Mazda Road To Indy Returns To Road America
This weekend will see all three levels of the highly acclaimed Mazda Road to Indy in support of the Verizon IndyCar Series’ Kohler Grand Prix at Road America.
Located in Elkhart Lake, Wis., the 4.048-mile, 14-turn road course has long been a driver and fan favorite.
Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires has held only four events at the legendary circuit, making its last appearance 25 years ago in 1990 with Paul Tracy taking the win en route to the championship title. The Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda have a more recent history. The last Pro Mazda race took place in 2010 with IndyCar talent Conor Daly winning from the pole. USF2000 last held a tripleheader event in 2012 with Matthew Brabham and Scott Anderson earning victory honors.
Title Chase Heats Up in Indy Lights as New Faces Join the Fray
Six drivers have claimed victory in the eight rounds held to date but only two drivers have notched a pair of wins in the hotly contested championship – Ed Jones of Carlin and Dean Stoneman of Andretti Autosport. Only 29 points separate the two at the season’s halfway mark with Jones looking to extend his lead this weekend.
Hot on their heels are Santi Urrutia (Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian), Kyle Kaiser (Juncos Racing) and Felix Serralles (Belardi Auto Racing), who are separated by a mere six points with Urrutia only 10 markers in arrears of Stoneman.
The majority of the Lights teams tested at Road America in May including Carlin, Juncos Racing, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, Andretti Autosport and Belardi Auto Racing.
“It’s so much like Spa with the long straights and fast corners,” said Jones. “That can make it difficult to put a good lap together because there are so many things to get right. It’s very challenging and I really enjoy that. It’s one of my favorites here. With the flowing, high-speed corners and heavy braking zones, it has a good mixture of everything. I think the racing will be very good especially since the long straights should create more opportunities for passing.”
“It’s a high-speed, flowing track and it’s really enjoyable to drive,” added Stoneman. “It’s got a bit of everything: high-speed, low-speed, sweepers and 90-degree corners. It’s enjoyable to work with your engineer here, to figure out how to make the car better on the whole track. It’s been a learning curve for us in developing the car this season, especially since last year Andretti Autosport had one car and this year they have three. Between the three of us, we have the car going in the right direction.”
Andretti Autosport indeed has shown its progress. In the most recent round – the Freedom 100 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway – Stoneman took the win while teammate Dalton Kellett finished third to claim his career-best result with Shelby Blackstock fourth.
Two new faces will be on the Road America grid as Garett Grist moves up from Pro Mazda to make his Indy Lights debut with Team Pelfrey and James French of nearby Sheboygan debuts with Belardi Auto Racing, filling in for Sweden’s Felix Rosenqvist who has European racing commitments this weekend.
The Mazda Indy Lights Grand Prix of Road America Presented by Cooper Tires will feature Race 1 at 1:00 pm EDT on Saturday and Race 2 at 9:45 am on Sunday. All Indy Lights track activity will be livestreamed on the Road To Indy TV App as well as indylights.com and indycar.com. Sunday’s feature race will have same day coverage on NBCSN at 3:30 pm.
Telitz Looking for Pro Mazda Victories in Hometown Race
Pato O’Ward has taken an impressive stranglehold on the Pro Mazda championship. The 17-year-old Monterrey, Mexico native has won six of the first seven races and is looking to eclipse Matthew’s Brabham’s record of seven wins in the first eight races in 2013.
With a seemingly comfortable 55-point lead in the championship standings heading into the weekend, O’Ward’s biggest threat remains his Team Pelfrey teammate Aaron Telitz who has been the only other driver to feature on the top step of the podium to date this season.
Telitz, who was born in Rice Lake and lives in Birchwood, has had many firsts at the Road America circuit and is expecting a sizable contingent of family and friends this weekend for his home race.
“Road America really is a special place for me,” said Telitz. “This was where I had my first experience in a race car, at the three-day Skip Barber Racing School, my first race and my first race win. I’ve never had a ‘home’ race on the Mazda Road to Indy before, so this is going to be exciting. Pretty much my entire extended family will be there, plus friends from Birchwood. I have a lot of friends from college in Eau Claire coming down and camping out, so it will be a huge event for me.
“This is the biggest track we go to. It’s got huge straightaways and huge elevation changes, so it’s pretty extreme. It’s super old-school. In all the races this weekend, you’re going to see lots of passing and groups of cars running together because they’ll be able to draft together. We’ll be running less downforce in the car because the straights are so long and that will make for some exciting racing. The fans are going to love it!”
As for his thoughts on the championship, Telitz is looking to take the battle all the way to the end.
“I came into the year planning to do the best I could and to take away a win and a second at the first race weekend and then go into a string of second-place finishes was an awesome way to start the year. I’m planning to keep the string of podium finishes going, because that’s what it takes to win a championship. IndyCar is where I want to go – that’s been my goal since Day One in race cars and I haven’t wavered from that.”
With the departure of Garett Grist to Indy Lights, Juncos Racing’s Will Owen will more than likely slot into third place in the championship standings. Owen left the month of May with a pair of podium finishes and will be looking to fend off the challenges from reigning USF2000 champion and Mazda scholarship winner Nico Jamin. The Cape Motorsports w/ Wayne Taylor Racing driver sits only five points behind Owen followed by Jake Parsons of Juncos Racing.
One to watch this weekend will be TJ Fischer who moves up from USF2000 and will be making his Pro Mazda debut out of the dominant Team Pelfrey stable.
In National Class action, regular Bobby Eberle of JDC MotorSports will be looking to hold off the advances of teammate Kevin Davis and Bob Kaminsky of Kaminsky Racing who returns to the series this weekend.
The pair of Pro Mazda Grand Prix of Road America races, comprising Rounds 8 and 9 of the championship, will take place on Saturday at 9:55 am EDT and 3:05 pm with live streaming of all sessions on the Road To Indy TV App and at promazda.com and indycar.com.
Cape Motorsports Teammates Battle for USF2000 Supremacy
With a string of five victories in the last five rounds, Cape Motorsports w/ Wayne Taylor Racing teammates Parker Thompson and Anthony Martin appear poised to lead the squad to its fifth consecutive team championship and sixth consecutive driver championship.
Thompson, of Red Deer, Alberta, Canada has been a mark of consistency, starting on the front row in all seven rounds held to date and only once finishing outside the top four. He has amassed the most wins this season with three. Martin, from Kalgoorlie, Australia, also has been a fixture at the top of the timesheets with six top-five finishes and two wins.
Not to be counted out in the championship title chase, however, are local teams Pabst Racing (Oconomowoc) and ArmsUp Motorsports (Sheboygan Falls). Pabst Racing teammates Jordan Lloyd and Yufeng Luo are the only other drivers to score victories to date this season, with Lloyd sitting third in the standings and Luo fifth. The pair are separated by Victor Franzoni of ArmsUp Motorsports who has scored podium finishes in each of the last three events.
Max Hanratty, also of ArmsUp Motorsports, will be one to watch as well as he looks to impress in his home race. Hanratty was born in Hartland and currently resides in Milwaukee. He is also a shareholder and season ticket holder for the Green Bay Packers.
The USF2000 National Class will see an expanded field this weekend with Eric Filgueiras (Spencer Racing), Green Bay’s Dale VandenBush (ArmsUp Motorsports), Brendan Puderbach (Fat Boy Racing) and Charles Finelli (Fat Boy Racing).
The Cooper Tires USF2000 Grand Prix of Road America Powered by Mazda will kick off with a pair of races on Saturday at 9:00 am EDT and 1:10 pm. All on-track activity will be live streamed on the Road To Indy TV App and at usf2000.com and indycar.com.