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Mazda Road to Indy Open Wheel

2016 Indy Lights Series Year in Review: Ed Jones

This past season, Ed Jones had one of the best seasons of his career, en route to picking up his first career Indy Lights championship.

 

Points Finish: 1st

Car No.: 11

Driver Name: Ed Jones

Team Name: Carlin Racing

Total Races: 18

Victories: 2 – Barber Race No. 1, Indianapolis GP Race No. 1

Podiums: 8

Top-Fives: 13

Top-10s: 16

Average Start: 3.5

Average Finish: 4.7

DNFs: 1

 

After starting off the season with a 10th and a seventh, Ed Jones turned up the heat with four straight top-tw0 finishes to take over the points lead following the sixth race of the season. From there, he continued to put in the top-five performances, only slipping up on a couple occasions. Though while the season was full of great moments, it’ll all be remembered by Jones’ teammate Felix Serellas letting him by on the last lap at Laguna Seca to clinch the championship ahead of Santiago Urruita.

Highlight of 2016 – Obviously winning the championship as a whole was a highlight for this year, but winning two races almost back-to-back isn’t too shabby either.

Downfall of 2016 – The fact the championship will be remembered and tainted by what happened on the last lap at Laguna Seca.

Road/Street Course Analysis – In 15 races, Jones posted 10 top-five finishes – including both his wins. It’s safe to say he knows how to turn both left and right.

Oval Analysis – While he was unable to reach victory lane, he finished in the top-five in each of the three events, including a pair of runner-ups.

Notes for 2017 – It is unclear yet where Jones will race as he takes a scholarship which enables him to run three Verizon IndyCar Series, including the Indianapolis 500, forward with him. There are a couple open seats across the series in which he could fill the void in, while rumors spread of a possible partnership between KVSH Racing and Carlin Racing. Either way, no matter where he lands, he should impress fans with his talent.

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.

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Mazda Road to Indy Open Wheel

Indianapolis Test Provides Direction of Pelfrey, Juncos Racing Programs

Posting solid times across both days of the Chris Griffis Memorial Test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway seems to have provided direction as to where Team Pelfrey and Juncos Racing are taking their programs in 2017.

After a 1-2 finish in points last year with Aaron Telitz and Pato O’Ward, it appears Pelfrey will have T.J. Fischer and Joseph Burton-Harris in at least two of their entries in 2017. Fischer ran the last nine races of the Pro Mazda schedule for Pelfrey, scoring a best finish of fifth on two occasions, while Burton-Harris has been having success in the SCCA ranks and karting ranks.

Fischer was solid during testing, getting as high as second in the second session on day one.

“This is my sophomore year in Pro Mazda and we are working hard toward bringing home the 2017 championship,” said Fischer. “The first round of the 2017 season can’t come fast enough.”

Meanwhile, Burton-Harris wasn’t as quick as his teammate, only getting as high as third during the second session on day one.

“I am very pleased with how our debut together went. The relationship we developed in such a short period of time resulted in huge progress throughout the weekend,” stated Burton-Harris. “Our race pace was very impressive and the overall balance made my job easy as a driver. I look forward to next year’s season in Pro Mazda and this weekend was a perfect start to the campaign.”

Meanwhile, Brian Eberle was behind the wheel of a third entry for the team, but nothing has been stated as to what that means for 2017. Eberle competed in Pro Mazda with World Speed Motorsports last season with a best finish of sixth at Mid-Ohio.

“This weekend was a collection of highs and lows. The first day was such a high, because I was the closest I’ve ever been to the front. It was really exciting and I had a lot of confidence,” said Eberle. “On Day 2, I suffered from a couple of car gremlins and lost a lot of track time. The guys from Team Pelfrey worked so hard and they got me back on track. It was a really great experience!”

On the flip side while Team Pelfrey seemed to struggle for speed at times, Juncos Racing looks to have things figured out as Victor Franzoni topped each of the sessions for the team. Despite that fact, it appears nothing is locked in for 2017, yet.

Team Principal Ricardo Juncos said, “I am very impressed with both Victor and Jorge’s performances this past weekend. They both gave some of the most consistent and solid runs and had great chemistry with the team. I look forward to continuing to build our relationships and hope to see them in the 2017 Pro Mazda Championship. I want to thank both of them for joining us this weekend and to the crew for working very closely with them throughout each session.”

Franzoni finished third in the USF2000 points last season driving for ArmsUp Motorsports, with three wins and 11 podiums in 16 races.

“The test was awesome and it was a pleasure for me to work with Juncos Racing,” said Franzoni. “Their car is really fast and in just the two days of testing we have already built a great relationship! We finished first in all eight sessions and also betted the unofficial record, so it was an amazing weekend. Thank you to the whole Juncos Racing crew for the great work.”

Meanwhile, Cevallos completed last season for CAPE Motorsports, finishing 10th in points with a best finish of seventh on two occasions

“It was a really productive two days for us,” said Cevallos. “The car was fast as soon as it came off the trailer and I jelled really well with the team from day one, and this shows with Victor (Franzoni) and I finished 1-2 both days. I want to thank the team for the hard work. Now it’s time to go to work to get a program ready for 2017 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.

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Mazda Road to Indy Open Wheel

Juncos Racing Pleased with Chris Griffis Memorial Test Results

Juncos Racing brought three drivers to the Chris Griffis Memorial Test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway earlier this month, and was pleased with the data gained and results.

“We had a great weekend with all three drivers at the Chris Griffis Memorial test,” Ricardo Juncos said. “Everyone gave a strong run in each area they worked on.”

Kyle Kaiser was behind the wheel of one of the entries, going through a series of tests for tire supplier Cooper Tires. He showed speed both days, breaking into the top-five in the first session on day one.

“Kyle had a great tire test with Cooper Tires, and was able to provide a lot of information going into the 2017 season,” Juncos said.

Kaiser finished in points last year with two victories driving for Juncos Racing.

“It was great working with Cooper Tires this test,” Kaiser said. “We got to try a lot of different stuff and we made some great progress. We gained some valuable data from testing the past two days, and I’m looking forward to more development during the offseason.”

Nico Dapero drove a second entry, making his first official appearance in an Indy Lights entry. Dapero showed speed, posting the fourth quickest time in the first session on day two.

“He has really grown within the team and Mazda Road to Indy series in the past two years, and I look forward to seeing the success continue next year,” Juncos said. ”

Dapero finished fifth this past season in the Pro Mazda Standings with a win and five podium finishes.

“It was great to be back in the Indy Lights car again and even better for an official test,” said Dapero. “I learned a lot from my teammates and tried to put everything into practice the team told me. I also put down more miles in the car which is useful for next year! I think we did a really good job the whole weekend and it showed that we are ready for next season. I want to thank all of the members of Juncos Racing for their awesome job!”

Negrao was behind the wheel of the third and last entry on day one of the two-day test, posting times within the top-five of the speed chart throughout the day.

“Andre, who only ran the first day of the weekend, showed great speed and consistency and was fastest overall in the second session,” Juncos said. “I am really impressed with all three drivers and look forward to seeing what happens for the 2017 season.”

Negrao raced for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian last year, finishing seventh in points with five podium finishes.

“My test with Juncos Racing was amazing for the one day we ran,” said Negrao. “I enjoyed every second in the car! It was simply an amazing feeling. I just want to say thank you to all of the team for giving me this opportunity to test with them. I hope to continue this momentum into next season as well and look forward to contending for the championship!”

The team entered two drivers in the series throughout the 2016 season, but has yet to confirm their driver line-up for 2017 yet officially.

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.

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Mazda Road to Indy Open Wheel

Veach Proves Past Success was No Fluke

In 2014, Zach Veach was able to run up the front in the Indy Lights Series Presented by Cooper Tires, finishing third in points with three wins and nine podiums. However, the next season came, and he found himself sitting on the outside without a ride. Combined with a wrist injury, he spent the year finding ways to remain relevant off the track.

Though back behind the wheel this season once again in Indy Lights, there’s no denying his talent now as he finished the 2016 season against one of the toughest fields of competitors with a third place points finish with three wins and eight podiums in 18 races.

“For me, a lot of it was proving to myself 2014 wasn’t a fluke,” he told POPULAR OPEN WHEEL. “I felt like as a driver, I developed later in my career than most people do. In 2014, we came on strong to win three races and four poles, and that was my welcoming. It changed a lot of people’s opinions about myself then. As I took 2015 off, I kind of worried that you had those good years – but maybe it was just a good year.

“Then to come back this year in Indy Lights, which I think was more difficult than 2014, to be able to say we led five different races, could’ve won five races, won three – it shows our strength for sure.

It’s worth noting the season didn’t start off smoothly with Belardi Auto Racing as Veach finished 16th in the season opener at St. Petersburg.

“Honestly, I really wish we could go back to the season opener at St. Petersburg,” he said. “We started third and got the lead on the start and led the next 17 laps, and then we had a mechanical failure. I’m confident to say it took away a win from us, so if we could have that weekend back, we would’ve ended up second in the championship.”

From there on, there were some highlights, but yet things weren’t as high as others expected with only three top-fives in the first eight races. However, the second half of the year was like a switch flipped, kicking off with a win at Road America.

“The win at Road America because that’s when our season turned around, and things clicked for us at Belardi Auto Racing,” he said. “Everything started to go in our favor momentum wise. We won Road America, finished third the next day, went to Iowa and led the last 20 laps and finished second there. We really hit our stride there, and Road America gave us that opportunity.”

From there on, Veach won two more times, posting only one finish outside of the top-five in the final nine races with five podium finishes.

Overall, I just wish we had more time,” he said. “We ended up being the driver that scored the most points during the second half of the season at the end. So I feel if we would’ve had more time, we could’ve won the championship. It was tough coming back to Indy Lights after taking a year off and coming in with a brand new car; it took a good half of the season to get comfortable and figure out the characteristics.

“I felt we were at a disadvantage till halfway through and once we got things figured out, I felt like the old Zach Veach was back from 2014. We were able to show our speed and what we’re capable of.”

Ideally, Veach can say he entered the off-season in the perfect way as he won the season finale at Laguna Seca, to go with a win at Watkin’s Glen and a third in the two races before that. It gives him a pretty high stake going into the off-season, where he’s hoping to put the right pieces together to compete in the Verizon IndyCar Series in 2017.

“We were lucky to test with Ed Carpenter Racing in their IndyCar at Sonoma,” Veach said. “That was my first taste of an IndyCar and what it was like. Honestly, the best part is once you get to feel what its like when you move up, you definitely want to. So this winter is going to be full of work in trying to get the sponsorship in place to move up to the Verizon IndyCar Series. That’s the biggest thing we’re struggling with.”

Veach says he’s been speaking with three or four different teams about a possibility of racing for them, but now it’s about finding the funding he’s required to bring to the table to complete the deal. If everything can come together for Veach, he notes it’d mean a lot as he’d complete a dream he’s had for 17 years now.

“To be able to say I competed in a Verizon IndyCar Series race would take a lot of weight off my shoulders in being able to say I made it and been able to show that we can do it,” he said. “I think that’s a lot of the motivation behind this winter and we’re so close, and you can only be this close for a short time. You need to take advantage of the opportunity when you have it and shine when it’s your moment, and I think 2017 has the opportunity to be our moment. I think we can’t take anything for granted this winter and try anything we can to pull something together.”

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.