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Mazda Road to Indy Open Wheel

MRTI Observations: Pro Mazda Watkins Glen Grand Prix Race 1

Picking up his second straight Pro Mazda Presented by Cooper Tires victory at Watkins Glen, Victor Franzoni extends his advantage over Anthony Martin heading into the final event of the season.

Here are the observations from the first event of the weekend.

Doing It Right

Over the past couple of months, Franzoni and Martin have traded wins back and forth, along with the points lead, as they battle it out for the scholarship to move up to the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires full-time in 2018.

Following his victory at Gateway Motorsports Park, Franzoni entered Watkins Glen with a two-point lead over Martin.

Initially, it looked as though the advantage would shift to Martin as he took the advantage on Lap 1 with a move on the outside off of turn three, and pass through the bus stop. If Martin had won, it would put him up by two points entering Sunday’s Soul Red Finale.

But Franzoni did what he needed to do, making the same move back on Martin on Lap 12 to take back the lead, before holding serve the rest of the way. Now going into tomorrow, Franzoni has a cushion being eight markers up on Martin.

Problematic Pelfrey

Team Pelfrey entered four drivers into the finale, hoping to end off the campaign in victory lane. However, it did not play out as warranted.

Two of their competitors saw their races end on Lap 2 when Robert Meginnis, from contact or by himself, got sideways while battling for fourth in turn nine, and collected his teammate Nikita Lastochkin.

Then on the restart, T.J. Fischer did not get going as he wanted, dropping back to seventh from fourth, before contact with Kris Wright sent him off track, and ending his race with a flat tire.

The only good news was Carlos Cunha, who rounded out the podium to give them a top-five.

Competitive Racing

Although some races this year have been snooze fests with an inability to pass, this wasn’t one of those. The leaders traded the top spot twice, and positions fourth to seventh were on everyone’s mind through the second half with position changes throughout.

With this in mind, tomorrow’s setting looks to be the perfect place to cap off the year, with the possibility for an exciting close to a great campaign.

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

Martin Regains Pro Mazda Points Lead with Dominant Mid-Ohio Win

LEXINGTON , Ohio – Anthony Martin enjoyed a picture perfect morning under a glorious blue sky at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course as he sped to an uncontested victory for Cape Motorsports in the third and final leg of the Cooper Tires Pro Mazda Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio Presented by Allied Building Products. The 22-year-old from Perth, Australia, led every inch of the way from pole position and added the fastest lap for good measure just one lap from the finish of today’s ninth round of the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires.
 
Martin’s fifth win of the season vaulted him ahead of primary title rival Victor Franzoni, from Sao Paulo, Brazil, in their tussle for a Mazda Scholarship worth almost $800,000 to assist in the progression to Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, the final step on the Mazda Road to Indy open-wheel development ladder, in 2018.
 
Franzoni finished a distant second for Juncos Racing, following a duel throughout the 30-minute contest with Brazilian countryman Carlos Cunha (Team Pelfrey).
 
After being denied victory yesterday due to an incident with a slower car, Martin took off at the start this morning with one goal in mind: to win… by as big a margin as possible. He established a torrid pace and extended his lead with virtually every lap before finally crossing the finish line a commanding 13.9957 seconds clear of Franzoni, who had overtaken front row qualifier Cunha under braking for Turn Two on the opening lap but was never able to shake off his pursuer.
 
The trio of distinctive yellow Team Pelfrey cars ran in close formation for the first lap or so before TJ Fischer managed to find a way past fellow Los Angeles resident Nikita Lastochkin. Fischer settled into a relatively lonely fourth place until the closing stages, when the youngest driver in the field, 15-year-old Sting Ray Robb (World Speed Motorsports), from Payette, Idaho, began to loom larger in his mirrors. 
 
Robb, who started sixth, overtook Lastochkin after seven laps, then reduced a deficit to Fischer of more than four seconds to just a few car lengths at the checkered flag during his most impressive performance of the season so far.
 
Robb’s teammate, Bobby Eberle, earned the Staubli Award after finishing sixth ahead of Max Hanratty (ArmsUp Motorsports), from Milwaukee, Wis., who secured the Quarter Master Hard Charger Award after rising from 11th on the grid.
 
Bob Kaminsky (Bob Kaminsky Racing), from Homer Glen, Ill., survived a quick spin to finish ninth overall and extend his lead in the National Class points chase with his fifth win in just seven starts.
 
Martin now leads Franzoni by four points, 259-255, as the title hopefuls head next to Gateway Motorsports Park for their only oval race of the season on August 26.
 
Under the direction of series officials, the cars of Martin, Franzoni and Fischer have been impounded for further evaluation to be performed in Indianapolis this week. This is an extension of the current inspection process. When completed, the procedure and outcome will be published. The results from today’s race will remain unofficial until that point.
 
Anthony Martin (#8 Mazda/Burgess BLA-Cape Motorsports): “I knew I had one job to do and that was to win the race. I was a little ticked off from yesterday so I might have had a little more aggression today, but I had to put what happened yesterday out of my mind – racing is racing and those things happen. I didn’t look behind me until the back straight, when the team told me that Victor was in second and that I needed to go. From there, it was head down. The Cape boys gave me a great car all weekend and it was almost a 100 percent successful weekend. It was great to see we could do it and that helps with three races to go. Pressure motivates me to do better and I think being on top makes me go faster so I’m confident going forward.”
Victor Franzoni (#23 Juncos Racing): “I knew I had to get into second on the first lap and I did. We struggled a little bit today as the track changed so much, but we are second in the championship and it is still really close. We made what we could here – we weren’t fastest, but we won one and finished second in the other two. I can’t get too nervous but I like the adrenalin. I am taking it race by race and not thinking too much about the championship and that seems to be working. Whoever wins the next race will be leading the championship so I am focused on the oval now. Juncos Racing has so much oval experience, including racing in the Indy 500 this year, so I’m excited.”
 
Carlos Cunha (#81 Team Pelfrey): “What a great weekend – I got my first Mazda Road to Indy pole position and two podium finishes. We have improved so much. The Team Pelfrey guys have worked so hard and we are learning a lot. We need to figure out my first lap because that hasn’t been perfect. In the three starts this weekend, I lost two positions. My two teammates started behind me on new tires but I did great work to stay behind Victor. I had great pace but it’s hard to overtake. I tried in Turn Five and we were so close to crashing. I focused forward rather than behind and it was a great race. Now it’s time to focus on my first oval, which will be awesome. We just need to be prepared.”
###
About Pro Mazda: The Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires debuted in 2013 as a new series, replacing the Star Mazda Championship which ceased operation in 2012 after 22 years. The series is sanctioned by INDYCAR and owned and operated by Andersen Promotions. It is the second official step on the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires ladder system with the series’ champion awarded a scholarship package from Mazda to advance to Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires competition the following year. For more information, visit promazdachampionship.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 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

Martin Tightens Pro Mazda Title Rivalry by Winning at Mid-Ohio

LEXINGTON , Ohio. – Anthony Martin, from Perth, Australia, scored a narrow victory over title rival Victor Franzoni, from Sao Paulo, Brazil, this afternoon in the first of three races which will comprise the Cooper Tires Pro Mazda Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio Presented by Allied Building Products. The pair are now separated by just three points as they chase a Mazda Scholarship worth over $790,000 to assist in the progression to Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, the final step on the Mazda Road to Indy open-wheel development ladder, in 2018.
 
Californian TJ Fischer rebounded from a disappointing weekend at Road America last month to complete the podium for Team Pelfrey.
Qualifying this morning for Round Seven of this year’s Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires threw up a surprise as Fischer’s young Brazilian teammate, Carlos Cunha, claimed the pole position ahead of title rivals Martin and Franzoni, who came into the weekend separated by just seven points after each winning three times in the opening six rounds.
 
After the first attempt at a start was waved off, Cunha edged away cleanly at the second time of asking, but he led only as far as Turn Four where a bold move to the inside under braking enabled Martin to claim the position. A close-following Franzoni also took advantage of his countryman’s loss of momentum to sneak through into second place.
 
The two leaders quickly stretched their lead, trading fastest laps as they edged away from Cunha, who in turn was unable to shake off Fischer.
 
Martin and Franzoni were never separated by more than a second, even as they worked their way past some slower traffic, but Martin maintained the upper hand to win by just 0.3847 second, securing Cape Motorsports its fourth Pro Mazda race win in succession at Mid-Ohio dating back to 2015 and yet another PFC Award.
 
The battle for third was just as intense until Lap 18, when Cunha inadvertently made contact with the lapped car of Jeff Green (Juncos Racing) at Turn Two. Cunha, who had been struggling with excessive understeer, was assessed a drive-through penalty but ended up losing only one position to Fischer – and still finishing ahead of the third Team Pelfrey car of Nikita Lastochkin, who had started a lowly seventh.
 
Max Hanratty (ArmsUp Motorsports), from Milwaukee, Wis., claimed sixth place and the Staubli Award following a race-long battle with Kris Wright (JDC MotorSports), from Pittsburgh, Pa.
 
Bob Kaminsky from Homer Glen, Ill., finished eighth overall and won the National Class for the third time this season, closing to within one point of Brendan Puderbach in the point standings.
 
Another qualifying session at 8:35 a.m. tomorrow will set the grid for this weekend’s second and third races, which will be held at 1:05 p.m. on Saturday and 10:20 a.m. on Sunday.
 
Anthony Martin (#8 Mazda/Burgess BLA-Cape Motorsports): “It was a perfect day – we just have to do that two more times this weekend! It’s a “one down” type feeling today, since we’re only halfway through our season. I have to focus forward and get as many points as I can. I got a good run on Carlos coming out of the Keyhole and was able to get to the inside of him, though I think the right side of my car was in the grass. It was quite slippery under braking but I was able to get past. I locked it up going through the corner but I was able to gather it up and go on my merry way. It was hard having someone filling up your mirrors so you have to focus on making no mistakes. It’s hard to pass here so I just had to be fast in the places he was fast. The Capes have done well here in the past so that gives me the motivation to push hard because I know I have the equipment to do it.”
 
Victor Franzoni (#23 Juncos Racing): “The points are really even now so we have to go for the win and try to increase that again. But today really came down to qualifying. The track changed so much between practice and qualifying and we were lost. The whole Juncos team sat down after qualifying and they gave me a great car to race. I was faster than Anthony but I couldn’t pass him. I had to let off to get a gap so I could get the point for the fastest lap. But we have found the car and are fast again and that will be important for the rest of the weekend.”
 
TJ Fischer (#82 Project O2-Team Pelfrey): “It’s been a very challenging weekend so far, so thanks to the Pelfrey team for working so hard. I hung in there during the race and was able to get by Carlos. We’ll hit the reset button and plan for qualifying tomorrow – two laps there will change your world, since Race Two goes off your quick lap and Race Three goes off your second quick lap. You have to bank not one, but two good laps so now that we’re in a good position, we’ll do our best to get to the front.”
 
###
About Pro Mazda: The Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires debuted in 2013 as a new series, replacing the Star Mazda Championship which ceased operation in 2012 after 22 years. The series is sanctioned by INDYCAR and owned and operated by Andersen Promotions. It is the second official step on the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires ladder system with the series’ champion awarded a scholarship package from Mazda to advance to Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires competition the following year. For more information, visit promazdachampionship.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 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

Martin Out-Duels Franzoni at Road America to Win Pro Mazda Thriller

ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – The tense battle between Australian Anthony Martin (Cape Motorsports) and Brazilian Victor Franzoni (Juncos Racing) for this season’s Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires continued today at Road America. Martin bounced back from a crushing defeat yesterday to barely hold off a charging Franzoni this afternoon, crossing the line scant 0.1799 seconds clear to secure his third win of the season.
 
Los Angeles-based Russian Nikita Lastochkin posted his most accomplished race of the season by overtaking the identical Team Pelfrey car of Brazilian Carlos Cunha for third on the final lap.
 
Franzoni, who yesterday had extended his points lead to 14 following a comfortable victory from pole position, made his job today rather more difficult when an ill-timed red flag flew in qualifying mere moments before he was able to set a representative lap time. So, instead of claiming another pole, Franzoni was obliged to start from the back of the grid.
 
Martin, who instead started from pole, duly translated that advantage into the lead, although he was unable to shake off the third Team Pelfrey car of Californian TJ Fischer, who remained glued to his tail for the opening five laps. Franzoni, meanwhile, was scything through the order.
 
Franzoni was up into third place inside just four laps, although at that stage his deficit to the two leaders was already over six seconds, so he faced a difficult challenge with time ticking away in the 30-minute race. It seemed as though he was in luck when National Class contender Brendan Puderbach (FatBoy Racing!) slid off the road in Turn 14 to ensure a full-course caution. The previous advantage enjoyed by Martin and Fischer was erased at a stroke.
 
Franzoni quickly sliced past Fischer at the restart, whereupon the Californian’s strong performance was cruelly ended by a mechanical problem which forced him out of the race.
 
Franzoni immediately put the pressure on Martin, but the Aussie was determined not to make it easy. He was granted a couple of reprieves by two more brief full-course cautions, after which there remained enough time for one more lap of green-flag racing once the yellows had been withdrawn. Again, Martin stuck to his guns, kept all the doors firmly closed, and held on to win by the narrowest of margins. Franzoni had to be content with second place and the Quarter Master Hard Charger Award.
 
Cunha looked set for third place after sneaking past teammate Lastochkin at one of the restarts, only for the Russian to fight back with a classic “over-under” pass at Canada Corner on the final lap to secure his first podium finish.
 
Jeff Green, from Peoria, Ill., claimed the Staubli Award following his career-best fifth-place finish for Juncos Racing, which also secured the PFC Award. That result was enough for Juncos to move into a tie with Team Pelfrey in the coveted Team Championship.
 
Dave Zavelson (Unfair Advantage Motorsports) from Austin, Texas, won the National Class following his seventh-place overall finish.
 
Franzoni’s lead in the drivers’ championship has been trimmed to seven points, 174-167, as the series heads next to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for a triple-header event on July 29-30.
 
Anthony Martin (#8 Mazda/Burgess BLA-Cape Motorsports): “Gaining points is the biggest thing. I got a really good start and I kept that gap for a good while until the safety car came out and bunched everyone up. And at that point, I saw the standard white and purple car in third place and thought ‘OK, he’s definitely got pace.’ I just had to put my head down and my bum up and really focus on the road ahead of me and not behind me. It’s hard, because you have that car in your mirrors but you can’t let it affect you. That worked out a lot better today than yesterday. We will go back and work on a few things to find some speed and be ready for Mid-Ohio.”
 
Victor Franzoni (#23 Juncos Racing): “It is two-sided, looking at this race: on the one hand, I’m sad not to win, but other people would say it’s good that I came back to finish second. But we lost points today, even though I came from last to second. I had to be really smart and really aggressive. I couldn’t lose time but I couldn’t crash. I had to pick my spaces, especially with guys who were battling with each other. It was fun. I was happy to see the first yellow but, later on, the flags were not my friends. I knew I had to do something on the last lap, but it didn’t work. I’m not happy now, but I know we’ll have a good car at Mid-Ohio.”
 
###
About Pro Mazda: The Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires debuted in 2013 as a new series, replacing the Star Mazda Championship which ceased operation in 2012 after 22 years. The series is sanctioned by INDYCAR and owned and operated by Andersen Promotions. It is the second official step on the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires ladder system with the series’ champion awarded a scholarship package from Mazda to advance to Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires competition the following year. For more information, visit promazdachampionship.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 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.com, www.facebook.com/coopertire or www.twitter.com/coopertire.
Categories
Mazda Road to Indy Open Wheel

MRTI Observations: Pro Mazda Indianapolis Race No. 1

After taking the lead on Lap 5, Victor Franzoni led the rest of the way at Indianapolis Motor Speedway to score his first career Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires victory.

Here are some observations from the first race of two this weekend.

Freaky Fast Franzoni

When Popular Speed caught up with Franzoni a month ago, the confidence was evident entering this weekend.

“I think this one we’re going to be really strong because the first test that I did with Juncos was there, and the car was fast,” he said in April. “Everything was really good there. It’s a track that I like a lot, so I think we’ll be fast there. I think that’ll be a good track for us.”

He backed up his words as he started on pole, and consistently posted the quickest lap times through the second half of the event, leading 17 of 22 laps en route to his first career victory.

Surrounded by drivers who have never driven one of the Pro Mazda cars before, the Juncos Racing driver has experience as he ran the second half of 2016 with a best finish of fourth, twice. Now with a pair of runner-ups and a win, along with the pole for tomorrow, he could very well leave Indianapolis in the points lead.

No Podium Change

While a new face was in victory lane, his fellow mates on the podium did not change as Anthony Martin, and TJ Fischer joined him once again.

Martin jumped up to Pro Mazda after winning the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Presented by Mazda last season and came out with a bang as he won both events to kick-off 2017 at St. Petersburg. He jumped from third to first on the opening lap on Friday at Indianapolis, leading five laps before finishing second.

Fischer put together a solid effort, running third solidly throughout the entire event, as he held off his Team Pelfrey teammates in a close battle with them. He ran the second half of 2016, scoring two top-fives in eight starts. Now he sits three races into 2017, with three third-place finishes.

Double Spinners

The race did not go without incident as Kevin Davis, and Charles Finelli both spun around on Lap 2 but were able to keep it going to prevent a full course yellow. As a result, the pair finished 12th and 14th, respectively.

It continues the struggles this year for both drivers as they didn’t fare well in St. Petersburg either, as Davis failed to post a top-10 in either event, while Finelli finished 10th and 14th.

Denes Continues Improving

Phillippe Denes made the jump to Pro Mazda this season after a stellar karting career and finishing third in the F1600 Championship last season with two victories. With each race, he has continued to get better.

After starting off the year with a seventh and sixth at St. Petersburg, he ran solidly in the top-five all day on Friday en route to a career-best fifth finish. If the progress can continue weekly, he could become the next driver to visit victory lane.

Masterful Competition

Everybody knew entering this season that the car counts would be low with teams and drivers holding out as they await the release of the series’ brand new car in 2018 – the PM-18, which is in the beginning stages of testing. With just 15 cars in the field, the fans were still entertained.

Martin and Franzoni delivered a show at the front of the grid as Franzoni chased down the Australian for the lead. The pair then ran side-by-side through three corners on Lap 4 without any contact, with Martin initially holding off his competitor. As they began the next lap, a run by Franzoni down the frontstretch was all he needed to get the lead in turn one.

Typically, the road courses present a single-file affair for the Mazda Road to Indy cars, as showcased at Barber Motorsports Park last month. However, this group proved it’s possible to make some action happen.

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

Martin Wins Again to Maintain his Unbeaten Record in Pro Mazda

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Talented Australian Anthony Martin continued from where he left off yesterday, scoring another flag-to-flag victory in this afternoon’s Allied Building Products Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. He now boasts a perfect two-for-two record in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires. Martin, 22, led throughout the 40-minute race to enjoy a weekend sweep for himself and the locally based Cape Motorsports team on the streets of St. Petersburg.

The remaining podium finishers also repeated from yesterday, with Victor Franzoni, from Sao Paulo, Brazil, finishing second for Juncos Racing and California’s TJ Fischer taking third for Team Pelfrey after his Brazilian teammate Carlos Cunha experienced a mechanical failure.

Martin, last year’s champion in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, set a conservative pace in the early stages. He remained only narrowly ahead of Franzoni, one of his principal rivals last year in USF2000, the first step on the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires, with Cunha and Fischer also in close attendance.

All four contenders posted a fastest race lap at one point or another during the opening dozen laps. Fischer eventually lost the leading draft, leaving only one of the distinctive yellow-and-black Team Pelfrey cars to challenge the two leaders, but Cunha proved up to the task as he out-maneuvered his Brazilian countryman Franzoni with an opportunistic pass in Turn One on Lap 17. Sadly, almost exactly one lap later, Cunha’s No. 81 machine coasted to a halt.

Cunha’s pass delayed Franzoni just enough to allow Martin to pull away just a little for the first time. Coincidentally, Martin set what was to stand as the fastest lap of the race (worth an additional championship point) on the same lap to establish a healthy lead of over two seconds.

However, that advantage was negated a few laps later when the yellow flags waved following an incident in Turn Nine involving National Class leader Kevin Davis, who had been running in ninth place overall at the time.

After the cleanup had been completed, Martin took off again into the lead and sped home to win by just over a second from Franzoni. Fischer finished hot on Franzoni’s heels in third, with 15-year-old Sting Ray Robb, from Payette, Idaho, claiming fourth for World Speed Motorsports ahead of Nikita Lastochkin (Team Pelfrey), Max Hanratty (ArmsUp Motorsports), who earned the Quarter Master Hard Charger Award after starting at the back of the field, and Phillippe Denes (World Speed), who had lost a couple of positions with a spin in the closing stages.

Cape Motorsports claimed its second straight PFC Award. Franzoni earned the Staubli Award and Charles Finelli secured National Class honors for FatBoy Racing! after his other rivals fell by the wayside.

The Pro Mazda Championship will return to action at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Grand Prix circuit on May 12-13.

Anthony Martin (#8 Mazda/Burgess BLA-Cape Motorsports): “I’m so happy to take the sweep at St. Pete and to come away from here with the championship lead. To have Mazda backing and be driving the Soul Red colors seems to have pushed me harder than ever before. With the scholarship, there’s a lot of pressure, but I thrive on pressure and that’s one reason we’ve done so well this weekend. This race was 40 minutes which was much longer than yesterday’s race, so once I was able to get a gap I just drove to a lap time and kept it consistent. Just when I was starting to push harder to widen the gap, the safety car came out. It may have looked easy, but it was hard. As a race car driver, you want to drive hard all the time, so to hold yourself back is very difficult.”

Victor Franzoni (#23 Juncos Racing): “This is going to be a good fight this year, between me, Anthony and the Pelfrey guys. It just wasn’t my race today. The car was good and I think I had a better car than Anthony, but I couldn’t put everything together. I’ve raced here for four years and I’ve only gotten one podium before, in USF2000 in the rain. But I survived the race and got some good points. It’s a good start for me and for Juncos Racing. We’re still getting to know each other, so this is still like testing. I’m sad and happy now, but I am confident for the rest of the year.”

TJ Fischer (#82 Team Pelfrey): “It’s good momentum for us now. I struggled at St. Pete last year so to have two podiums right off the bat is great for my confidence. It’s hard on the street courses, because you have limited track time so you’re pretty much thrown in and you have to perform. Anthony and Victor have more experience here than I do so it’s still a learning experience. We hung in there and the three of us kept it pretty close. It is a little hollow for me, since my teammate had a mechanical problem, but in the end I’m happy to be on the podium.”

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About Pro Mazda: The Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires debuted in 2013 as a new series, replacing the Star Mazda Championship which ceased operation in 2012 after 22 years. The series is sanctioned by INDYCAR and owned and operated by Andersen Promotions. It is the second official step on the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires ladder system with the series’ champion awarded a scholarship package from Mazda to advance to Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires competition the following year. For more information, visit promazdachampionship.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

Martin Begins New Pro Mazda Season in Style with Debut St. Pete Victory

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Anthony Martin began his bid to follow Matthew Brabham as only the second driver to claim back-to-back Mazda Scholarships in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda and the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires with a flag-to-flag victory in the Hi-Tide Kids on Track Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. The 22-year-old from Kalgoorlie, Australia, driving for St. Petersburg-based Cape Motorsports, remained under pressure virtually throughout the 25-lap, 30-minute race from Brazilian Victor Franzoni (Juncos Racing) before taking the checkered flag to earn victory by just 0.5084 second.

Californian TJ Fischer finished third for Team Pelfrey.

After Martin snagged the pole position yesterday from Franzoni by a scant 0.0120 second, the two USF2000 protagonists from last year continued to be separated by next to nothing. The pair traded fastest laps several times during the early stages before Martin settled into a consistently fast pace and began to edge clear. The gap between them ebbed and flowed as they worked past some slower cars but Franzoni was never quite close enough to mount a serious challenge.

Team Pelfrey’s pair of TJ Fischer and Pro Mazda debutant Carlos Cunha, from Brazil, also remained close together in their battle for third, some distance behind the two leaders. Los Angeles-based Russian Nikita Lastochkin, in a third Team Pelfrey car, completed the top five after a race-long battle with teenager Phillippe Denes, from Carmel, Calif., who made a solid debut after clinching a late deal to join World Speed Motorsports.

USF2000 graduate Max Hanratty, from Milwaukee, Wis., also showed well in his first-ever Pro Mazda race, holding sixth place in the early stages for ArmsUp Motorsports before losing out to Sting Ray Robb (World Speed Motorsports), from Payette, Idaho, just before the half-distance mark.

Kevin Davis, from Alvin, Ill., claimed National Class honors with an 11th-place overall finish in his self-run car, followed by Brendan Puderbach (FatBoy Racing!).

Martin also claimed the Staubli Award, while the PFC Award went to the winning team, Cape Motorsports. Another debutant, Matt Machiko, from Pittsburgh, Pa., claimed the Quarter Master Hard Charger Award after making up three positions during the race to finish ninth for FatBoy Racing!.

Qualifying for tomorrow’s second race took place earlier this morning with Martin again securing pole by a narrow margin over Franzoni. The green flag for the Allied Building Products Grand of St. Petersburg is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. EDT on Sunday.

Live timing and live streaming will be available on the series website, promazda.com, as well as on indycar.com and the Road To Indy TV App.

Anthony Martin (#8 Mazda/Burgess BLA-Cape Motorsports): “I’m so happy to be on the podium in St. Pete – I’ve raced here for three years and this is my first podium here. It’s great to put the Soul Red car on top. It was a crazy race. I actually hit the wall at the exit of Turn Three – a lot of people have hit that wall this weekend and now I get to join that club. I also hit at Turn Eight late in the race and took off all the Cooper Tire signs, so sorry for that! It may have looked easy but I was certainly challenged in the car. I try to look forward as much as I can and not worry about what’s going on behind me and I was able to do that today but Victor was right there. The Cape Motorsports guys gave me a great car but we’ll look at the data and see where we can improve for tomorrow.”

Victor Franzoni (#23 Juncos Racing): “I am happy with the result, but I could be happier. It’s been a crazy week. I was supposed to race in USF2000 but Juncos Racing gave me the opportunity to move up and I really appreciate that. I ran half a season in 2015 and tested with Juncos late last year so to finish second is very good. It’s difficult to pass here but our lap times were so close that I stayed right with Anthony early in the race. It was giving me bad air and I started to get loose, so I had to back off a bit. It’s the first race of the season, so it doesn’t make sense to try something crazy. Anthony was really fast so I am happy with second.”

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About Pro Mazda: The Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires debuted in 2013 as a new series, replacing the Star Mazda Championship which ceased operation in 2012 after 22 years. The series is sanctioned by INDYCAR and owned and operated by Andersen Promotions. It is the second official step on the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires ladder system with the series’ champion awarded a scholarship package from Mazda to advance to Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires competition the following year. For more information, visit promazdachampionship.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

Martin, Askew Going Soul Red with Cape

A pair of drivers who won Mazda driver development scholarships last year will be driving for Cape Motorsports as the organization welcomes both Anthony Martin and Oliver Askew to the team.

Martin will compete in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires after earning a scholarship last season virtue of winning the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda. The 22-year-old won the championship last year with Cape Motorsports.

“Going with Cape Motorsports again was a quite easy decision,” the Australian said. “I’m a loyal person and I really do love sticking with the boys. They’re a great team, and everything they have is second to none. I witnessed it all of last year, and I could not leave the team because the way they run the show is impeccable. I’ve never been a part of a team or a family environment like this one.

“We’re extremely happy to have Anthony compete on behalf of Cape Motorsports,” said Dominic Cape, team co-owner. “We had a great year with Anthony in 2016 and we saw him grow as a driver into a true champion. We feel confident that he will bring the momentum of his success in the USF2000 series into Pro Mazda. We would also like to thank Mazda for establishing the scholarship programs, along with the series and their partners. We look forward to the start of the 2017 season.”

Meanwhile, Askew will compete in USF2000 after earning a scholarship last season virtue of winning the $200,000 Mazda Road to Indy Shootout last year. The Florida-based driver got the opportunity virtue of being selected for the Team USA scholarship and finishing second in the prestigious Walter Hayes Trophy Grand Finale at Silverstone, England.

“The team at Cape Motorsports have helped me a lot with this next step,” said Askew. “I’ve learned so much in the last month of testing with them preparing for this year. It’s a big opportunity for me and I want to maximize that. With Cape Motorsports, everything is possible, as they’re one of the best teams in the paddock and I’m very happy to be with them.”

“We are delighted to have Oliver on our team,” offered Nicholas Cape, co-owner of Cape Motorsports. “He is an exceptional young man and has an extremely bright future ahead of him. He has everything we look for in a driver. It’s been a year in the making getting Oliver in our car and he has impressed us during the initial tests and we’re really looking forward to seeing him race. We are also very proud to be representing the first Mazda Road to Indy Shootout winner, and would like to thank Mazda for all their support. It’s really quite remarkable what they do to support young drivers.”

Cape Motorsports is known for winning championships, having won 10 in the past, including six consecutive USF2000 titles.

Both drivers tested well in Mazda Road to Indy Spring Training, with Askew topping each of the six sessions for USF2000 and Martin topping the combined chart from both days.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

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