Mazda Road to Indy midseason review

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The IZOD IndyCar Series is past its official halfway point (13 of 19 races, 11 of 16 weekends now complete). The three rungs on the Mazda Road to Indy ladder though, are about at the halfway mark. Here’s a quick recap of their seasons thus far:

FIRESTONE INDY LIGHTS SERIES

To its credit, the actual competition level in Firestone Indy Lights hasn’t been bad in 2013. Through eight races, no one driver is dominating. Carlos Munoz (three), Sage Karam, Jack Hawksworth (two) and Peter Dempsey (one) have all visited victory lane in 2013. Dempsey’s pass to go four-wide to win at Indianapolis is in contention for the best racing finish of 2013. Points-wise, Munoz leads Karam 317-309 with Gabby Chaves (281) and Hawksworth (274) still in with a remote chance at the title.

But unfortunately for Indy Lights, the highlights have been all too rare and the focus more on the promotion and level of content – or lack thereof – within the championship. Only at Long Beach (10) and Indianapolis (11) have there been double-digit entries. A new car slated for 2014 was delayed. And just this weekend in Toronto, it was announced Dan Andersen, who’s needed to perform similar miracles to keep USF2000 and Pro Mazda afloat, will need to do likewise to turn Lights around.

Andretti Autosport’s Munoz already has starred in his two IndyCar starts this year and would be a natural to advance, even if he doesn’t win the title. But the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports trio behind him will push him as best they can the remaining four races. Meanwhile off-track, Andersen and staff will have to spend the rest of 2013 formulating a plan to get Lights back to the level it needs to be at as IndyCar’s top level on the Mazda Road to Indy ladder.

PRO MAZDA

Two words best sum up the year in Pro Mazda: Matty Brabham (pictured). The son of ex-IndyCar and sports car star Geoff has cut through the Pro Mazda Championship in 2013 like a knife through butter. He didn’t win his debut race at Circuit of the Americas, but he’s won the next seven in a row after that for Andretti Autosport.

He can tie the record for most wins in a season, set last year by Jack Hawksworth, if he wins his eighth this weekend at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in Mosport. There’s still eight races to go.

Diego Ferreira is in a class of his own for second, while Shelby Blackstock, Spencer Pigot, Scott Anderson and Kyle Kaiser are all locked in a battle for third the rest of 2013.

USF2000

Much like a year ago, a pair of Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing teammates is dominating the USF2000 National Championship and a midseason surge by a Belardi Auto Racing driver threatens to interrupt their title bout with seven races complete, and seven to go.

Last year the Cape twins battling were Brabham and Pigot, who have moved up a rung. This year it’s Scott Hargrove and Neil Alberico – who combined won the first six races for Cape. Alberico, though, lost 94 points to Hargrove in the first two weekends of the season but has since clawed back the gap to just 56 (173-117).

Sandwiched in the middle is Danilo Estrela, the Belardi rookie compared to the Cape sophomores. Estrela took his first win at Toronto this weekend and is second in points with 136. Last year it was Anderson interrupting the Cape win streak for Belardi.

Florian Latorre, Garrett Grist, Wyatt Gooden, and Jesse Lazarre have also starred at times this year. Poor luck has sabotaged the efforts of Edmonton’s Stefan Rzadzinski, while others such as Peter Portante, Jason Wolfe and Felipe Donato have shown flashes of potential.

Formula 1: Recapping the past week’s news

Photo: Getty Images
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The aftermath of the Chinese Grand Prix has centered around Red Bull Racing and its two drivers, Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen.

While Ricciardo has garnered praise at every turn for a masterful drive from sixth to first in the second half of the race, Verstappen has again come under criticism for overzealous driving in the wake of contact with Scuderia Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.

A recap of the past news week for the FIA Formula 1 World Championship, and the attention both Ricciardo and Verstappen have garnered, is below.

Ricciardo Surfaces as Outside Title Contender After Chinese Grand Prix Win

Race winner Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and Red Bull Racing celebrates after the Formula One Grand Prix of China at Shanghai International Circuit on April 15, 2018 in Shanghai, China. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)

Prior to the Chinese Grand Prix, few would have labelled Ricciardo as a possible title contender, especially in the wake of a mechanical failure in the opening laps of the Bahrain Grand Prix.

However, Sunday’s victory in China not only provided a number of thrills for onlookers, it also gave Ricciardo a major boost of confidence, and he asserted afterwards that he thinks a championship push is possible.

“I really feel like, I’ve said a few times, just give me the chance to be in a title hunt and I really believe I will take it,” Ricciardo said in a piece posted on Crash.net. “I feel like I can capitalize on opportunities and I guess [China] was a good example even with a fat lip I am still pretty fast and pretty good on a Sunday.”

The victory also comes at an interesting time in Ricciardo’s career, as the 2018 season is the final one in his current contract with the Red Bull team. On the market for a new contract, Ricciardo mentioned that he’s seeking a two-year deal with whichever team he signs with.

“I don’t want to sign anything too long because I don’t know where the sport’s going,” Ricciardo said in an interview with The Times newspaper.

He added, “Ideally, I’d sign a two-year contract. I think two years I can definitely be comfortable with and then see it from there. That third year will be the rule change so I will probably wait and see what happens then.”

Ricciardo also added that whether or not he returns to Red Bull is entirely down to the team’s performance this year.

“I kind of feel like if they want me to race for them they should contact me, but they haven’t,” he said. “If we win this year then I’m staying with Red Bull. It’s pretty simple. It’s really just about performance at the moment.”

Jos Verstappen Offers Constructive Criticism to Max

Max Verstappen of Netherlands and Red Bull Racing looks on in the garage during final practice for the Formula One Grand Prix of China at Shanghai International Circuit on April 14, 2018 in Shanghai, China. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

Max Verstappen has again come under fire for overzealous driving, and not just from rivals this time.

Perhaps most notably, Max’s father Jos Verstappen, a former Formula 1 driver in his own right, offered his thoughts this past weekend, asserting that Max needs to show more patience and a little better judgment in his overtaking moves.

“The overtake on Vettel really wasn’t on. It wasn’t possible. It was an error of judgement. In some circumstances Max just has to think more,” Jos told Ziggo Sport’s Peptalk, referenced in a Crash.net story.

However, Jos also praised his son’s driving style, noting that he hopes that part doesn’t change.

“I don’t want him to change his driving style. He passed two people at the start. He did that perfectly,” he added. “That’s what we all want to see. But we don’t want to see these kinds of actions. He needs to have it under control. He needs to think.”

In addition to receiving a 10-second penalty for the incident, Verstappen also received two penalty points, bringing his total to five. A driver who gets 12 penalty points within a span of 12 months is automatically given a one-race ban.

Rubens Barrichello Recovering from Brain Tumor

Former F1 driver Rubens Barrichello. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)

Rubens Barrichello has revealed that he was diagnosed with a brain tumor earlier this year after collapsing in the shower.

After going quiet on social media for several months, the 45-year-old posted a message reassuring fans of his health, and then revealed more in an interview with Brazilian TV network Globo.

“Suddenly I felt a sharp pain in my head. It seemed to be exploding, I had to fall on the ground and only after a few minutes I managed to reach my wife Silvana to ask for help. I immediately realized that it was a serious problem,” Barrichello said of the ordeal in an emotional interview.

Barrichello, whose health has appeared to improve in recent weeks, revealed that the recovery process has been nothing short of miraculous.

“I feel like a miracle,” he said. “(The doctors) told me that only 14 percent of the people who suffered this type of problem then managed to recover completely.

“I am still going through exams and so on, but I am honestly great and the difficulties in life are the ones who show us how to grow and how to be better.”

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