The Cooper Tires USF2000 powered by Mazda field took to the track for their first practice session of the day at 12:10pm (CT). In what is an extremely condensed day, they are back on track for qualifying at 2:30pm and again for their first race of the weekend at 6:10pm.

TSO chatted with one USF2000 owner who said the bang-bang-bang nature of today’s schedule could be a blessing or a curse. Because there is little time to analyze data and make changes, having a good car in the first session is a blessing, while struggling would be a curse.

It was Aaron Telitz and his Cape Motorsports with /WTR teammate Nico Jamin who got out to the quick start during the half-hour session and they were joined by in the top five by Jake Eidson, Victor Franzoni and Yufeng Luo at the half-way point of the session.

Just after the half-way point, the session went red when Russian rookie Nikita Lastochkin had an off in Turn 1 and was stuck in the gravel trap on the outside of the turn. The car suffered moderate left side damage and the Team Pelfrey crew will have to thrash to get him ready for qualifying at 2:30pm.

The session did go back green for five minutes, but nobody was able to catch Telitz, who turned the quickest lap at 1:23.623. The rest of the USF2000 “Fantastic Four” consisting of Jamin, Eidson, and Franzoni, also joined Telitz in the top five. The final driver to crack the top five was Yufeng Luo. It was the Pabst Racing rookies best placing in a practice session so far this year.

The full session report is below:

RANK CAR NO. DRIVER QUICKEST LAP
1 3 Aaron Telitz 1:23.623
2 2 Nico Jamin 1:23.686
3 22 Jake Eidson 1:23.725
4 17 Victor Franzoni 1:24.318
5 23 Yufeng Luo 1:24.519
6 33 Anthony Martin 1:24.537
7 82 Luke Gabin 1:25.091
8 80 Parker Thompson 1:25.145
9 5 Keyvan Andres Soori 1:25.307
10 81 Ayla Agren 1:25.319
11 84 Nikita Lastochkin 1:25.956
12 83 Garth Rickards 1:25.960
13 6 Max Hanratty 1:26.311
14 12 Augie Lerch 1:26.438
15 16 James Dayson 1:26.990

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This happened between Indy Lights practice sessions.  It’s great to see “veteran” drivers helping out the youngsters.

 

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The second and final Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tire session went green right around 1pm.

TSO did learn that the No. 4 of Belardi Auto Racing pilot Felix Serralles did under go an engine change between sessions. And only five minutes into the half-hour session the Puerto Rican native brought out the session’s only red flag. He was brought back to the pits and the crew and AER engine techs spent the majority of the session go over the newly installed Mazda power plant. He was able to get out and turn some laps late in the going.

The session was led by championship leader Ed Jones who turned a best time of 1:12.978 in his No. 11 Toys For Boys Miami/United Rivers sponsored Mazda/Dallara. The rest of the top five were Spencer Pigot, Kyle Kaiser, Jack Harvey and Max Chilton.

The 12 drivers combined to turn 152 laps and the Top 7 drivers were all within one second of Jones.

All times are as follows:

RANK CAR NO. DRIVER QUICK LAP TIME
1 11 Ed Jones 1:12.978
2 12 Spencer Pigot 1:13.125
3 18 Kyle Kaiser 1:13.344
4 42 Jack Harvey 1:13.392
5 14 Max Chilton 1:13.564
6 7 RC Enerson 1:13.659
7 77 Scott Anderson 1:13.825
8 5 Juan Piedrahita 1:14.199
9 51 Shelby Blackstock 1:14.397
10 8 Sean Rayhall 1:14.410
11 71 Ethan Ringel 1:14.756
12 4 Felix Serralles 1:15.427

One rookie driver that TSO has been watching with great interest is the 2014 USF2000 vice-champion RC Enerson. We were curious to see how the just turned 18 year-old handled the jump up two rungs on the ladder. He suffered from some bad luck at St. Pete, but he impressed with a steady drive to fourth place at Long Beach. The gap from him to the top of the field has slowly been decreasing with each session and during the final practice session here at Barber Motorsports Park he was only six tenths of a second behind leader Jones and only two tenths of a second behind his sophomore teammate Harvey.

We asked the Port Richey, Florida native what the biggest adjustment was between the two cars and he explained that trusting the amount of grip that the Cooper Tire shod IL-15 has in the corners and under braking was the biggest change he had to come to grips with. Interestingly, he did say that he didn’t think the top speed difference between the two cars was that great.

Often times during sessions, we are glued to our seats in the media center in order to watch the timing and scoring and the at track TV feed all why writing the session as is happens. Since it was only a half an hour practice session I decided to head down and watch the Indy Lights session from pit road, something I’ve done hundreds of times in the past, but have yet to do this year. And, wow… what a difference in intensity from previous years. I’m not sure if it’s the new car, or the addition of competitive teams like Carlin and Juncos Racing, but level of “serious” is certainly many notches higher than it has been in the past.
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Next up for the Mazda Road To Indy is consecutive qualifying sessions for all three series.

USF2000 leads the way at 2:30pm, Pro Mazda follows at 3:15pm and Indy Lights brings up the rear at 4pm.

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