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Mazda Road to Indy Open Wheel

All Eyes on Askew Entering Road America

Right from a young age, Oliver Askew has been around racing, getting his start behind the wheel at seven-years-old.

One of my friends got rental karts for his birthday and I really liked it,” Askew recalled. “My dad took me to Palm Beach International Raceway and I drove their karts for a few years until he bought me my own. I raced club events there with Kyle Kirkwood – so we have been racing together since I was around 8 and he was about 6 years old.”

From there, he got a chance to attend the Skip Barber Racing School, competing in some events, prior to joining Team USA. Being successful there allowed him to take part in the Mazda Road to Indy Shootout, which he won to allow himself to compete in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Powered by Mazda Championship.

“I realized going in that it could make or break my career,” he said. “I put everything I had into it: I tried to keep my cool and I knew that even though I was in a good position going into the final, one mistake could have taken me out of contention. 

“This was my big break. It gave me the chance I had been looking for. Not only am I racing on the Mazda Road to Indy, which is a dream come true for me, but I’m a Mazda driver. Mazda is such a great company and brand and I am so proud to represent them. Looking at the drivers who have gone through this program, most of them end up as professional racing drivers. We all look to guys like Spencer Pigot as our biggest role models.”

Right out of the gate, Askew has impressed. After posting a runner-up in his debut on the streets of St. Petersburg, he backed it up with five straight victories.

“Based on testing and Spring Training, we knew we would be competitive,” he said. “The championship is the primary goal. That’s one of the reasons I was so happy with our qualifying at St. Petersburg: it’s so easy to crash there and so many drivers leave there with a deficit, so I didn’t take any chances. Hopefully we can keep our momentum up.”

Now following the month off, he heads into Road America next weekend, leading by 60 points ahead of Rinus Veekay in search of a sixth win.

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

Chris Griffis Memorial Test to Showcase PM-18

While there is still lots of racing to go for 2017, the hype has already began to build towards next season for the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Copper Tires as the series will debut a new chassis, Tattus PM-18, in 2018.

Fans will get the chance to see drivers behind the wheel for the first time in the new car as part of the annual Chris Griffis Memorial Test, which is slated to take place on Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course on October 21/22. 

“To see all three new cars together for the first time is a culmination of a dream that started back in 2013 when we were in the process of taking over the operation of Indy Lights,” said Dan Andersen, Owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions. “I honestly can’t wait. It’s been a tremendous journey and I have to thank our partners Dallara and Tatuus as well as our project managers Tony Cotman and Scot Elkins. They have really knocked it out of the ball park with cars that are relevant to what we want to provide as a complete driver development system highlighted by safety and technology.”

The first shipment of 15 cars will go out in September, with the chassis set as the standard for the series for the next five years priced at $61,800. Fans can learn more details at http://pm-18.com/.

The seventh annual test will also showcase drivers from the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires and Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda. Last year’s session featured 43 drivers representing 12 countries, with 10 of the 18 new USF2000 moving on to race in the series.  

“The Chris Griffis Memorial test is personally rewarding as I watch drivers take the next step on the ladder, including this year’s champions who will move up with the benefit of Mazda Scholarships, and welcome some new faces,” Andersen added. “We are excited to return to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which is a key event in our regular season schedule that kicks off an exciting month of May.” 

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

Leist Holds Off All Challengers to Win Freedom 100

Brazilian Rookie Claims First Mazda Road to Indy Victory in Style for Carlin Team

SPEEDWAY, Ind. – Matheus Leist led from pole position to checkered flag in today’s Freedom 100 to earn a well-deserved maiden Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires victory. But this was no walkover for the Carlin team’s Brazilian rookie, who came under intense pressure from several other contenders during an exciting 40-lap, 100-mile race in front of a bumper crowd on Carb Day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Fellow rookie Aaron Telitz (Belardi Auto Racing) barely edged Canadian Dalton Kellett (Andretti Autosport) for second place on the run to the flag.

Weather conditions were markedly improved over yesterday, when persistent rain forced qualifying to be delayed for more than four hours. Instead sunny skies and warm temperatures greeted the talented field of 14 drivers as they assembled on the historic Brickyard oval.

After country music star (and mother of Indy Lights racer Shelby Blackstock) Reba McEntire’s rousing rendition of the National Anthem, the action began early as Canadian Zachary Claman DeMelo made a storming start from fifth on the grid to tuck in behind Carlin teammate Leist at Turn One. Behind, Kellett also got a run on Colton Herta, who started on the front row for Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing. Unfortunately, in trying to hold off Kellett at Turn Two, Herta barely clipped his teammate’s front wing which in turn tipped him into a spin. Worse, teammate Ryan Norman, from Aurora, Ohio, who had qualified a fine fourth, was unable to avoid the spinning #98 car. Exit two contenders even before the field was fully up to speed.

After five laps of caution to clear away the wreckage, Leist held on to his advantage over Claman DeMelo at the restart, followed by the third Carlin Dallara-Mazda IL-15 of Neil Alberico, who leapfrogged Kellett with a bold outside line pass into Turn One.

The race soon settled into a rhythm with Leist turning consistent laps at an average speed of around 195 mph at the head of the field. Claman DeMelo held onto second until Lap 13, when Kellett drafted past his countryman on the inside line at Turn Three. Telitz took advantage of Claman DeMelo’s slight loss of momentum to move into third, then, on Lap 19, second when he drafted past Kellett on the entrance to Turn Three.

Six cars ran virtually nose to tail for the majority of the race, with Leist holding onto the lead ahead of Telitz, Kellett, Alberico, Claman DeMelo and Santi Urrutia (Belardi Auto Racing), who, after starting 12th, moved up steadily through the pack during the middle portion of the race to claim the Tilton Hard Charger Award.

Telitz, too, was looking especially racy. Last year’s winner of the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires made his first challenge for the lead on Lap 30, only to be rebuffed, then tried again a couple of laps later – around the outside at Turn One. Leist barely clung onto the lead as they sped into Turn Two, whereupon Telitz tried again at Turn Three. Once again, Leist held his ground, leaving Telitz to lose a little valuable momentum – and a position – to Kellett.

That was as close as anyone got to usurping the 18-year-old Brazilian, who held on to claim the win. After finishing a career-best third in last year’s Freedom 100, Kellett was unable to make a move on Leist in the final stages, and instead found himself passed on the run to the line by a fired-up Telitz.

Alberico maintained his strong run of recent finishes in fourth, while the expected challenge from Urrutia, who posted the fastest lap of the race at a new record of 198.104 mph, failed to materialize after he glanced the wall at Turn Two with a few laps remaining. Urrutia maintained control of his car and held on to finish fifth ahead of Claman DeMelo, who also brushed the wall in Turn One.

Californian Kyle Kaiser, despite finishing a disappointed ninth for Juncos Racing, actually stretched his championship lead by one point to 14 over Frenchman Nico Jamin, who struggled to a distant 10th for Andretti Autosport.

The Indy Lights contenders will be in action next at Elkhart Lake’s famed Road America in Wisconsin on June 23-25.

Matheus Leist (#26 TMA-Carlin): “I can’t believe it, this is a dream come true. The track is just amazing; it’s so fast. To win here is unbelievable. We had a perfect car today so we were able to lead the whole race. I kept the same line the whole race to try to keep Aaron behind me, but it was so tough. I was nervous early in the race because I thought it would be really close. I thought Aaron would overtake me when he pulled even with me – we were side-by-side for three or four corners. I tried to relax and do my job and he wasn’t able to get by me. We led my first ever oval practice Monday and the car was just amazing – I knew we had a winning car. I spent this week at the hotel watching the races from the past few years and I knew they were all decided on the last corner so I studied everything. I’m so thankful for this; the Carlin guys worked so hard this week. This is my first time here on the oval so hopefully I can win the Indy 500 here in the future.”

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Mazda Road to Indy Open Wheel

Leist Claims the Pole in Delayed Freedom 100 Qualifying at Indianapolis

Rookies Lead the Way into Tomorrow’s Mazda Road to Indy “Blue Riband” Race
 
SPEEDWAY, Ind. – Rookie Matheus Leist will start from the pole position for tomorrow’s Freedom 100, Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires Round Seven, after posting two record-breaking laps around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this evening. The 18-year-old from Novo Hamburgo, Brazil, set new standards for both the two-lap qualifying average (199.198 mph) and the fastest Indy Lights single-car lap set during qualifying (199.268 mph) for the Carlin team following a lengthy delay due to rain.
 
Leist edged out second-generation Indy Lights racer and fellow rookie Colton Herta, from Valencia, Calif., who recorded a two-lap average of 198.648 mph for Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing. Andretti Autosport teammates Dalton Kellett, from Stouffville, Ont., Canada, and Ryan Norman, from Aurora, Ohio, will share Row Two of the grid.
 
The 40-lap, 100-mile race is traditionally the highlight of the season for the highest rung on the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires open-wheel development ladder, and will take place directly after the final practice session on Carb Day for Sunday’s 101st Indianapolis 500.
 
Seven and a half hours after practice was initially postponed due to persistent rain, the Indy Lights contenders finally ventured out for an abbreviated 20-minute practice session at 4:30 p.m. Conditions remained cool and with heavy cloud cover, but they clearly worked in favor of the Carlin team which posted the top two speeds. Leist set the tone by recording the first-ever 200+ mph lap for an Indy Lights car at 44.7690 seconds, an average speed of 201.032 mph, with teammate Zachary Claman DeMelo not far behind at 199.515 mph.
 
Twenty minutes later, Neil Alberico (Carlin) was the first car out on track for single-car qualifying. The Californian’s solid two-lap average of 196.938 mph was beaten just a couple of minutes later by Kellett, whose first lap of 198.170 mph immediately eclipsed the existing single-lap record of 197.866 mph, set in 2015 by Ethan Ringel. Kellett’s second lap enabled him to establish a new two-lap mark of 198.011 mph.
 
Leist, running seventh in the order, then vaulted to the top of the charts with his record-breaking run, which remained good enough for the reigning British Formula 3 champion to secure his first Indy Lights pole.
 
Herta, running 12th in line, was the only challenger to come close – despite a heart-stopping half-spin as he left the pit lane to begin his two-lap run. Herta recovered but ultimately fell shy of Leist by less than a quarter of a second.
 
Championship leader Kyle Kaiser, from Santa Clara, Calif., will start from 11th on the grid after recording a two-lap average of 196.058 mph for Juncos Racing.
 
The green flag for tomorrow’s race – which will air live on NBCSN – will fly at 12:30 p.m. EDT.
 
Matheus Leist (#26 TMA-Carlin): “It was a long wait today and I think all the drivers were nervous going into qualifying. I’m so happy to get my first pole position in the series in my first oval race. Everything is new for me here so I’m still getting used to everything. And the weather today was so different than it was in the test on Monday, but the team gave me a really good car. You have to be 100 percent focused on what you’re doing because everything happens so fast. There was a lot of pressure but I knew we had two very good laps. I had to wait for the other drivers to finish qualifying, which was scary. This feels great.”
 
Colton Herta (#98 Deltro Energy Mazda/Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing): “I’m super glad we got to run, since I am starting ahead of the guys I’m fighting in the championship. But I made a mistake coming out onto the track – I did a half spin and went through the grass. The driver excuse in me would say it was the rain that started to come down but in reality I simply lost it coming out on track. I don’t know how much that really affected us; the Carlin guys had such a good car today. Tomorrow will be a cat-and-mouse game. You have to see what you’ve got and what everyone else’s strengths are. But it really hit me when we were taking the photo that I’m in the front row at Indianapolis. I was thinking that it will be fun to see where I am in 30 years and look back and see where it started.”
 
###
 
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.
 
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Mazda Road to Indy Open Wheel

Andretti Autosport Returns to Championship Form

Even though Andretti Autosport had things going their way in the Verizon IndyCar Series with Ryan Hunter-Reay contending for victories the past couple season, their Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires program was faltering. Now with six rounds in the books, it appears the program is back on track.

“We have four talented drivers,” Michael Andretti said on Friday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “We have two that are getting us wins. They’re going to be duking it out the rest of the year, so far.”

The organization came close to winning the championship in 2014, placing Zach Veach and Mathew Brabham third and fourth in the standings. Veach led the points through the first seven rounds boasting a pair of victories, though with only one win in season’s second half saw him drop two positions. Meanwhile, Brabham climbed his way back up after sitting ninth following the season-opener at St. Petersburg, with his season highlighted by a victory in the Indianapolis Road Course Race 1.

It was expected they would contend once again in 2015, but that didn’t happen, with the 2016 season also going down the pipes.

They fielded only one entry full-time in 2015 with Shelby Blackstock behind the wheel, placing 10th in the standings with a best finish of third at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. A year later, Blackstock failed to post a podium en route to finishing eighth in points. Dalton Kellett and Dean Stoneman also ran full-time, and although Stoneman won the Freedom 100 at Indianapolis, success was few and far between with Stoneman placing sixth in points and Kellett in 10th.

Now so far this season, they have two drivers currently in the top-three in points, with Nico Jamin second and Colton Herta third.

Jamin may have started off his season with a pair of finishes outside of the top-five at St. Petersburg, but he’s been doing an amazing job ever since. He scored his first career Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires competition in race one at Barber Motorsports Park, before finishing third in the second event. Indianapolis went well for him, as well, with a victory in round one followed by a fourth in race two.

“That’s what we’re aiming for,” Jamin said. “We want to do this season, win the championship. A win at Barber and a win here – we have momentum going on now.”

He enters the top series on the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires after placing third in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires last season.

Herta came out of the gate fast right off the bat, with two wins and a runner-up in the first four races to enter Indianapolis with a 16-point lead. However, problems in both races for a pair of finishes outside the top-nine slipped him back to third. Even though success has come quickly, it’s mindful to remember Herta is a series rookie, and original intentions were to go with a two-year program by setting the ground work this year to win a title next season.

“To be honest, it was unexpected,” Herta said following Barber. “We were just going in there hoping just to get some top-five finishes, start the season off right, and get some points.”

Last year, Andretti Autosport won the Freedom 100 – but that was the only highlight of the campaign.

With success coming already, another victory on the first oval of 2017 would solidify their stance of being contenders all year-long.

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: Saturday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

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

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

Rebound for Thompson

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

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

Double for Davis

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

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

New Points Leader

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

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

First Career Top-Five

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

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

Much Needed Podium

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

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

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

Ran Off-Road

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

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

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

Last Place for Blackstock

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

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

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

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER:@ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
Mazda Road to Indy Open Wheel

Consistency Pays for Kaiser with Win and Indy Lights Points Lead

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Kyle Kaiser has been a model of consistency in this year’s Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires title-chase. He has been fast too. In today’s Mazda Road to Indy Grand Prix Presented by Royal Purple Supporting Lupus Foundation of America at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Grand Prix road course, the talented Californian used both attributes to excellent effect as he translated his second pole position into his first victory of the season for Juncos Racing. It was enough to vault him into the championship lead after six of 16 races.
 
Uruguayan Santi Urrutia bounced back from a series of disappointing results to claim a strong second-place finish for Belardi Auto Racing. Brazilian rookie Matheus Leist completed the podium for the Carlin team.
 
A warm and sunny day with low humidity provided perfect conditions for an enthusiastic crowd, and the 14 Indy Lights campaigners provided an entertaining 35-lap race with battles throughout the closely matched field.
 
Kaiser took full advantage of his pole position to hold the lead into the heavy braking area at Turn One, narrowly ahead of a fast-starting Urrutia, who jumped from fourth to second at the first corner. Urrutia used the draft to draw alongside Kaiser on the long front straightaway at the end of Lap 2, but once again Kaiser kept his cool, and his position. Urrutia tried again next time around and actually managed to nose ahead into the braking area, only to run a little too deep which enabled Kaiser to maintain his lead.
 
Urrutia instead soon lost a place to Leist, who has arrived in the United States this year on the crest of a wave after wining last year’s BRDC British Formula 3 Championship. The two South Americans’ in-fighting allowed Kaiser just a little breathing space, whereupon the 21-year-old from Santa Clara, Calif., put his head down and turned a series of consistently quick laps to extend his lead.
 
The gap grew to more than 3.5 seconds on Lap 11, after Urrutia found a way back past Leist in Turn Seven, and that was to prove the decisive break. As Urrutia consolidated his advantage over Leist, who instead came under attack from Carlin teammate Neil Alberico, Kaiser motored away to take the checkered flag 6.4768 seconds to the good.
 
Urrutia was relatively content with second and the Staubli Award, but the battle for third wasn’t resolved until the final couple of laps when Leist robustly rebuffed Alberico’s overtaking maneuver at Turn One. Alberico was unable to avoid contact, which broke his Dallara-Mazda’s front wing and left him struggling to bring his car home to the finish.
 
Yesterday’s winner, Frenchman Nico Jamin (Andretti Autosport), snuck past for fourth, while Colombian Juan Piedrahita (Team Pelfrey) celebrated his 100th Mazda Road to Indy start with a solid run to fifth, overtaking Alberico on the run to the finish line. Piedrahita’s drive was particularly noteworthy since he had been unable to start yesterday’s race due to a heavy accident during practice.
 
Rookie Ryan Norman, from Aurora, Ohio, last year’s Formula Atlantic champion, showed his best form of the season to date by finishing close behind Alberico in seventh. Norman also earned the Tilton Hard Charger Award after starting 12th.
 
Kaiser’s fourth consecutive podium finish vaulted him from third to first place in the points table. He leads Jamin by 139-126, with previous points leader Colton Herta (Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing) now third on 121. Herta, 17, from Valencia, Calif., suffered another disappointing day, falling to 10th after a grassy excursion while trying to fend off Alberico.
 
The teams will remain in Indianapolis for the next round, the season highlight Freedom 100 on the hallowed 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval, on Carb Day, Friday, May 26.
 
Kyle Kaiser (#18 Juncos Racing): “It was unreal. I started getting emotional when the team told me there were five laps to go, thinking about the podium. I had to really keep myself in check until the checkered flag, and then I was just euphoric. It was a tough race. It is super hard to start from the pole here. I had to get a good jump and try to keep Colton behind me going into Turn One – especially because we were so close in the points. From then on, it was a matter of keeping Santi behind me, which was hard because he had a really good car. He almost had me in Turn One but after that, I was able to get a gap. Every time I came onto the front straight I could see the gap behind so I was watching that each lap. I settled in and just did laps. I try to think of it as a practice, pushing the car but not overly pushing which is what I did yesterday. And now, I get to watch the Juncos Indy 500 team. I’m so excited for them.”
 
Santiago “Santi” Urrutia (#5 Belardi Auto Racing w/ SPM):  “It has been tough to get the car quick and get into the top five. We tried to get the lead but second place is really good for us. We’re working as a team to figure out where we’re losing time and when we find that, we’re going to be okay. There is still a long way to go in this championship so we have to get podiums and points, points, points. I had to push 100 percent each lap trying to get to the lead early, then trying to get back into second when I fell to third. There are no emotions right now because no matter where you are, you want to win. Finishing second is good motivation for everyone as we go into the Freedom 100.”
 
Matheus Leist (#26 TMA – Carlin): “It’s amazing – I think my first series podium shouldn’t be anywhere else but Indianapolis. This is the best place for that. We didn’t have great pace today but I’m happy with third. It was a great battle with my teammate. Neil was faster than me but it was still hard to overtake so I was able to stay in front under braking in Turn One. It is still a learning process. Everything is new for me this year – the tracks, the team, the series, the car, the tires, the engine. If I keep progressing like this, I know we can get more podiums.”
 
###
 
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

Mazda Scholarship Winner Askew Again Dominates USF2000 Field

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.  – There’s no stopping Oliver Askew. The 20-year-old from Jupiter, Fla., captured his second win in as many days on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Grand Prix road course – and his fifth in six starts – to strengthen his claim to the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda and, potentially, a second consecutive Mazda Scholarship which would assist in graduation to the next step on the Mazda Road to Indy – the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires – in 2018.
 
Teenaged Dutchman Rinus VeeKay, who earned the Staubli Award, finished second for Pabst Racing in this morning’s Mazda Road to Indy Grand Prix Presented by Royal Purple Supporting Lupus Foundation of America, while Kaylen Frederick, from Potomac, Md., profited from a last-lap incident to finish third for Team Pelfrey.
 
Following a full-course caution due to a multi-car incident in Turn One, Askew, who yesterday had secured his fourth straight pole position, pulled clear of his rivals by the completion of the first lap of green-flag racing.
 
VeeKay jumped ahead of front row starter Frederick into second place at the restart and quickly made the place his own, leaving Dakota Dickerson (Newman Wachs Racing), who made a lightning start to vault from seventh to fourth at the original start, to come under pressure from Robert Megennis (Team Pelfrey).
 
Canadian Parker Thompson slotted into fifth for Exclusive Autosport until a sticking throttle caused him to run briefly off the road and lose several positions on Lap 11. South African Callan O’Keeffe continued his strong showing on his North American debut for Team Benik, moving up into fifth before also running into mechanical difficulties, which eventually forced him to pull off course with less than five minutes remaining in the half-hour race.
 
The officials had no alternative but to call for a full-course caution, which ended with enough time for a one-lap dash to the checkered flag. Askew took the win by 1.2488 seconds over VeeKay, but following the race incurred a penalty notice for failing to follow Race Director instructions pertaining to restart procedures and has been placed on probation.  
 
Behind, however, the battle for third ended in tears as Dickerson and Megennis collided in Turn Two, which left the way clear for Frederick to inherit the final podium position.
 
Thompson took advantage of the incident to dive past Kory Enders (DEForce Racing), from Warwick, N.Y., for fourth place, while Australian Luke Gabin secured his best finish of the season, sixth, for Exclusive Autosport. Gabin also earned the Tilton Hard Charger Award after fighting his way from 16th on the grid.
 
After routine technical inspection which followed yesterday’s race, cars #80 (Robert Megennis) and #81 (Kaylen Frederick) were disqualified per Rule 14.28.9. The revised result elevates Calvin Ming (Pabst Racing) to second place and Ricky Donison (Cape Motorsports) to third. Ming, from Guyana, and Donison, from Bangalore, India, became the first drivers from their respective nations to stand on a Mazda Road to Indy podium.
 
Askew now leads the championship by a 60-point margin over VeeKay, 188-128, after six rounds of competition. The Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda will head next to Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis., for two more races in support of the Verizon IndyCar Series at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis., on June 23-25.
 
Oliver Askew (#3 Mazda Motorsports/MC Racing-Cape Motorsports): “I definitely didn’t want to see that yellow. I had such a big lead and then to have to regroup and try to figure out how to break away again was tough. I had to make a plan and execute it. Our pace here is fantastic; the Cape team gave me a great car. I tried not to look in my mirrors, especially at the start – I just went to Turn One as deep as I could and tried not to get hit from behind, because that’s the only way that I could get passed. But like I said yesterday, it’s surreal. I’m just living in the present and doing my job the best that I can, and that’s working out. It’s still a steep learning curve, as this is my first full season in cars, but I really appreciate the opportunity from Mazda and the car that the Cape boys have given me. It’s a highlight of the day, seeing them waving their hands and going crazy as I cross the line. It’s so cool to see them and all the fans. I really appreciate their support.”
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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

Brazilian Franzoni Sweeps at Indy to Claim Pro Mazda Points Lead

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Victor Franzoni ensured a banner weekend for himself and the Juncos Racing team by sweeping both races that comprised the Mazda Road to Indy Grand Prix Presented by Royal Purple Supporting Lupus Foundation of America on the 2.439-mile Indianapolis Grand Prix road course. Franzoni, from Sao Palo, Brazil, was never seriously threatened this morning in cool and sunny conditions, finishing a full 1.0798 seconds clear of Team Pelfrey’s TJ Fischer.
 
Fischer’s teammate, Carlos Cunha, from Campinas, Brazil, finished a comfortable third ahead of Australian’s Anthony Martin (Cape Motorsports), who had led the point standings coming into this weekend after sweeping both races at St. Petersburg, Fla., in March.
 
Franzoni set the tone yesterday morning by annexing the bonus point for pole position in qualifying. And whereas on Friday he made a poor start and had to work his way back to the front, this time there was not the hint of a mistake as he maintained his advantage into Turn One, then romped clear of the field at a prodigious rate.
 
After finishing third in each of the first three races of the season, Fischer, from Los Angeles, Calif., exited the tight first corner in the same position he had started, second, and soon began to edge clear of teammate Cunha to secure a career-best finish.
 
Cunha, similarly, was under no real threat from Martin, who instead was kept honest by the third Team Pelfrey car of Nikita Lastochkin. The Australian managed to reduce a deficit of over three seconds to Cunha to around 1.2 seconds between Laps 11 and 16, but that was as close as he got before Cunha edged clear once more to secure his first podium finish.
 
The World Speed Motorsports trio of Phillippe Denes, from Carmel, Calif., Sting Ray Robb, from Payette, Idaho, and Bobby Eberle, from Houston, Texas, completed the top seven ahead of SCCA National Formula Mazda Champion Matt Machiko (ArmsUp Motorsports), from Pittsburgh, Pa.
 
Kevin Davis, from Alvin, Ill., strengthened his lead in the National Class by winning the division with a 10th-place overall finish, despite being earlier punted into a spin at Turn One by fellow Illinois racer Jeff  Green (Team Pelfrey). Davis also earned the Quarter Master Hard Charger Award.
 
Ricardo Juncos of Juncos Racing, based close to the race track in Speedway, Ind., earned another PFC Award as the winning car owner, while Cunha claimed the Staubli Award.
 
Franzoni’s second win in as many days vaulted him to the lead of the 12-round Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, which will offer a Mazda Scholarship worth over $790,000 to assist the champion in progressing to Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires in 2018.
 
Franzoni now holds a 116-110 edge over Martin as all three levels of the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires – the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, Pro Mazda and Indy Lights – head next to Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis., for two more races once again in support of the headlining Verizon IndyCar Series on June 23-25.
 
Victor Franzoni (#23 Juncos Racing): “It was a perfect weekend. I knew the Juncos team would have a really good setup here so it was important for us to be ready – and it was the best car ever. It was a machine; it was so easy to drive. All I had to do was focus and drive fast. I had a much better start today than yesterday and was happy to keep the lead at the start – with the long straight, it’s so easy to draft on someone. I am so happy to get the win. This happened at the end of last year in USF2000 where I had a perfect weekend, and now to get it here means so much. I so appreciate the opportunity Juncos has given me, and the car they gave me today. I hope we can keep this going. We’ll work really hard to do that and I hope next year I can be with them on the next step!”
 
TJ Fischer (#82 Project 02-Team Pelfrey): “We didn’t have the headwind that we had yesterday so we didn’t get swallowed up by the field at the start this time. It was my first front row start on the Mazda Road to Indy and I hated getting swallowed up like that. I wanted to make sure it didn’t happen again so when Anthony got behind me and gave me a push, we went into Turn 1 hard but Victor was on rails today. I know that if we keep our heads down and keep packing on the points, we’ll have a race like that.”
 
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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

MRTI Observations: Indy Lights Indianapolis Race No. 1

Starting from the pole position, Nico Jamin led flag-to-flag despite a late-race charge from Zachary Claman De Melo, en route to scoring the victory in the Mazda Road to Indy Grand Prix Presented by Royal Purple Supporting Lupus Foundation of America.

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

Right in Contention

Nico Jamin may have started off his season with a pair of finishes outside of the top-five at St. Petersburg, but he’s been doing an amazing job ever since. The Andretti Autosport driver scored his first career Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires competition in race one at Barber Motorsports Park, before finishing third in the second event.

Now with a second victory, he has put himself second in points, three points behind teammate Colton Herta for the lead.

“That’s what we’re aiming for,” he said. “We want to do this season, win the championship. A win at Barber and a win here – we have good momentum going on now.”

Hiccup for Herta

In just one event for the series, Colton Herta has watched his points lead go from 16 points ahead of Kyle Kaiser to just three ahead of Nico Jamin. Needless to say, he will want to forget how things went on Friday quickly.

The event started off strong for the Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing racer, as he quickly moved up to second on Lap 1 after starting sixth. He ran in the runner-up spot for the first 12 circuits, before falling to fourth. He then continued to fall back, eventually pitting on Lap 17 with a right rear puncture.

The rookie has faced adversity once this season, finishing 10th in the first event at Barber Motorsports Park after contact on Lap 1. He rebounded beautifully there with a victory in round two. With a strong qualifying effort on Saturday morning, he could do the same once again.

Career Best for Claman De Melo

Zachary Claman De Melo has continued to get better with each race under his belt, as noted with a stronger average finish through the second half of last year. He hasn’t started off this season so hot with only one top-five in the first four rounds, but the tune may be changing after his performance on Friday.

The Carlin Racing pilot may not have got off to the strongest start on the green flag, but he worked his way through the field over the course of the 30-lap event, crossing the finish line in second for his best career finish. It’s also worth noting that he was closing the gap to Nico Jamin in the closing stages, only 0.8405 seconds behind at the checkered.

Claman de Melo felt he could have given Jamin a run for the win if he had not got caught behind the lap car of Dalton Kellett for awhile, telling the IndyCar Radio Network, “It’s unfortunately what happened with Kellet in that he blocked me. I could’ve had a shot if he hadn’t blocked me there.”

If he continues to run like this, though, it will be one blocked chance left in the rearview.

Poor Piedrahita

Not every driver who was on the entry docket started the event on Friday, as Juan Piedrahita was forced to watch from the sidelines.

Earlier that day in qualifying, he ran into gearbox issues which then led to an accident, with the team unable to make repairs in time for the event. It was reported that Team Pelfrey would possibly have a second car ready for him for Saturday’s event.

In four races this season, the driver of the No. 2 Mazda-powered entry has posted only one top-10 finish.

Third Straight Podium

After posting a pair of runner-ups at Barber Motorsports Park, Kyle Kaiser continued the momentum into Indianapolis with a third-place finish. Like Zachary Claman de Melo, he felt that he had something to challenge Nico Jamin.

“I thought we had a good start,” Kaiser said post-race. “We finished ahead of the points leader, which was my goal for this race. I made a mistake there as I thought we were catching the leader.”

Now entering the sixth round on the schedule, he currently sits third in points, just three markers behind Colton Herta.

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