MRTI: Pro Mazda plus some other MRTI drivers in action this weekend

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Following a month-long break since the Freedom 100 (Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires) and the Night Before the 500 at Lucas Oil Raceway (Pro Mazda Presented by Cooper Tires and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda), the Mazda Road to Indy resumes starting this weekend with two different elements.

Pro Mazda is in action to support the Verizon IndyCar Series at Houston, while some other MRTI past or present drivers are in action at Watkins Glen for the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship Sahlen’s Six Hours at the Glen.

PRO MAZDA: HARGROVE VS. PIGOT TITLE BATTLE INTENSIFIES

After his double win at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis weekend and a runner-up finish at the Night Before the 500, Scott Hargrove has closed the gap on Spencer Pigot to just three points (180-177). Pigot went four-for-four to open the year before Hargrove and Garett Grist have won the last three races.

The Hargrove-Pigot battle isn’t limited to open-wheel, as both were in action last week in the Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Michelin at Calabogie. Hargrove took a win in the second race of the weekend for his third triumph in four starts there; he currently leads that points table by four points over Chris Green, with Pigot third in the standings (78-74-54 the gaps there).

At Houston last year, Pigot had one second in Pro Mazda and Hargrove one third, so both seek their first wins on the treacherous and bumpy street circuit this weekend.

The battle isn’t limited to these two, though. Grist and Andretti Autosport teammate Shelby Blackstock look to break through. Blackstock’s had a whirlwind couple of months where he’s raced in Pro Mazda, the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge with the GS class Fall-Line Motorsports BMW M3, and also in the Nurburgring 24 Hours last weekend.

Respective teammates for Pigot (Juncos Racing) and Hargrove (Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing), Kyle Kaiser, Jose Gutierrez and Julia Ballario (Juncos) and Neil Alberico (Cape) have shown flashes of brilliance this season and look for their first wins of the year.

There’s two new drivers as well with USF2000 drivers Clark Toppe and Felipe Donato moving up to Pro Mazda for the weekend with JDC Motorsports and M1 Racing, respectively. The two races are at 1:05 Saturday and 1:00 Sunday.

WATKINS GLEN: MRTI CROP INCLUDES CHAVES, ALUMNI THROUGHOUT 55-CAR FIELD

The 55-car field for the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship round features a number of Mazda Road to Indy alumni in the field, and the current Indy Lights points leader.

Gabby Chaves steps in once again to the DeltaWing coupe in Prototype, which he’s raced at both Daytona and Sebring and now shares solo with Katherine Legge this weekend. Chaves has also been involved in a couple tests for the team, where he’s continued to learn and develop as a driver.

Elsewhere recent Indy Lights alumni Gustavo Yacaman (No. 42 OAK Racing), Sage Karam (No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing), Tristan Vautier (No. 07 SpeedSource), David Ostella (No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports), Martin Plowman (No. 88 BAR1 Motorsports) and Rusty Mitchell (No. 08 RSR Racing) will be in the field in the P and PC classes. There are other Indy Lights graduates who raced in the 1990s and early 2000s; the numbers get higher the longer back you go.

Simon Pagenaud has words with Gabby Chaves after Honda Indy GP of Alabama

Photos: IndyCar
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The rain didn’t stop following the conclusion of the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, and neither did the jousting between drivers.

An angry Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud confronted Harding Racing’s Gabby Chaves after the race, complaining that Chaves would not let Pagenaud get past him in the closing laps.

Instead of ending up with a hoped-for Top 5, Pagenaud wound up with a ninth-place finish. Chaves, meanwhile, finished 17th, two laps down.

The confrontation turned into a battle of words and profanity between the two drivers, as captured on Twitter by AutoWeek’s Matt Weaver.

Afterward – and after their tempers cooled down somewhat – both Pagenaud and Chaves gave their sides of the confrontation to NBCSN.

Gabby Chaves

First, here’s Pagenaud’s take on things:

“We had a really good race going,” Pagenaud said. “I think we potentially could have been top 5. I was really frustrated with Gabby. He was two laps down and I was stuck behind him, which gave an opportunity to (Scott) Dixon as I was trying to do everything I could to make it happen.

“It’s a real shame because when it’s not your day, it’s not your day. You’ll have better days later, but you want to have everybody on your side when you have a good day. At the moment, he doesn’t have me on his side, let me tell you. It’s a real shame.”

When asked what exactly he said to Chaves, Pagenaud demurred.

“Driver’s stuff,” he said with a slight smile. “We’ve all been there. I’ve been in his position. My side, I played it smart. It is what it is.

“I can’t comment for him. You can ask him the question. I’m not going to make a deal about it, it’s just a shame it ruined my race. We’ll come back stronger. It’s Indy soon, so that’ll put a smile on my face.”

NBCSN then caught up with Chaves for his side of the story.

 

“It’s a tough situation, we had to restart (the rain-delayed race) a lap down,” Chaves said. “Our whole strategy depends on trying to get a yellow and holding our position. Some guys think that the track belongs only to them, they’re the only guys on-track.

“Everyone else who was faster at that point – we were only one lap down to the leader, so we’re still on our strategy and don’t know what’s going to happen – as soon as they got right up next to me on the lead lap, I let them go.

“Simon was the only one who couldn’t drive up to me. I understand his frustration, but he’s the one who has to save fuel to make his strategy work, that’s not our fault, right?”

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