Carb Night Classic Features Two Levels Of The Mazda Road to Indy
All three levels of the acclaimed Mazda Road to Indy development ladder will see action this week as the excitement builds in anticipation of the historic 100th Indianapolis 500 on Memorial Day weekend.
Mere hours after the conclusion of Carb Day activities at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which will include the Freedom 100 – the highlight of the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires season – Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis will play host to rounds of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda and the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires.
The traditional “opening act” for the Indy 500 has been renamed the Carb Night Classic – “The Race Before the 500" – and will be held on Friday evening, May 27. The event also will include a round of the USAC Silver Crown Series.
O’Ward Seeks to Extend Win Streak, Championship Lead
Teen-aged Mexican talent Patricio “Pato” O’Ward has taken control of the Pro Mazda points chase by virtue of five wins from the first six races for Team Pelfrey. The youngster from Monterrey, Mexico, who now lives and attends school in San Antonio, Texas, will be looking to extend his current win streak to five after claiming a dominant double victory on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course two weeks ago.
Another triumph in Friday’s Cooper Tires Freedom 90 event at Lucas Oil Raceway – one of two Pro Mazda oval events this season – will bring the second-year racer within one win of matching Matthew Brabham’s record streak of seven consecutive wins en route to the championship and a coveted Mazda scholarship that assisted his progression to Indy Lights in 2013.
O’Ward’s challengers will include rookie teammate Aaron Telitz, from Birchwood, Wis., whose tally of one race win and four seconds sees him firmly ensconced in second place in the championship chase, and Canadian Garett Grist, who won the corresponding race at Lucas Oil Raceway in 2014 and claimed a fifth-place finish last year. Grist, from Grimsby, Ont., Canada, also recorded a second-place finish in USF2000 competition at LOR during his debut Mazda Road to Indy campaign in 2013.
Grist will be joined in the Brownsburg, Ind.-based Juncos Racing team by Colorado’s Will Owen, who secured a pair of podium finishes on the Indy road course, and a pair of rookies, Australian Jake Parsons, who also visited the podium for the first time, and Argentina’s Nicolas Dapero.
Jake Eidson, from Littleton, Colo., and Nico Jamin, from Rouen, France, finished first and second, respectively, last year in the USF2000 race at LOR, and will be looking to repeat that kind of form after stepping up to Pro Mazda as teammates with Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing.
Pro Mazda rookies will take to the 0.686-mile oval first for a 30-minute test session starting at 10:15 a.m. EDT on Thursday, May 26. Series veterans will join in for an additional 30 minutes at 10:45. The full field will have two additional one-hour tests at 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m., followed by a half-hour official practice at 6:15 p.m. On Friday, May 27, single-car qualifying will commence at 4:30 p.m., with the green flag for the 90-lap Cooper Tires Freedom 90 set for 7:10 p.m. Live timing and live streaming shows of qualifying and the race will be available on the Road To Indy TV App and at promazda.com.
Canadian Thompson on a Roll in USF2000
Former karting standout Parker Thompson, from Red Deer, Alb., Canada, endured a steep learning curve during his rookie USF2000 campaign in 2015 but is now enjoying the fruit of his efforts. Thompson has won three of the last four races – and has qualified first or second in each of the six races held to date – to open up a commanding 28-point lead in the chase for a Mazda scholarship to assist in graduation to the next step on the Mazda Road to Indy ladder, Pro Mazda, in 2017.
Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing teammate Anthony Martin, from Perth, Western Australia, currently lies second in the title-chase with one victory to his credit.
Pabst Racing teammates Jordan Lloyd, from Toowoomba, Australia, Yufeng Luo, who earlier this year became the first Chinese driver to win a race on the Mazda Road to Indy, and Garth Rickards, from Mechanicsburg, Pa., are seeking to emulate the form of Jake Eidson, who scored an emphatic victory for the Oconomowoc, Wis.-based team at Lucas Oil Raceway in 2015.
Martin, Luo, Thompson and Rickards finished fourth, fifth, sixth and ninth, respectively, at LOR one year ago, and will be looking to take full advantage of their experience.
Victor Franzoni, from Sao Paulo, Brazil, not only brings additional global recognition to the Mazda Road to Indy, he also has useful prior experience on the tricky oval after finishing third in 2014. Franzoni, who currently lies fourth in the points table with three podium finishes to his credit, will drive for ArmsUp Motorsports, which guided Aaron Telitz to Victory Lane in 2014.
Returning USF2000 veteran Luke Gabin (JAY Motorsports), from Australia, finished among the top 10 last year, while a strong rookie contingent will include 16-year-old Robert Megennis, from New York, N.Y., fast-improving Brazilian Lucas Kohl (John Cummiskey Racing), who is coached by Formula 1 and IndyCar veteran Roberto Moreno, and Californian Dakota Dickerson (Afterburner Autosport), who won last year’s Mazda/Skip Barber National Championship scholarship to make the step up into USF2000 for 2016.
The Mazda Freedom 75, Round Seven in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, will be the only oval event during the 16-race season. Rookie drivers will take the track first at 9:00 a.m. EDT on Thursday, May 26, for an exclusive 30-minute test before being joined by series veterans for an additional 30 minutes. The entire field have two more 60-minute test sessions at 11:30 a.m. and 2:45 p.m., followed by 30 minutes of official practice beginning at 5:30 p.m. Friday’s activities will commence with qualifying at 4:00 p.m. The 75-lap race is set to start at 6:10 p.m. Live timing and streaming shows of qualifying and the race will be available on the Road To Indy TV App and at usf2000.com.