Categories
Mazda Road to Indy Open Wheel

Claman DeMelo Maintains Carlin’s Indy Lights Streak with Emphatic First Win

ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Trevor Carlin’s team is on a roll. One day after Brazilian rookie Matheus Leist followed up his maiden victory at Indianapolis with a dominating drive at Road America, teammate Zachary Claman DeMelo, 19, from Montreal, Que., Canada claimed a slice of the action by producing a similarly crushing performance to claim his first series’ win. He became the sixth different Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires race winner this season.
 
Californian Kyle Kaiser (Juncos Racing) strengthened his championship lead with a hard-fought second-place finish following a lengthy battle with polesitter Colton Herta (Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing).
 
The ever-changing face of Indy Lights was amply demonstrated by the grid for today’s race, which was set during a dedicated qualifying session yesterday morning in crisp, cool conditions. No fewer than 12 of the 14 contenders circulated faster than the existing qualifying record of 1:52.9410, set last year by Zach Veach, with Herta, who finished a distant 12th yesterday afternoon, posting a new benchmark of 1:52.0034 (129.018 mph).
 
Herta made a good start to lead the opening four laps, but behind him a tremendous battle was brewing between Leist, who started second, Kaiser, Claman DeMelo and Santiago “Santi” Urrutia (Belardi Auto Racing), who made another of his trademark starts to rise briefly as high as second on the opening lap.
 
But it soon became apparent that Claman DeMelo was the man to beat in the cool, sunny, breezy conditions that greeted the field for this morning’s early (8:55 a.m.) start in advance of the Verizon IndyCar Series headline event. The Canadian, who set a new record fastest lap of 1:54.6326 (126.058 mph) last year at Road America, bettered that standard comfortably as early as Lap Two as he vaulted past Kaiser into second place and closed rapidly onto the tail of race leader Herta. He wasn’t nearly done.
 
Herta gamely resisted Claman DeMelo’s challenge for a couple more laps but it was apparent he was on borrowed time. Sure enough, on Lap Five, Claman DeMelo took advantage of the draft on the long front straight, then used his Mazda engine’s push-to-pass feature to draw alongside Herta before sweeping past to take the lead. He proceeded to post comfortably the fastest lap of the race, a new record 1:53.0138 (127.864 mph), as he quickly pulled away in the lead.
 
In his wake, Kaiser and Herta continued their protracted duel for second, exchanging places several times before Kaiser made the position his own with a bold outside-line maneuver at Turn Five. Herta tried several times to redress the balance in similar style but was never quite able to make it stick, so he had to settle for third.
 
Leist remained in contention with this pair until slipping back a little over the final few laps, when he was chased by Belardi’s local favorite Aaron Telitz, who won both Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires races at Road America last year en route to the championship and a coveted Mazda Scholarship.
 
Tennessean Shelby Blackstock (Andretti Autosport), who claimed the Staubli Award, also impressed in the closing stages by climbing from 10th to sixth ahead of Andretti teammate Ryan Norman, who earned the Tilton Hard Charger Award, Carlin’s Neil Alberico and Dalton Kellett (Andretti Autosport). Their progress was made easier by the fact Urrutia, a winner at Road America in 2016, sustained a tire puncture on the final lap, falling to a disappointing 11th-place finish.
 
Kaiser’s second-place finish leaves him with a 27-point advantage, 199-172, over Leist in the quest for the championship and a Mazda Scholarship valued at $1 million which will ensure entry into at least three Verizon IndyCar Series events in 2018, including the 102nd Indianapolis 500. The next Indy Lights action will see a return to oval competition at Iowa Speedway on July 9.
 
Zachary Claman DeMelo (#13 Paysafe/ZCD Montreal/Zoological Wildlife Foundation-Carlin): “It’s such a great feeling, I’m just really at a loss for words. I can’t thank the people who helped get me here enough. It was such a great turnaround from Race One. Getting the win – and by such a big margin – shows that I am here to win races and fight for the championship. I was pushing every single lap to make the lead bigger, while trying not to make any mistakes that would let the guys behind me get close. The only stressful point was when Colton was behind me. I worked with the push-to-pass to get a gap and that was really all I had to think about the whole race. It’s such a great group at Carlin: from the team to the other drivers, we all push each other so hard. I’m learning from everyone on the team and I can’t thank my engineer, Matt Greasley, enough. He’s helped me develop as a driver to be in front like I was today.”
 
Kyle Kaiser (#18 Juncos Racing): “It was pretty hectic out there. My goal was to get through Turn One cleanly and though I didn’t get the jump I was looking for, I was able to get by Matheus when I needed to. I tried to keep up with Colton but he started on sticker tires, had a ton of pace right out of the gate and got a real big gap. I had pressure from Zach right away: he was on fire. I knew he would be aggressive, so after he got by me and started battling with Colton, I just waited for an opportunity. But the goal is to increase the championship lead every weekend, and we did that.”
 
Colton Herta (#98 Deltro Energy Mazda/Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing): “We found some pace and started on pole, which was great after a rough Friday. We really needed a comeback to get back on the podium so hopefully we can keep up this consistency. We held the lead early but made a little bit of a mistake that let Zachary get by. After that it was a battle with Kaiser all race long to keep P2. It’s tough to find the balance between going for wins and making sure we get as many points as possible, but I’m still young so if we don’t make it this year, we have a few more years to get there.”
 
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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.com, www.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.”
 
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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 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

Leist Lays it Down for Carlin in Indy Lights at Road America

ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Matheus Leist is on a roll just now in Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, the final rung on the Mazda Road to Indy open-wheel development ladder. Coming off his maiden victory in the Freedom 100 last month at Indianapolis, the Brazilian rookie qualified on pole for this afternoon’s Mazda Indy Lights Grand Prix of Road America Presented by Allied Building Products, then led from flag to flag to win handsomely on his first visit to the high-speed 4.014-mile Road America circuit in Elkhart Lake, Wis.
 
Fellow South American Santi Urrutia, from Miguelete, Uruguay, who won one of the two races last year at Road America, finished a distant second for Belardi Auto Racing, merely inches ahead of championship leader Kyle Kaiser, from Santa Clara, Calif., for Juncos Racing.
 
The closest anyone got to challenging Leist for the race win was at Turn One, when a flying start – plus the benefit of a big draft on the long, mainly uphill front straightaway – enabled Ryan Norman, who started a career-best third for Andretti Autosport, to tow past front row qualifier Neil Alberico and, momentarily, challenge Leist for the top spot. Leist managed to fend off the attack but Alberico wasn’t quite so fortunate. The front wing of Alberico’s Carlin Dallara-Mazda IL-15 made minor contact with the rear of Norman’s car, causing him to plummet to ninth by the completion of the opening lap.
 
While Leist took off into the lead and Norman slotted into second, Kaiser, who started fourth, was glued to Norman’s rear wing as the leaders sped past the pits for the first time. Right behind them, remarkably, was Urrutia, who had lined up only 10th on the grid after encountering some mechanical difficulties in qualifying.
 
Kaiser took advantage of the draft to draw alongside Norman on the downhill run to Turn Five… only for Urrutia to do the same, then leave his braking until absolutely the last moment as he dived inside BOTH of his rivals to claim second place. It was a brilliant maneuver that left the crowd on its feet!
 
The in-fighting played right into the hands of Leist, however, who set a fast, consistent pace at the front and soon began to stretch out an appreciable margin over his rivals. The gap grew to almost three seconds after five laps as he eased away to a well controlled victory. Leist’s eventual winning margin was 6.1667 seconds.
 
Kaiser and Norman continued to battle over third place, exchanging positions a couple of times before a mistake on Lap Six saw Norman run wide onto the grass in Turn Three. The excursion cost him three positions and allowed Kaiser back up into third. The Californian then closed rapidly on Urrutia, setting the fastest lap of the race on Lap Eight at a new record 1:54.4115 (126.302 mph). It wasn’t long before the two cars were together again, but Urrutia defended staunchly and even though Kaiser carried a lot of speed out of the final corner on the final lap and drafted up underneath Urrutia’s rear wing as they sped up the hill, the Uruguayan remained narrowly ahead at the finish to claim his second runner-up finish from the last three races. Urrutia also claimed the Tilton Hard Charger Award.
 
Norman capped an impressive drive by fighting back from his earlier error and overtaking both Dalton Kellett, who later slipped back down the order, and the Canadian’s Andretti Autosport teammate Nico Jamin to claim a season-best fourth. Norman also earned the Staubli Award.
 
Colombian Juan Piedrahita, in his 50th Indy Lights start, also drove well for Team Pelfrey, turning some extremely fast laps as he chased Norman to the finish line. Jamin followed in sixth ahead of Alberico. Notably every one of the 14 starters turned a lap within 0.75 seconds of Kaiser’s new benchmark fastest lap.
 
A separate qualifying session earlier this morning to set the grid for tomorrow’s ninth Indy Lights race of the season saw Colton Herta earn the pole position for Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing with a new record lap of 1:52.0034 (129.018 mph). Leist will start second. The race will go green at 9:45 a.m. EDT and will be broadcast on NBCSN at 11:30 am EDT. Live timing and live streaming also will be available on the RoadToIndy.TV App, RoadToIndy.TV, indylights.com and indycar.com.
Matheus Leist (#26 TMA-Carlin): “Sometimes it’s difficult to be out in front like that, to keep your focus for so long. But the team kept me updated on the pace and the gap so I just kept that up. It was a long race – it wasn’t that many laps, but when you’re on your own on such a long race track, it seems long. I was on my own while the guys behind me were fighting for position and that helped me. I pushed very hard early and then worked to control the gap. It’s great to get wins now – I felt at the beginning of the year that we had a car to win, but I couldn’t put it all together. Everything was new to me, but I’m glad I have a team like Carlin to help me to improve my techniques, as well as my teammates. Everything is going our way now so I hope we can keep up the momentum!”
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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.com, www.facebook.com/coopertire or www.twitter.com/coopertire.
Categories
Mazda Road to Indy Open Wheel

VeeKay and Pabst Racing Enjoy Perfect USF2000 Weekend in Wisconsin

ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Dutch teenager Rinus VeeKay had been knocking on the door of Victory Lane during the opening six races of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda season. Now, in the space of 24 hours, just over 70 miles from his Pabst Racing team’s home base in Oconomowoc, Wis., VeeKay has broken through comprehensively, adding another accomplished win this afternoon to his maiden triumph yesterday.
 
VeeKay’s teammate, Calvin Ming, from Guyana, South America, doubled team owner Augie Pabst III’s delight by finishing second after Chicago youngster David Malukas spun off on the final corner. Championship leader Oliver Askew (Cape Motorsports) bounced back from a mechanical problem yesterday to complete the podium.
 
A hectic opening lap saw Malukas jump from third on the grid to first ahead of VeeKay, Askew and Parker Thompson (Exclusive Autosport), only to lose out again next time around in Turn Three to VeeKay, who, in common with his Pabst teammates, had held back a fresh set of Cooper Tires for this race from their weekend allotment. The Dutchman remained out in front when the caution flags waved halfway around the second lap after USF2000 debutant Jacob Loomis (Team Pelfrey) and Darren Keane, making his first appearance with Newman Wachs Racing, collided in Turn Six.
 
The restart on Lap Five was typically fraught, but this time VeeKay maintained his advantage, leaving Malukas to fend off Askew. Behind, Thompson found himself freight-trained at Turn One, with the Team Pelfrey pair of Kaylen Frederick and Robert Megennis both sneaking past, along with Ming, who had started fifth but lost a couple of positions on the opening lap. Frederick then attempted to pass Askew at Turn Eight, only to run off the road which allowed Ming to vault up to fourth place.
 
VeeKay remained under pressure from Malukas for the majority of the 30-minute race, even though Malukas was struggling with an inconsistent brake pedal. VeeKay posted a series of fast laps to keep himself out of reach, and instead all eyes were on Ming, who posted the fastest lap of the race with one lap to go. Ming then drafted past Askew for third place on the final lap, and was gifted second when the unfortunate Malukas lost control of his car under braking for the final corner.
 
Frederick, who was struggling with a flat-spotted left-front tire, finished a strong fourth ahead of Thompson and the third Pabst Tatuus USF-17 of Brazilian Lucas Kohl, who earned the Staubli Award. Kory Enders, from Warwick, N.Y., enjoyed another solid result, seventh, for the new DEForce Racing team, while Colin Kaminsky (John Cummiskey Racing), from Homer Glen, Ill., Devin Wojcik (ArmsUp Motorsports), from Syracuse, N.Y., and Ricky Donison (Cape Motorsports), from Bangalore, India, completed the top 10. Wojcik claimed the Tilton Hard Charger Award after climbing from 17th on the grid to ninth.
 
Pabst secured his second successive PFC Award as the winning car owner and saw his team eke out a solid 30-point margin over Cape Motorsports in the battle for the Team Championship.
 
Askew, meanwhile, maintained a 24-point edge in the drivers’ standings after eight of 14 races. The USF2000 contingent will head next to Iowa Speedway on July 9 for their only oval event of the season.
 
Rinus VeeKay #21 Jumbo Supermarkets The Netherlands/Total-Pabst Racing): “We’re so happy – it’s great to do this here, the home track for the team. I was screaming on the radio again! I’m so happy that we have the speed and we can really show what we can do. I’m really happy to win here, on such an amazing track, but now we get ready to head to the oval at Iowa. I’ve learned a lot of patience here that I can use there.”
 
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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.com, www.facebook.com/coopertire or www.twitter.com/coopertire.
Categories
Mazda Road to Indy Open Wheel

MRTI Observations: Friday at Road America

In the first of three days of competition for the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires, a new face graced victory lane while another kept his streak rolling.

Rinus Veekay broke through for his first career Cooper Tires USF2000 Powered by Mazda win to start the day, followed by Victor Franzoni scoring his third straight Pro Mazda Presented by Cooper Tires victory.

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

Victorious Veekay

After coming close to victory lane at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last month, Rinus Veekay made it happen on Friday afternoon as he led 11 laps en route to scoring his first career win. The Pabst Racing driver didn’t have it easy, though, as he had to out-battle David Malukas as the pair went back and forth throughout the course of the event.

The key for Veekay in winning was his ability to get stronger as the race went on, building on his knowledge with each lap around Road America.

“I learned to be very patient in this race,” he said. “I was behind Oliver and David early and sometimes when I made a move, it worked, and sometimes I made a little mistake. But I learned from it. It was a great battle – we touched wheels but it was very fair, a real fight like you want to have. I love this track, it reminds me of Spa, with the long straights with very technical corners. It brings the driving part of you out. I can’t wait for tomorrow!”

Veekay’s success is nothing of a surprise, though, as he has been impressive in his rookie campaign so far this year with only one finish outside of top-five in seven events. Now having closed the gap in the standings down to just 34 points behind Oliver Askew, a hot streak could very well allow him to become a champion this year.

Freaky Fast Franzoni

Franzoni is having a dream season right now in Pro Mazda if you look at the statistics alone. After starting off the year with a pair of runner-ups, he has now scored three straight victories. His event came to him easier than Veekay’s, though, as he was able to get the lead on Lap 3 from Anthony Martin, extending his advantage from there on to the checkered flag.

The success right now means everything for the Juncos Racing driver as he knows what is at stake should he win the championship – a scholarship to compete in the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires full-time in 2018,

“This championship is the only chance I have to move up in my career, so I have to win,” he said. “I don’t have too many options.”

While he had everything go his way on Friday, the second event of the weekend on Saturday will be more challenging. He was unable to complete a full quick lap in time trials as a result of two ill-timed red flags in the session, resulting in him qualifying last on the grid. He has the speed, so the question now is can he make up the ground?

Problems for Askew

Since winning the scholarship to compete in USF2000 full-time with the Mazda Soul Red livery, Oliver Askew has been just spectacular. After posting a runner-up in the season opener at St. Petersburg, he followed it up with five straight wins entering this weekend.

Unfortunately, bad luck struck for him as he would have to pit on Lap 9 due to a loose wheel, causing him to finish 17th. While he entered the weekend just 60 points ahead of the field, he is now just 34 markers ahead of Veekay.

Being the first time this year he has faced adversity, it will be critical for him to turn around and post a solid finish on Saturday to prove he is not giving up his advantage quite yet.

Fischer Places Last

After posting only one top-five last year, T.J. Fischer came into this season as one of the front-runners with three third-place finishes and a runner-up, leaving him poised as to break through to victory lane.

However, mechanical problems saw him go two laps down on Friday at Road America, leaving him last on the grid on 15th.

Set to start in second for race number two on Saturday, a victory would allow Fischer to gain valuable back points in the championship with Franzoni starting last.

Nice Rebound, Frederick

The sixth-place finish for Kaylen Frederick gives him only his second finish this year outside of the top-five, but that does not tell the whole story.

The Team Pelfrey driver had to work hard as he qualified 12th, and failed to make up ground in the first half of the race due to going off-track on a couple of occasions. Through the second half, though, he posted some of the quickest lap times, allowing him to make moves and pull off a solid finish.

Frederick admitted when speaking with Popular Speed earlier this past week that the start of the events was his weak point, with a focus on minimizing mistakes moving forward.

He has proven he can be fast – as evidenced by qualifying in the runner-up spot for four races this year. Now if he can do that in Saturday’s morning session, and build on what he showed during the second half of Friday, his fourth podium could be right around the corner.

First Podium Finish

Shout-out to Nikita Lastochkin for scoring his first career Pro Mazda podium finish with a third on Friday afternoon. Starting the event in fourth, he made his way forward in the early stages past Carlos Cunha and remained up front as the field spread out around the road course.

Now with four top-fives in five races, Lastochkin is an excellent choice for a darkhorse as someone that could sneak in for a win before the year is over if the improvement continues on a weekly basis.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

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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

Franzoni and Juncos Racing Dominate Pro Mazda GP of Road America

ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Despite losing the advantage of his pole position on the opening lap, Juncos Racing’s Victor Franzoni swept effortlessly past primary Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires rival Anthony Martin (Cape Motorsports) to take the lead of this afternoon’s Pro Mazda Grand Prix of Road America Presented by Allied Building Products. The talented and popular Brazilian then drove off into the distance. Los Angeles-based Russian Nikita Lastochkin earned his first podium finish with a solid run to third for Team Pelfrey.
 
Franzoni, who also won last year at Road America in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, comfortably secured the pole position during a damp qualifying session yesterday afternoon. He duly led the field toward the green flag in picture perfect conditions less than 24 hours later, only to fall victim of the draft as Martin slingshotted past him to grasp the lead at Turn One.
 
The pair battled mightily for the first couple of laps before Franzoni finally managed to sneak past under braking for Turn 12, Canada Corner. He was never seriously challenged thereafter as he romped to his third consecutive victory, this time by a margin of almost 12 seconds over Martin.
 
Lastochkin displayed renewed confidence, especially during the opening stages when he ran in the wheel tracks of the two leaders after fighting past Brazilian teammate Carlos Cunha at the start. Lastochkin was unable to maintain that pace but still remained well clear of the chasing pack. He also took home the Staubli Award.
 
His task was made easier when Cunha ran briefly off course on the second lap and then, to the consternation of his crew, made an unscheduled pit stop to report that his front shock absorber cover had fallen off. Cunha was quickly sent on his way. He circulated at the same pace as the drivers who finished on the podium but could salvage no better than ninth by the finish of the 30-minute, 14-lap race. TJ Fischer, driving a third Team Pelfrey car, also was out of luck, his streak of podium finishes ended by a faulty fuel pump.
 
Idaho teenager Sting Ray Robb finished a distant fourth for World Speed Motorsports, although he was being challenged in the closing stages by Milwaukee’s Max Hanratty, who took fifth after making a welcome return to the series for the locally based ArmsUp Motorsports team.
 
Jeff Green, from Peoria, Ill., earned the Quarter Master Hard Charger Award by rising from 12th on the grid to a career-best sixth, not far behind his much younger rivals, while veteran Bob Kaminsky, from Homer Glen, Ill., won the National Class with a seventh-place overall result.
 
Franzoni, who secured another PFC Award for the winning Juncos Racing team, now leads the championship by a 14-point margin, 149-135, heading into tomorrow’s sixth round – the midway point in the 12-race season. But he will likely have to work much harder after some unfortunately timed red flag stoppages during this morning’s qualifying meant he was unable to record a representative lap time and therefore will be required to start from the back of the field. 
 
The green flag for tomorrow’s race will fly at 3:05 p.m. EDT. Live timing and live streaming will be available on the Road To Indy TV App, at RoadToIndy.TV, promazda.com and indycar.com.
 
Victor Franzoni (#23 Juncos Racing): “This is the best feeling in the world. There really are no words when you get to the checkered flag for the win. The championship is really close so we both have to go for the wins. I have to open the biggest gap in points that I can, but it’s not going to be easy. Now the fights are getting more exciting – and more difficult. Anthony and I were really hard with each other but clean. I couldn’t get away on the first lap so he got around me, then we started just passing back and forth. But I had a great car today. Ricardo Juncos pushes me very hard so we can go to Indy Lights together and then go on to IndyCar together. If we win here and win in Indy Lights, we can do that. They have so much going on with Indy Lights and IndyCar that they could just forget about Pro Mazda, but they don’t – they keep pushing. And that’s been great.”
 
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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 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

VeeKay’s USF2000 Dutch Delight for Local Pabst Team at Road America

ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – A dramatic first of two Cooper Tires USF2000 Grand Prix of Road America Powered by Mazda races this afternoon ended with Dutch teenager Rinus VeeKay claiming an emphatic maiden victory for the locally based Pabst Racing team.
 
Chicago’s David Malukas, in just his second USF2000 weekend, qualified on pole and finished second for BN Racing, while Brazilian youngster Lucas Kohl drove by far his most impressive race since joining Pabst Racing this season by finishing in third.
 
Making light of difficult, drying conditions this morning in qualifying, Malukas also took full advantage of some setup work completed recently by former USF2000 race winner (and current Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires points leader) Victor Franzoni to claim the pole. Runaway series leader Oliver Askew qualified second for Cape Motorsports, but it was his distinctive Soul Red Tatuus USF-17 which jumped into the lead as soon as the green flag flew.
 
Malukas, having been caught out slightly, tucked into second place before making his move back into the lead on the long downhill run between Turns Three and Five. The Pabst pair, VeeKay and Kohl, also became embroiled in a thrilling battle for the lead which lasted for almost half of the 30-minute race.
 
Malukas used every inch of the race track to maintain his advantage for the first four laps, but it seemed to be only a matter of time before VeeKay would make his move. Sure enough, next time around, the Dutchman drafted past to take the lead.
 
Askew posted the fastest lap of the race on Lap Six as he continued to battle for second with Malukas, but just as he seemed set to make the position his own – and perhaps even re-challenge VeeKay for the lead — he abruptly slowed and pulled into the pit lane. The camber shims had inexplicably worked loose on his left-front wheel, causing a severe vibration. Some rapid work by the crew enabled the Floridian to rejoin at the back of the field in time to salvage a 17th-place finish.
 
VeeKay extended his lead to almost six seconds at the checkered flag. Malukas earned the Staubli Award by finishing a clear second ahead of Kohl and Guyanan Calvin Ming, who fought his way from 15th on the grid to fourth in a third Pabst Racing entry. Ming easily secured the Tilton Hard Charger Award. The PFC Award went to winning car owner Augie Pabst III, whose Oconomowoc, Wis.-based organization has now moved ahead of Cape Motorsports into the lead of the Team Championship.
 
Canadian Parker Thompson took fifth for Exclusive Autosport, followed by Team Pelfrey’s Kaylen Frederick, who also had a lot of ground to make up after qualifying 12th. Frederick just got the better of teammate Robert Megennis in the closing stages, while Devin Wojcik, driving for another local team, ArmsUp Motorsports from Sheboygan Falls, Wis., just nipped Illinois racer Colin Kaminsky (John Cummiskey Racing) for eighth on the final lap.
 
VeeKay’s well deserved victory enabled him to virtually halve the deficit to Askew from 60 points to 34 (193-159) heading into tomorrow’s eighth round of the 14-race Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda season. Another qualifying session later this afternoon will set the grid, with the green flag set for 2:10 p.m. EDT on Saturday. Live timing and live streaming will be available on the Road To Indy TV App, at RoadToIndy.TV, usf2000.com and indycar.com.
 
Rinus VeeKay #21 Jumbo Supermarkets The Netherlands/Total-Pabst Racing): “It feels so great to finally win! When I was coming up the hill to the finish, I was just screaming on the radio – my engineer must have pain in his ears! I was so happy for me and for the team, to finally get a win and for it to be here, at their home race. I learned to be very patient in this race. I was behind Oliver and David early and sometimes when I made a move, it worked and sometimes I made a little mistake. But I learned from it. It was a great battle – we touched wheels but it was very fair, a real fight like you want to have. I love this track, it reminds me of Spa, with the long straights with very technical corners. It really brings the driving part of you out. I can’t wait for tomorrow!”
David Malukas (#79 BN Racing): “The first part of the race was really fun, three-wide and two-wide in almost every corner. Every corner was another pass! After that, it was a matter of basically accepting what had just happened. I will say, I was a little surprised to be on pole, and by such a big margin. Victor Franzoni has been coaching me here and that has been a big help – without him, I don’t think we’d be here right now. My Dad used to drive a Corvette here so he taught me some of the tips and tricks as well, but I’d only driven here once before, when we tested a few weeks ago. I’ve been driving in Europe, so this is only my sixth race (weekend) in a car. The team has worked day and night since Indy – that was our first race in the series and we were so new to everything. We had older tires on the car today so we’ll put new ones on tomorrow and see what we can do.”
###
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.com, www.facebook.com/coopertire or www.twitter.com/coopertire.
 
Categories
Mazda Road to Indy Open Wheel

Kaylen Frederick Impressive in USF2000 Rookie Campaign, So Far

Being 14-years-old, a lot of eyes are on Kaylen Frederick to see how he will perform surrounded by competitors older than him.

“I mean, when I’m outside of the car, and I think about it, then I feel a little bit of that,” he told Popular Speed. “But when I’m in the car, I don’t think about it.”

So far this season in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, he is putting on a show for them with five top-five’s in six races to start the year.

“My season so far has been pretty good – definitely above my expectations,” he said. “To come in here as a rookie, it feels great to finish as well; we’re fighting for the championship and wins so I couldn’t ask for a better start.”

Looking at the three weekends to date, he says the biggest thing he’s learned is being consistent during the early part of the race and avoiding mistakes so therefore not enable those behind you to make a move.

The next focus seems to be earning his first career victory, which he feels they have the speed to do so.

“I need to get a bit better in qualifying; I keep messing those up a little bit,” he said. “But I think once we get to Road America, I think we should be strong enough to get a win.”

Going to Road America this weekend, confidence radiates off the Team Pelfrey driver due to having previous experience there.

For Frederick, his introduction in motorsports came virtue of dirt biking, though was eventually introduced to go-karts, which he “fell in love” with immediately. Making his way up the ladder, he competed last year in F1600, scoring a victory and finishing seventh in points despite missing the opening six races due to age restrictions.

Frederick got to practice at Road America on Thursday afternoon, posting the eighth quickest time on the speed chart.

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

Victor Franzoni Confident Heading Into Road America

With a pair of runner-ups, followed by two victories, it’s safe to say that Victor Franzoni is off to a great start in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires.

“I’m happy how my season is going,” he told POPULAR SPEED. “I’m leading the championship, so it’s really good. It’s great to race with Juncos Racing in Pro Mazda. I hope we can keep going the way it is.”

He will hope to maintain the momentum rolling into Road America this weekend, where he finished fourth and second in Cooper Tires USF2000 Powered by Mazda competition last year.

“I’m confident going there,” he said. “Juncos last year had a really fast car; I had a good result there. So I think we will have a great result. After Indy whole team and I are confident and happy, so this energy will help us for sure.”

Franzoni entered the season with limited experience on his side, running the second half of the 2015 schedule before this season. Being able to run those events, he says the biggest thing was seeing how their events play out, with the races 40 minutes in length and how the car changes from green to checkered.

Though a benefit for him in quickly adjusting has been the experience surrounding him with Juncos Racing involved in both Pro Mazda and Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires.

“It helps me a lot to learn more,” he said. “Juncos Racing is a really big team, and this is good for me because I start to learn how and what an IndyCar team wants from a driver.”

If he can hold on to win the championship, it will give him the scholarship to compete in Indy Lights next season, which is one step closer to the Verizon IndyCar Series. It’s an opportunity that would mean everything to him.

“This championship is the only chance I have to move up in my career, so I have to win,” he said. “I don’t have too many options.”

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

Kyle Kaiser Looks to Extend Points Lead at Road America

Seven events into his third season of Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires competition, Kyle Kaiser sits atop the series standings with a 14-point lead over Nico Jamin.

“We’re just around the halfway point of the season right now, and this year has shown that it is another highly competitive field of drivers,” he told POPULAR SPEED. “We’re in a good position right now leading the points, but I’m not going to take that lead for granted. I know it’ll be important to remain consistent and continue to finish races and fight for wins.”

Being in the championship fight is nothing new for Kaiser as he was one of the five drivers with a shot at the title heading into the season finale at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca last year.

“This season has been just as competitive, if not more competitive, than the 2016 season,” he said. “There are a lot of rookies in the series who have come up to speed very quickly and have shown they’re not to be underestimated. There have already been five winners from four different teams less than halfway through the season, so I think that speaks for itself.”

The latest event on the schedule did not go as planned, though, placing ninth in the Freedom 100 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for his worst finish of 2017 so far.

“The Freedom 100 is the biggest race on our schedule, but at the end of the day its only one race out of the 16 for the season,” he said. “So while the results weren’t what I was hoping for, we came out with a greater points lead than we left with. So I’ll have no problem moving on from an exciting month of May and be ready for Road America.”

Now heading into this weekend in Wisconsin, the Juncos Racing driver will look to return to the top-five after finishing sixth in both events at Road America last season.

“I’m excited to go to Road America since it’s one of my favorite race tracks,” he said. “We had a really strong test day at the beginning of the month, and I feel like we’re going to come into the weekend very strong. This will be an important weekend to try to extend the championship lead as the season reaches the halfway point.”

Kaiser notes the biggest challenge of Road America is putting together a perfect lap.

“The track is over 4 miles long, so this track requires, even more, focus and puts more emphasis on minimizing mistakes,” he said.

A solid performance this weekend would put him one step closer towards picking up the championship at season’s end, which would give him a scholarship to run three Verizon IndyCar Series events next year, including the Indianapolis 500.

“With this being my third season in Indy Lights and my fifth year in the Road to Indy, it would mean everything to be able to secure the Indy Lights Championship and know that I’ll be in an Indy Car in 2018,” he said. “My entire goal since joining the Mazda Road to Indy was to learn and improve as a driver so that I could compete successfully in the Verizon IndyCar Series, and winning this championship would be a huge step towards achieving my end goal.”

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.