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Butch Welsch’s Recap of the Indy 500!

TSO readers, as things quickly transition to preparations for Detroit, we have another report on the Indy 500. This time from Butch Welsch as he recaps the 500 from his seat “in the front row of the Paddock Penthouse, just south of the start finish line”. Oh, and how quickly were teams moving on to…

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TSO Opinion: Jones robbed of the Indianapolis 500 Sunoco Rookie of the Year – an analysis

By Steve Wittich

Since I (Steve) have been rather noisy on social media about Fernando Alonso winning the Sunoco Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year award over Ed Jones, I think I need to explain my thought process in more then 140 characters.

The award was chosen by the media, and for full disclosure, I didn’t receive a ballot. Outside of saying that I was on site at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for all 17,359 laps turned by the 33 drivers, that’s a rant that I won’t into here.

The criteria for picking Sunoco Rookie of the Year sent to the media is as follows:

(a) the driver’s skill
(b) sportsmanship
(c) accessibility and conduct during the month
(d) finishing position

I’m going to divide these categories into 25 points each, and allocate points that way.

(a) The first of three highly subjective categories used to determine the Sunoco Rookie of The Year might be the toughest one to determine what a fair allocation of the 25 points should be. That’s because both drivers were very, very skillful.

As a true oval rookie, Alonso kept the car in one piece all month, qualified fifth, ran in the top five for much of the race, and led 27 laps (the third most of any driver).

Jones had made one Verizon IndyCar Series oval start at Phoenix International Raceway earlier this year, as well as a number of Indy Lights oval starts, including one at Indianapolis last year when he finished second by just 0.0024 of a second in the closest finish in the track’s history.

However, his slight experience doesn’t take away from what he was able to accomplish: a third place finish, the fifth quickest lap of the race (compared to Alonso’s 13th), coming from the back after being forced to change a rear wing after it was damaged by debris, driving with a damaged floor, having the second quickest lap of the month (compared to Alonso’s 5th), and having the mental fortitude to qualify 11th after watching his teammate Sebastien Bourdais get injured after a huge shunt.

Before considering the teams each driver was aligned with, that accomplishments of Alosno as a true oval rookie would have had me score this category 15-10 in favor of the  McLaren Honda Andretti driver.

The 11th place starting spot, and third place finishing position are both the highest ever in the Indianapolis 500 for the Dale Coyne owned team.

But, when you factor in what team each driver was part of, that gap shrinks. This is not a slight on Dale Coyne Racing, what the Plainfield, Ill. team accomplished this month was incredible. But, there is no if-ands-or-buts, at least in my opinion, that Alonso had a massive advantage being aligned with Andretti Autosport, and having five teammates at his disposal including two prior Indianapolis 500 champions and two drivers who had lost a victory on the last lap. Jones, meanwhile, had one of his two teammates change during race week.  That makes my final (a) category tally, 13 points for Alonso and 12 points for Jones.

(b) Sportsmanship is another category that is 100% subjective, and also the one that is difficult to judge if you didn’t spend much time watching practice from different locations, listening to the scanner and chatting with drivers off the record.

Yes, Alonso was impressive during his first ever oval event. He was quick to get up to speed, kept the car in one-piece, and ran in the top five for much of the 179 laps he completed. However, that doesn’t take into account the number of ill-timed pass attempts he made into Turn 1 and Turn 3 in the practice sessions leading up to the event. Those moves are fine during the race, but not during practice.

I spent the last hour of each practice day watching in Turn 1, and on numerous occasions, a late pass left a fellow driver fighting to keep their car off the wall after being pushed into the marbles.

The scanner traffic echoed the on-track “happy hour” action with many “not safe for work” exchanges between drivers and their spotters regarding Alonso’s moves.

To their credit, drivers remained fairly silent (on-the-record) about the questionable moves, but were far more vocal off-the-record.

I don’t remember hearing one complaint all month about Jones’ on track comportment, which is amazing for a rookie.

I scored this category 15-10 in favor of Jones.

(c) Up until race day, Alonso would have led this category handily, but in my race-day job as Dr. Jerry “Doc” Punch’s pit spotter for the ESPN/ABC broadcast, I was offered a unique look into his conduct on race day. During the pre-race, I had scheduled an interview with Alonso’s PR staff to coincide with his arrival at the green room 20 minutes before driver introductions. The Spaniard ignored Doc, our camera crew, and the McLaren Honda Andretti PR staff and rushed to the quiet of the green room. It was only after some coaxing with from his PR staff, that he came back outside of the Pagoda to give the interview.

The second instance on race day occurred after the double Formula One champion’s power plant expired with 21 laps remaining. Doc tried to interview Alonso as he walked up pit road, but the Spaniard would not remove his helmet. With dogged determination to “pay off” one of the biggest stories of the month, we followed Alonso into Gasoline Alley, to the Andretti garage, and eventually to the driver’s coach lot, where after some prodding from his PR staff, Alonso, to his credit, did give a very gracious interview.

A disappointed Fernando Alonso heads down pit lane after his engine expired with 21 laps remaining in the Indianapolis 500. (Photo Courtesy of IndyCar)

It’s certainly understandable that Alosno didn’t want to give an interview right after a disappointing end to his maiden Indianapolis 500, and that the norms for media access are different in Formula 1, but brushing off network TV twice on race day will always be considered a big no-no.

Prior to race day, Alonso had done everything that was asked of him, and never once complained publicly, about the massive throngs that followed him everywhere. That is to be highly commended. Outside of the Rookie Luncheon, he took part in every function that was required. And because he went to New York City to do national and international media to help promote the race, missing the Rookie Luncheon was 100% understandable.

Jones was extremely accessible during the month, but wasn’t subject to the same media pressures that Alonso was. One very positive thing to add about Jones, is that on the practice days that school kids were present, he spent a ton of time along the fence at pit road signing autographs.

Prior to race day on Sunday, I would have scored this category 20-5 in favor of Alonso. That’s not because of anything Jones did or didn’t do, it was 100% because Alonso handled a lot of intrusion with impressive grace. However, after Sunday, Alonso received a downgrade, but still lead the category. My final tally was 15 points for Alonso, and 10 points for Jones.

(d) To me, this is the only category that requires zero subjectivity. Jones gets all 25 points. He finished the race in the higher position. To me, it doesn’t matter how or why Alonso didn’t finish, just that he finished 21 places behind Jones. Jones gets 25 points, and Alonso gets zero points.

Dale Coyne Racing rookie Ed Jones fighting for the lead of the Indianapolis 500 with only a few laps remaining. (Photo Courtesy of IndyCar)

Using the categories given to the media, I have Jones winning the Sunoco Rookie of the Year prize by a score of 65 to 35.

Change on of the categories to impact, or clicks, or words written, and Alonso might be in the picture, but using the criteria dispensed by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway PR department, it shouldn’t have even been close.

Updated Eads Graphics Indy 500 Spotter Guides

See below for the links to updated Spotter Guides.  Version 5 if you are keeping score at home – that’ll happen when you have an entire final row made of drivers not originally in the field.




Pre-Event to Kick-Off Indy 500 Week At Dallara Indy Car Factory
Benefiting the Survivors of Violence Foundation

INDIANAPOLIS (May 5, 2015) – BRANDed Management, a sports and entertainment management, events and public relations agency, announced today the 500 Prelude Party benefiting the Survivors of Violence Foundation. The second annual event will be held at the Dallara Indy Car factory in Indianapolis on May 12, from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. The First Lady of Racing, Linda Vaughn, will host the exclusive event, with music by singer/songwriter Brett Wiscons.

“This event celebrates and honors the lives of survivors and recognizes how the foundation supports survivors in reclaiming their lives. Helping the survivors is a privilege and we are grateful to IndyCar and then the Dallara Factory for providing such an outstanding venue for this meaningful event.” said Dr. Gregory Chernoff.
The 500 Prelude will kick-off the month-long celebration of the Indianapolis 500 in prime fashion prior to the 99th running of the iconic race. The Dallara Indy Car factory, just steps from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, will host the Tuesday evening affair.

Chernoff Cosmetic Surgeons hope to continue the tradition each year to raise awareness for the beneficiary of the event. The Survivors of Violence Foundation was started in 2002 by Dr. Chernoff and survivor Royia Grizzell. The foundation provides reconstructive surgery and scar therapy to survivors of violence with the greatest financial and health care needs.

Patrons will dress to impress in cocktail attire, mingling with more than 200 key influencers, racing enthusiasts, Indy 500 drivers and other Indianapolis personalities, while dining on cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. Party goers will test their skills racing against drivers and have the opportunity to bid on racing memorabilia, driving experiences, and gift certificates from local businesses. Tickets to attend cost $75.00 with all proceeds to benefit the Foundation. To purchase tickets, please visit:

The event will feature a racing themed menu by Jacqui’s Gourmet Catering, an open bar, which will feature Deep Eddy Vodka (Original, Lemon Cranberry, Ruby Red, Sweet Tea), Jim Beam Kentucky Fire and Honey, Mr & Mrs T, and beer from Heineken. Additionally there will also be a popcorn bar, courtesy of Just Pop In.

For additional event information or to inquire about sponsorships or press, please contact: Jen Beaver, 317.496.7898, and Klint Briney, 305.915.7652,

# #

About Chernoff Cosmetic Surgeons:
Dr. Gregory Chernoff is a triple board certified aesthetic facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon with offices in Indiana and California. Dr. Chernoff has dedicated his practice to aesthetic plastic surgery, hair replacement, cosmetic laser therapy, and research. He is committed to using his extensive experience and capabilities and warm, caring approach to help patients achieve their desired aesthetic goals. Dr. Chernoff has been featured on Dateline NBC, ABC and CBS Nightly News, the BBC Worldnews, and in Newsweek, Time and W Magazines. He is globally recognized for his scar therapy and trains physicians around the world.

Chernoff Cosmetic Surgeons is located in Indianapolis, Indiana and Santa Rosa, CA, with additional offices in Newport Beach, and Beverly Hills, California. Contact Chernoff Cosmetic Surgeons at (317) 573-8899 or visit us online at

About the Survivors of Violence Foundation:
The Survivors of Violence Foundations mission is to bring compassionate care and healing to victims suffering from painful physical injuries or disfigurements caused by injury, violence, or abuse. Providing reconstructive treatment accelerates both physical and emotional healing. This improves the quality of life of survivors, helping those with the greatest financial and health care needs. Dr. Chernoff’s foundation was inspired by Royia Grizzell, a victim of the tragic Oklahoma City Bombing.

Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tire testing at Barber Motorsports Park (and other MRTI news) – March 3rd

Juan Piedrahita was the first driver to venture out onto the damp and foggy 2.3 mile 17-turn road-course.  The day featured on and off showers (including a red flag inducing downpour around noon) and a wet track for the majority of the day.

Ten different drivers representing five different teams used the day long session to work on their wet set-ups.   The hardy group turned 400 laps, which is a lot for a wet session, but not surprising since nobody has a wet baseline set-up for the brand new Mazda powered Dallara IL-15.

Juan Piedrahita, the lone Belardi driver for the day, ran a total of 216.2 miles (the distance of two plus Indy Lights races at Barber Motorsports Park)

Full test results:

Rank Car No Driver Quickest Lap Total Laps
1 11 Ed Jones 1:26.253 47
2 14 Max Chilton 1:27.863 47
3 77 Scott Anderson 1:28.100 26
4 7 RC Enerson 1:28.392 51
5 51 Shelby Blackstock 1:28.635 55
6 5 Juan Piedrahita 1:28.825 94
7 42 Jack Harvey 1:29.114 15
8 12 Spencer Pigot 1:30.060 31
9 71 Ethan Ringel 1:30.575 34
10 18 Kyle Kaiser 1:30.613 45


Carlin tweeted a picture of Ed Jones No. 11 Mazda/Dallara that featured a new sponsor on the brilliant blue car.  United Rivers, a luxury lifestyle denim brand, features prominently on the side pods.


Max Chilton, the former F1 pilot for Marussia, and current test and development driver for Carlin’s maiden foray into the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tire championship, has a new gig.

Nissan announced yesterday (March 2, 2015) that Chilton would be joining their new GT-R LM NISMO program which will be competing in the LM P1 class of the World Endurance Championship.

Chilton took a break from testing the revolutionary front engine prototype at Sebring International Raceway to attend the Indy Lights test at Barber Motorsports Park.

One would think that would preclude the 24 year-old from participating in the Indy Lights championship, but this tweet from media member Katie Hargitt would lead me to believe otherwise.

We did reach out to Carlin to get some clarification on the situation, but haven’t heard back as of yet.


Afterburner Autosport driver, and Cooper Tires Winterfest runner-up Victor Franzoni made a lot of passes during the five race event.  He made this action packed video highlighting his eventful Winterfest.


RaceTo24 is a competition for a coveted 24 Hours of Le Mans race seat with LPM2 competitor Team SARD-MORAND.  While it doesn’t directly involve current Mazda Road To Indy (MRTI) drivers, it does involve a number of MRTI grads:

  • Brandon Newey (USA) – a Cooper Tires USF2000 powered by Mazda and Pro Mazda presented by Cooper Tire graduate
  • Jonathan Summerton – the 2009 Atlantic Championship runner-up, who also saw action in Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tire
  • Esteban Guerrieri (Argentina) – the 2011 and 2012 Indy Lights championship runner-up
  • Stefan Rzadzinski (Canada) – a graduate of USF2000, Pro Mazda and Indy Lights
  • Vicky Piria (Italy)- competed in three Pro Mazda races in 2014
  • Conor Daly was also on the original entry list, but tweeted that he would not be participating
  • to concentrate on securing a Verizon IndyCar Series seat.
  • Other notable names are Christopher Haase (2nd in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship GTD
  • class in 2014), and Sam Brabham (son of Le Mans winner David Brabham).
  • The 12-week competition begins on March 26th and will be streamed online.  You can see the preview
  • video here:

Cooper Tires Winterfest update #8 – Championship standings, final thoughts and news nuggets

Cooper Tires USF2000 powered by Mazda Winterfest Driver’s Championship

Rank Driver Points
1 Nico Jamin 136
2 Victor Franzoni 131
3 Jake Eidson 128
4 Anthony Martin 110
5 Aaron Telitz 108
6 Parker Thompson 88
7 Garth Rickards 82
8 Jordan Lloyd 76
9 Nikita Lastochkin 66
10 Luke Gabin 65
11 Ayla Agren 64
12 Michai Stephens 57
13 Augie Lerch 55
14 Max Hanratty 55
15 Keyran Andres Soori 36
16 James Dayson 33
17 Yufeng Luo 32
18 Santiago Lozano 19

USF2000 driver thoughts

  • It was no big surprise that the championship came down to three sophomore USF2000 drivers, but it appears it won’t be long before a couple of quick rookies will be fighting for wins.
  • After driving for two teams last year, it looks like Rouen, France native Nico Jamin has found a home at Cape Motorsports with /WTR.  Watching him interact with the Cape brothers and his team, it quickly became obvious that they were having a lot fun.
  • A trio of Australian rookies showed that with experience, they will quickly be contending for podiums.  Anthony Martin, who finished an impressive fourth in the Winterfest championship, has never raced a car with wings and slicks before.  It was also his first time racing with rolling starts.  He didn’t put a wheel wrong in five races.  Jordan Lloyd and Luke Gabin both had incidents in the final race, but before that they had shown good pace.
  • JDC Motorsports driver, Parker Thompson showed good patience and improving speed through each and every session.  Especially impressive given the Red Deer, Alberta native is only 16 years old.
  • Garth Rickards, Ayla Agren and Nikita Lastochkin were all F1600 championship teammates at Team Pelfrey last year and all three improved during Winterfest.  I expect them and the team (this is Pelfrey’s first go with the USF2000 car) to continue to gain on the field as we work towards summer.
  • Team USA Scholarship winner Michai Stephens put together a last minute deal to run Winterfest with Afterburner Autosport and after a slow start at NOLA Motorsports Park (no fault of his own), showed remarkable improvement with each session.  Winterfest ended up on a positive note with a seventh place finish in the final race.
  • Rookies Augie Lerch and Max Hanratty did exactly what they needed to do during Winterfest.  Keep their noses clean and continue to improve.
  • Unfortunately, Keyran Andres Soori (the flu) and Yufeng Luo (family emergency) missed the Barber Motorsports Park races, but both showed top 10 pace at NOLA Motorsports Park.
  • Santiago Lozano and James Dayson continue to show a lot of mettle and a willingness to learn.


Pro Mazda presented by Cooper Tire Winterfest Driver’s Championship Standings

Rank Driver Points
1 Jack Aitken 167
2 Weiron Tan 166
3 Dalton Kellett 98
4 Florian Latorre 96
5 Garett Grist 91
6 Will Owen 83
7 Raoul Owens 80
8 Jose Gutierrez 77
9 Timothe Buret 77
10 Alessandro Latif 67
11 Michael Johnson 66
12 Nicholas Latifi 60
13 Bobby Eberle 53
14 Tristan DeGrand 50
15 Daniel Burkett 47
16 Carlos Conde 24

Pro Mazda driver thoughts:

  • Weiron Tan served notice that he will be one of the drivers to beat for the 2015 Pro Mazda presented by Cooper Tire championship.  He also learned a valuable lesson when failing to show up for a podium, cost him the championship.  But, I was impressed with how he handled losing the championship in this manor and his obvious and sincere regret for his actions at NOLA Motorsports Park.   I had a chance to chat with Tan at an Andretti Autosport media event a week ago, and I was impressed with his attitude towards the challenge of racing in the U.S.A.
  • More on Jack Aitken below, but it is a real shame that we won’t be treated to the “Jack & Tan” show all year.
  • Will Owen and Dalton Kellett were two of the bigger surprises of Winterfest.  Both had proven that they were competent drivers in USF2000, but it appears that both of them found a new gear when they made the move to Pro Mazda.
  • Defending USF2000 champion Florian Latorre took a little while to get wound up last year, but when he did, he was almost unstoppable.  It appears that the same may happen again this year, as the young French driver got faster and faster each session.
  • I expected sophomore Juncos Racing duo Garett Grist and Jose Gutierrez to be contenders for the Winterfest championship, but both struggled with overall pace.  I expect Juncos driver coach Peter Dempsey to correct that by the time the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg roles around.
  • European rookies Timothe Buret and Raoul Owens both showed improving pace during Winterfest and both kept their noses clean until the second last restart, when they made contact with each other.  Don’t be surprised to see either of them contending for podiums once they get more comfortable.
  • Alessandro Latif did exactly what a rookie making the move from sports cars to open wheel cars needed to do, log a lot of laps and continue to get quicker each session.  Mission accomplished.
  • Nicholas Latifi showed of his ability to adapt to different kinds of open-wheel cars.  The Canadian, who will be racing in World Series By Renault 3.5 this year took only a few sessions to get up to speed.
  • Cape Motorsports with /WTR rookie Daniel Burkett had a Winterfest to forget, but I expect the Winnipeg, Manitoba native to regroup and come back strong for the first race of the season in St. Pete.


Both championships were decided by penalties.  Victor Franzoni and Afterburner Autosport were disqualified from the third Cooper Tires USF2000 powered by Mazda race at NOLA Motorsports Park, and Weiron Tan was docked five points after skipping the podium for the third Pro Mazda presented by Cooper Tire race at NOLA Motorsports Park.


Davey Hamilton, Jr. was testing the old Indy Lights chassis out west this week.  We sent out a request to find out if his plans included any Indy Lights races this year, but have yet to hear back.


Former Cooper Tires USF2000 powered by Mazda driver Colton Herta ended up P2 in MSA Formula testing today.  The 14 year old son of former Verizon IndyCar Series driver and current team owner Bryan Herta will be contesting the Formula 4 based championship this season.


2004 Indianapolis 500 champion Buddy Rice is currently working with JDC Motorsports rookie Parker Thompson.  The 16 year-old Cooper Tires USF2000 powered by Mazda rookie, and karting standout finished Cooper Tires Winterfest in … place.


Had a chance to talk to Pro Mazda Winterfest champion Jack Aitken and he said that this was a fantastic opportunity to knock the rust off before starting his European racing season.  He will be competing in Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup this season, but did not rule out a trip back to the US during their summer break.


Team Pelfrey, the 2012 Pro Mazda presented by Cooper Tire team and drivers champions expect to have two cars (with an outside chance at three) in the Pro Mazda Championship.  Team manager Nigel Tuckey confirmed that they currently have one driver signed.

Cooper Tires Winterfest – Barber Motorsports Park update #7 – Pro Mazda Race Notes

After throwing down a quick last lap in the first Pro Mazda presented by Cooper Tire race of the day, Juncos Racing’s Will Owen started on the pole of the Cooper Tires Winterfest finale. Championship contenders Jack Aitken and Weiron Tan, started from the fourth and second positions, respectively.

As they came around the final corner Weiron Tan, starting from the second spot jumped out to a significant lead and the start was waived off.

The second start was also ragged as Tan, Owen and Aitken came across the line together as the green flag waved. Pole sitter Owen ran wide into Turn 1 and ended up spinning at the apex of Turn 2. The top five at the end of the first lap were: Tan, Aitken, Dalton Kellett, Raoul Owens and Timothe Buret.

On the fifth lap Tan held just over a half a second lead over Aitken, who was a further 1.2 seconds ahead of Dalton Kellett.

On the seventh lap the lead Tan held over Aitken remained steady at just under half a second.

At this point in the race, Tan had earned the two bonus points for leading the most laps, and it appeared that the championship would come down to the quickest race lap.

On lap 10, Will Owen made a mistake exiting Turn 9 and hit the wall on the inside of the track.

Jose Gutierrez and Weiron Tan had traded quickest laps up to that point, but just as the track went to yellow, Aitken turned the quickest lap of the race at 81.397 seconds.

The field went back to green on on Lap 14, and the first three cars got through Turn 1 cleanly, but the fourth and fifth place cars of Buret and Owens made contact, with the No. 6 Team Pelfrey machine of Buret ending up in the gravel trap.

On the same lap, Aitken was able to get beside Tan exiting Turn 5, but that left Tan on the inside for Turn 8 and the No. 22 of Tan was able maintainntain the lead as the track went yellow.

Buret was quickly extricated and the field was able to go back to green. That was short lived, as Daniel Burkett spun in Turn 1 and stalled on the inside of the track.

The field went back to yellow with Tan leading, but with no chance to best Aitken’s quickest lap, he ended up winning the race, but losing the championship by a single point.

The five point penalty that Tan received for skipping the podium in the final race at NOLA Motorsports Park ended up costing him the Cooper Tires Winterfest championship.

Full results, championship standings and more to come.

Cooper Tires Winterfest – Barber Motorsports Park update #6 – USF2000 race notes

John Cummiskey Racing driver Jordan Lloyd made a mistake on the first pace lap and hit the inside ARMCO exiting Turn 9, damaging the nose and front left suspension. Unfortunatley, that was the end of his day.

Starting second Franzoni made a brave late braking maneuver and pass around the outside of pole sitter and Cooper Tires Winterfest championship leader. The two continued to fight through the first lap until Eidson had a problem with the car at lap 14 and came to a stop at the entrance to pit road.

The top five at the end of the first lap were: Franzoni, Jamin, Parker Thompson, Anthony Martin and Luke Gabin.

The big early mover wass Cape Motorsports with /WTR sophomore Aaron Telitz who started in 14th, made the move up to 5th by the 6th lap.

After being towing Eidson back to pit lane, the field went back to green on lap 3 with Franzoni leading Jamin.

With Eidson having problems, the Cooper Tires Winterfest championship became a wide open fight between Franzoni and Jamin.

The field went to yellow on lap 8, when Luke Gabin made significant contact with the wall on drivers right, exiting Turn 17.

The field went back to green on lap 11, with 7 minutes remaining on the clock. Franzoni jumped out to a five car length lead going into Turn 1, while Jamin overcooked it into Turn 1, giving Franzoni a 10+ car length lead.

On lap 12, Franzoni had a 0.5 second lead.
On lap 13, Franzoni had a 0.2 second lead.

Jamin took the lead from Franzoni on lap 14 in the final turn after Franzoni went wide. The move turned out to be the pass that won him and Cape Motorsports with /WTR the Cooper Tires Winterfest driver and team championships.

We’ll be back with full results and championship standings after the Pro Mazda race.

Cooper Tires Winterfest – Barber Motorsports Park update #5 – Pro Mazda race notes and results

Pro Mazda presented by Cooper Tire drivers were given two pace laps to try and build heat into their slick Coopers.

For the fourth straight Cooper Tires Winterfest Pro Mazda race pole sitter Jack Aitken and Weiron Tan started together on the front row.

Aitken got the jump on Tan, while Nicholas Latifi made an aggressive start from his fourth place starting position and made a move past Will Owen and dove to the inside of Tan for second. He was not able to make the move stick, but settled into third spot.

Latifi’s day ended later on that lap when his car caught on fire. He jumped on the binders in Turn 12 and was hit from behind by Will Owen. Both spun off the track to drivers left. Latifi quickly jumped out of his No. 18 with the sleeve of his fire suit on fire. A corner worker was on the scene very quickly to to put out the fire on the driver and the car. It was a very impressive response by a quick thinking marshall.

Daniel Burkett, who started at the tail end of the field, made a storming start up to seventh, but his car stalled on the second lap at drivers left in Turn 11.

Burkett and Owen were both able to get going again, but were multiple laps down.

It took 15 minutes to clean up the first lap mess and the field was able to get restarted on Lap 7. The top five at that time were: Aitken, Tan, Florian Latorre, Raoul Owens and Dalton Kellett.

Aitken jumped out to a 10 car length lead by the time they completed the seventh lap. Latorre in third was hassling second place Tan, while Kellett was right on the rear wing of Owens for fourth place.

By lap 10, Aitken had built up a 2.2 second lead over Tan, who had only a 0.6 second lead over Latorre. Tan was able to put down a flier on lap 11 that was 0.9 seconds quicker than Aitken to cut the lead down to 1.2 seconds.

As speeds increased and the track started to dry the exit of Turn 1 became very tricky as the water that settled in the depressions in the kerbing found it’s way onto to track.

As the leaders took the white flag, Aitken held a lead of just over a second over Tan, while Latorre held down the third place.

Tan was able to cut the lead down to 0.7 seconds, but it was Aitken that took his third win of Cooper Tires Winterfest.

Owen, the Juncos Racing sophomore who finished two laps down after the first lap contact with Latifi, was able to throw down the quickest lap of the race on his final lap. He will start on pole for the final race. Tan who is trailing Aitken by 11 points in the championship will start second, while Team Pelfrey’s Aitken will start fourth. With double points on the line in the final race, the Winterfest championship is still up for grabs.

Final results for the race are:

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Position Car No. Driver Fastest Lap
1 82 Jack Aitken 1:23.206
2 22 Weiron Tan 1:22.766
3 10 Florian Latorre 1:22.875
4 19 Raoul Owens 1:23.540
5 28 Dalton Kellett 1:23.462
6 6 Timothe Buret 1:24.652
7 5 Garett Grist 1:23.946
8 7 Jose Gutierrez 1:23.787
9 24 Tristan DeGrand 1:24.168
10 14 Alessandro Latif 1:25.557
11 54 Michael Johnson 1:26.176
12 13 Bobby Eberle 1:27.599
13 2 Daniel Burkett 1:23.720
14 23 Will Owen 1:22.375
15 18 Nicholas Latifi 2:59.556

Cooper Tires Winterfest – Barber Motorsports Park update #4 – USF2000 race notes and results

Missing the first race Cooper Tires USF2000 powered by Mazda race were James Dayson (damage from morning warm-up crash), Santiago Lozano (damage from yesterday’s practice crash), Yufeng Luo (family emergency) and Keyran Andres Soori the flu).

The drivers were allowed an extra pace lap to warm up their slick Cooper Tires in the cool temperatures at Barber Motorsports Park.

Victor Franzoni jumped out to a lead as the cars streamed into Turn 1.  Unlike the three Cooper Tires USF2000 powered by Mazda races at NOLA Motorsports Park, the field didn’t make it though Turn 1 unscathed.  Aaron Telitz spun at the exit of the turn and tagged Mazda Motorsports Skip Barber scholarship winner Luke Gabin.  Michai Stephens and Nikita Lastochkin beached themselves in the gravel trying to avoid the mess.  Stephens, Gabin and Lastochkin were able to rejoin the race several laps down.

As the cars crossed the line to pick up the safety car at the end of the first lap the top 5 were: Franzoni, Nico Jamin, Jake Eidson, Parker Thompson and Anthony Martin.

The field went back to green on lap 6, as the twelve remaining cars made their way through the first lap back to green unscathed.

Cooper Tires Winterfest points leader Eidson was able to get by Jamin at the end of the backstretch to take second place and betan to chase after Franzoni, who held a 1.4 second lead at the end of seven laps.

By lap 10, Franzoni had stretched his advantage to 1.8 seconds over Eidson, who was joined in the top five by Jamin, Martin and Thompson.

With two laps left, the gap between Franzoni and Eidsen was under two tenths of second and as they took the white flag, the Pabst Racing driver Eidson had fallen back to three tenths of a second behind Franzoni.  Franzoni, the Afterburner Autosport sophomore took his second Cooper Tires Winterfest by a margin of 0.4271 seconds.

Talked to sophomore driver Eidson after the race, and while he wouldn’t admit to “points racing”, he did say that he wouldn’t have tried to pass Franzoni unless he made a mistake.

On the last step of the podium was Cape Motorsports with /WTR driver Jamin, who said that his car lacked general grip though out the race.

The results of the race are as follows:

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Rank Car No. Name Quickest Lap
1 17 Victor Franzoni 1:26.263
2 22 Jake Eidson 1:25.888
3 2 Nico Jamin 1:27.560
4 33 Anthony Martin 1:28.402
5 80 Parker Thompson 1:29.895
6 94 Jordan Lloyd 1:29.286
7 83 Garth Rickards 1:32.210
8 12 Augie Lerch 1:31.688
9 81 Ayla Agren 1:36.954
10 6 Max Hanratty 1:39.652
11 14 Michai Stephens 1:31.777
12 84 Nikita Lastochkin 1:33.001
13 82 Luke Gabin 1:29.914
14 3 Aaron Telitz 3:13.964

The last USF2000 race of Winterfest will roll off at 3:30pm (central) and the grid will be set by the quickest lap in race #1.

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