Last year the Mazda Road To Indy races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway produced five brand new winners from the the six races.
Luiz Razia (Indy Lights), Matthew Brabham (Indy Lights), Scott Hargrove (Pro Mazda), Will Owen (USF2000) and Adrian Starrantino (USF2000) were all first time winners on the 2.439-mile, 14-Turn road course in Speedway, Indiana.
Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tire
Last year’s Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tire races on the road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) featured two new winners. Luiz Razia and Matthew Brabham both won their first Indy Lights races, and both of them won from the pole.
The top of the Indy Lights championship table has a new name coming to the “Brickyard.” Carlin’s Ed Jones won the first three races and led the standings headed to Barber Motorsports Park, but it is Spencer Pigot who enters the hallowed IMS grounds with a seven point lead.
Rookie driver Pigot, will be looking for his sixth straight Indy Lights podium and third straight victory when the green flag falls on the first of two Indy Lights races at 4:30pm on Saturday afternoon. The double victories include the first Indy Lights triumphs for the reigning Pro Mazda presented by Cooper Tire champion and the Juncos Racing team.
The Orlando, Florida native will hope to reverse the bad luck that plagued him during the Pro Mazda races one year ago at IMS. Pigot started both races on pole, but fell victim to early incidents and finished both races in eight spot.
Jones and his Carlin team had won the first Indy Lights races of the year, but a lack of pace and some bad luck saw the 19 year-old finsih off the podium in both races at Barber Motorsports Park. A daring pass by RC Enerson relegated the Emerati driver to fourth place in the fist race and a punctured tire after a first lap scuffle with Kyle Kaiser sent the Formula 3 grad to his worst finish of the season, a disappointing eleventh place.
TSO will be watching how the swap at the top of the points standing impacts both drivers. Both drivers have experience leading a championship and coming from behind to win a championship. Pigot lead early in last years Pro Mazda championship only to give up that lead to Scott Hargrove late in the season. He was able to battle back and win the crown in the last race of the season. Jones missed the first two races of the Eurpean F3 Open championship in 2013 and had to battle from behind to win a hard fought nine point championship against the talented Sandy Stuvik.
Despite driving with a broken thumb at the very physical Barber Motorsports Park, Indy Lights sophomore driver Jack Harvey was able to put in two solid drives and stood on the second step of the podium in both races. That leaves him only twenty points behind Pigot and third in the championship. The 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was where Harvey began his title charge last year when he scored two podiums (3rd and 2nd), while Gabby Chaves struggled home to eighth and eleventh place finishes.
It took Formula 1 alum Max Chilton five races to score his first Indy Lights podium and he sure looked relieved afterwards. With his Nissan LMP1 commitments, it’s not known how long the 24 year-old will stick with Indy Lights, but he did confirm to TSO that he will competing in both the Grand Prix and Freedom 100 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Chilton was very quick in testing at NOLA Motorsports Park and this the road course at IMS is quite similar. Don’t be surprised to see him have a breakout weekend and find his way onto the top step of the podium.
After a rough start to the season at St. Pete, Jones Formula 3 running mate Felix Serralles has stated to find his stride. He’s scored on the top five quickest race laps in each of the last four races and has shown that he knows how to move forward after passing five cars on his way to a fourth place finish in the second race at Barber Motorsports Park.
Another driver that has rebounded nicely from bad luck at St. Pete is RC Enerson. The 18 year-old made a spectacular pass of Jones on the outside of Turn 16 in the first race at Barber Motorsports Park to secure his first Indy Lights podium. The 2014 USF2000 vice-champion told TSO that he expects to qualify better as he learns to trust the grip on sticker tires. Enerson excelled on high-speed circuits in the past, so don’t be surprised to see him up front at IMS.
Scott Anderson, the pilot of the No. 77 SPM with Curb-Agajanian Mazda powered Dallara is coming off his best finish of the season, a fifth place at Barber Motorsports Park. The Fort Collins, Colorado native should come to IMS with some confidence. The 24 year-old did have some success on the road course at IMS, where he came home in fifth and seventh.
Juan Piedrahita continued his steady season with another seventh and eighth place finish at Barber Motorsports Park. The 22 year-old MRTI veteran will be competing on the road course at IMS for the second straight year and will look to turn that into his first top five of the season.
Early in 2014, Kyle Kaiser looked like he might fight for a top five championship finish after an impressive run at St. Pete that saw him score two top fives. The 18 year-old has continued to qualify well, but has been involved in three straight first lap incidents. TSO wrote about mistakes being out of character for the Santa Clara, California native after Long Beach, but we’ll refrain from making the same comment after two more first lap schmozzles at Barber.
SPM with Curb-Agajanian’s Ethan Ringel has done what every rookie driver needs to do; log laps and continue to get quicker. The 21 year-old is one of only three drivers to complete all 182 laps contested so far this season. The 15 spots he’s gained over the course of five races is the most of any driver in the field.
Andretti Autosport and Shelby Blackstock are still searching for sweet-spot on the IL-15. The Nashville, Tennessee native did tell TSO at Barber Motorsports Park that he thought they made making gains on it.
8Star Motorsports will return with Sean Rayhall in their orange and black No. 8 for the second straight event. The Atlanta, Georgia based driver was impressive in his debut. Rayhall clocked the quickest race lap in the first race and gained two spots in the second race to finish sixth. A good start for a driver who had been out of an open-wheel car for five years.
Pro Mazda presented by Cooper Tire
New faces and driver movement
Victor Franzoni will be making the jump from USF2000 to Pro Mazda with M1 Racing. After two podiums, the 19-year old was sitting in fifth place in the USF2000 standings, but unfortunately the team he was driving for, Afterburner Autosport, was suspended for two events and he didn’t have a home. It’s good to see him end up on the grid at IMS and it will be interesting to see how long it takes him to adapt to the higher power and downforce Pro Mazda car.
Raoul Owens will be switching teams, but staying in Pro Mazda. He will go from the Minnesota based JDC Motorsports where he piloted the No. 19 to the Florida based Team Pelfrey where he will get behind the wheel of the No. 80. The 20 year-old from Pembury, Kent is currently in 12th place in the Pro Mazda standings and has a best place finish of sixth (at St. Pete and Barber).
Three drivers will be joining the Expert Class which will see a season high of five entries. Kevin Davis will be joining JDC Motorsports in the No. 44. The Alvin, Illinois native does have experience in a Formula Mazda car at the SCCA level. The second new Expert Class driver will be Bob Kaminsky who will be driving the No.57 for Kaminsky Racing. The 52 year-old competed in Pro (Star) Mazda from 2004 trough 2010. The final new Expert Class driver will be Scarsdale, New York’s Carlos Conde, who has been racing in Pro Mazda since 2008.
The two Pro Mazda races at IMS during the 2014 Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis were extremely chaotic, as this brilliant video made by Scott Hargrove will show.
After a dominant performance at St. Pete, Neil Alberico and Cape Motorsports with /WTR has struggled to find pace at NOLA Motorsports Park and Barber Motorsports Park. But, as most good teams and drivers do, they made adjustments and improved pace combined with Alberico’s race craft saw them score a win in the second race of the event.
That win left Alberico only eight points ahead of Santiago Urrutia in what is shaping up to be an excellent two man battle for the Mazda Motorsports Scholarship and a seat in Indy Lights.
Alberico took home two podiums at IMS last year and should have an advantage over Urrutia who will be seeing the track for the first time. However, the Miguelete, Uruguay native has proven to be a quick study. In his five starts, the 18 year old has one victory, four podiums and a worst finish of fourth.
Holding down the third through sixth spots in the championship are rapid rookies Pato O’Ward, Weiron Tan, Florian Latorre and Timothe Buret. All for our have shown that they can contend for podiums, but all four have also shown that they are prone to make rookie mistakes. Latorre, the 18 year-old from France should hold the upper hand as the only one of the four to make a start at the fabled Speedway, Indiana track. He scored a second and fourth in the two race during the 2014 event.
Sophomore Garett Grist and his Juncos Racing teammates Jose Gutierrez and Will Owen have not shown the speed that was expected from the championship winning team. Grist told TSO before the Barber Motorsports Park that they got to put in new Mazda engines, and that he thought his pace would improve. The 20 year-old wasn’t kidding as the driver who won two Pro Mazda races in 2014 was able to improve his pace and score his first podium of the year. Grist has results of fourth and sixth at IMS in 2014.
His fellow sophomore teammate Gutierrez had a weekend to forget with contact in both races and two 16th place finishes. The 18 year-old Mexican driver will have to shake off his forgettable weekend and should head to IMS with some confidence after scoring a podium at the speedway last year. Grist’s, rookie teammate Owen had shown some speed in Cooper Tires Winterfest but could only manage a best of eighth in the first four races of the year. The Texas Christian University student was able to shake off his mediocre start and scored a more representative fourth place finish in the second race at Barber Motorsports Park.
Canadian drivers Daniel Burkett and Dalton Kellett have shown flashes of pace, but have yet to put together a complete race. After three straight seventh place finishes to start the season, Kellett was taken out of the first race at Barber, but was able to bounce back with a sixth place finish in race #2. The recent Queens University graduate has shown the race pace to challenge for top fives, but needs to improve his qualifying. Like his Cape Motorsports with /WTR teammates, Burkett, from Winnipeg, Manitoba has been struggling to find pace. The 20 year-old will be looking for a return to the form he and the team showed at St. Pete. IMS was the breakout race forCape Motorsports with /WTR and fellow Canadian Scott Hargrove in 2014. TSO will watching closely to see if the team and driver can find that same mojo.
Rookies Alessandro Latif and Parker Nicklin will be looking to continue learning and logging laps
Cooper Tires USF2000 powered by Mazda
New faces and driver movement
Tyler Hunter and Swan Motorsports will be making their Mazda Road To Indy debut together. Hunter spent 2014 in the Atlantic Series Championship where he came home eighth in the championship despite missing one event. The Denver native also has experience in the SCCA Forumula Enterprises division.
Swan Racing is making the jump from SCCA competition to the Mazda Road To Indy with equipment they purchased from Belardi Auto Racing. The Mirl Swan owned team has won 8 SCCA Runoffs National Championships and Swan was the crew chief for Townsend Bell at Dorricott Racing when he won the Indy Lights championship in 2001.
Sam Chastain will be making his USF2000 debut at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the JDC Motorsports No. 19. If the name sounds familiar, it’s because the Sam’s grandfather, Tom Chastain (as Chastain Motorsorts) competed in the 1997 and 1998 Indy Racing League seasons with driver Stephan Gregoire. The Noblesville, Indiana native has spent the past two seasons honing his race craft in the F1600 Championship series, where he has one win, one pole and three podiums.
The USF2000 races on the road course at IMS in 2014 saw two unexpected winners. Will Owen won the first race in the wet and Adrian Starrantino won the second race after pitting for slicks during the first race and setting quick lap. He started on pole and held off a charging field for his one and only MRTI victory.
The three sophomores fighting for this years title will hoping for more standard script in 2014.
Jake Eidson has scored five straight third place finishes and will be looking for his ninth straight USF2000 pole when the Mazda powered USF2000 cars take to the track at IMS. Eidson was able to score one podium on the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course in 2014 and will be looking to extend his nine point championship lead over Nico Jamin by retaking the top step of the podium.
Eidson’s chasers, Nico Jamin and Aaron Telitz both won races in the last event at Barber Motorsports Park and have made up significant ground in the past two events, sitting only nine and 19 points behind Eidson.
Jamin, the sophomore USF2000 pilot from Rouen, France will try to put his 2014 trip to IMS out of his mind. His best finish came in the first race where he came home in eighth. The 19 year-old suffered a DNF in the second race.
Scoring his first road course victory at Barber Motorsports Park, Telitz will continue be looking to use his previous success at IMS (one podium) to take another chunk out of Eidson’s point lead. In four of six races this season Telitz has had the quickest or second quickest race lap.
Alberta native and USF2000 rookie Parker Thompson will hope that the experience he gained on the IMS road course during the Chris Griffis Memorial Test will help him chase down the leading rookie in the USF2000 field, Anthony Martin. Both drivers have some momentum coming to the Brickyard. Martin, a 19 year-old from Kalgoorlie, Australia scored his first official USF2000 podium in the second race at Barber Motorsports Park. Meanwhile, Thompson showed off his impressive consistency with two fifth place finishes.
Currently seventh and eighth in points, sophomore ArmsUp Motorsports driver Keyran Andres Soori and rookie Pabst Racing driver Yufeng Luo will be looking to consistently break into the top five.
It should come as no surprise that the Team Pelfrey trio of Ayla Agren, Max Hanratty and Nikita Lastochkin are tied with 68 points apiece. The trio, who were teammates last year with Team Pelfrey while contesting the F1600 Championship had a hard time distancing themselves. So far this season; Rickards has shown the pace, but only completed 85 of 98 possible laps. Agren and Lastochkin have been much more consistent and contested every lap. This teammate battle should be a fun one to watch for the rest of the season.
Max Hanratty, Luke Gabin and Augie Lerch have all taken a different approach to their rookie seasons. Hanratty, the 21 year-old from Milwaukee, Wisconsin has used the slow and steady approach; gaining pace each and every session while competing 100% of the laps contested. Gabin, the Mazda Motorsports/Skip Barber scholarship winner has shown some speed, starting both races at Barber Motorsports Park in third row, but coming home with a DNF both times. Lerch, the former stand-out karter from Tuscon, Arizona had a rough start after crashing out of his first race at St. Pete, but has completed every lap since and has started to show increased pace.
The elder statesman of the USF2000 paddock, James Dayson provides a great role model for the younger drivers. The Vancouver, British Columbia native is tireless in his efforts to improve and is always upbeat no matter what happened on track.
Don’t miss any of the action
- live timing – Indy Lights, Pro Mazda, & USF2000
- radio – IndyCar radio at IndyCar Race Control , & IndyCar radio
- on twitter –Indy Lights, Pro Mazda, USF2000, Cooper Tire, Mazda Racing and Trackside Online
- via the Road To Indy TV app – Android or Apple iOS
- on all social media channels via the #TeamCooperTire and #MRTI hashtags
Full Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis MRTI schedule
Wednesday, May 6th
|10:15am-11:15am||Pro Mazda testing|
|11:30am-12:30pm||Indy Lights testing|
|3:15pm-4:15pm||Pro Mazda testing|
|4:30pm-5:30pm||Indy Lights testing|
Thursday, May 7th
|9:15am-9:45am||Pro Mazda practice|
|10am-10:45am||Indy Lights practice|
|2:15pm-2:45pm||Pro Mazda practice|
|4:55-5:40pm||Indy Lights practice|
|5:55pm-6:30pm||Pro Maza Race #1 (NOLA Makeup Race)|
Friday, May 8th
|10:15am-10:45pm||Pro Mazda qualifying|
|noon-12:45pm||Indy Lights qualifying|
|1pm-1:45pm||USF2000 Race #1|
|2pm-2:45pm||Pro Mazda Race #2|
|4:30pm-5:30pm||Indy Lights Race #1|
Saturday May 9th
|10am-10:15pm||Indy Lights warm-up|
|10:30am-11:10am||USF2000 Race #2|
|12:15pm-12:55pm||Pro Mazda Race #3|
|1:25pm-2:25pm||Indy Lights Race #2|