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Mazda Road to Indy Open Wheel

MRTI Observations: Saturday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

After a Friday filled with action for each level of the Mazda Road to Indy, Saturday also delivered with close competition across the board.

Here are some observations from all the on-track action.

Rebound for Thompson

After experiencing mechanical issues in race one, Parker Thompson rebounded in the second race for the Cooper Tires USF2000 Presented by Mazda with a fourth-place finish for his fifth top-five in six events.

The Canadian came just short of winning the championship in his second season of competition last season, winning four races over the season. Now ranked fourth in points, 88 makers behind Oliver Askew, he will need the 16-year-old to have a rough weekend if he hopes to make up ground.

Double for Davis

Kevin Davis is going to leave Indianapolis possibly singing ‘Ring around the Rosey’ after incidents in both Pro Mazda Presented by Cooper Tires events. In the first race, he went spun on Lap 2 with Charles Finelli, followed by getting turned the wrong way in the second round, due to contact from Jeff Green.

The Illinois-driver fought back to finish 10th for his first top-10 finish of the season after placing 11th in the pair of rounds in St. Petersburg and 12th on Friday. He currently leads the National Class standings.

New Points Leader

After feeling he left something on the table on Friday, Kyle Kaiser put together an impressive show on Saturday, capturing his first Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires victory of 2017. It marked his fourth straight podium finish, giving him the series points lead, 13 markers ahead of Nico Jamin. Jamin won round one for the weekend, followed by a fourth in the second race.

Herta entered the weekend with a 16-point lead ahead of Jamin, but experienced trouble in both races. He had a right rear puncture in round one, followed by going off-track en route to 10th on day two.

First Career Top-Five

After crashing out in the first race of the weekend on Lap 1, Kory Enders rebounded in the second event for a fifth-place finish.

Before Saturday, his season has been up and down so far, with a pair of top-10s matching three finishes outside of the top-14.

Much Needed Podium

After coming just a mere couple points shy of last year’s Indy Lights title, Santiago Urrutia has not performed as expected. Although the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports pilot scored a runner-up at St. Petersburg, it marked his only top-10 of 2017 entering Indianapolis after four events.

This weekend, he put together a pair of solid races with a seventh in round one, followed by a runner-up on Saturday.

“It has been tough to get the car quick and get into the top five,” he admitted post-race. “We tried to get the lead but second place is really good for us. We’re working as a team to figure out where we’re losing time and when we find that, we’re going to be okay. There is still a long way to go in this championship, so we have to get podiums and points, points, points.”

Ran Off-Road

Besides some trouble on the opening lap, the USF2000 put together a clean event – but that doesn’t mean the last lap ran smoothly. The battle for third saw contact, with Robert Megennis hitting Dakota Dickerson and both drivers going off the track. They both fell back several spots, with Megennis finishing seventh and Dickerson in 10th.

The incident just adds to a rough weekend for Megennis who failed technical inspection following Friday’s event, along with his Team Pelfrey teammate Kaylen Frederick. He started off this season well by winning the opening round of the season but now has two finishes outside of the top-10 to his credit.

Dickerson, meanwhile, entered Saturday’s race with momentum after scoring his first top-five 0f 2017 on Friday. He now has three sixth-place finishes, a pair of 10ths, and a fourth to his credit this season.

Last Place for Blackstock

During the second event of the weekend for Indy Lights, Shelby Blackstock was the only driver to experience a significant problem with an off-track excursion in turn one. As a result, he would finish last on the grid – 14th.

Ever since he posted a fourth-place finish in the season opener, Blackstock’s finishes have continued to get worse each passing week, with this being the first outside of the top-10.

The next event for the series is the Freedom 100 on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval, which saw him finish fourth last season.

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
Commentary Open Wheel

MRTI Observations: USF2000 Barber Race No. 1

Starting on pole, Oliver Askew led flag-to-flag en route to scoring his second career Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda victory at Barber Motorsports Park.

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

No drama?

The Florida native’s victory was easy, given a lack of passing throughout the event. The top-three stayed single-file, building a gap over the field as they traded quick lap times. Even a restart with six minutes remaining did nothing to create action as Askew pulled ahead easily.

While the front five was relatively boring, there were battles throughout positions 16th through 22nd highlighted and Ayla Agren’s impressive maneuver by Andre Castro in Turn 3 for eighth with minutes left. For Agren, it marks her best finish of 2017.

While fans would’ve probably preferred more action, it is refreshing to see a lack of incidents and over-driving, especially considering the average age of this year’s roster. As Anthony Martin alluded to on the broadcast, it’s a testament to their level of talent, and upbringing whether through go-karts or F1600.

Now, will the second race go just as calmly on Saturday? It depends on whether drivers can figure out the passing zones, and if their composure remains in check.

Not Incident Free

While there wasn’t a lot of passing around Barber, the race did not go without any incidents at all.

Ricky Donison was the first driver to go off the track, getting stuck in the gravel pit in Turn 17 for a full course yellow flag. Donison did not have a good weekend to start off 2017 at St. Petersburg, either, posting a best finish of 13th.

Bailey Mickler was having a solid debut running in 11th, till contact from Lucas Kohl sent him around in Turn 5. Kohl was penalized for the contact, receiving a drive-through penalty.

Flinn Lazier also saw his debut spoiled late, too, as he went off track in Turn 8 on the last lap.

Familiar Faces Reign at Top

While Oliver Askew won, he was followed by fellow rookies Kaylen Frederick and Rinus Veekay. Sophomores Robert Megennis and Parker Thompson rounded out the top-five. These fans up front mark no surprise as they made up the top-five in the first round of 2017 at St. Petersburg, with three of them backing it up in the second event.

We are only three races into 2017, but if you are looking at setting up the championship outlook, this is a good start. Notably, Thompson has experience with battling for a title, as he finished second to Martin last year – but is with a different team for 2017. Megennis, meanwhile, placed sixth.

Biggest Mover – Devin Wojcik

Even though passing was at a premium, drivers were able to make their way through the field. Wojcik made up the most spots, passing eight cars to finish 12th.

So far this year, he has struggled with qualifying as he started 15th in race one at St. Petersburg before finishing 19th. He rebounded to finish seventh in the second event and could do so again this weekend.

It is also worth keeping an eye on Kory Enders as he finished 17th at Barber, after a top-10 in 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.