Team Pelfrey’s Pro Mazda Trio Lead the Way to Barber
O’Ward Heads Mazda Road to Indy Series’ Standings
PALMETTO, Fla. – The battle for this year’s Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires – and the Mazda scholarship package to graduate to Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires in 2017 – heats up this weekend at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala. A pair of Mazda North American Operations Presents the Pro Mazda Grand Prix of Alabama races will comprise Rounds Three and Four of the 16-race schedule.
Team Pelfrey displayed blistering pace at the challenging 2.3-mile road course during the pre-season Spring Training test in early March. The Florida-based organization continued that form in the first two races at St. Petersburg, Fla., where Patricio “Pato” O’Ward, from Monterrey, Mexico, and rookie Aaron Telitz, from Birchwood, Wis., each scored a win and a second-place finish to assume the early championship advantage. Telitz, who was fastest in Spring Training, also won one of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda races in 2015 at Barber.
Malaysian Weiron Tan ensured a Team Pelfrey one-two-three sweep in Round Two at St. Pete and has every intention of taking his turn in the Winner’s Circle this weekend after claiming two poles and one race win at Barber in 2015. All three have their sights set on emulating Uruguay’s Santiago Urrutia, who secured a pair of podium finishes at Barber for Team Pelfrey en route to the championship title and a Mazda Scholarship to ensure his graduation to Indy Lights for 2016. Team Pelfrey also clinched the 2012 Pro Mazda championship with current Verizon IndyCar Series driver Jack Hawksworth.
Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing and Juncos Racing also will have high expectations this weekend.
Cape will field cars for a pair of rookies, Nico Jamin, from Rouen, France, and Jake Eidson, from Littleton, Colo., each of whom claimed top-four results at St. Petersburg. Both are stepping up from USF2000. Jamin was a dominant force, winning 10 out of 16 races, including one at Barber, to become the Cape team’s fifth consecutive champion driver, while Eidson also displayed race-winning form in 2015.
Juncos Racing’s challenge will be headed by Garett Grist, from Grimsby, Ont., Canada, who has raced a Pro Mazda car in each of the past two seasons at Barber Motorsports Park, earning a podium finish last year. Grist began the new year as a firm championship favorite after earning more championship points than anyone else during the second half of the 2015 campaign, and will be looking to rebound from a disappointing opening weekend at St. Petersburg which netted no better than a sixth and an eighth-place result.
The team’s best finisher at St. Petersburg was Australian rookie Jake Parsons, who took fifth in Race Two. Parsons has accumulated much success in Asia over the past two years. Teammate Will Owen, from Castle Rock, Colo., who is now beginning his second year in Pro Mazda, will be looking to improve on his fourth-place run at Barber last year and Argentinean rookie Nicolas Dapero, who contested some Brazilian Formula 3 races last year, will also be one to watch.
Mazda North American Operations Presents the Pro Mazda Grand Prix of Alabama will commence with a pair of test sessions at 9:20 a.m. CDT and 12 noon on Thursday, April 21, followed by the first official practice session later in the afternoon at 3:45 p.m. A second practice session is slated for 8:45 a.m. on Friday, with qualifying for the first of two races at 2:25 p.m. Round Three of the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires will start immediately following IndyCar qualifying on Saturday afternoon at 4:30 p.m., with Race Two set for 11:15 a.m. on Sunday, April 24. Live streaming shows of all sessions will be available on the Road To Indy TV App, and at promazda.com and indycar.com.