Urrutia takes lead in Pro Mazda to Iowa
The Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires will return to Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa, for the first time since 2012, joining Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires and the headlining Verizon IndyCar Series for what promises to be an exciting day of action on Saturday, July 18.
Pro Mazda is the middle rung on the acclaimed Mazda Road to Indy which provides MAZDASPEED Driver Development scholarships to assist talented drivers in progressing from the grassroots of the sport all the way through to the Verizon IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500. This year’s title-chase is finely poised with 11 of 16 races in the books and at least seven drivers still holding legitimate aspirations of winning the championship and claiming the scholarship package to graduate into Indy Lights in 2016.
Uruguayan rookie Santi Urrutia currently leads the championship following an impressive first-ever campaign in North America with Team Pelfrey after racing in Europe for the past four years. Urrutia has won twice – at NOLA Motorsports Park and the Indianapolis Grand Prix circuit – but struggled in his only previous race on an oval at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis in May.
Californian Neil Alberico lies second in the championship chase for Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing, 30 markers adrift of Urrutia and intent upon bouncing back from a dismal weekend on the streets of Toronto, Canada, where he failed to finish both races. Alberico, who finished third in the 2014 standings, has won three times this year. He also finished a strong second on the Lucas Oil Raceway oval.
Malaysian Weiron Tan (Andretti Autosport) scored a dominant victory at LOR and will be among the favorites for top honors this weekend. The former European F3 racer currently holds fourth in the standings, just seven points adrift of Frenchman Timothé Buret (Juncos Racing) and 43 points shy of Urrutia.
Buret’s teammate, Garett Grist, from Grimsby, Ont., Canada, endured a difficult start to his sophomore Pro Mazda season after winning twice in 2014 (including at the Lucas Oil Raceway oval), but turned his campaign around with a clear victory last time out on his “home” track in Toronto. Grist also went on to dominate the subsequent series test at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course which will host the next two rounds of the series at the end of this month.
Other potential contenders in a tightly matched field will include impressive 16-year-old Pato O’Ward (Team Pelfrey), who hails originally from Monterrey, Mexico, but is attending school in San Antonio, Texas; Frenchman Florian Latorre (Cape Motorsports), who won last year’s Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda and a MAZDASPEED scholarship to graduate into Pro Mazda; and a pair of Canadians, Daniel Burkett (Cape Motorsports), from Winnipeg, Man., and Dalton Kellett (Andretti Autosport) from Toronto, Ont.
After a pair of 45-minute practice sessions on Friday, July 17, at 9:15 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. CDT, the Pro Mazda competitors will qualify at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, July 18, then attend a driver autograph session in the INDYCAR Fan Village at 2:30 p.m. prior to the start of their race at 4:15 p.m. Live timing and commentary for all sessions will be available on the new Mazda Road to Indy App and at promazda.com with live streaming at racecontrol.indycar.com.