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Mazda Road to Indy Open Wheel

Niall Murray Set For USF2000 Debut at Watkins Glen

Another driver will make his Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda debut this season, as Niall Murray is set for his first start at Watkins Glen International next month.

The 22-year-old came close to earning a full-time ride in the series, when he placed in the final six in the Mazda Road To Indy Shootout last December, narrowly losing out to Oliver Askew. 

Since then, he has kept in regular contact with Newman Wachs Team Manager Brian Halahan, which allowed the pair to put together the opportunity.

“Last year we met Brian Halahan from Newman Wachs Racing at the Mazda Road to Indy Shootout and we’ve kept in regular contact since,” he said. “I’m absolutely over the moon that this opportunity has finally come together. Having come so close last December, USF2000 is a series I’ve wanted to race in since, so I will be making sure I make the most of every lap. We’ve worked very hard behind the scenes to make this happen, and I have a lot of people around me to thank for this so I’ll be making sure to give them a good performance.

“I’m hoping this run in the car will help me if I make it back to the shootout again this year, and prove to the judges that I am very serious about my intentions of racing in the USA in 2018.”

The current British Formula Ford champion is set for an evaluation session in Chicago, prior to a two-day test on the 3.37-mile 11-turn Watkins Glen road course.

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

MRTI Observations: Cooper Tires Indy Lights Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio

During the course of a season, there are races that you forget, and events that are remembered for how they affected the landscape of the year. The Cooper Tires Indy Lights Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio Powered by Mazda was a memorable one.

With Nico Jamin returning to victory lane, combined with championship contenders experiencing problems, the event had a little something for every single Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires fan. 

Here are some observations from the day.

Back On Top

For the first time since winning two races in the initial five events of the season, Nico Jamin is back on top as he scored the victory on Sunday at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

After a thrilling back and forth battle for the top spot with Colton Herta, he’d take the lead on Lap 2 and leave the field. While Santiago Urrutia was able to close the gap in the closing stages, it was never enough to make a pass, handing the victory to Jamin. 

When the season started, Jamin was strong in the first six races with a pair of victories and four straight top-fives. However, since the Indianapolis Grand Prix in May, he failed to post a top-five in the following six events. This weekend in Mid-Ohio was the perfect turnaround, as he matched the victory with a third on Saturday. 

Championship Struggles

While it was a dreamy weekend for some, the top-two in the standings experienced weekends they’d like to forget.

Points leader Kyle Kaiser finished 12th on Saturday after starting sixth. Then on Sunday, he qualified ninth, putting himself behind the eight-ball early. He was able to make up some ground, moving up to seventh by Lap 12, though a dive inside of Juan Piedrahita resulted in him spinning around and losing valuable track position. He was unable to make it up, finishing 12th once again.

Kaiser’s struggles should have been the perfect opportunity for Colton Herta to gain points, but he had his own problems. After finishing second on Saturday, he battled for the lead early with Nico Jamin before a spin put him behind the field on Lap 3. The incident did not take any speed out of his Mazda, as he caught the back of the field, and drove his way up to sixth by the checkered flag.

Entering the last two rounds of the season, Kaiser leads Herta by 42 points, with Santiago Urrutia just one more marker behind. Although there was some ground gained by Herta, it could have been more if he would’ve equaled the performances he’s been known for this season. If Kaiser puts together two more solid finishes, he will walk away as the champion. But another weekend like this, and the tables could turn at Watkins Glen.

Lap 1 Tangle

Before their race even really got going, it did not start out how Dalton Kellett or Garth Rickards planned, with the pair getting together on Lap 1. Rickards was done for the event, while Kellett carried on to finish 13th, one lap down after a pit stop.

The pair could have done without the incident, as this season has not gone as either would have liked, with both drivers sitting outside of the top-10 in points. Rickards has only four top-10’s in 14 races, while Kellett has eight top-10’s, including two podiums.

With silly season set to be busy through the winter and a bunch of driver changes rumored, both drivers could use a pair of good runs to close out their campaigns.

Returns to Podium

If you are going to struggle through the middle portion of the season, the goal is simply to finish out the year strong. That’s exactly what Shelby Blackstock is doing.

After making the move to Belardi Auto Racing, he began the season with solid finishes, posting five straight top-10’s. However, the summer stretch proved tough, with only two top-10’s in the next seven races. 

This past weekend at Mid-Ohio, Blackstock appears to be finding his groove as he posted a pair of top-fives, placing fourth and third in the two events.

Now moving ahead to closing out the 2017 campaign, after posting a sixth-place finish last year at Watkins Glen, another podium finish – or possibly a win, could make the summer easier to handle.

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

Jamin Claims Dramatic Indy Lights Victory at Mid-Ohio

LEXINGTON, Ohio – Frenchman Nico Jamin claimed a hard-earned victory for Andretti Autosport in today’s Cooper Tires Indy Lights Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio Powered by Mazda. The 21-year-old Frenchman fended off a determined challenge from yesterday’s winner, Santi Urrutia (Belardi Auto Racing), to become the fifth different Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires winner in the last six races.
A delighted Shelby Blackstock, from Nashville, Tenn., finished third – his first podium appearance since the corresponding event at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in 2015.
 
Entering the weekend, Jamin and Urrutia were the “form men” at the undulating 2.258-mile Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Jamin had won all three USF2000 races at the venue in 2015 on his way to the championship – and claimed a double one year ago in Pro Mazda – while Urrutia had won one Pro Mazda race in 2015 en route to the championship, then swept both Indy Lights races from the pole in 2016. So it was perhaps fitting that they should share the spoils this weekend.
 
Colton Herta, from Valencia, Calif., the youngest driver in the field at 17, seemed set to claim a slice of the action when he qualified on pole, then snatched back the advantage for Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing despite being passed in opportunistic style on the opening lap by teammate Jamin, who had started third. But one lap after redressing the balance, Herta lost control at the tricky Turn Nine and spun to the back of the field.
 
Jamin regained the point and was never again headed during the 38-lap race, although he was made to work hard by Urrutia. The Uruguayan trailed by as much as 2.7 seconds at the mid-point of the race, before laying down a series of quick laps to gradually reduce the deficit. By the time he posted the fastest lap of the race on Lap 30, Urrutia had closed to within just a few car lengths, but Jamin upped his pace in response and was able to maintain a slender advantage to the finish line to secure his third win of the season and his first since the Indianapolis Grand Prix road course in May.
 
Blackstock, who started fifth, made a good start to depose Zachary Claman DeMelo (Carlin), then moved up to third following Herta’s uncharacteristic mistake. DeMelo remained hot on his heels throughout, but Blackstock made not the hint of a mistake.
 
Argentinean rookie Nicolas Dapero ran fifth during the early stages for Juncos Racing before making a mistake and falling behind Aaron Telitz (Belardi Auto Racing). Telitz, from Birchwood, Wis., claimed the Tilton Hard Charger Award after starting 12th and looked secure in fifth until the final laps when Herta closed in after a tremendous drive back through the field from 12th following his early error.
 
Ryan Norman (Andretti Autosport), from Aurora, Ohio, fell from sixth on the grid to ninth in the opening laps before righting the ship and then passing Dapero for seventh on the final lap.
 
Garth Rickards (Carlin), from Mechanicsburg, Pa., retired early but gained some consolation in the form of the Staubli Award.
 
Kyle Kaiser (Juncos Racing), from Santa Clara, Calif., lost a golden opportunity to put the championship virtually out of reach of his rivals when an attempt to pass Colombian Juan Piedrahita (Team Pelfrey) at Turn Five went awry on Lap 13. Kaiser eventually finished a lap down in 12th, although he still holds a healthy 42-point advantage over Herta and Urrutia, who are now tied for second. Matheus Leist (Carlin), who finished 10th, DeMelo and Jamin also are within 13 points of second place heading into the final two races at Gateway Motorsports Park (August 26) and Watkins Glen International (September 3).
 
In the Team Championship, Andretti Autosport has slipped into the lead by 343 points to the 335 of defending champion and erstwhile leader Carlin, with Belardi Auto Racing also firmly in contention on 327.
 
Nico Jamin (#27 DuraMAX Powered by RelaDyne Mazda-Andretti Autosport ): “I screamed on the radio (because) I was so happy. The whole 27 team has been struggling so to be first and third this weekend and coming back a bit in the championship feels really good. The track was extremely slippery so my car was all over the place for the first two or three laps, but it was the same for everyone. I knew I had to make it happen at the start so my plan was to be in the lead after Turn Four. I made a great start, right on Colton’s gearbox, and was able to get by. He used his push-to-pass to get back by on the next lap and I thought ‘this is going to be a fun race’ because I thought we’d be going after each other all race long. He made a mistake and I took the lead, but I knew it would be a long race with Santi pushing me like crazy. We raced hard but clean so congrats to them.”
 
Santi Urrutia (#5 Belardi Auto Racing w/SPM): “Starting on the outside is difficult and Nico got around me. My car was pretty loose but got better and better as the race went on. I used my push-to-pass on the last few laps and got around him on the back straight but he defended really well. The Belardi team has been working so hard and this was the first weekend we put everything together with me, Shelby and Aaron doing really well. It was a good weekend in the championship for us, with the win yesterday and second today and Kaiser down in the standings. The championship is difficult but all we can do is win so we’ll go to the next race with that plan. If we win the last two races, then we wait for the result.”
 
Shelby Blackstock (#51 Starstruck-Belardi Auto Racing): “I like this place. It’s a driver’s track – very technical and fast. I’ve always done well here, always been top-five unless we had an ‘uh-oh’ kind of day. We came off the truck in good shape this weekend and it was great for the entire team for Santi and me to be on the podium and with Aaron just behind. I had a good start but was pressured the entire time by Zach, which made for a tough day.”
###
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 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 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

Urrutia Continues Mid-Ohio Streak to Snare his First Win of the Season

LEXINGTON, Ohio – Santi Urrutia has clearly developed an affinity for the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. The Uruguayan today secured a hard-earned victory in the Cooper Tires Indy Lights Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio Powered by Mazda – his fourth in just five starts at the challenging 2.258-mile road course – and his first of the season for Belardi Auto Racing.
 
Second-generation Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires competitor Colton Herta finished a close second for Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing, with Andretti Autosport teammate Nico Jamin in third.
 
After winning on his debut at Mid-Ohio in 2015 en route to the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires title, then winning both Indy Lights races – from the pole – last year, Urrutia, 20, from Miguelete, Uruguay, maintained his dominance by claiming the pole position during qualifying yesterday afternoon. And following two aborted attempts at a start, he took the green flag at the third time of asking by leaping ahead of Herta, who qualified alongside on the front row of the grid, and Jamin.
 
An intense first lap saw Jamin make a bold maneuver to overtake his teammate around the outside at Turn Two, only for Herta to reclaim the place four laps later with a similarly forceful pass at the end of the back straight heading into Turn Four.
 
The in-fighting allowed Urrutia to stretch out a lead of almost two seconds, but it didn’t last for long. After moving back into second place, Herta posted a series of fastest laps to whittle away the deficit, and by Lap 12 the two leaders were once again in nose-to-tail formation. Furthermore, they were also being tracked closely by Shelby Blackstock, enjoying his strongest race of the season so far for Belardi Auto Racing, and Carlin teammates Zachary Claman DeMelo and Neil Alberico.
 
The top five positions remained unchanged through the remainder of the 35-lap race, with Urrutia winning by less than half a second and all five cars separated by just 3.3116 seconds at the checkered flag. 
 
Blackstock eventually claimed the extra championship point for posting the fastest lap of the race.
 
Alberico slipped back to a relatively lonely sixth but secured both the Staubli Award and the Tilton Hard Charger Award for making up two positions over his grid placing.
 
The two championship protagonists, Kyle Kaiser and Matheus Leist finished a distant 12th and 11th, respectively. Kaiser, from Santa Clara, Calif., who started sixth, slipped gradually backward due to oddly inconsistent handling on his Juncos Racing Dallara-Mazda IL-15, while Leist simply struggled in his Carlin entry on his first-ever visit to Mid-Ohio.
 
Both drivers will have an opportunity to make amends during tomorrow’s 14th round of the 16-race season, which will see the green flag at 1:20 p.m. EDT, directly before the Verizon IndyCar Series headline event. Herta, who secured the additional championship point during qualifying earlier today, has now slipped ahead of Leist in the driver’s standings. He now trails Kaiser by 48 points, 288-240, with Leist just two markers behind on 238.
 
Santi Urrutia (#5 Belardi Auto Racing w/SPM): “It’s good to be back at the top, especially for the Belardi team that has been working so hard. I got the win and Shelby took quickest lap, which shows that we’re doing great work together as a team. We have been struggling this year and the team really deserves this. I really like Mid-Ohio. I won both races here last year and one Pro Mazda race two years ago. This helps in the championship – Kaiser was off today, we just need him to be off for the next couple of races. The series is so competitive, any mistake costs you a lot.”
 
Colton Herta (#98 Deltro Energy Mazda/Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing): “I had a little bit of understeer and that was amplified when I got near Santi. I had one good crack at him (but) he drove a good race. I was out of push-to-pass by lap 12. I wasn’t getting super-close to him and he made a mistake, so I used three on one lap to get alongside him. But it took a couple of laps to lay down Cooper rubber and have the track come to us. Once it did, I was on rails. I caught Nico and went after Santi. I was really close to him at the end. But I’m still learning all the tracks in this car. The tracks are so different in this car than they were in the USF2000 car.”
###
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 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

Franzoni Edges Martin at Mid-Ohio To Extend Pro Mazda Points Lead

LEXINGTON , Ohio. – Round Eight (out of 12) of the hotly contested Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires once again boiled down to a tense battle between Victor Franzoni (Juncos Racing) and Anthony Martin (Cape Motorsports). Just as was the case yesterday, the Brazilian and the Australian were never separated by more than a few car lengths. Only this time, after taking his fourth pole of the season and holding a narrow advantage for the majority of the 35-minute Pro Mazda Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio Presented by Allied Building Products, Martin was unfortunate enough to run afoul of a lapped car with just a few minutes to go, gifting an opportunity for Franzoni to sneak past and secure his fourth win of the season.
 
Another Brazilian, Carlos Cunha, took advantage of another clash with lapped traffic on the last lap to pass Team Pelfrey teammate Nikita Lastochkin for the final place on the podium.
 
After edging his rival to the pole in qualifying this morning by almost three tenths of a second, Martin, from Perth, Australia, duly accelerated into the lead at the start. Martin maintained his lead for almost 23 laps around the undulating 2.258-mile Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, while Franzoni ducked and dived in his mirrors, anxiously looking for a way past.
 
Just when it looked as though Martin would snag his fifth win – his third in succession and twice in as many days – the two leaders encountered the second Juncos Racing entry of Jeff Green, from Peoria, Ill., who for most of the race had been trying to fend off the advances of Pittsburgh, Pa., native Kris Wright (JDC MotorSports). Faced with a much slower car in front of him at the entry to the tricky, off-camber Carousel turn, Martin was forced to try to make a pass around the outside line. Unfortunately, at the same moment, Green drifted wide into his path. Martin was forced to take evasive action which allowed Franzoni to sneak past on the inside and take over the lead.
 
Green then spun causing a full-course caution which left just enough time for a one-lap dash to the finish line. Franzoni made no mistakes as he held on to win by less than a half-second from an aggrieved Martin, who took small consolation from claiming the additional championship points for posting the fastest lap of the race and leading most laps.
 
Franzoni now holds a slender five-point edge, 230-225, heading into tomorrow’s ninth round of the 12-race season, for which the green flag will fly at 10:20 a.m. EDT.
 
Los Angeles-based Russian Lastochkin snatched third place from teammate Cunha on the opening lap and held it until Turn Two on the final lap when his attempt to pass the lapped World Speed Motorsports entry of Bobby Eberle ended with contact and allowed Cunha to take the place. TJ Fischer, from Los Angeles, Calif., also profited from the incident to finish fourth ahead of an unhappy Lastochkin and Sting Ray Robb (World Speed Motorsports), from Payette, Idaho, who garnered the Staubli Award after recovering well from a first-lap incident which had dropped him to the back of the field.
 
Bob Kaminsky (Bob Kaminsky Racing), from Homer Glen, Ill., claimed the National Class honors while finishing eighth overall ahead of Wright and Dave Zavelson (Unfair Advantage Motorsports), from Austin, Texas, who snagged the Quarter Master Hard Charger Award after rising from 14th on the grid.
 
Kaminsky’s fourth National Class win of the season vaulted him into the points lead ahead of Brendan Puderbach, from Bronx, N.Y., who finished 12th for FatBoy Racing!
 
Victor Franzoni (#23 Juncos Racing): “I had a better car and I was faster in the middle of the race but it was another day that I was just stuck and I couldn’t do anything. I had some good luck, which is what we need to win the championship. But to have the luck, you have to be in position so I’m really happy we did what we had to do. I was a little bit behind what happened. I saw Jeff (Green) moving so I’m not sure if he had a brake problem or what. I saw him go outside but I went inside, so I couldn’t see what was happening. I am starting second tomorrow so we’ll try to do the same – if I have the chance to pass, I will.”
 
Anthony Martin (#8 Mazda/Burgess BLA-Cape Motorsports): “Victor was right on my tail the entire race. I tried to be conservative with the tires so I found a lap time that I was comfortable doing and tried to stick with that. I knew that he wouldn’t be able to pass at those lap times. I looked in the mirrors to see where he was struggling versus where I was strong and tried to capitalize in those spots as much as I could. The race went well – I can’t thank Mazda and Cooper Tires enough, they give us everything we need to go out there and race, and the Cape guys gave me a great car as always. To set the fast time is always a good achievement. As far as what happened at the end of the race, getting put out by Victor’s teammate was not the way I wanted it to happen. It’s bad when lapped cars affect a championship.”
 
###
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

Thompson Continues his USF2000 Charge with Victory at Mid-Ohio

Pabst Racing Clinches its First Mazda Road to Indy Team Championship
 
LEXINGTON, Ohio – Parker Thompson has been on a roll of late in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda. The 19-year-old series veteran from Red Deer, Alb., Canada, led throughout this afternoon’s 30-minute Cooper Tires USF2000 Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio Presented by Allied Building Products to claim his third win in the last four races for the Exclusive Autosport team.
 
Dutch teenager Rinus VeeKay finished second for Pabst Racing, while Kaylen Frederick, from Potomac, Md., the youngest driver in the field at just 15, completed the podium for Team Pelfrey.
 
VeeKay’s result, paired with a fifth-place finish for Guyana’s Calvin Ming, enabled Pabst Racing, from Oconomowoc, Wis., to secure the Team Championship with one race remaining. VeeKay also closed the gap to championship leader Oliver Askew, who finished fourth for Cape Motorsports, to just 13 points heading into the season finale at Watkins Glen International, N.Y, on September 2. At stake is a Mazda Scholarship worth almost $400,000 which will assist the champion in graduating to the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, the next level on the Mazda Road to Indy open-wheel development ladder, in 2018.
 
Thompson, who scored the Canadian-based Exclusive Autosport team’s first and second victory two weeks ago in Toronto, laid down the gauntlet by posting the fastest time on the final lap of qualifying for the championship’s 13th of 14 rounds earlier this morning. He duly translated his third pole of the season into the lead at the start, chased by fellow front row qualifier VeeKay and Askew, who had led the way in qualifying until encountering some slower traffic during the crucial final couple of minutes.
 
Askew made a bold move for second place on the entry to Turn One only to be rebuffed by his championship rival, VeeKay. Askew instead ended up losing a position to VeeKay’s teammate, Brazilian Lucas Kohl, at Turn Two. One lap later, Askew also was overtaken by Frederick at Turn Four.
 
While Thompson made his escape at the front of the field, VeeKay cruised to a relatively lonely second place after his pursuers lost time behind Kohl. Frederick moved into the final podium place by squeezing past the Brazilian on the long downhill run toward Turn Four, and was followed on the next lap by Askew.
 
Once into fourth, however, Askew encountered a problem with his car’s steering rack which left him vulnerable to the third Pabst car of Ming in the closing stages.
 
A late full-course caution, due to an incident in Turn Five involving Kory Enders (DEForce Racing) and Darren Keane (Newman Wachs Racing), set up a four-lap dash to the finish. Thompson had no problems in fending off VeeKay and Frederick, while Askew narrowly maintain fourth ahead of Ming. 
 
David Malukas (BN Racing) passed Kohl soon after the restart to claim sixth ahead of Robert Megennis (Team Pelfrey), from New York, N.Y., who worked his way up from 12th, and Kohl.
 
Moises de la Vara (DEForce Racing), from Guadalajara, Mexico, secured the Staubli Award with his ninth-place finish, while Dev Gore, from Atlanta, Ga., ensured a good day for the Exclusive Autosport team by adding the Tilton Hard Charger Award to his teammate Thompson’s race win and the PFC Award.
 
Parker Thompson (#91 Exclusive Autosport Openhwy): “That was amazing. In maybe two percent of my career can I say I had a perfect car but today, I had a perfect race car. We’ve worked so hard to get to this point that it almost looked easy – and it almost was easy. It was almost unreal when I got to the podium. Right now, I’m not racing for a championship, I’m racing for my career. I have to put out performances like this if I’m going to stay on the Mazda Road to Indy next year, so I did what I needed to do. I’m so proud of the Exclusive Autosport team. We’ve really turned our season around.”
 
Rinus VeeKay (#21 Jumbo Supermarkets The Netherlands/Total-Pabst Racing): “My plan going in was just to drive smart and gain as many points on Oliver as I could. I saw Lucas and Kaylen pass him but I had to keep going. Parker had a good start and I was not so good so I had to defend from Oliver. I kept him behind so that was good. I was pushing pretty hard in the middle of the race so I didn’t have as much grip at the end. I had a good gap so I was not happy to see the yellow flag. I had a good restart and was able to keep Kaylen behind me, so this is a good result.”
 
Kaylen Frederick (Pilot ONE Racing-Team Pelfrey): “Yesterday I learned that you really have to set up four corners in advance when you’re going to make a move. I couldn’t get around people and that was frustrating. We looked at video and worked through a few strategies for the start and that’s where I made up all my positions. When I got behind Rinus, I just kept my head down and focused on getting better and better laps. I was happy when the yellow came out because I thought I might be able to get Rinus, but then I had to worry about Oliver. I couldn’t make the move stick on Rinus but I still like the result.”
 
###
 
About USF2000: The Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda debuted in 2010 and is a continuation of the highly-regarded USF2000 series which ran from 1990 through 2006, launching the careers of many of today’s top drivers. Sanctioned by INDYCAR and managed by Andersen Promotions, the series is the first official step on the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires ladder system. The top driver in the Championship class will earn a scholarship package from Mazda to advance to the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires the following year. Additional information can be found at www.usf2000.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

Askew Takes Win Number Seven of the Season at Mid-Ohio

LEXINGTON, Ohio – Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda rookie Oliver Askew was under a lot of pressure as he arrived at the challenging Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for a pair of races this week that could well determine the outcome of the championship and a Mazda Scholarship worth almost $400,000 which will assist in graduation to the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, the next level on the Mazda Road to Indy open-wheel development ladder, in 2018.
 
The 20-year-old from Jupiter, Fla., in his first full season of car racing, had seen his once comfortable 60-point advantage whittled away to just 18 markers over fellow rookie Rinus VeeKay (Pabst Racing), from Hoofddorp, The Netherlands, with only three races remaining in the season. Today, Askew qualified Cape Motorsports’ Soul Red Tatuus-Mazda USF-17 comfortably on pole position, then led throughout the 30-minute race to secure his seventh win out of 12 races.
 
USF2000 veteran Parker Thompson, from Red Deer, Alb., Canada, who scored the first two victories for the Exclusive Autosport team just two weeks ago on the streets of Toronto, continued his excellent form by finishing a strong second ahead of title aspirant VeeKay.
 
Subsequently, Askew, who had on probation for previous start violations, was adjudged to have accelerated before the prescribed marker at the initial start and was assessed a 10-point championship penalty. He now leads VeeKay by 19 points with only one more race tomorrow and the season finale at Watkins Glen International in early September remaining.
 
Askew led from Kohl at the start, with Thompson and VeeKay anxiously looking for a way past. Thompson made his move for second place stick on the third lap, while VeeKay followed suit next time around. The trio traded fastest laps as they pulled well clear of Kohl, who in turn was under no pressure from teammate Calvin Ming, from Guyana, South America.
 
Just when it looked like Askew had the race under control, an incident between Kaylen Frederick (Team Pelfrey), from Potomac, Md., and Moises de le Vara (DEForce Racing), from Guadalajara, who were battling mightily over seventh place, ended with contact at Turn Five, which necessitated a full-course caution. The restart came with less than five minutes remaining, and Askew was up for the challenge as he made an exemplary getaway to cement his advantage over Thompson and VeeKay.
 
Askew took the checkered flag 1.3282 seconds in front of Thompson, with his constant shadow VeeKay – on his very first visit to Mid-Ohio – right behind in third.
 
Kohl held on for fourth ahead of Ming and David Malukas (BN Racing), from Chicago Ridge, Ill., who earned the Tilton Hard Charger Award following his impressive drive from 17th on the grid. Frederick, Kory Enders (DEForce Racing), from Warwick, N.Y., who snagged the Staubli Award, and Darren Keane (Newman Wachs Racing), from Parkland, Fla., also were in close attendance at the finish line.
The Cape brothers, Dominic and Nicholas, claimed another PFC Award as the winning team owners.
 
Qualifying for the penultimate round of the 14-race season will take place tomorrow morning at 8:00 a.m. EDT, followed by the green flag at 12:10 p.m.
 
Oliver Askew (#3 Mazda Motorsports/MC Racing-Cape Motorsports): “The penalty doesn’t change my mindset. The focus is to just keep on winning races and the championship will come in the end. We have the speed to qualify on pole and that’s huge here because it is quite difficult to pass. There was a ton of pressure going into this weekend and that pressure is still there. Cape Motorsports has dominated here the past few years, winning every race, so I know I’ll have a fast car again tomorrow and can go for the pole and the win again.”
 
Parker Thompson (#91 Exclusive Autosport Openhwy): “I’m going to try to get as many wins for Exclusive Autosport as I can and when the dust settles on the championship, then it settles. I knew going in that I had a mathematical shot at the championship but realistically, it was going to be pretty hard to close that gap up. We had a shot for pole and for a win and that’s great. We ran old tires in the race today so that we would have new tires for qualifying and Race Two tomorrow, which puts us on a different strategy than everyone else so that’s going to be interesting!”
 
Rinus VeeKay (#21 Jumbo Supermarkets The Netherlands/Total-Pabst Racing): “It was tough after qualifying. I had a pretty good session but I had a two-position grid penalty which put me in P4 and I was not so happy with that. I went into the race not sure what was going to happen, but focusing on just running hard. Third was the best spot I could get but it wasn’t enough to catch Oliver. We are going to go back now, watch videos, look at a lot of data and try to learn as much as possible. Hopefully we’ll have a super qualifying and win tomorrow to take some of these points back.”
###
 
About USF2000: The Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda debuted in 2010 and is a continuation of the highly-regarded USF2000 series which ran from 1990 through 2006, launching the careers of many of today’s top drivers. Sanctioned by INDYCAR and managed by Andersen Promotions, the series is the first official step on the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires ladder system. The top driver in the Championship class will earn a scholarship package from Mazda to advance to the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires the following year. Additional information can be found at www.usf2000.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

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

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