Everything you need to know for Sunday’s Duck Commander 500 at Texas

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After an entertaining race won by Kurt Busch at Martinsville, the Sprint Cup Series will make the first of its two visits this year to the high-banked, 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway this weekend.

Courtesy of NASCAR’s public relations and statistics teams, here’s all the important numbers and notes you need to know going into Sunday’s Duck Commander 500 – Round 7 of the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.

TEXAS-SPECIFIC STATISTICS

Greg Biffle (No. 16 3M/Give Kids A Smile Ford)
· Two wins, eight top fives, 12 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 15.1
· Average Running Position of 12.3, seventh-best
· Driver Rating of 101.8, third-best
· 465 Fastest Laps Run, second-most
· 1,194 Green Flag Passes, 10th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 173.396 mph, third-fastest
· 4,457 Laps in the Top 15 (74.0%), fourth-most
· Series-high 742 Quality Passes (passes of cars in the top 15 under green)

Clint Bowyer (No. 15 Willie’s Duck Diner Toyota)
· Three top fives, nine top 10s
· Average finish of 12.8
· Average Running Position of 12.6, eighth-best
· Driver Rating of 92.3, ninth-best
· Average Green Flag Speed of 173.094 mph, eighth-fastest

Kurt Busch (No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet)
· One win, three top fives, 12 top 10s
· Average finish of 15.3
· Driver Rating of 88.0, 12th-best
· 191 Fastest Laps Run, 10th-most
· 1,372 Green Flag Passes, third-most
· 578 Quality Passes, 12th-most

Kyle Busch (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota)
· One win, six top fives, seven top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 14.0
· Average Running Position of 11.0, fourth-best
· Driver Rating of 101.6, fourth-best
· 331 Fastest Laps Run, sixth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 173.452 mph, second-fastest
· 4,158 Laps in the Top 15 (73.1%), sixth-most
· 597 Quality Passes, 10th-most

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet)
· One win, four top fives, 13 top 10s; two poles
· Average finish of 13.7
· Average Running Position of 11.5, fifth-best
· Driver Rating of 93.8, seventh-best
· 216 Fastest Laps Run, eighth-most
· 1,343 Green Flag Passes, sixth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 173.134 mph, seventh-fastest
· 4,624 Laps in the Top 15 (76.8%), third-most
· 736 Quality Passes, second-most

Carl Edwards (No. 99 Fastenal Ford)
· Three wins, six top fives, eight top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 15.6
· Average Running Position of 12.3, sixth-best
· Driver Rating of 97.5, sixth-best
· 358 Fastest Laps Run, third-most
· 1,164 Green Flag Passes, 12th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 173.320 mph, fourth-fastest
· 4,425 Laps in the Top 15 (73.5%), fifth-most
· 703 Quality Passes, fourth-most

Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Axalta/Texas A&M School of Engineering Chevrolet)
· One win, eight top fives, 11 top 10s; two poles
· Average finish of 17.8
· Average Running Position of 14.5, 11th-best
· Driver Rating of 90.6, 10th-best
· 307 Fastest Laps Run, seventh-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 172.965 mph, 11th-fastest
· 3,727 Laps in the Top 15 (61.9%), eighth-most
· 629 Quality Passes, ninth-most

Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota)
· Two wins, five top fives, nine top 10s
· Average finish of 10.7
· Average Running Position of 12.7, ninth-best
· Driver Rating of 93.3, eighth-best
· 167 Fastest Laps Run, 11th-most
· 1,301 Green Flag Passes, ninth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 172.998 mph, 10th-fastest
· 3,596 Laps in the Top 15 (67.2%), 12th-most
· 696 Quality Passes, fifth-most

Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe’s “Spring is Calling” Chevrolet)
· Three wins, 10 top fives, 16 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 8.7
· Average Running Position of 10.3, second-best
· Driver Rating of 106.4, second-best
· Series-high 488 Fastest Laps Run
· Average Green Flag Speed of 173.319 mph, fifth-fastest
· 4,660 Laps in the Top 15 (77.4%), second-most
· 681 Quality Passes, sixth-most

Matt Kenseth (No. 20 Dollar General Toyota)
· Two wins, 13 top fives, 16 top 10s
· Average finish of 8.3
· Series-best Average Running Position of 9.0
· Series-best Driver Rating of 107.2
· 350 Fastest Laps Run, fourth-most
· 1,360 Green Flag Passes, fifth-most
· Series-best Average Green Flag Speed of 173.482 mph
· Series-high 4,827 Laps in the Top 15 (80.1%)
· 709 Quality Passes, third-most

Tony Stewart (No. 14 Code 3 Associates/Mobil 1 Chevrolet)
· Two wins, six top fives, 12 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 13.1
· Average Running Position of 10.8, third-best
· Driver Rating of 99.1, fifth-best
· 344 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 173.180 mph, sixth-fastest
· 4,023 Laps in the Top 15 (70.7%), seventh-most
· 596 Quality Passes, 11th-most

Martin Truex Jr. (No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet)
· Two top fives, eight top 10s; two poles
· Average finish of 15.0
· Average Running Position of 13.7, 10th-best
· Driver Rating of 89.1, 11th-best
· 1,164 Green Flag Passes, 12th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 173.017 mph, ninth-fastest
· 3,605 Laps in the Top 15 (63.4%), 11th-most

source:

Texas Motor Speedway Data
Season Race #: 7 of 36 (04-06-14)
Track Size: 1.5-mile
Banking/Turn 1 & 2: 24 degrees
Banking/Turn 3 & 4: 24 degrees
Banking/Frontstretch: 5 degrees
Banking/Backstretch: 5 degrees
Frontstretch Length: 2,250 feet
Backstretch Length: 1,330 feet
Race Length: 334 laps / 501 miles

Top 10 Driver Ratings at Texas
Matt Kenseth……………………….. 107.2
Jimmie Johnson…………………… 106.4
Greg Biffle………………………….. 101.8
Kyle Busch…………………………. 101.6
Tony Stewart…………………………. 99.1
Carl Edwards………………………… 97.5
Dale Earnhardt Jr…………………… 93.8
Denny Hamlin……………………….. 93.3
Clint Bowyer…………………………. 92.3
Jeff Gordon………………………….. 90.6
Note: Driver Ratings compiled from 2005-2013 races (18 total) among active drivers at Texas Motor Speedway.

Qualifying/Race Data
2013 Coors Light Pole winner: Kyle Busch, Toyota, 196.299 mph, 27.509 secs., 04-12-13
2013 race winner: Kyle Busch, Toyota, 144.751 mph, (03:27:40), 04-13-13
Track qualifying record: Kyle Busch, Toyota, 196.299 mph, 27.509 secs., 04-12-13
Track race record: Greg Biffle, Ford, 160.577 mph, (3:07:12), 11-14-12

Texas Motor Speedway History
· Construction on Texas Motor Speedway began in 1995.
· The first NASCAR national series race at TMS was a NASCAR Nationwide Series event on April 5, 1997 – won by Mark Martin.
· The first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race was on April 6, 1997 – won by Jeff Burton.
· The track underwent a repave between the 2001 and 2002 seasons.
· In 2011, the spring NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race was moved from Sunday to Saturday night under the lights at Texas Motor Speedway.
· Texas Motor Speedway hosted its first Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on November 6, 2005 – won by Carl Edwards.

Texas Motor Speedway Notebook
· There have been 26 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Texas Motor Speedway, one NSCS event from 1997 – 2004 and two races per year since 2005.
· 134 drivers have competed in at least one NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Texas; 109 in more than one.
· Four drivers have made all 26 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Texas Motor Speedway – Jeff Gordon, Bobby Labonte, Jeff Burton and Mark Martin.
· Jeremy Mayfield was the first Coors Light pole winner, in 1998 with a speed of 185.906 mph. The inaugural Coors Light pole at Texas Motor Speedway in 1997 was cancelled due to weather conditions.
· 19 drivers have Coors Light poles at Texas, led by Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Bobby Labonte, Ryan Newman and Martin Truex Jr. with two each.
· Two drivers have won consecutive Coors Light poles at Texas Motor Speedway: Bobby Labonte (2003 and 2004) and Ryan Newman (2005 sweep).
· Youngest Texas Coors Light pole winner: Brian Vickers (11/05/2006 – 23 years, 0 months, 12 days).
· Oldest Texas Coors Light pole winner: Bill Elliott (4/08/2002 – 46 years, 6 months, 0 days).
· 17 different drivers have won at Texas Motor Speedway, led by Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson with three each.
· Seven drivers have multiple wins at Texas Motor Speedway: Carl Edwards (three), Jimmie Johnson (three), Greg Biffle, Jeff Burton, Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth and Tony Stewart each have two.
· Roush Fenway Racing leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in wins at Texas Motor Speedway with nine; followed by Hendrick Motorsports with five and Joe Gibbs Racing with four.
· Three of the 26 (11.5%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Texas Motor Speedway have been won from the Coors Light Pole; Kasey Kahne (2006), Jimmie Johnson (2012) and Kyle Busch (2013).
· The third-place starting position is the most proficient starting spot in the field at Texas Motor Speedway, producing more wins than any other starting position in the field (five) – most recent: Jimmie Johnson last fall.
· Six of the 26 (23.1%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Texas Motor Speedway have been won from the front row: three from the pole and three from second-place.
· 20 of the 26 (76.9%) NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Texas Motor Speedway have been won from a top-10 starting position.
· Four of the 26 (15.3%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Texas Motor Speedway have been won from a starting position outside the top 20.
· The deepest in the field that a race winner has started at Texas Motor Speedway is 31st, by Matt Kenseth in 2002.
· Youngest Texas winner: Ryan Newman (03/30/2003 – 25 years, 3 months, 22 days).
· Oldest Texas winner: Dale Jarrett (04/01/2001 – 44 years, 4 months, 6 days).
· Jimmie Johnson leads the series in runner-up finishes at Texas Motor Speedway with five; followed by Matt Kenseth with four.
· Matt Kenseth leads the series in top-five finishes at Texas Motor Speedway with 13; followed by Jimmie Johnson with 10.
· Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson are tied for the series lead in top-10 finishes at Texas Motor Speedway with 16 each; followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr. with 13.
· Jimmie Johnson leads active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average starting position at Texas Motor Speedway with an 8..476. Johnson is the only active driver with an average starting position at Texas in the top 10.
· Two active drivers have a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series average finish in the top 10 at Texas: Matt Kenseth (8.3) and Jimmie Johnson (8.7).
· There have been three NSCS green-white-checkered finishes at Texas Motor Speedway: fall 2006 (334/339), spring 2008 (334/339), and fall 2012 (334/335).
· Qualifying has been cancelled due to weather conditions twice in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Texas Motor Speedway; the inaugural event in 1997 and spring 2007. The race has never been rain shortened.
· Kevin Harvick has participated in the most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Texas Motor Speedway without posting a DNF (22).
· Jeff Burton (4/06/1997) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (4/02/2000) won their first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career race at Texas Motor Speedway.
· David Ragan (4/09/2011) and Martin Truex Jr. (11/04/2007) posted their first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coors Light poles at Texas Motor Speedway.
· 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski (11/02/2008) and Trevor Bayne (11/07/2010) made their first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career starts at Texas Motor Speedway.
· Two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers have posted consecutive wins at Texas Motor Speedway: Carl Edwards (2008 sweep) and Denny Hamlin (2010 sweep).
· Nine of the 12 active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers who have won at Texas Motor Speedway participated in at least two or more races before visiting Victory Lane. Jeff Burton and Dale Earnhardt Jr. won at Texas in their first appearance; Carl Edwards and Ryan Newman won in their second appearance at TMS.
· Jeff Gordon competed at Texas Motor Speedway 16 times before winning in the spring of 2009; the longest span of any the 12 active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series winners.
· Only three of the 12 winning drivers have made 10 or more attempts before their first win at Texas Motor Speedway: Jeff Gordon (16) Kyle Busch (15) and Kurt Busch (13).
· Joe Nemechek leads the series among active drivers with the most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Texas Motor Speedway without visiting Victory Lane at 23.
· Since the advent of electronic scoring the closest margin of victory in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Texas Motor Speedway was the (4/4/2004) race won by Elliott Sadler with a MOV of 0.028 second.
· Two female drivers have made NSCS starts at Texas Motor Speedway: Shawna Robinson and Danica Patrick
· Matt Kenseth leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in laps led at Texas Motor Speedway with 775 laps led in 23 starts.
· One NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver has won at Texas Motor Speedway in two different manufacturers: Jeff Burton (1997 – Ford; 2007 – Chevrolet).

NASCAR in Texas
· There have been 35 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races among three tracks in the state of Texas. Fort Worth’s Texas Motor Speedway has hosted 26 of them. Additionally, Texas World Speedway in College Station hosted eight, and Houston’s Meyer Speedway hosted one.
· 80 drivers in NASCAR national series history have their home state recorded as Texas.
· Nine drivers from Texas have won at least one race in NASCAR’s three national series. Six of the nine Texas native NASCAR winners have won in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

  • Terry Labonte (22 Cup, 11 NNS, 1 Truck)
  • Bobby Labonte (21 Cup, 10 NNS, 1 Truck)
  • A.J. Foyt (7 Cup)
  • Billy Wade (4 Cup)
  • Bobby Hillin Jr. (1 Cup, 2 NNS)
  • Johnny Rutherford (1 Cup)
  • James Buescher (1 NNS, 6 Truck)
  • David Starr (4 Truck)
  • Colin Braun (1 Truck)

Another day, another photo finish in MX-5 Cup at Road America

Photo: Global MX-5 Cup
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ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – The first of three sports car races held Saturday at Road America featured a familiar ending in the Battery Tender Global MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires: a photo finish.

For the third time in four races, a margin of victory of less than a tenth of a second was all that decided the race. This time it was defending series champion Nathanial Sparks of Sick Sideways Racing, edging Atlanta Speedwerks’ Todd Lamb by 0.0468 of a second, for the victory.

Sparks’ win slots in second in the three photo finishes. Friday’s race one saw Patrick Gallagher beat Bryan Ortiz by 0.0263 of a second. At Indianapolis last weekend, Robert Stout beat Gallagher by 0.0632 of a second.

Sparks, also known as “Sparky,” explained how he made the move for the win.

“I fell back a little and I put my head down and really drove hard and I found myself back up at the front,” said Sparks. “Ortiz, Gallagher, and all those guys were driving so hard and there was battling for position and jockeying and moving around. I had a good run coming up out of the last corner and I managed to make my Mazda motor just power me up and just drove it home. It was super excited bringing it home for my Sick Sideways team today.”

Lamb, who came up short, offered his take: “That was a lot of fun. It’s my first podium of the season. We’re starting to get these cars figured out and starting to figure out who is going to work with us and who’s not. It’s been a lot of fun and a good learning experience this weekend, I’m looking forward to more!”

Gallagher led the standings by 39 points over Sparks heading into the weekend and extended the lead with his win on Friday.

“It was definitely more chaotic today, nobody wanted to work together like they did yesterday,” said Gallagher. “Everyone thought they had to be in second, but they didn’t realize they needed to be there until the last lap. Everybody was trying to get to second place from lap one, people were leaning on me and I just had to be careful. I got shoved around a little bit, but it’s a long season, and the championship points we got here this weekend are most important.”

The McCumbee McAleer Racing driver finished third today, his season worst result (hardly a bad thing for the Thornville, Ohio native) and still leads the points as the series heads next to the streets of Toronto, July 14-16, for Rounds 7 and 8. That is also part of a Verizon IndyCar Series weekend.

Fong (Bentley), James (Panoz) score Saturday PWC Road America wins

Photos: PWC
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ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Pirelli World Challenge has returned to full Sprint race action at Road America today with its GT class, while the GTS class was joined by a handful of invitational entries in the TC class for a pair of races at the 4.014-mile circuit.

GT

Adderly Fong, the Hong Kong-based driver, has captured his first career PWC victory in the No. 88 Bentley Team Absolute Bentley Continental GT3.

It’s Bentley’s first PWC victory since 2015, when Chris Dyson won here at the same circuit. The win came after Fong scored the pole, his second straight and Bentley’s third straight at the track. It also comes on the same day as Bentley won the Paul Ricard 1000km in the Blancpain Endurance Series, with Fong’s SprintX co-driver Vincent Abril co-driving for Bentley Team M-Sport with Andy Soucek and Maxime Soulet (below).

Fong had a pair of podiums here last year and with the Bentley expected to do well at this circuit, the pressure was on to deliver.

“My team manager told me if I didn’t win, I didn’t get to have dinner,” Fong joked in the post-race press conference. “I guess I can eat tonight!”

The race-winning performance in the 50-minute race was delivered after Fong collided with Johnny O’Connell on the opening lap, Fong on the inside pitching O’Connell on the outside into a spin exiting Turn 5. Fong apologized for the contact, but was not penalized by PWC race officials.

From there, Fong controlled the pace over Patrick Long, in the No. 58 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R, with both drivers managing their Pirelli tires from there.

Long got close, but never close enough to make a passing attempt of Fong for the win. Nonetheless, after finishes of third, first and second in the first three races, Long’s fourth straight Sprint podium brought him forth the Sprint points lead.

Michael Cooper completed the podium in the No. 8 Cadillac Racing Cadillac ATS-V.R, continuing his consistent season in pursuit of an overall PWC championship combining both the Sprint and SprintX components of the calendar. Cooper and Jordan Taylor won the lone SprintX race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park this year while Cooper posted his first Sprint podium of the season.

Daniel Mancinelli had a rare but welcome trouble-free race in his No. 31 TR3 Racing Ferrari 488 GT3 to finish fourth, with the first of the RealTime Racing Acura NSX GT3s, Peter Kox’s No. 93 car, scoring a top-five finish on RealTime’s home soil near its Saukville, Wis. base.

O’Connell rebounded to eighth overall after his first lap spin in his No. 3 Cadillac.

In 13th, James Sofronas won the GTA class in his No. 14 GMG Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R. Yuki Harata won the GT Cup class in a Dream Racing Lamborghini Huracán LP 620-2.

GTS

Elkhart Lake, WI – Jun 23, 2017: The Pirelli World Challenge racers take to the track on Pirelli tires during the Pirelli World Challenge Grand Prix at Road America presented by VP Racing Fuels at the Road America in Elkhart Lake, WI.

Ian James has scored the Panoz Avezzano GT’s maiden victory, as the new car took the win in Saturday’s combined GTS and TC race.

It comes after a series of close calls, a near win at Lime Rock Park before engine failure and its first podium there as well. The Tom Milner-led team has a series of holdovers who have worked on Don Panoz’s most recent creation, the DeltaWing, and have transitioned over to a more normal looking sports car.

James dominated the 50-minute race while the battle was more behind him for second place, featuring Jeff Courtney’s No. 99 JCR Motorsports Maserati GT4 in his home race and Lawson Aschenbach in the No. 10 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro GT4.R.

Aschenbach, the championship leader, drove smart to get another podium finish with Courtney just behind despite several attempts.

They held off a late charge from Austin Versteeg, PWC debutante, in the No. 13 ANSA Motorsports KTM X-BOW GT4. The talented teenager out of Sandy, Utah has shifted to racing Lamborghinis this year after racing prototypes but was now in Alain Nadal’s entry this weekend.

Cody Ellsworth, in his No. 111 RacerInk Porsche Cayman, won the TC class.

MRTI: Franzoni, Martin Pro Mazda title tilt heats up at Road America

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – For the first time in the 2017 Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires season, the gloves are officially off between two title combatants, after an intense, high-pressure weekend split in Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires.

For Victor Franzoni, a win and a second place served as a disappointing weekend for Juncos Racing, because even despite starting last in Saturday’s race two, he very nearly could have won.

Quite by contrast, second and first for Cape Motorsports’ Anthony Martin was even better than he might have hoped for, with a clear pace deficit to Franzoni this weekend but able to doggedly hold him off in race two.

Franzoni dominated Friday’s race one, which was pretty straightforward. Still though, after red flags caught Franzoni out before qualifying race two, he wasn’t as happy as he usually is.

“The quali was unlucky. We tried a strategy and it didn’t work!” Franzoni told NBC Sports. “But the whole team and I were like, ‘Let’s forget the quali. Let’s focus on what we can do today after quali one.’

“Juncos Racing gave me the great car. It was a big fight. After I got by Anthony, I could go away. It was good. Everything was fine. This was my first win in Road America. Tomorrow is gonna be fun, but I’m really confident. I think we can fight for the win tomorrow.”

Martin put up a valiant fight early in the race but was unable to hold onto it.

“I thought if I’d do anything it’d be the first few laps. as I gave that a red hot shot,” Martin told NBC Sports. “We battled quite hard. I knew he had a better and quicker car than me. I consolidated that I would be in second, looked after my tires. It’ll hurt your tires. I jumped into second and looked after the tires.”

Saturday’s race two, meanwhile, was a barnburner. The second 30-minute race of the weekend saw three yellow flags but Franzoni on a charge from 15th up to second.

Franzoni made it to third by Lap 4 of the eventual 11-lap race. But while the first yellow aided his charge and brought him just two car lengths away from Martin on the first restart, the next two yellows interrupted that process because he’d need to catch up Martin and attempt to pass him again.

“All the unlucky came together,” Franzoni said Saturday. “The race being 40 versus 30. Starting last. Three yellow flags! Everything came down to this not being my race.”

The Brazilian said he still could have hunted down Martin from last on the grid even without the aid of a yellow flag.

“I think with green the whole race, it was possible to do. The car was really really fast. When the first yellow came it was OK, and I thought, ‘Now it’s easier,’ but not the other ones!”

But it was after the restarts that Franzoni thought Martin drove over-aggressively, making his car wider to keep the faster Franzoni behind him.

At Turn 5 in particular, the two drivers had one moment where they both went in deep, overshot the corner entry, and Martin and Franzoni both ran wide on exit. There was another moment exiting Turn 5 where Franzoni got a run up the hill to the inside while Martin moved across to defend there.

The two drivers explained their respective vantage points.

Martin (8) and Franzoni (23) had an intense battle today. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

“I was almost four wheels in the grass. He didn’t give me space,” Franzoni alleged. “There were two times in Turn 5, and I tried outside. He threw the car on me. It was not so nice.”

Martin said, “Knowing that Race Control and everyone is watching, you don’t want to get caught out and make a mistake. So I tried to make it difficult for him to get past me. We both went extremely deep into Turn 5, and we both overshot it.

“We’ve raced each other a few years (in the Mazda Road to Indy). We’re not gonna do anything stupid to each other. I tried to keep him behind me. Things happen. But nothing happened that catastrophic. It was a tough race for both of us. It worked out well for both of us.”

Martin, who led the entirety of the second race, had to exert some key mental training to stay focused for the restarts. With caution laps being so long at the 4.014-mile circuit, Martin knew he had to keep his head in the game.

“It felt long. All the safety car laps take so long! I looked at the dash and thought, ‘It’s a 5-minute lap, we at Spa or something?’ It was pretty crazy the whole race. Mentally very difficult, but we were able to keep him behind.”

Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course comes next the end of July for Pro Mazda after another month break in this season’s condensed schedule.

And it’ll be an important weekend. With three races and Franzoni only seven points clear of Martin, 174-167, it will be imperative to maximize the mark.

Martin enters high on confidence having completed a triple-race sweep in USF2000 with Cape there last year, and with Cape having also delivered a weekend double in Pro Mazda with Nico Jamin driving.

“We know we have a great car at Mid-Ohio but Juncos does as well,” Martin said. “He’s had a half a championship of experience in Pro Mazda – this half – but the team are pushing me to my limit. They’ll implement the correct driving style.

“Mid-Ohio really suits me. I love that track. It suits my style a lot more than these last two tracks.”

Juncos, though, always fields a strong car at Mid-Ohio too and Franzoni will be hoping his car will be just as strong there.

“I had such good equipment. I could have won this race,” Franzoni said. “It’s OK. We’re still leading the championship. I’m disappointed because we had a really big gap and really good car.

“I thought we could use this weekend better to get all the points. It wasn’t so difficult. We’re in good shape but I’m sad because we didn’t win.”

MRTI Road America Notebook: Saturday

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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Saturday was a busy day for the all three series in the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires, with each contesting races in the early afternoon. The day saw three dominating victories, along with an epic drive from one of the championship leaders.

 

Indy Lights: Leist Dominates Race 1

The momentum Matheus Leist had built in the month of May carried over into the month of June, as he led every lap from pole to dominate Race 1 at Road America for the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires. He fended off challenges from Neil Alberico and Ryan Norman in turn 1 after the start and slowly began to pull away from the field, eventually winning by over six seconds.

“The car today was perfect,” said an elated Leist, who will start second in Race 2. “The moment was very good. I’m very happy for this team working so hard. The car is fast in qualifying and fast in the race as well. Really looking for tomorrow.”

Santi Urrutia emerged in second after a tough fight with Ryan Norman and Kyle Kaiser in the early laps, with Kaiser rounding out the podium in third, ahead of Norman in fourth.

Urrutia, despite the strong finish, was very frustrated afterward, citing a simple lack of pace that kept him from challenging for the win. “I’m struggling as I don’t have the speed,” he lamented. “That’s the only thing. Long day to improve the car. Definitely we’re not quick. We want to keep gaining some speed and developing for the championship.”

Kaiser, meanwhile, continued the consistency that has vaulted him into the championship lead. But, as he explained afterward, Kaiser is not playing prevent. “I think it’s important to finish races but I’m not trying to be careful,” he asserted. “When you’re too defensive and careful you get wrecked. I showed that this weekend. We made a lot of good passes. I was aggressive to the very last lap. That’s the plan the rest of the year.”

Of note: Neil Alberico was shuffled nearly outside the top ten after running wide at Turn 1 on the opening lap, but eventually rebounded to finish seventh. Colton Herta and Aaron Telitz, meanwhile, endured very difficult races that saw neither in contention at any time, and both finished outside of the top ten. Telitz was 11th and Herta 12th at the checkered flag, with Herta even spinning late in the going.

Results are below. Race 2 rolls off Sunday at 9:45 a.m. (8:45 local time) and will air on NBCSN at 11:30 a.m. ET. Qualifying report for Race 2 can be found here.

 

Pro Mazda: Martin Withstands Franzoni Charge for Race 2 Win

Anthony Martin needed to fend off a hungry Victory Franzoni for the Race 2 win in Pro Mazda. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Victory Franzoni may have had the drive of the year in Race 2 for the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, but it was Anthony Martin who went to victory lane. Martin led every lap from the pole, while Franzoni ripped through the field after starting 15th to finish second.

Franzoni was up to third in the early laps when a caution for a spinning Brendan Puderbach allowed him to close the gap to Martin. He then moved to second on the subsequent restart and immediately began pressuring Martin for the lead.

Martin had to endure two more restarts, one coming on the final lap, to hold off the fast-moving Franzoni, but he was able to consistently thwart all challenges to take his third win of the 2017 season. Nikita Lastochkin rounded out the podium in third.

Martin explained afterward that he kept Franzoni behind him by focusing forward. “I got a really good start and I kept that gap for a good while until the safety car came out and bunched everyone up. And at that point, I saw the standard white and purple car in third place and thought ‘OK, he’s definitely got pace.’ I just had to put my head down and my bum up and really focus on the road ahead of me and not behind me,” said the Australian.

Franzoni, despite the strong run, lamented losing points to Martin in the championship. “I’m sad not to win, but other people would say it’s good that I came back to finish second. But we lost points today, even though I came from last to second. I had to be really smart and really aggressive. I couldn’t lose time but I couldn’t crash,” he said.

Results are below. Franzoni now leads Martin by a scant seven points, with Pro Mazda’s next event coming at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on July 28-29.

 

USF2000: Rinus Veekay Sweeps the Weekend

Rinus Veekay won both USF2000 races at Road America. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Rinus VeeKay (full surname of Van Kalmthout) had the broom out in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda as he swept the weekend at Road America. The 16-year-old Dutchman outlasted challenges from David Malukas, Calvin Ming, and Oliver Askew to dominate Race 2. It is also the third consecutive race weekend in which a driver won both races, with Oliver Askew doing so at the previous rounds at Barber Motorsports Park and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course.

“It’s great. I won a lot of points for the championship standings, and I’m happy with that. I’m happy I could show the speed. My first two wins in one weekend, it’s great!” said a jubilant Veekay.

Ming managed to get ahead of Askew for second, while Askew rebounded from Friday’s  17th-place finish to end up third. They moved up at the expense of Malukas, who had been running second, but spun off into the gravel at turn 14 on the final lap.

Results are below (note: Ming finished second, with Malukas credited with 12th). Veekay’s victories, coupled with Askew’s struggles, bring Veekay to within 23 points of the championship lead. The next race for USF2000 is July 9 at Iowa Speedway, the only oval on their 2017 calendar.

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