Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

MRTI Friday Notebook: IMS Road Course

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Indy Lights: Nico Jamin goes flag-to-flag in Race 1

Andretti Autosport’s Nico Jamin took his second win of the 2017 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires season on Friday, leading every lap after securing the pole.

Jamin endured a brief challenge from teammate Colton Herta in the early laps, but quickly pulled away. Herta, meanwhile, suffered a cut tire after contact in the middle of the race, which forced him to make an unexpected pit stop and relegated him to 12th at the end.

Up front, Jamin led home Zachary Claman De Melo, who finished second after a fierce battle with Kyle Kaiser, who hung on for third.

Jamin couldn’t help but be emotional after the race. “It is amazing emotions – I don’t think it gets any better than winning at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway,” said the 21-year-old. “I was nervous starting on pole. You’re always happy to get the pole and the check but I saw in USF2000 here two years ago that the guys behind you can really get a good run into Turn One. I knew I had to get a good jump and I did, though I didn’t want to look in my mirror because I knew it would be a mess.”

Nico Jamin was an elated Indy Lights winner. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Despite leading every lap, Jamin explained that he was pressured throughout the race, which made his victory anything but easy. “I pushed hard in the beginning to get away from Colton, who was on his push-to-pass, but then Zach was a rocketship at the end and was catching up,” he explained. “The guys were yelling on the radio for me to push harder, but I couldn’t. But I’m very happy to have gotten the pole and the win for the DuraMAX guys, who have joined me this month.”

Race 1 results are below. Of note: Juan Piedrahita crashed in practice and Team Pelfrey, for whom he drives, was unable to repair the car in time for the race.

Pro Mazda: Franzoni outduels Martin for First Career Win

Victor Franzoni captured his first Pro Mazda win. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

The Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires returned to action after a two-month break following the opening rounds on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida. Victor Franzoni started Race 1 on the pole, but it was Anthony Martin who emerged in the lead after the green flag flew. Martin made his move around the outside entering turn 1, but he could not shake Franzoni, who quickly regrouped and mounted a challenge.

After five laps of stalking Martin, Franzoni made his move, also doing so around the outside entering turn 1, and cleared Martin for the lead. Franzoni ran the rest of the way unchallenged and won by just over five seconds. Martin, who swept the races at St. Petersburg, hung on for second, with TJ Fischer rounding out the podium.

The victory is the first of Franzoni’s Pro Mazda career. “It’s unbelievable to get my first win in Pro Mazda and my first win at Indianapolis,” said an elated Franzoni. “This track is amazing; everything here is about racing so to win here is totally different than winning anywhere else.”

Franzoni was gracious in victory and gave credit to Martin for a hard-fought and clean battle. “Anthony made a better start than me but he didn’t have anywhere to go, so he was pushing me. I’ve raced Anthony for three years now on the Mazda Road to Indy so we respect each other – and we know that if we do something bad for each other, it will be bad for the championship.”

Race 1 results are below.

USF2000: Askew Continues Dominating Run

Oliver Askew continued his winning ways on Friday by taking Race 1, his fourth win in a row in the 2017 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda season.

Oliver Askew (middle), Kaylen Frederick (left), and Calvin Ming (right) on the podium in Race 1. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Askew started on pole and led every lap, the third consecutive race he has done so, and again led Kaylen Frederick to the finish. Frederick again finished an impressive second, his third second-place in a row, while Calvin Ming rounded out the podium. However, Frederick and Team Pelfrey teammate Robert Megennis were later disqualified per Rule 14.28.9, which is uprights per the USF2000 rulebook. That vaulted Ming to second and Ricky Donison to third.

A jubilant Askew was beside himself after winning at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “I tried not to think about winning here, because I didn’t want to jinx myself,” Askew quipped afterward. “The place has so much history and it’s what INDYCAR is. That’s where I want to be in the future so to win here is really cool. But this whole year hasn’t sunk in yet; I don’t feel as though it’s real.”

The race had somewhat of a messy beginning. The initial was waved off when the pole sitting Askew was not the first car to cross the start/finish line, and an accident involving Kory Enders and Kris Wright shortly after the green flag flew forced a full course caution before a green flag lap was ever completed.

However, Askew was able to quickly scoot away from Frederick when the green flag came back out. “I just had to make sure I got a good jump at the start,” Askew said of the effort. “Having a yellow start throws everyone off, but you have to regroup and figure out how to restart the race. I had the plan of where to accelerate, how to warm up the tires and where to get the jump by the time the green came out.”

Race 1 results are below. (Note: these do not reflect the penalties levied on Frederick and Megennis).

Saturday sees Race 2 for all three series, with Pro Mazda kicking things off at 8:15 a.m. ET, followed by USF2000 at 10:05 a.m., and Indy Lights at 1:15 p.m. ET.

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IndyCar’s 2018 full-field grid nearing completion

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Following Wednesday’s confirmation of the all-Canadian tandem at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, each of the eight full-time teams in the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season have announced at least one driver for 2018, leaving very few remaining question marks.

What stands confirmed is below:

CONFIRMED

  • Team Penske (3, Chevrolet): Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power
  • Chip Ganassi Racing (1, Honda): Scott Dixon
  • Andretti Autosport (4, Honda): Ryan Hunter-Reay, Alexander Rossi, Marco Andretti, Zach Veach
  • Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (2, Honda): Graham Rahal, Takuma Sato
  • Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (2, Honda): James Hinchcliffe, Robert Wickens
  • Ed Carpenter Racing (2, Chevrolet): Spencer Pigot, Ed Carpenter (ovals)
  • A.J. Foyt Enterprises (1, Chevrolet): Tony Kanaan
  • Dale Coyne Racing (1, Honda): Sebastien Bourdais
  • Harding Racing (1, Chevrolet): Gabby Chaves

There are four additional drivers confirmed for selected races or an month of May program:

  • Team Penske (1, Chevrolet): Helio Castroneves
  • Andretti Autosport (1, Honda): Stefan Wilson
  • Calmels Sport with SPM (1, Honda): Tristan Gommendy
  • Team TBD (1, TBD): Kyle Kaiser

All told that’s 17 full-season driver and team combinations confirmed and four additional part-time programs, at least, that are set. Several of those driver/team combinations will have engineering and strategist changes, as well.

In a minor note since our last update at Sonoma, Marco Andretti confirmed he won’t run No. 27 next year. Of note, Bryan Herta served as Andretti’s race strategist this year, although the car he was an entrant on was Alexander Rossi’s No. 98 car. Herta will continue his relationship with Andretti Autosport again next season.

WHAT’S LEFT TO SORT? NOT MUCH

Elsewhere, there’s only a handful of remaining question marks as the series hits mid-October, a rarity from past years and an illustration of the urgency to fill seats to get as much preparation time in testing with the new 2018 Dallara universal aero kit as possible.

NBC Sports expects 2016 Indy Lights champion and 2017 IndyCar rookie-of-the-year Ed Jones to be confirmed soon as second driver in Dale Coyne Racing’s No. 19 Honda alongside Sebastien Bourdais, with team personnel and Bourdais both having indicated a preference in keeping the Dubai-based Brit for a second year.

NBC Sports also expects Jones’ successor as Indy Lights champion, Kyle Kaiser, to have his future announced shortly in terms of which team he’ll step up to IndyCar with. It would not be a surprise if Kaiser does graduate along with Juncos Racing, although Kaiser is known to have talked to multiple teams. The Mazda Motorsports scholarship nets him $1 million for a three-race program, including the 102nd Indianapolis 500, with the driver then needing to secure additional funding for further races, as Jones and Pigot both have each of the last two years.

The status of Brendon Hartley has now been thrown up as a slight question mark dependent on how his Formula 1 debut with Scuderia Toro Rosso goes at this weekend’s United States Grand Prix, and if Toro Rosso provides him a further race opportunity in one of the remaining three Grands Prix thereafter. Having been all-but-earmarked for Chip Ganassi Racing’s second seat in 2018, if an F1 offer comes, Hartley’s potential IndyCar bow could get delayed.

A McLaren-named entry competing either in the Indianapolis 500 or full-time seems further off than realistic for next year, McLaren’s Zak Brown told reporters on a teleconference this week. McLaren maintains an IndyCar technical presence though, via its McLaren Applied Technologies outfit.

What’s left then are the dominoes of whether Carlin’s IndyCar plans officially come to fruition as the team has gotten closer than it ever has to doing so, and who emerges in the second seats at A.J. Foyt Enterprises and Ed Carpenter Racing (road and street courses), respectively.

A number of young IndyCar veterans – Max Chilton, Charlie Kimball, Carlos Munoz and Conor Daly namely – are yet to land for 2018 and there’s no guarantee all four of them will be back in IndyCar next season.

There’s also a handful of young drivers, namely RC Enerson, Jack Harvey, Esteban Gutierrez, Santiago Urrutia, Zachary Claman DeMelo, Sage Karam and Matthew Brabham among others, who could well emerge in the frame for seats.

Gutierrez’s status seemed dependent on Mexico City being added to the 2018 calendar, and although the race still could be added, the fact neither is in place at this point doesn’t inspire as much confidence about his presence as a regular on the grid as it did earlier this summer.

All told, there’s not nearly that much to sort out as IndyCar’s grid for 2018 is looking very much close to set at this early stage of a long offseason.