open Wheel

MRTI OBSERVATIONS: Rookies are Here to Play, and More

This past weekend, the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires kicked off their season, with doubleheaders for each of the three divisions on the streets of St. Petersburg. With new faces alongside familiar faces, it was certainly a memorable weekend for some rookies.

Here are some observations from the weekend of action.

 

Rookies are Here to Play

When new talent joins the fray, questions are always asked as to whether they will succeed, or fumble. Thus far, it appears the new talent is going to impress all season.

Fresh off winning the inaugural Mazda Road to Indy USF2000 $200K Scholarship Shootout, Oliver Askew was able to duck to the inside on a restart in the second Cooper Tires USF2000 Powered by Mazda race and pass Parker Thompson for the lead, never looking back the rest of the way.

Anthony Martin proved that he’s ready for Pro Mazda Presented by Cooper Tires competition after winning the USF2000 Championship last year, sweeping the weekend’s events. He also did it in dominating fashion, as he led flag-to-flag in both races.

Another graduate, 2016 Pro Mazda Champion Aaron Telitz, proved that he was ready for the next jump in his career. He dominated the first Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires event by leading right from the start of the race. Meanwhile, MRTI newcomer Colton Herta was able to lead flag-to-flag in the second race, despite the massive number of restarts, to become the youngest series winner.

 

The Highs and Lows of Racing

Robert Meginnis entered the season hoping to do well after partaking in the second half of the schedule last year with some success. This weekend was a mix of two worlds, though.

The first race went well as the Team Pelfrey driver started on the pole, and led every single lap in route to his first career USF2000 victory. The second race, though, was a bit of a different story. He started off strong, moving into third on an early race restart, only to make a mistake on Lap 18. He was credited with a 19th place finish.

While both races didn’t go as planned, it appears as though he’s still in high spirits based on the driveability of the series’ new chassis.

“I can’t say enough about the Tatuus USF-17,” he said. “It’s comfortable to drive; it’s consistent throughout the sessions; you can push it harder. It’s fun and exciting to drive, so I’m really looking forward to the rest of the season.”

 

Pelfrey Strangle on Pro Mazda Broken

Last year, Team Pelfrey won all of the races in Pro Mazda, except for a single event. This year, though, they currently stand zero for two.

It isn’t for lack of speed, though, as the group showed they were fast in the first event, with their drivers finishing third through fifth. Using his experience from last year, TJ Fischer led the team in third, followed by rookies Carlos Cunha and Nikita Lastochkin.

The second event didn’t see the threesome all have success, though. Fischer continued to lead the charge, once again posting a third place finish after posting a best finish of fifth last year in his partial schedule. Lastochkin was also able to put in another solid run, finishing fifth, while Cunha finished 12th following mechanical issues.

With the team showing speed already, it’s only a matter of time before the drivers gain enough experience to find their way to victory lane like Telitz and Pato O’Ward did last year.

 

Rough Start for Carlin

After winning the Indy Lights Championship last year with Ed Jones and having multiple drivers up front throughout the season, this year began strongly as Carlin Racing would’ve hoped. Each of their drivers appeared to have a good race and a bad race this past weekend.

Neil Alberico proved the team is still fast and one to watch this season, posting a third place finish in the first race of the weekend, with teammate Zachary Claman De Melo eighth. Meanwhile, the other half of the team didn’t do as well with Garth Rickards 11th and Matteus Leist in 15th following mechanical issues.

On the flip side, Claman De Melo was the only driver for Carlin in the top-10 at the end of the second event, finishing seventh. Leist completed all the laps this time, finishing 11th; Rickards and Alberico found themselves at the bottom of the charts behind Leist after being involved in an incident during the race.

For Carlin, it’s right now a balance as both Rickards and Leist are entering the series for the first time, as Leist comes from an international background while Rickards is making the jump from USF2000 to Indy Lights, versus running Pro Mazda in between. However, the rookies should learn and improve with having the experience of Alberico and Claman De Melo alongside them. There’s also a good possibility Alberico will be in victory lane before the season’s over.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER:@ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
Mazda Road to Indy Open Wheel

Telitz Dominates but Indy Lights Thrills in St. Petersburg

New Push-to-Pass System Leads to Multiple Overtaking Moves on Tricky Streets

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Aaron Telitz tried his utmost to turn the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires season opener into a procession, but fortunately his fellow protagonists failed to follow his script during an otherwise action-packed Mazda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Presented by Cooper Tires. As Telitz, 25, from Birchwood, Wis., romped to an impressive debut victory from the pole for Belardi Auto Racing, the remainder of the 15-car field staged a thrilling contest which ended with fellow Americans Colton Herta (Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing) and Neil Alberico (Carlin) completing the podium.

The Mazda turbo-powered Dallara IL-15 package has provided some excellent racing action since its introduction two years ago, but the advent in 2017 of a new and innovative “push-to-pass” system, which allows up to 10 seconds of increased turbo boost to deliver an additional 50 horsepower – and, unlike in many series, can only be employed as a tool to assist overtaking, rather than as a defense mechanism – proved its worth with a host of spectacular overtaking maneuvers during the 35-lap race.

There was action almost literally from start to finish. It began just seconds after the green flag when the field narrowly averted disaster at the first corner as Colombian Juan Piedrahita, who had qualified a career-best third for Team Pelfrey, left his braking a tad too late at Turn One while making a move for the lead. Cars were seemingly scattered in all directions as many contenders took evasive action, but thankfully, once the dust had settled, Telitz had managed to maintain his lead. Brazilian rookie Matheus Leist emerged in second, after starting fourth, while Carlin teammate Neil Alberico followed in third after a disappointing qualifying run with a lack of straightline speed left him seventh on the starting grid.

Shelby Blackstock (Belardi Auto Racing), Kyle Kaiser (Juncos Racing) and Herta ran next at the completion of the first lap, followed by the recovering Piedrahita and his teammate Pato O’Ward.

The biggest casualties from the opening contretemps were Santi Urrutia (Belardi), who picked up some damage and required a lengthy pit stop for repairs, and Dalton Kellett (Andretti Autosport), who resumed well in arrears of the remaining runners.

Telitz took full advantage of a fresh set of Cooper tires to pull out more than a second over his pursuers to ensure he was not within range of attack by anyone using their push-to-pass, and indeed a series of quick laps allowed him to extend his lead to move than five seconds inside just eight laps.

The most significant pass for position came on Lap Six when Alberico found a way past Leist for second. It was the first of many. And the young man who really made an impression was Herta, still a few weeks shy of his 17th birthday, who used his push-to-pass to excellent effect on the main straightaway, then displayed fearless form under braking as he gradually made his way toward the front. Telitz was already too far up the road to be under threat by the time Herta executed his final pass – for second on Alberico with only five laps remaining – but it was still a mightily impressive performance.

Alberico was rightly delighted with third after a disappointing 2016 campaign, while Blackstock also enjoyed a strong run to fourth ahead of O’Ward, who scrabbled past Kaiser under braking for Turn One with just a couple of laps remaining.

Leist, unfortunately, suffered a mechanical problem which eventually forced his retirement.

The field will be back in action tomorrow morning for a second installment. This time, though, Telitz will have a harder time, since he qualified only 10th in this morning’s second session of qualifying. Instead, Herta will start from the pole when the race gets under way at 9:45 a.m.

Live timing and live streaming will be available on indylights.com, as well as on indycar.com and the Road To Indy TV App. The race will air on NBCSN on March 18.

Aaron Telitz (#9 Mazda/Rice Lake Weighing Systems/Belardi Auto Racing): “I was expecting to do well this year but I had no idea coming in that I would be on pole and win the first race of the year, especially with such a deep field. It feels really good to be on the top spot. I had a good jump at the start and survived the pack-up at the start. Once I was out ahead, I just kept on doing consistent lap times through the race and hitting my marks. But honestly, my first feeling at the checkered flag was relief. To be here with Belardi, to be in the Soul Red car and wearing a Mazda driver’s suit, it all just feels a little unreal. When I started in car racing, I had no idea I’d ever be in Indy Lights, let alone win a race in my first go. I can’t thank Mazda enough for creating this ladder system and giving drivers like me a chance.”

Colton Herta (#98 Deltro Energy Mazda – Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing): “I knew that I had 15 push-to-pass uses so I was trying to be conservative. I would only use it when I knew I could overtake. It took a few tries to get adjusted and it will take a few more to nail it perfectly but it’s a great feature. I love how you have to be within a second of the other driver, so it eliminates defending. I used it when I tried to get around Neil the first time, but I ran out. The dash doesn’t tell you, so I kept pushing it and didn’t feel anything! I got a good run on the inside and he left me room. It was good, hard racing. Everyone left each other room.”

Neil Alberico (#2 Rising Star Racing-Carlin): “I had a tough year last year, battling gremlins and struggling as a rookie coming from Pro Mazda, so it’s great to come back and redeem myself. To get my first Indy Lights podium in the first race of the year is great. The Carlin guys have really worked with me and I appreciate that Carlin and Rising Star Racing had faith in my ability, which allowed me to come back this year. Geoff Fickling is my engineer this year, and he worked with Ed Jones last year and has won numerous championships through the years, and that has worked really well. He’s been a great asset for me.”

###

About Indy Lights: Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires is the third and final step on the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires. Sanctioned by INDYCAR, the series is operated by Andersen Promotions, which oversees all three levels of the ladder system. The Indy Lights champion is awarded a scholarship valued at $1M toward the Verizon IndyCar Series. The series has a rich history as a development platform for many of today’s top drivers. For more information, visit indylights.com.

About Mazda, Mazda Motorsports: Mazda Motorsports boasts the most comprehensive auto racing development ladder system of any auto manufacturer in the world. The Mazda Road to 24 program offers a number of scholarships to advance drivers up the sports car racing ladder, beginning with the Global MX-5 Cup series and culminating with the Mazda Prototype team. The Mazda Road to Indy is a similar program that includes Mazda-powered categories of USF2000, Pro Mazda and Indy Lights. In grassroots road racing, more Mazdas race on any given weekend in North America than any other manufacturer. Mazda is also the title sponsor of the renowned Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif. Follow all of the latest news at MazdaMotorsports.com, @MazdaRacing on Twitter, and MazdaMotorsports on Instagram and Facebook.

About Cooper Tire & Rubber Company: Cooper Tire & Rubber Company, together with its subsidiaries, is a leading designer, manufacturer and marketer of innovative, great-performing tires that people depend on for all of life’s road trips, whether on city streets, off-road adventures or high-speed tracks. In fact, Cooper is proud to sponsor and race in all three levels of the Mazda Road to Indy development program within the IndyCar racing series. Cooper tires can also be seen on the track as a sponsor of the short course off-road TORC Series. Headquartered in Findlay, Ohio, Cooper, together with its subsidiaries, has manufacturing, sales, distribution, technical and design operations in more than one dozen countries around the world. In our second century in the tire business, Cooper looks toward a future where innovation will continue to drive our products and our products will continue to drive the world. To connect with Cooper, visit www.coopertire.com, www.facebook.com/coopertire or www.twitter.com/coopertire.

Categories
Mazda Road to Indy Open Wheel

Starting Grids Set for Four of Six Mazda Road to Indy Season-Opening Races

Mazda Scholarship Driver Telitz Captures Pole for Indy Lights Debut

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The season-opening Grand Prix of St. Petersburg kicked off today with practice and qualifying for four of the six races which comprise the start of a new campaign for the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires.

A dramatic qualifying session for Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, the highest rung on the acclaimed open-wheel development ladder which offers Mazda Scholarships to enable talented drivers to reach all the way from the grassroots of the sport to the Verizon IndyCar Series, ended with Aaron Telitz marking his first Indy Lights start with pole position for Belardi Auto Racing.

Telitz, 25, from Birchwood, Wis., who is stepping up after winning last year’s Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, jumped to the top of the timing charts moments before young Mexican Pato O’Ward ended his session in the barriers at Turn Eight. Ironically, Telitz and O’Ward had been teammates last year in Pro Mazda – and had shared one victory apiece on the streets of St. Petersburg.

O’Ward, 17, from Monterrey, Mexico, had posted the fastest time in practice this morning for Team Pelfrey and also set the pace prior to Telitz’s fine lap of 1:07.5844. Even worse, as a penalty for causing a red flag stoppage, O’Ward was penalized with the loss of his fastest time, dropping him from second on the grid to ninth in the closely packed field.

Kyle Kaiser (Juncos Racing), from Santa Clara, who won the pole in 2016, will start second for the opening race of the weekend, the Mazda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Presented by Cooper Tires, which will start at 5:10 p.m. EDT tomorrow afternoon.

Juan Piedrahita (Team Pelfrey), from Bogota, Colombia, will line up third ahead of rookies Matheus Leist (Carlin), from Brazil, and Colton Herta (Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing), from Valencia, Calif.

Qualifying for Race Two will take place at 7:55 a.m. tomorrow.

USF2000 Champ Martin Fastest in Pro Mazda

Anthony Martin, from Kalgoorlie, Australia, will start on pole for the Hi-Tide Kids on Track Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Round One of the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires. Martin, 22, who is stepping up to Pro Mazda after winning last year’s USF2000 championship, set the fastest time at 1:13.6718 for Cape Motorsports, edging out Brazilian Victor Franzoni (Juncos Racing) by a scant 0.012 second.

Franzoni had been fastest in the first practice session this morning at 1:14.1486.

TJ Fischer, based in Los Angeles, will start third for Team Pelfrey ahead of teammate Carlos Cunha, from Campinas, Brazil, and Californian teenager Phillippe Denes for World Speed Motorsports.

The race will start tomorrow at 11:50 a.m.

Qualifying for Race Two, the Allied Building Products Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, will take place at 7:30 a.m. tomorrow, with the green flag slated for 4:30 p.m. on Sunday.

Megennis, Thompson Earn Poles for USF2000 Double-Header

A new era for the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda kicked off today with qualifying for the first two races of the new season which will take place tomorrow on the streets of St. Petersburg.

The brand-new Tatuus USF-17 looks set to provide some sensational action this year, as evidenced by the closeness of the times in each of the two 20-minute sessions.

Last year’s Rookie of the Year, Robert Megennis, was first out of the blocks yesterday for Team Pelfrey, posting the fastest time during a 30-minute period of practice that was punctuated by a variety of incidents. The teenager from New York, N.Y., maintained that form this morning on a slightly reconfigured race track, stopping the clocks in 1:15.3708 (85.975 mph) to secure pole position for the Hi-Tide Boats Lifts Grand Prix of St. Petersburg – and the first championship point of the 2017 campaign.

Calvin Ming (Pabst Racing), from Guyana, will start second for the opening race ahead of Oliver Askew, from Jupiter, Fla., representing the defending champion Cape Motorsports team. Askew, 20, is commencing his very first full season of car racing after winning the inaugural Mazda Road to Indy USF2000 $200K Scholarship Shootout last fall.

Dakota Dickerson (Newman Wachs Racing), from San Diego, Calif., and Kaylen Frederick (Team Pelfrey), from Potomac, Md., will round out the top five starters. The top 11 qualifiers were all blanketed by less than one second.

The race is set for 8:40 a.m. tomorrow, with the green flag due to be waved by Tatuus Race Cars Director Gianfranco DeBellis.

Qualifying for Race Two, the Allied Building Products Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, which is slated for a 2:00 p.m. start tomorrow, ended with Parker Thompson, from Red Deer, Alb., Canada, atop the charts for the new Exclusive Autosport team. Thompson, who finished a close second in the 2016 title-chase, set an identical time – 1:15.3708 – to that set earlier by Megennis.

Askew, who bounced back impressively from an incident on Thursday afternoon which caused damage to his Soul Red Tatuus, will start second for Race Two ahead of Dutch teenager Rinus VeeKay (Pabst Racing), Dickerson and Megennis.

Live timing and live streaming of all sessions will be available on the respective series websites, indylights.com, promazda.com and usf2000.com, as well as on indycar.com and the Road To Indy TV App.

###

About Mazda, Mazda Motorsports: Mazda Motorsports boasts the most comprehensive auto racing development ladder system of any auto manufacturer in the world. The Mazda Road to 24 program offers a number of scholarships to advance drivers up the sports car racing ladder, beginning with the Global MX-5 Cup series and culminating with the Mazda Prototype team. The Mazda Road to Indy is a similar program that includes Mazda-powered categories of USF2000, Pro Mazda and Indy Lights. In grassroots road racing, more Mazdas race on any given weekend in North America than any other manufacturer. Mazda is also the title sponsor of the renowned Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif. Follow all of the latest news at MazdaMotorsports.com, @MazdaRacing on Twitter, and MazdaMotorsports on Instagram and Facebook.

About Cooper Tire & Rubber Company: Cooper Tire & Rubber Company, together with its subsidiaries, is a leading designer, manufacturer and marketer of innovative, great-performing tires that people depend on for all of life’s road trips, whether on city streets, off-road adventures or high-speed tracks. In fact, Cooper is proud to sponsor and race in all three levels of the Mazda Road to Indy development program within the IndyCar racing series. Cooper tires can also be seen on the track as a sponsor of the short course off-road TORC Series. Headquartered in Findlay, Ohio, Cooper, together with its subsidiaries, has manufacturing, sales, distribution, technical and design operations in more than one dozen countries around the world. In our second century in the tire business, Cooper looks toward a future where innovation will continue to drive our products and our products will continue to drive the world. To connect with Cooper, visit www.coopertire.com, www.facebook.com/coopertire or www.twitter.com/coopertire.

Categories
Mazda Road to Indy Open Wheel

Aaron Telitz Ready for Step Up to Indy Lights

With no finishes outside of the top-five last season, Aaron Telitz put together an impressive Pro Mazda Presented by Cooper Tires campaign en route to being crowned the series champion. With the Mazda scholarship in hand, it’s clear Telitz is ready for the final step of the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires.

Telitz will make his Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires debut this weekend on the streets of St. Petersburg as he kicks off the season-long campaign with Belardi Auto Racing.

“Going into St. Pete, Belardi Auto Racing is looking really strong,” he told POPULAR SPEED. “We’ve tested well all off-season, so I know they have a good street course as well – they won both races in Toronto, as well as one at St. Petersburg. So I think we’ve got a great chance.”

Even with this season being his rookie year, he isn’t holding back his expectations as he wants to win races and contend for the championship this season.

“I’d like to start off strong,” he said. “I know our cars are going to be good at St. Petersburg so getting a win or getting on the podium, that’s what I’m shooting for. If I do have a bad weekend, it’s about making the most of it and not making any silly mistakes. I made some silly mistakes in USF2000 in rookie where I crashed when I didn’t need to. If I had just finished where I was instead of going for a win or a podium – just have to take what the car gives you.”

Thus far, Telitz has shown speed throughout testing as he eighth overall at the Homestead-Miami Speedway road course test, and third at the Homestead oval test. Going through testing, he noted how much better the Indy Lights car is to drive compared to the Pro Mazda, with the additional horsepower, more torque, and bigger brakes. With that in mind, he says, “You’re going to have to hone your skills and be ready for the extra grip.”

For Telitz, the decision was easy to go with Belardi due to how well he got along with all the guys there.

“They’re all passionate about racing, and they’re just easy to get along with,” he said. “My engineer is a real smart guy, and we’re going to work together really well. It was really how well I meshed with the team and how comfortable I felt.”

The partnership with Belardi has it benefits, as he’ll have 2016 Indy Lights Runner-Up Santiago Urruita and Shelby Blackstock as teammates to lean on, something that he says will be a significant advantage.

“It was a big advantage last year with Pato O’Ward at Team Pelfrey,” he said. “I’ll use Shelby and Sati as much as I can early in the season to get me up to speed quicker, and I think that’ll help me in the long run.”

Last year, Telitz found himself in a unique position as it was his teammate O’Ward that he battled with for the championship, finding himself down in the points after the first couple of events. Despite being down early, he kept himself mentally strong by knowing he had a strong car every week to contend for wins and podiums.

“So I can use that this year in that if things don’t go well, they can always change and turn around,” he said. “A lot of mental toughness last year, and that’s something that I can look at this year if things don’t go my way at the start.”

As noted, everything paid off for Telitz last year, as a sweep of the weekend at Road America mid-season sent him on a terror for the rest of the year, with five victories and only one finish off the podium in the final nine races of the year. While it marked a stand-out moment on the year, the wins at Road America also meant a lot personally for Telitz as it’s home track.

“You don’t get a lot of chances in winning your home race – most people don’t get a home race, let alone two,” he said. “So to have those and be able to perform as well as I did, and that’s what turned my season around last year. That’s what stands out the most to me.”

It’s why this year, he’s excited to return to the road course later on this summer, in hopes of having success once again.

“I won my first car race ever at Road America. I won both races last year there in Pro Mazda,” he said. “That’s where I’ll have all my friends and family coming there to support. Really looking forward to that race. It’s a great environment there as the fans are incredible so I think that’s going to be the race that I look forward to the most.”

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER:@ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
News Open Wheel

2016 Pro Mazda Champ, Runner-Up Headed for Indy Lights

In accordance to how the Mazda Road to Indy is supposed to work, the pair of drivers who finished one-two in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires will be racing in Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires in 2017.

As rumored for the most of the off-season, 2016 Pro Mazda Champion Pro Mazda will be behind the wheel of the No. 9 Belardi Auto Racing entry this season.

“John Brunner, the team’s general manager, and [team owner] Brian Belardi invited me to the IndyCar/Indy Lights race at Watkins Glen last fall before the Pro Mazda season ended,” he said. “I had a head-start in knowing the guys and seeing how the team works and knowing their cars are fast. They won that weekend and then again at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. I just really enjoyed how the Belardi guys worked. They were really professional and Brian is from Wisconsin. It’s great to have that home-state connection, as most of my personal supporters are from Wisconsin.”

In each step of the Mazda Road to Indy thus far, Telitz has impressed, scoring eight victories and 11 poles thus far.

By winning last year’s Pro Mazda Championship, Telitz earned the Mazda driver development scholarship, which is valued at a year’s worth of sponsorship in Indy Lights, and will carry the familiar Soul Red livery. For Telitz, it’s a total honor to represent Mazda.

Telitz will be joined at Belardi this year by last year’s Indy Lights runner-up Santiago “Santi” Urrutia and Shelby Blackstock.

“We’re extremely excited to have Aaron on the team for 2017, and it’s a thrill to have the Mazda Soul Red colors under our tent this year,” said Brian Belardi, Belardi Auto Racing team owner. “Mazda has done so much for the American open wheel ladder system and this will be our second opportunity to work with such a passionate manufacturer. I know that we share their deep passion for winning, as does Aaron. To have a quality young man, and talented race car driver, like him as part of our family, I know that we’ll all be dedicated to achieving great success this year.”

Meanwhile, last year’s Pro Mazda runner-up Pato O’Ward has been exploring other avenues outside of open-wheel, including being apart of Performance Tech Motorsports’ class-winning effort at the Rolex 24 At Daytona and will race with the Prototype Challenge team in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship full-time this year. However, he isn’t set to leave open-wheel behind yet.

The 17-year-old will return to Team Pelfrey for the start of the season, signing on board to take part in the season opener in St. Petersburg, Fla. on March 10-12. O’Ward will pilot the No. 3 Topo Chico/Gap Guard Mazda

“I am back with Team Pelfrey in Indy Lights for the first official Series test and for the first race of the season in St. Petersburg,” commented O’Ward. “A big thank you goes to the creator of Gap Guard, better known as Dale Pelfrey, once again for the opportunity and the whole Team Pelfrey crew as well for the continuous support they have given me the last few years.”

“We are very excited to confirm Pato on the Indy Lights front,” stated Team Pelfrey IL team manager, Gary Neal. “Not only does this mean we have an exceptionally talented driver, but it’s also great to see the Team Pelfrey ladder system in full swing. We are looking forward to a strong outing at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.”

 

 

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
Mazda Road to Indy Open Wheel

MRTI Notebook: SPM Closes Indy Lights Team, ArmsUp’s New Hire and Other Driver Plans

Just because it’s the off-season doesn’t mean things are quiet in the Mazda Road to Indy paddock as there have been some big news ticket items spread just this week alone as we continue to wait for a new year of racing.

 

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Shuts Down Indy Lights Team

Speaking with Trackside Online, Sam Schmidt revealed he has closed down the team’s Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tire team. It will mark the first time in 15 years that Schmidt hasn’t entered a car in the series.

“It’s one of the toughest things I’ve had to do in the last 15-years,” Schmidt said. “I think we’re the only surviving team that has been there since day one. That’s disappointing on so many levels.”

Making their debut in 2002, G.J. Mennen finished eighth at Kansas Speedway behind the wheel of the No. 99. Schmidt and team would pick up their first win and championship in 2004, backing it up with six more championships in the years to follow. This past season, Santiago Urrutia led Schmidt to a runner-up spot in the standings.

“I think the majority of the reason is simply just economics on both sides,” Schmidt said. “Things are going so well on the IndyCar program; the commercial side is doing well, the team doing well, and given the complexity and the size and scope of those programs, I felt guilty splitting my time between Indy Lights and IndyCar.

“I’ve got the SAM project, I’ve got nine or ten times I’m going to drive the Corvette next year. I’ve got a lot of good things going on there, a lot of good things going on in the IndyCar program, and our foundation and the biggest thing that was getting left behind out of pure lack of bandwidth was the Indy Lights programs.

“It’s positive economics on the IndyCar side and negative economics on the Indy Lights side. I didn’t have enough time to devote to it, and that’s why we haven’t been able to find any drivers for 2017 with funding.”

Some of the employees will remain with the team on the IndyCar side, while others will search for work with other organizations.

“We are sad to learn of this of course, and we appreciate all that Sam has done for Indy Lights over the years,” said Dan Andersen, owner, and CEO of Indy Light promoter Andersen Promotions. “I’ve exchanged emails with Sam and completely understand his reasoning. I’d call him except I’m out of the country at a MRTI staff retreat currently.

“Driver interest remains strong, and we are aware of several other teams planning expansions, but nevertheless I never want to lose a team, especially one as important as Schmidt Peterson.”

 

ArmsUp Motorsports Signs Devin Wojcik

After winning the USF2000 Championship this past season with Anthony Martin, ArmsUp Motorsports is already working towards 2017. The organization announced via Twitter they had signed Devin Wojcik to drive for them in 2017.

Wojcik finds his way to ArmsUp Motorsports after spending time as a student at the Skip Barber Racing School; his performance there along with a test run in the USF-2000 transpired into an opportunity for the 16-year-old.

 

Pro Mazda Stars Beginning to Find Opportunities for 2017

This past season, the Pro Mazda Series Presented by Cooper Tire drivers put together a stellar season with talent from the front of the grid to the rear. It seems the talent showcased is paying off, as opportunities are coming up for drivers.

2016 Pro Mazda Runner-up Patricio (Pato) O’Ward and Will Owen are set to take part in the FIA World Endurance Championship Rookie Test on Sunday, driving RGR Sport’s Ligier JS P2 Nissan.

Testing in Bahrain will be the first time I have ever driven a prototype,” O’Ward said. “I’m really looking forward this awesome experience since I will be able to see how things operate within RGR Sport and the FIA World Endurance Championship. This will be the fastest race car I have ever driven, by far and I couldn’t be more pumped to test it out on a Formula 1 circuit. “Bahrain has been a track on my bucket list for a long time and I’m finally getting to drive it in a car that I’m sure will be super enjoyable.”

“It’s a very unique opportunity to drive with such a prestigious team on such a big scale,” Owen said. “This will definitely be the fastest car I have ever driven, but I feel that the last few years in open wheel have prepared me for it. I’m also looking forward to seeing what a big team like RGR Sport expects from their drivers. RGR has top of the line engineers, drivers, and personnel, so if I communicate well with the team that could build good relationships for my future in sports cars.”

Motorsport.com has reported 2016 Pro Mazda Champion Aaron Telitz will drive for Belardi Auto Racing in 2017 in Indy Lights. The championship came with a Mazda Road To Indy scholarship prize worth almost $600,000, which will fund the effort for Telitz.  Last season, Belardi put together a solid campaign which saw them win three races with Felix Rosenqvist and Zach Veach; Veach finished fourth in points. Telitz tested with both Belardi and Schmidt at the Chris Griffis Memorial Test.

 

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER:@ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.