Nico Jamin's No. 27 Andretti Indy Lights car. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

MRTI: Entry lists released for St. Petersburg

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The entry lists for the three rungs on the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires are out today, ahead of the season-opening weekends at St. Petersburg.

More than 50 drivers from 14 countries are present across the board; more previews for these series will come throughout this week.

Quick notes from the three series and the entry lists are below:

Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires (15 entries)

  • The 15 drivers entered are the same as at the Spring Training test at Homestead-Miami Speedway, where Andretti Autosport led both the oval and road course portions of the test.
  • That 15-driver entry is broken down between seven returning drivers (Santiago Urrutia, Kyle Kaiser, Neil Alberico, Dalton Kellett, Shelby Blackstock, Zachary Claman De Melo, Juan Piedrahita) and eight rookies (Aaron Telitz, Nicolas Dapero, Matheus Leist, Garth Rickards, Nico Jamin, Colton Herta, Ryan Norman, Pato O’Ward).
  • Carlin has won three of the four races at St. Petersburg the last two years. Ed Jones swept in 2015 on both the team and driver’s U.S. debut; Felix Serralles won race one last year before Belardi Auto Racing’s Felix Rosenqvist won race two.
  • The Indy Lights races from St. Petersburg have a 2 a.m. ET air time on March 18 on NBCSN.

Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires (14 entries)

  • A better than expected field of 14 cars will feature all participants from the Spring Training test at Homestead-Miami Speedway and a bunch of extras that didn’t test there last week.
  • Young guns Phillippe Denes (World Speed Motorsports), Max Hanratty (ArmsUp Motorsports) and Matt Machiko (FatBoy! Racing) add a bit of extra interest to the field. Hanratty had previously been announced with Leading Edge Grand Prix, but that team’s entry has not materialized.
  • Look for Juncos Racing to make an interesting driver announcement on Wednesday as Ricardo Juncos’ team, which wasn’t originally planning to run Pro Mazda this season, now is set to return after all with two cars.
  • Team Pelfrey swept last year’s St. Petersburg races with Pato O’Ward and Aaron Telitz winning one race each. Neil Alberico (Cape Motorsports) swept 2015, Spencer Pigot (Juncos Racing) swept 2014, and Matthew Brabham (Andretti Autosport) swept 2013. It’s been since 2012, when Connor De Phillippi (Juncos) and Jack Hawksworth (Pelfrey) made it two different teams that won in a weekend at St. Petersburg.

Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda (22 entries)

  • Six returning drivers (Parker Thompson, Luke Gabin, Ayla Agren, Robert Megennis, Dakota Dickerson, Lucas Kohl), 15 rookies and one TBA make up the field of 22 cars for the USF2000 season opener, with all cars but one the new Tatuus USF-17 that makes its race debut. One National Class entry still fields the previous generation Van Diemen.
  • Rinus Van Kalmthout switches from Benik, where he was initially announced, to Pabst Racing in a third car. He has also tested for Newman Wachs Racing.
  • Pabst has swept the weekend here the last two years with Jordan Lloyd and Yufeng Luo winning once apiece last year and Jake Eidson winning both races in 2015. In 2014, Victor Franzoni (Afterburner Autosport) and RC Enerson (Team E) split the wins. It’s been since 2013, when Scott Hargrove swept for Cape Motorsports, that the six-time defending champion team has won at St. Pete.

Race schedule

  • Indy Lights: Race 1, Sat., 5:10-6 p.m. ET; Race 2, Sun., 9;45-10:45 a.m. ET
  • Pro Mazda: Race 1, Sat. 11:50 a.m.-12:40 p.m. ET; Race 2, Sun. 4:30-5:20 p.m. ET
  • USF2000: Race 1, Sat., 8:40-9:20 a.m. ET; Race 2, Sat. 2-2:40 p.m ET

Hartley happy with ‘big progression’ on first day with Toro Rosso

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With 69 laps completed (28 in free practice one and 41 in free practice two) and respectable lap times in both sessions, Brendon Hartley quickly acclimated to a modern day Formula 1 chassis in his first run with Scuderia Toro Rosso in Friday practice for the United States Grand Prix.

The Porsche factory driver has been drafted into the team following a convoluted series of musical chairs that sees Daniil Kvyat back after a two-race absence, Carlos Sainz Jr. now at Renault and Pierre Gasly racing at the Super Formula season finale in Suzuka.

Over the time in the car today, Hartley experienced changeable conditions in FP1 before a more normal FP2, and discovered the new F1 cockpit after a day learning in the garage yesterday.

“A steep learning curve today! It all went pretty smoothly and I kept the car on track without making too many mistakes, so I’m quite happy,” the New Zealander reflected at day’s end.

“I didn’t really know what to expect from today because I just had so much to learn! I think I made quite a big progression throughout the day.

“The biggest difference from what I’m used to is the high-speed grip, it’s incredible here in Formula 1…it was quite an eye-opener! Another challenge are the tires, which are also quite different to what I’m used to. On the other hand, the long-run looks quite positive and I did a good job managing the tires there – the biggest thing I need to work on now is the new tire pace, and I’ll get another crack at it tomorrow morning before qualifying.

“All in all, I’d say it’s all coming together. We’ll now work hard and go through plenty of data tonight and hopefully I’ll make another step forward tomorrow.”

His best lap was 1.1 seconds up on Friday driver Sean Gelael, the Indonesian Formula 2 driver, in FP1 (1:39.267 to 1:40.406, good enough for 14th) and 1.1 seconds off the returning Kvyat in FP2 (1:37.987 to 1:36.761, good enough for 17th). Interestingly, the Gelael/Hartley combination in FP1 marked the second time in three races that Toro Rosso had a pair of drivers in its cars without a single Grand Prix start between them – Gasly’s debut at Malaysia was the other, when he and Gelael were in in FP1.

Coming into Friday’s running, Hartley said he was more ready for this opportunity now than he had been as a teenager. He admitted he’d called Red Bull’s Helmut Marko in the wake of Porsche’s LMP1 withdrawal news earlier this year to say he was game for any chance that might come.

“I’m a lot stronger than I was back then, basically. I wasn’t ready at 18 years old. I like to think I’m ready now,” he said.

“I haven’t driven a single-seater since 2012, but I like to think that Porsche LMP1 has hopefully prepared me well.”

As for the rest of his weekend, it’s been made more complicated by Hartley being assessed a 25-spot grid penalty, even though Hartley had done nothing to accrue the penalties.

The roundabout sequence of driver changes at Toro Rosso saw Gasly replace Kvyat, Kvyat replace Sainz, and now Hartley replace Gasly, as is outlined by NBCSN pit reporter Will Buxton below.