Categories
Mazda Road to Indy Open Wheel

Franzoni’s Victory Seals Pro Mazda Title at a Soggy Watkins Glen

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – Come wet or dry, Victor Franzoni and Juncos Racing have been the class of the field in this year’s Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires. They have been pushed hard by Anthony Martin and Cape Motorsports, but a commanding performance this morning in tricky wet conditions in the Pro Mazda Watkins Glen Grand Prix Presented by Cooper Tires saw Franzoni, 21, from Sao Paulo, Brazil, lead from flag to flag in the series finale. 
 
Franzoni’s seventh win of the season assured him of both the championship crown and a Mazda Scholarship worth almost $800,000 to assist in his progression to Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, the top rung on the Mazda Road to Indy open-wheel development ladder, in 2018.
 
Fellow Brazilian Carlos Cunha posted another strong performance to claim second place for Team Pelfrey, while Martin, from Perth, Australia, had to settle for a distant third.
 
Steady overnight rain had dissipated to merely a drizzle as the Pro Mazda cars assembled on the grid. The ambient temperature was a cool 54 degrees but the pressure was high with so much at stake for the two championship contenders, Franzoni and Martin, who were separated by just eight points following the Brazilian’s win yesterday.
 
Franzoni had extended that lead by one more point when he qualified on pole in damp conditions yesterday evening, and he made a picture-perfect getaway from the rolling start to lead into Turn One. Cunha tucked into second ahead of a fast-starting Martin, who had lined up fifth on the grid following a two-place penalty for failing to acknowledge the checkered flag at the conclusion of qualifying.
 
Franzoni completed the opening lap with a huge 2.6-second lead as Cunha battled to keep Martin at bay. Their tussle continued until the fourth lap when Martin’s move to the inside under braking for Turn One was strongly resisted, which led to light contact and a lurid spin for Martin.
 
At that point all Franzoni needed to do was reel off the laps to cap a remarkable season in which he finished all 12 races either first or second. He also secured Ricardo Juncos’ seventh PFC Award as the winning car owner. Franzoni led by as much as 6.7 seconds before easing his pace and eventually taking the checkered flag just 1.5903 seconds clear of Cunha, who rounded out a fine rookie campaign by posting the only sub-two-minute laps of the race.
 
Martin finished a disappointed but valiant third, well clear of Los Angeles-based Russian Nikita Lastochkin, whose fourth-place finish secured the coveted Team Championship for Team Pelfrey.
 
Californian T.J. Fischer (Team Pelfrey) claimed the Quarter Master Hard Charger Award after overcoming some mechanical problems yesterday and climbing from 12th on the grid to fifth. Sting Ray Robb (World Speed Motorsports), from Payette, Idaho, recovered from an early spin to pass Pittsburgh, Pa.’s Matt Machiko (ArmsUp Motorsports), who earned the Staubli Award.
 
Victor Franzoni (#23 Juncos Racing): “I am so happy, but there are so many things in my mind right now. It’s unbelievable. So many people helped me to get into Pro Mazda this season. I grew up five or 10 years in my career this season. The difference for me was Juncos Racing this year, they gave me such a great car. The fight with Anthony was incredible. He’s really, really good. I had to push so hard to stay with him. We were so close in every single race and pushed to the limit all the time. This was the hardest season of my life, because I knew I could not make a mistake. We both did a great job and I think we both deserve to move forward. I want to thank everyone at Mazda, Cooper Tires and Andersen Promotions. 
 
“There were so many things on my mind on that last lap that I couldn’t focus. The team told me to be careful when the white flag came out, and suddenly, I couldn’t drive! When I saw the checkered, it was so great. To know where I will be next year now is the best thing in the world. I didn’t get just prize money today, I got hope.”
Carlos Cunha (#81 Team Pelfrey): “I’m so happy for Victor. It’s amazing to see a Brazilian and a friend win the championship. We tried everything we could but these guys [Franzoni, Martin] were too strong for me. The racing was amazing in the series this year. I kept trying to push more and more. It was a fun run, a fun season. I learned a lot with these two guys. It was amazing and I need to say ’thank you.’”
Anthony Martin (#8 Mazda/Burgess BLA-Cape Motorsports): “I was pushing 150 percent out there with the championship on the line. It sucks to be the first loser, as I call it, but I gave it my all. I didn’t leave anything out there. I’m very disappointed not to take the championship but I had a great time this year. I was a Mazda Scholarship driver, which is something I never thought I would be when I first arrived in America. To come this far and to not take the championship is bittersweet. The season has been one big bumpy rollercoaster. Victor and I traded the lead I don’t know how many times, and we had some intense battles. Congratulations to Victor and to Juncos Racing. Consistency wins and they were just a little more consistent than me.”
 
###
 
About Pro Mazda: The Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires debuted in 2013 as a new series, replacing the Star Mazda Championship which ceased operation in 2012 after 22 years. The series is sanctioned by INDYCAR and owned and operated by Andersen Promotions. It is the second official step on the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires ladder system with the series’ champion awarded a scholarship package from Mazda to advance to Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires competition the following year. For more information, visit promazdachampionship.com
 
About Mazda, Mazda Motorsports: Mazda Motorsports boasts the most comprehensive auto racing development ladder system of any auto manufacturer in the world. The Mazda Road to 24 program offers a number of scholarships to advance drivers up the sports car racing ladder, beginning with the Global MX-5 Cup series and culminating with the Mazda Prototype team. The Mazda Road to Indy is a similar program that includes Mazda-powered categories of USF2000, Pro Mazda and Indy Lights. In grassroots road racing, more Mazdas race on any given weekend in North America than any other manufacturer. Mazda is also the title sponsor of the renowned Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif. Follow all of the latest news at MazdaMotorsports.com, @MazdaRacing on Twitter, and MazdaMotorsports on Instagram and Facebook. 
 
About Cooper Tire & Rubber Company: Cooper Tire & Rubber Company is the parent company of a global family of companies that specializes in the design, manufacture, marketing and sale of innovative, great-performing tires that you can count on to last for thousands of miles, getting you where you need to go, and back again. Cooper is proud to be the spec tire for all three levels of the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires, a development program within the IndyCar racing series. Cooper tires can also be seen on the track as a sponsor in the short course off-road TORC Series. Headquartered in Findlay, Ohio, Cooper, with its subsidiaries, has manufacturing, sales, distribution, technical and design operations in more than one dozen countries around the world. To connect with Cooper, visit www.coopertire.comwww.facebook.com/coopertire or www.twitter.com/coopertire.
Categories
Mazda Road to Indy Open Wheel

MRTI Observations: Pro Mazda Watkins Glen Grand Prix Race 1

Picking up his second straight Pro Mazda Presented by Cooper Tires victory at Watkins Glen, Victor Franzoni extends his advantage over Anthony Martin heading into the final event of the season.

Here are the observations from the first event of the weekend.

Doing It Right

Over the past couple of months, Franzoni and Martin have traded wins back and forth, along with the points lead, as they battle it out for the scholarship to move up to the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires full-time in 2018.

Following his victory at Gateway Motorsports Park, Franzoni entered Watkins Glen with a two-point lead over Martin.

Initially, it looked as though the advantage would shift to Martin as he took the advantage on Lap 1 with a move on the outside off of turn three, and pass through the bus stop. If Martin had won, it would put him up by two points entering Sunday’s Soul Red Finale.

But Franzoni did what he needed to do, making the same move back on Martin on Lap 12 to take back the lead, before holding serve the rest of the way. Now going into tomorrow, Franzoni has a cushion being eight markers up on Martin.

Problematic Pelfrey

Team Pelfrey entered four drivers into the finale, hoping to end off the campaign in victory lane. However, it did not play out as warranted.

Two of their competitors saw their races end on Lap 2 when Robert Meginnis, from contact or by himself, got sideways while battling for fourth in turn nine, and collected his teammate Nikita Lastochkin.

Then on the restart, T.J. Fischer did not get going as he wanted, dropping back to seventh from fourth, before contact with Kris Wright sent him off track, and ending his race with a flat tire.

The only good news was Carlos Cunha, who rounded out the podium to give them a top-five.

Competitive Racing

Although some races this year have been snooze fests with an inability to pass, this wasn’t one of those. The leaders traded the top spot twice, and positions fourth to seventh were on everyone’s mind through the second half with position changes throughout.

With this in mind, tomorrow’s setting looks to be the perfect place to cap off the year, with the possibility for an exciting close to a great campaign.

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

Advantage Franzoni at Watkins Glen After Sixth Pro Mazda Victory

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – Victor Franzoni (Juncos Racing) extended his slender lead over Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires rival Anthony Martin (Cape Motorsports) by virtue of a hard-fought victory this afternoon in the first of two races that comprise the Pro Mazda Watkins Glen Grand Prix Presented by Cooper Tires. The Brazilian now holds an eight-point edge with a Mazda Scholarship worth almost $800,000 on the line in tomorrow morning’s final race of the season.
 
A third-place finish for fellow Brazilian Carlos Cunha enabled him to vault ahead of Team Pelfrey teammate TJ Fischer in their scrap for third place in the championship. The result also allowed Team Pelfrey to stretch its lead in the Team Championship to six points over Juncos Racing.
 
The two title protagonists were separated by just two points as they headed to upstate New York for this weekend’s final double-header, but that gap was extended by one after qualifying yesterday afternoon when Franzoni posted a new track record of 1:42.4376, an average speed of 118.433 mph, to secure his fourth pole of the season by a handsome margin of 0.8121 seconds.
 
In markedly cooler conditions today, the front row pair took off in lock step with Martin, from Perth, Australia, intent upon not allowing Franzoni to stretch away. Even better, Martin took advantage of an aggressive run through the Esses on the opening lap, plus a good draft, to tow past as the leaders headed toward the Inner Loop.
 
The race was neutralized before the end of the second lap when Pro Mazda debutant Robert Megennis (Team Pelfrey), from New York, N.Y., lost control and crashed heavily at Turn Nine. Innocent teammate Nikita Lastochkin, who had been embroiled in a close battle for third in the championship, was unable to avoid the wreckage and also crashed out of the race.
 
Even though Martin led away from the restart, it quickly became apparent that Franzoni had the faster car. The Brazilian tried a couple of times to make a bold outside-line pass at the toe of the boot (Turn Seven), only to be rebuffed each time. Finally, on Lap 12, Franzoni virtually mirrored the earlier pass by Martin as he drafted into the lead prior to the Inner Loop. Franzoni then romped away over the final couple of laps, posting comfortably the fastest lap of the race at a new record 1:43.5737 (117.134 mph) before taking the checkered flag a full 3.5743 seconds clear to claim his sixth win of the season and the sixth PFC Award for winning team owner Ricardo Juncos.
 
Martin couldn’t match that pace and instead had to concentrate on maintaining second place ahead of Cunha, which he achieved by less than one second.
 
Sting Ray Robb (World Speed Motorsports), from Payette, Idaho, finished a distant fourth, well clear of Kris Wright (JDC MotorSports), who worked his way from 10th on the grid to secure the Staubli Award. Matt Machiko (ArmsUp Motorsports), from Pittsburgh, Pa., enjoyed a strong return to the series for the first time since May, snaring the Quarter Master Hard Charger Award after rising from 10th on the grid to sixth.
 
Brendan Puderbach, from the Bronx, N.Y., finished eighth for FatBoy Racing! to secure the National Class Championship crown.
Another qualifying session later today will set the starting grid for tomorrow’s 12th and final round of the season, which is due to start at 7:55 a.m. EDT.
 
Victor Franzoni (#23 Juncos Racing): “My only thought during the race was to pass Anthony. I had to win but at the same time I had to stay calm enough not to make any mistakes. It’s been this way all year long and that’s taught me a lot. I had close to a perfect race, pushing as hard as I could. I waited to make a move until we were through the fast corners, somewhere I knew I could get a gap. Once I was able to get back around, I didn’t check the mirrors at all, I just focused on the next turn. I was not trying to save anything. The Juncos guys are so great, everything they do has helped me. I had five guys talking to me during qualifying, but I told them not to speak during the race because I had to focus. I’m enjoying this season so much and I’m hoping to win the championship and keep going with them.”
 
Anthony Martin (#8 Mazda/Burgess BLA-Cape Motorsports): “There’s one more race – and if it’s a wet race, that throws another spanner in the works. Anything can happen so I can’t get too excited now. I was able to get a good run on Victor going into the Bus Stop, and it turned out to be pretty much an identical move to the one he did on me later. My car fell off the cliff a bit late so he was right on my gearbox toward the end. We didn’t want to push the limits of the rules – I’m not like that. I want to race fairly and cleanly. There’s only so much you can do but it was exciting. We’ve been racing hard all year. We give each other room and that’s important.”
 
Carlos Cunha (#81 Team Pelfrey): “I saw right away that I didn’t have the pace those guys had but with their battle I could stay right behind them. Our target was to finish third in the championship, so now I want to try everything to get by these guys. Of course, I’m not going to get in the middle of their championship but I am going to try everything to be in front.”
 
###
 
About Pro Mazda: The Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires debuted in 2013 as a new series, replacing the Star Mazda Championship which ceased operation in 2012 after 22 years. The series is sanctioned by INDYCAR and owned and operated by Andersen Promotions. It is the second official step on the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires ladder system with the series’ champion awarded a scholarship package from Mazda to advance to Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires competition the following year. For more information, visit promazdachampionship.com
 
About Mazda, Mazda Motorsports: Mazda Motorsports boasts the most comprehensive auto racing development ladder system of any auto manufacturer in the world. The Mazda Road to 24 program offers a number of scholarships to advance drivers up the sports car racing ladder, beginning with the Global MX-5 Cup series and culminating with the Mazda Prototype team. The Mazda Road to Indy is a similar program that includes Mazda-powered categories of USF2000, Pro Mazda and Indy Lights. In grassroots road racing, more Mazdas race on any given weekend in North America than any other manufacturer. Mazda is also the title sponsor of the renowned Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif. Follow all of the latest news at MazdaMotorsports.com, @MazdaRacing on Twitter, and MazdaMotorsports on Instagram and Facebook. 
 
About Cooper Tire & Rubber Company: Cooper Tire & Rubber Company is the parent company of a global family of companies that specializes in the design, manufacture, marketing and sale of innovative, great-performing tires that you can count on to last for thousands of miles, getting you where you need to go, and back again. Cooper is proud to be the spec tire for all three levels of the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires, a development program within the IndyCar racing series. Cooper tires can also be seen on the track as a sponsor in the short course off-road TORC Series. Headquartered in Findlay, Ohio, Cooper, with its subsidiaries, has manufacturing, sales, distribution, technical and design operations in more than one dozen countries around the world. To connect with Cooper, visit www.coopertire.comwww.facebook.com/coopertire or www.twitter.com/coopertire.
 
Categories
Mazda Road to Indy Open Wheel

Franzoni Reclaims Points Lead with Gateway Win

Madison, Ill. – The Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires made its inaugural visit to Gateway Motorsports Park a memorable one as title rivals Victor Franzoni and Anthony Martin once again traded the lead of the championship as Franzoni claimed his fifth victory of the season in this afternoon’s St. Louis Pro Mazda Oval Challenge Presented by Cooper Tires. The pair now share five wins apiece.
 
Martin, of Cape Motorsports, took pole position in qualifying earlier this afternoon – his sixth pole of the season – with Juncos Racing’s Franzoni a close second. Martin held the advantage at the start but a yellow followed shortly after the green flag following a spin by Jeff Green (Juncos Racing) and Brendan Puderbach (Fat Boy Racing!). The battle for the lead resumed on Lap 3 with some entertaining side-by-side racing between the two.
 
Carlos Cunha of Team Pelfrey, who qualified fourth, managed to pass teammate TJ Fischer and briefly enter the fray at the front of the field. Franzoni made several attempts to get around Martin on the high side and finally made the move stick on Lap 18. Once past Martin, Franzoni romped to the checkered flag with a 4.6 second lead claiming the bonus points for most laps led and fastest race lap. 
Cunha held off Fischer to claim his fourth podium of the season and narrow the gap to Fischer to just five points for third in the championship. 
 
Jeff Green recovered from his earlier spin to pass the third Team Pelfrey car of Nikita Lastochkin and finish fifth, earning the Staubli Award. The Quarter Master Hard Charger Award went to World Speed Motorsports’ Sting Ray Robb with a gain of two positions. Juncos Racing earned the PFC Award.
 
Franzoni now leads Martin by two points (287 to 285) with the final two races on the docket coming down to the season finale at Watkins Glen International next weekend.
 
Victor Franzoni (#23 Juncos Racing): “After qualifying, I wasn’t sure we could do it, since I was three-tenths slower than him. We thought, we’ll make some big changes and just hope to survive and finish second. But when I passed him and started to pull away, I knew the changes worked. Here, we had to have a little bit more respect for each other, because the ovals are more dangerous and things happen so fast. But both of us were so focused on winning. I had to try outside in Turn One on the first lap and it was crazy oversteer, I thought I would go into the wall. I tried a couple of lines until I found one that worked. I think we’ll be really strong next weekend, so I’m very confident for the championship.”
 
Anthony Martin (#8 Mazda/Burgess BLA – Cape Motorsports): “We were fighting really hard at the start. We struggled with the car a little bit during the race while Victor and the Juncos team had a really good car and really good race pace. He was just able to make the car stick in Turn One and get around, and I couldn’t stay with him. We were fast all weekend so it’s a shame to finish it like that, but we took good points, and he’s only two points ahead. It doesn’t matter who’s ahead and who’s behind, you go in to win the race. At this point, I have to get all the points I can so you forget the championship, really. You have to win, there’s nothing else. I’m going to go into the last two races striving to do my best. Anything can happen at Watkins Glen so we’ll go in with guns blazing.”
 
Carlos Cunha (#81 Team Pelfrey): “I think ovals are amazing! I thought it would be easy but when we came here for the test two weeks ago, I realized it would not be easy. I actually touched the wall twice during the race. You need to be technical all the time and tell the engineers the right things because the car is the most important. You have to drive on the limit and you get what you get – and for us, that was third place today. Victor and Anthony had better place but for my first oval, it was good. I had no mistakes and we finished on the podium. I’m really excited to do another oval.”
 
###
 
About Pro Mazda: The Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires debuted in 2013 as a new series, replacing the Star Mazda Championship which ceased operation in 2012 after 22 years. The series is sanctioned by INDYCAR and owned and operated by Andersen Promotions. It is the second official step on the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires ladder system with the series’ champion awarded a scholarship package from Mazda to advance to Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires competition the following year. For more information, visit promazdachampionship.com
 
About Mazda, Mazda Motorsports: Mazda Motorsports boasts the most comprehensive auto racing development ladder system of any auto manufacturer in the world. The Mazda Road to 24 program offers a number of scholarships to advance drivers up the sports car racing ladder, beginning with the Global MX-5 Cup series and culminating with the Mazda Prototype team. The Mazda Road to Indy is a similar program that includes Mazda-powered categories of USF2000, Pro Mazda and Indy Lights. In grassroots road racing, more Mazdas race on any given weekend in North America than any other manufacturer. Mazda is also the title sponsor of the renowned Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif. Follow all of the latest news at MazdaMotorsports.com, @MazdaRacing on Twitter, and MazdaMotorsports on Instagram and Facebook. 
 
About Cooper Tire & Rubber Company: Cooper Tire & Rubber Company is the parent company of a global family of companies that specializes in the design, manufacture, marketing and sale of innovative, great-performing tires that you can count on to last for thousands of miles, getting you where you need to go, and back again. Cooper is proud to be the spec tire for all three levels of the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires, a development program within the IndyCar racing series. Cooper tires can also be seen on the track as a sponsor in the short course off-road TORC Series. Headquartered in Findlay, Ohio, Cooper, with its subsidiaries, has manufacturing, sales, distribution, technical and design operations in more than one dozen countries around the world. To connect with Cooper, visit www.coopertire.comwww.facebook.com/coopertire or www.twitter.com/coopertire.
Categories
Mazda Road to Indy Open Wheel

Juncos Racing To Have Three Pro Mazda Entries in 2018

Even with a couple rounds left before the 2017 Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires is decided, excitement is building towards next season and the debut of the new car, the Tatuus PM-18.

Juncos Racing became the first team to officially confirm they have purchased chassis for 2018, buying three cars.

“We have been in the Pro Mazda series for nine years now and we would not be where we are today without this series,” Ricardo Juncos said. “This series has not only helped drivers grow into the next level, but has helped us grow as a team and a business. We have grown from a Pro Mazda team only to an Indy Lights and Pro Mazda team and now we are expanding to include the Verizon IndyCar Series. The new PM-18 car will also help us grow our successful Driver Development Program, which this team is based on, by providing a car that is technologically advanced. In the past we have run four cars in the Pro Mazda series, but next year we will start with a three-car program as we continue to expand into the Verizon IndyCar Series. We are looking forward to delivery of the cars in early September, and getting them on track for the Chris Griffis Memorial Test in October.”

This past season, Juncos Racing entered a pair of entries in the second-tier of the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires, with Victor Franzoni sitting second in the standings, just four markers behind Anthony Martin. The organization has won the series title on three different occasions.

“There are few teams in the Pro Mazda paddock with the history of Juncos Racing,” said Dan Andersen, Owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions, which operates all three levels of the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires. “I am extremely pleased that they’ve stepped up and ordered three of our new PM-18 racecars. This new car will provide vastly increased performance and improved safety, and will close the gap in lap times to Indy Lights. Our goal is to provide the best training for Pro Mazda drivers intent on moving to Indy Lights, and Juncos Racing can certainly offer a great team effort to accomplish that goal.”

The Tatuus PM-18 features a full carbon composite and aluminum honeycomb monocoque chasis manufactured by Tatuus Racing. The 2-litre MZR-PM18A Mazda engines will be prepared by Elite Engines and have a maximum torque of 190 Ft. Lbs. with a fly-by-wire throttle system and Cosworth  SQ6 engine management system.

“The Mazda Road to Indy is far more than a driver development program: it offers the same benefits for teams as well,” said John Doonan, Director of Motorsports for Mazda North American Operations. To see that nearly a decade of involvement in the MRTI by Ricardo Juncos and Juncos Racing led to their entry in the Indianapolis 500 and the Verizon IndyCar Series is something we were thrilled to see. Now, we’re also thrilled to see them continue to commit to the Mazda Road to Indy with the order of the new PM-18 Pro Mazda cars. We’re certain they will remain one of the teams to beat in all of the categories of the program.”

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

Martin Regains Pro Mazda Points Lead with Dominant Mid-Ohio Win

LEXINGTON , Ohio – Anthony Martin enjoyed a picture perfect morning under a glorious blue sky at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course as he sped to an uncontested victory for Cape Motorsports in the third and final leg of the Cooper Tires Pro Mazda Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio Presented by Allied Building Products. The 22-year-old from Perth, Australia, led every inch of the way from pole position and added the fastest lap for good measure just one lap from the finish of today’s ninth round of the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires.
 
Martin’s fifth win of the season vaulted him ahead of primary title rival Victor Franzoni, from Sao Paulo, Brazil, in their tussle for a Mazda Scholarship worth almost $800,000 to assist in the progression to Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, the final step on the Mazda Road to Indy open-wheel development ladder, in 2018.
 
Franzoni finished a distant second for Juncos Racing, following a duel throughout the 30-minute contest with Brazilian countryman Carlos Cunha (Team Pelfrey).
 
After being denied victory yesterday due to an incident with a slower car, Martin took off at the start this morning with one goal in mind: to win… by as big a margin as possible. He established a torrid pace and extended his lead with virtually every lap before finally crossing the finish line a commanding 13.9957 seconds clear of Franzoni, who had overtaken front row qualifier Cunha under braking for Turn Two on the opening lap but was never able to shake off his pursuer.
 
The trio of distinctive yellow Team Pelfrey cars ran in close formation for the first lap or so before TJ Fischer managed to find a way past fellow Los Angeles resident Nikita Lastochkin. Fischer settled into a relatively lonely fourth place until the closing stages, when the youngest driver in the field, 15-year-old Sting Ray Robb (World Speed Motorsports), from Payette, Idaho, began to loom larger in his mirrors. 
 
Robb, who started sixth, overtook Lastochkin after seven laps, then reduced a deficit to Fischer of more than four seconds to just a few car lengths at the checkered flag during his most impressive performance of the season so far.
 
Robb’s teammate, Bobby Eberle, earned the Staubli Award after finishing sixth ahead of Max Hanratty (ArmsUp Motorsports), from Milwaukee, Wis., who secured the Quarter Master Hard Charger Award after rising from 11th on the grid.
 
Bob Kaminsky (Bob Kaminsky Racing), from Homer Glen, Ill., survived a quick spin to finish ninth overall and extend his lead in the National Class points chase with his fifth win in just seven starts.
 
Martin now leads Franzoni by four points, 259-255, as the title hopefuls head next to Gateway Motorsports Park for their only oval race of the season on August 26.
 
Under the direction of series officials, the cars of Martin, Franzoni and Fischer have been impounded for further evaluation to be performed in Indianapolis this week. This is an extension of the current inspection process. When completed, the procedure and outcome will be published. The results from today’s race will remain unofficial until that point.
 
Anthony Martin (#8 Mazda/Burgess BLA-Cape Motorsports): “I knew I had one job to do and that was to win the race. I was a little ticked off from yesterday so I might have had a little more aggression today, but I had to put what happened yesterday out of my mind – racing is racing and those things happen. I didn’t look behind me until the back straight, when the team told me that Victor was in second and that I needed to go. From there, it was head down. The Cape boys gave me a great car all weekend and it was almost a 100 percent successful weekend. It was great to see we could do it and that helps with three races to go. Pressure motivates me to do better and I think being on top makes me go faster so I’m confident going forward.”
Victor Franzoni (#23 Juncos Racing): “I knew I had to get into second on the first lap and I did. We struggled a little bit today as the track changed so much, but we are second in the championship and it is still really close. We made what we could here – we weren’t fastest, but we won one and finished second in the other two. I can’t get too nervous but I like the adrenalin. I am taking it race by race and not thinking too much about the championship and that seems to be working. Whoever wins the next race will be leading the championship so I am focused on the oval now. Juncos Racing has so much oval experience, including racing in the Indy 500 this year, so I’m excited.”
 
Carlos Cunha (#81 Team Pelfrey): “What a great weekend – I got my first Mazda Road to Indy pole position and two podium finishes. We have improved so much. The Team Pelfrey guys have worked so hard and we are learning a lot. We need to figure out my first lap because that hasn’t been perfect. In the three starts this weekend, I lost two positions. My two teammates started behind me on new tires but I did great work to stay behind Victor. I had great pace but it’s hard to overtake. I tried in Turn Five and we were so close to crashing. I focused forward rather than behind and it was a great race. Now it’s time to focus on my first oval, which will be awesome. We just need to be prepared.”
###
About Pro Mazda: The Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires debuted in 2013 as a new series, replacing the Star Mazda Championship which ceased operation in 2012 after 22 years. The series is sanctioned by INDYCAR and owned and operated by Andersen Promotions. It is the second official step on the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires ladder system with the series’ champion awarded a scholarship package from Mazda to advance to Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires competition the following year. For more information, visit promazdachampionship.com
 
About Mazda, Mazda Motorsports: Mazda Motorsports boasts the most comprehensive auto racing development ladder system of any auto manufacturer in the world. The Mazda Road to 24 program offers a number of scholarships to advance drivers up the sports car racing ladder, beginning with the Global MX-5 Cup series and culminating with the Mazda Prototype team. The Mazda Road to Indy is a similar program that includes Mazda-powered categories of USF2000, Pro Mazda and Indy Lights. In grassroots road racing, more Mazdas race on any given weekend in North America than any other manufacturer. Mazda is also the title sponsor of the renowned Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif. Follow all of the latest news at MazdaMotorsports.com, @MazdaRacing on Twitter, and MazdaMotorsports on Instagram and Facebook. 
 
About Cooper Tire & Rubber Company: Cooper Tire & Rubber Company is the parent company of a global family of companies that specializes in the design, manufacture, marketing and sale of innovative, great-performing tires that you can count on to last for thousands of miles, getting you where you need to go, and back again. Cooper is proud to be the spec tire for all three levels of the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires, a development program within the IndyCar racing series. Cooper tires can also be seen on the track as a sponsor in the short course off-road TORC Series. Headquartered in Findlay, Ohio, Cooper, with its subsidiaries, has manufacturing, sales, distribution, technical and design operations in more than one dozen countries around the world. To connect with Cooper, visit www.coopertire.comwww.facebook.com/coopertire or www.twitter.com/coopertire.
Categories
Mazda Road to Indy Open Wheel

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

LEXINGTON , Ohio. – Round Eight (out of 12) of the hotly contested Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires once again boiled down to a tense battle between Victor Franzoni (Juncos Racing) and Anthony Martin (Cape Motorsports). Just as was the case yesterday, the Brazilian and the Australian were never separated by more than a few car lengths. Only this time, after taking his fourth pole of the season and holding a narrow advantage for the majority of the 35-minute Pro Mazda Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio Presented by Allied Building Products, Martin was unfortunate enough to run afoul of a lapped car with just a few minutes to go, gifting an opportunity for Franzoni to sneak past and secure his fourth win of the season.
 
Another Brazilian, Carlos Cunha, took advantage of another clash with lapped traffic on the last lap to pass Team Pelfrey teammate Nikita Lastochkin for the final place on the podium.
 
After edging his rival to the pole in qualifying this morning by almost three tenths of a second, Martin, from Perth, Australia, duly accelerated into the lead at the start. Martin maintained his lead for almost 23 laps around the undulating 2.258-mile Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, while Franzoni ducked and dived in his mirrors, anxiously looking for a way past.
 
Just when it looked as though Martin would snag his fifth win – his third in succession and twice in as many days – the two leaders encountered the second Juncos Racing entry of Jeff Green, from Peoria, Ill., who for most of the race had been trying to fend off the advances of Pittsburgh, Pa., native Kris Wright (JDC MotorSports). Faced with a much slower car in front of him at the entry to the tricky, off-camber Carousel turn, Martin was forced to try to make a pass around the outside line. Unfortunately, at the same moment, Green drifted wide into his path. Martin was forced to take evasive action which allowed Franzoni to sneak past on the inside and take over the lead.
 
Green then spun causing a full-course caution which left just enough time for a one-lap dash to the finish line. Franzoni made no mistakes as he held on to win by less than a half-second from an aggrieved Martin, who took small consolation from claiming the additional championship points for posting the fastest lap of the race and leading most laps.
 
Franzoni now holds a slender five-point edge, 230-225, heading into tomorrow’s ninth round of the 12-race season, for which the green flag will fly at 10:20 a.m. EDT.
 
Los Angeles-based Russian Lastochkin snatched third place from teammate Cunha on the opening lap and held it until Turn Two on the final lap when his attempt to pass the lapped World Speed Motorsports entry of Bobby Eberle ended with contact and allowed Cunha to take the place. TJ Fischer, from Los Angeles, Calif., also profited from the incident to finish fourth ahead of an unhappy Lastochkin and Sting Ray Robb (World Speed Motorsports), from Payette, Idaho, who garnered the Staubli Award after recovering well from a first-lap incident which had dropped him to the back of the field.
 
Bob Kaminsky (Bob Kaminsky Racing), from Homer Glen, Ill., claimed the National Class honors while finishing eighth overall ahead of Wright and Dave Zavelson (Unfair Advantage Motorsports), from Austin, Texas, who snagged the Quarter Master Hard Charger Award after rising from 14th on the grid.
 
Kaminsky’s fourth National Class win of the season vaulted him into the points lead ahead of Brendan Puderbach, from Bronx, N.Y., who finished 12th for FatBoy Racing!
 
Victor Franzoni (#23 Juncos Racing): “I had a better car and I was faster in the middle of the race but it was another day that I was just stuck and I couldn’t do anything. I had some good luck, which is what we need to win the championship. But to have the luck, you have to be in position so I’m really happy we did what we had to do. I was a little bit behind what happened. I saw Jeff (Green) moving so I’m not sure if he had a brake problem or what. I saw him go outside but I went inside, so I couldn’t see what was happening. I am starting second tomorrow so we’ll try to do the same – if I have the chance to pass, I will.”
 
Anthony Martin (#8 Mazda/Burgess BLA-Cape Motorsports): “Victor was right on my tail the entire race. I tried to be conservative with the tires so I found a lap time that I was comfortable doing and tried to stick with that. I knew that he wouldn’t be able to pass at those lap times. I looked in the mirrors to see where he was struggling versus where I was strong and tried to capitalize in those spots as much as I could. The race went well – I can’t thank Mazda and Cooper Tires enough, they give us everything we need to go out there and race, and the Cape guys gave me a great car as always. To set the fast time is always a good achievement. As far as what happened at the end of the race, getting put out by Victor’s teammate was not the way I wanted it to happen. It’s bad when lapped cars affect a championship.”
 
###
About Pro Mazda: The Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires debuted in 2013 as a new series, replacing the Star Mazda Championship which ceased operation in 2012 after 22 years. The series is sanctioned by INDYCAR and owned and operated by Andersen Promotions. It is the second official step on the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires ladder system with the series’ champion awarded a scholarship package from Mazda to advance to Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires competition the following year. For more information, visit promazdachampionship.com
 
About Mazda, Mazda Motorsports: Mazda Motorsports boasts the most comprehensive auto racing development ladder system of any auto manufacturer in the world. The Mazda Road to 24 program offers a number of scholarships to advance drivers up the sports car racing ladder, beginning with the Global MX-5 Cup series and culminating with the Mazda Prototype team. The Mazda Road to Indy is a similar program that includes Mazda-powered categories of USF2000, Pro Mazda and Indy Lights. In grassroots road racing, more Mazdas race on any given weekend in North America than any other manufacturer. Mazda is also the title sponsor of the renowned Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif. Follow all of the latest news at MazdaMotorsports.com, @MazdaRacing on Twitter, and MazdaMotorsports on Instagram and Facebook. 
 
About Cooper Tire & Rubber Company: Cooper Tire & Rubber Company is the parent company of a global family of companies that specializes in the design, manufacture, marketing and sale of innovative, great-performing tires that you can count on to last for thousands of miles, getting you where you need to go, and back again. Cooper is proud to be the spec tire for all three levels of the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires, a development program within the IndyCar racing series. Cooper tires can also be seen on the track as a sponsor in the short course off-road TORC Series. Headquartered in Findlay, Ohio, Cooper, with its subsidiaries, has manufacturing, sales, distribution, technical and design operations in more than one dozen countries around the world. To connect with Cooper, visit www.coopertire.comwww.facebook.com/coopertire or www.twitter.com/coopertire.
Categories
Mazda Road to Indy Open Wheel

Martin Tightens Pro Mazda Title Rivalry by Winning at Mid-Ohio

LEXINGTON , Ohio. – Anthony Martin, from Perth, Australia, scored a narrow victory over title rival Victor Franzoni, from Sao Paulo, Brazil, this afternoon in the first of three races which will comprise the Cooper Tires Pro Mazda Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio Presented by Allied Building Products. The pair are now separated by just three points as they chase a Mazda Scholarship worth over $790,000 to assist in the progression to Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, the final step on the Mazda Road to Indy open-wheel development ladder, in 2018.
 
Californian TJ Fischer rebounded from a disappointing weekend at Road America last month to complete the podium for Team Pelfrey.
Qualifying this morning for Round Seven of this year’s Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires threw up a surprise as Fischer’s young Brazilian teammate, Carlos Cunha, claimed the pole position ahead of title rivals Martin and Franzoni, who came into the weekend separated by just seven points after each winning three times in the opening six rounds.
 
After the first attempt at a start was waved off, Cunha edged away cleanly at the second time of asking, but he led only as far as Turn Four where a bold move to the inside under braking enabled Martin to claim the position. A close-following Franzoni also took advantage of his countryman’s loss of momentum to sneak through into second place.
 
The two leaders quickly stretched their lead, trading fastest laps as they edged away from Cunha, who in turn was unable to shake off Fischer.
 
Martin and Franzoni were never separated by more than a second, even as they worked their way past some slower traffic, but Martin maintained the upper hand to win by just 0.3847 second, securing Cape Motorsports its fourth Pro Mazda race win in succession at Mid-Ohio dating back to 2015 and yet another PFC Award.
 
The battle for third was just as intense until Lap 18, when Cunha inadvertently made contact with the lapped car of Jeff Green (Juncos Racing) at Turn Two. Cunha, who had been struggling with excessive understeer, was assessed a drive-through penalty but ended up losing only one position to Fischer – and still finishing ahead of the third Team Pelfrey car of Nikita Lastochkin, who had started a lowly seventh.
 
Max Hanratty (ArmsUp Motorsports), from Milwaukee, Wis., claimed sixth place and the Staubli Award following a race-long battle with Kris Wright (JDC MotorSports), from Pittsburgh, Pa.
 
Bob Kaminsky from Homer Glen, Ill., finished eighth overall and won the National Class for the third time this season, closing to within one point of Brendan Puderbach in the point standings.
 
Another qualifying session at 8:35 a.m. tomorrow will set the grid for this weekend’s second and third races, which will be held at 1:05 p.m. on Saturday and 10:20 a.m. on Sunday.
 
Anthony Martin (#8 Mazda/Burgess BLA-Cape Motorsports): “It was a perfect day – we just have to do that two more times this weekend! It’s a “one down” type feeling today, since we’re only halfway through our season. I have to focus forward and get as many points as I can. I got a good run on Carlos coming out of the Keyhole and was able to get to the inside of him, though I think the right side of my car was in the grass. It was quite slippery under braking but I was able to get past. I locked it up going through the corner but I was able to gather it up and go on my merry way. It was hard having someone filling up your mirrors so you have to focus on making no mistakes. It’s hard to pass here so I just had to be fast in the places he was fast. The Capes have done well here in the past so that gives me the motivation to push hard because I know I have the equipment to do it.”
 
Victor Franzoni (#23 Juncos Racing): “The points are really even now so we have to go for the win and try to increase that again. But today really came down to qualifying. The track changed so much between practice and qualifying and we were lost. The whole Juncos team sat down after qualifying and they gave me a great car to race. I was faster than Anthony but I couldn’t pass him. I had to let off to get a gap so I could get the point for the fastest lap. But we have found the car and are fast again and that will be important for the rest of the weekend.”
 
TJ Fischer (#82 Project O2-Team Pelfrey): “It’s been a very challenging weekend so far, so thanks to the Pelfrey team for working so hard. I hung in there during the race and was able to get by Carlos. We’ll hit the reset button and plan for qualifying tomorrow – two laps there will change your world, since Race Two goes off your quick lap and Race Three goes off your second quick lap. You have to bank not one, but two good laps so now that we’re in a good position, we’ll do our best to get to the front.”
 
###
About Pro Mazda: The Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires debuted in 2013 as a new series, replacing the Star Mazda Championship which ceased operation in 2012 after 22 years. The series is sanctioned by INDYCAR and owned and operated by Andersen Promotions. It is the second official step on the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires ladder system with the series’ champion awarded a scholarship package from Mazda to advance to Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires competition the following year. For more information, visit promazdachampionship.com
 
About Mazda, Mazda Motorsports: Mazda Motorsports boasts the most comprehensive auto racing development ladder system of any auto manufacturer in the world. The Mazda Road to 24 program offers a number of scholarships to advance drivers up the sports car racing ladder, beginning with the Global MX-5 Cup series and culminating with the Mazda Prototype team. The Mazda Road to Indy is a similar program that includes Mazda-powered categories of USF2000, Pro Mazda and Indy Lights. In grassroots road racing, more Mazdas race on any given weekend in North America than any other manufacturer. Mazda is also the title sponsor of the renowned Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif. Follow all of the latest news at MazdaMotorsports.com, @MazdaRacing on Twitter, and MazdaMotorsports on Instagram and Facebook. 
 
About Cooper Tire & Rubber Company: Cooper Tire & Rubber Company is the parent company of a global family of companies that specializes in the design, manufacture, marketing and sale of innovative, great-performing tires that you can count on to last for thousands of miles, getting you where you need to go, and back again. Cooper is proud to be the spec tire for all three levels of the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires, a development program within the IndyCar racing series. Cooper tires can also be seen on the track as a sponsor in the short course off-road TORC Series. Headquartered in Findlay, Ohio, Cooper, with its subsidiaries, has manufacturing, sales, distribution, technical and design operations in more than one dozen countries around the world. To connect with Cooper, visit www.coopertire.comwww.facebook.com/coopertire or www.twitter.com/coopertire.
Categories
Mazda Road to Indy Open Wheel

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.”
 
###
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: 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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