Weiron Tan started his second straight Pro Mazda presented by Cooper Tire race on the pole, and this time he was able to hold of a stout challenge from Timothe Buret to cruise to his first official series victory. Tan also started on pole at NOLA Motorsports Park, but was unable to hold off a first lap charge by Santiago Urrutia.
After the first Verizon IndyCar Series practice session of the day was delayed a few minutes, the 30 minute timed race rolled off the grid at few minutes late with a green flag that flew a little before 10:30am.
The field of 17 Mazda powered machines were led to Turn 1 by Weiron Tan, but the starter didn’t wave the green flag as the drivers at the front of the field were strung out, while the drivers at the back of the field were stacked up four wide after a driver went wide onto the grass at the exit of Turn 17.
Buret and Tan said that they couldn’t get in sync, with one or the other “jumping” the gun two more times. Unfortunately, the first ten minutes of the 30 minute timed race was spent trying get started.
The fourth attempt to start the race resulted in a perfect two-by-two formation that allowed Buret to enter Turn 1 side-by-side with Tan, but Buret said that the track had really changed with the heavy overnight rains and he was unable to hold position ahead of Tan.
The 16 cars (Connery pulled off in Turn 4 on the first attempt at a start) remaining made it through the first six turns but Dalton Kellett and Jose Gutierrez got together in Turn 7. TSO was able to chat with Kellett after the race and he was visibly upset and explained that Guttierez, the Juncos Racing sophomore drove into the side of him, and called the move dangerous and compared it to something a five year old karter would attempt.
JDC Motorsports rookie driver Raoul Owens was the biggest beneficiary of the Kellett/Guttierez brouhaha as he was able to move up from his 13th starting spot to 6th at the end of the first lap. The top 5 at the end of the first lap were: Tan, Buret, Santiago Urrutia, Neil Alberico and Pato O’Ward.
Tan who eventually won by 2.1 seconds, was able to slowly build his lead by turning laps incrementally quicker than Buret.
The best battle back in the field was between Owens, Garett Grist, Florian Latorre and Will Owen for 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th place. There were many attempted passes among the foursome, but the only one that stuck was when Latorre got around Owens in Turn 5 on lap 11.
After the race, Tan said that having experience at this track (during Cooper Tires Winterfest) certainly helped and theta the team has a really fast base set-up for this track. He thinks they can still improve a little more, which can’t be good news for the rest of the field.
Urrutia, a Uruguayan rookie had mixed feelings on the race. He said he was happy for the championship points, but was not happy with the team’s pace relative to Tan and Buret. He also explained that coming to a new track every week was quite challenging.
Championship leader Neil Alberico started sixth, and brought home his No. 3 Cape Motorsports with /WTR machine home in fourth.
The full race #1 results are as follows:
|RANK||CAR NO.||DRIVER||QUICKEST LAP|
The next Pro Mazda presented by Cooper Tire race will take place at 9am (CT) on Sunday.