Photo/videos courtesy NHRA

NHRA Englishtown winners: Torrence (TF), Beckman (FC), Anderson (PS), Savoie (PSM)

2 Comments

If Steve Torrence was a train, he’d be an express: he’s not stopping for anyone.

Torrence earned his third Top Fuel win in the first 10 races of the season and 48th of his career Sunday in the NHRA Summernationals at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, New Jersey.

Other winners were: Jack Beckman (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Jerry Savoie (Pro Stock Motorcycle).

TOP FUEL: Torrence (3.857 seconds at 320.28 mph) defeated three-time defending champ Antron Brown (3.932 seconds at 306.74) to take home the winner’s check and trophy.

“All day long I was confident because we have historically done well in Englishtown since I have won here twice and don’t have that chip on my shoulder,” Torrence said in a media release. “Both Antron and I have cars that can win and we know we just have to do our jobs to win.

“I know my record against him isn’t the best (2-22), but it’s always fun to go up against one of my best friends in the final round.”

Torrence has now reached the final round in five of the last six NHRA national events, including his first two wins of the season back-to-back at Charlotte and Atlanta.

Even with his runner-up finish, Brown – who reached his fifth final round of the season – regained the lead in the Top Fuel standings. He leads Torrence by just seven points.

Former points leader Leah Pritchett fell to third in the standings after a first-round loss in eliminations.

FUNNY CAR: “Fast Jack” Beckman lived up to his nickname, earning his 25th career Funny Car win.

In reaching his first final round of the season, Beckman (4.100 seconds at 312.42 mph) also earned his first win since St. Louis last season, defeating defending Funny Car champ and Don Schumacher Racing teammate Ron Capps (4.143 at 299.66 mph). It was Capps’ sixth final round appearance thus far this season, with four of those being wins.

“We needed to get this win today so we knew that we could do this more often,” Beckman said. “Not only is this our team’s first win together, but a win at the Summernationals in Funny Car is about as cool as it gets.”

PRO STOCK: Anderson (6.613 seconds at 210.44 mph) won his second race of the season (won at Phoenix), defeating Vincent Nobile (6.665 seconds at 210.21 mph). It was Anderson’s first win since Phoenix early this season.

But more importantly, the win continued Anderson’s dominance at Englishtown, where he now has eight career Pro Stock triumphs there.

“It certainly was a tough weekend but everything worked out for us, but this Wally (winner’s trophy) is going to my son for getting through high school,” Anderson said. “This track has been magical for me, I have a lot of great memories here. To win eight times here makes it a pretty special place.”

Anderson earned his fifth final round of the season to move into second place in the Pro Stock standings, while Nobile reached the final round for the first time of 2017.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: Defending 2016 PSM champ Jerry Savoie finally earned his first win of 2017 (6.918 seconds at 192.85 mph) and seventh of his career, defeating Hector Arana Jr. (6.862 at 195.62).

“I’ve had some struggles earlier in the season, but each win is special because you never know which one will be your last,” said Savoie, who has reached the final round twice in the last four races. “This track has been good to me in the past and we were able to take this one home today and I’m extremely thankful for that.”

The NHRA’s next event is this weekend at Bristol Dragway, which hosts the 17th NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals, June 16-18, in Bristol, Tennessee.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

FINAL FINISHING ORDER:

TOP FUEL: 1.  Steve Torrence; 2.  Antron Brown; 3.  Doug Kalitta; 4.  Brittany Force; 5.  Tony Schumacher; 6.  Scott Palmer; 7.  Clay Millican; 8.  Troy Coughlin Jr.; 9.  Dom Lagana; 10.  Terry McMillen; 11.  Leah Pritchett; 12.  Blake Alexander; 13.  Shawn Langdon; 14.  Smax Smith.

FUNNY CAR: 1.  Jack Beckman; 2.  Ron Capps; 3.  Courtney Force; 4.  Robert Hight; 5.  Cruz Pedregon; 6.  Matt Hagan; 7.  Tommy Johnson Jr.; 8.  Alexis DeJoria; 9.  Jonnie Lindberg; 10.  Tim Wilkerson; 11.  Del Worsham; 12.  John Force; 13.  Bob Tasca III; 14.  Jeff Diehl; 15.  J.R. Todd; 16.  Jim Campbell.

PRO STOCK: 1.  Greg Anderson; 2.  Vincent Nobile; 3.  Bo Butner; 4.  Jeg Coughlin; 5.  Allen Johnson; 6.  Alan Prusiensky; 7.  John Gaydosh Jr; 8.  Erica Enders; 9.  Kenny Delco; 10.  Matt Hartford; 11.  Val Smeland; 12.  Tanner Gray; 13.  Jason Line; 14.  Drew Skillman.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 1.  Jerry Savoie; 2.  Hector Arana Jr; 3.  Karen Stoffer; 4.  Angie Smith; 5.  Hector Arana; 6.  Eddie Krawiec; 7.  Scotty Pollacheck; 8.  LE Tonglet; 9.  Angelle Sampey; 10.  Chip Ellis; 11.  Melissa Surber; 12.  Joey Gladstone; 13.  Andrew Hines; 14.  Kelly Clontz; 15.  Steve Johnson; 16.  Cory Reed.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

FINAL RESULTS:

TOP FUEL: Steve Torrence, 3.857 seconds, 320.28 mph  def. Antron Brown, 3.932 seconds, 306.74 mph.

FUNNY CAR: Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 4.100, 312.42  def. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.143, 299.66.

PRO STOCK: Greg Anderson, Chevy Camaro, 6.613, 210.44  def. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.665, 210.21.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.918, 192.85  def. Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.862, 195.62.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

FINAL ROUND-BY-ROUND RESULTS:

TOP FUEL: ROUND ONE — Clay Millican, 3.806, 314.31 def. Terry McMillen, 3.926, 307.02; Brittany Force, 3.809, 321.96 def. Troy Coughlin Jr., 3.852, 309.91; Steve Torrence, 3.832, 322.04 def. Smax Smith, 4.837, 177.46; Antron Brown, 3.783, 323.12 def. Blake Alexander, 3.992, 289.32; Doug Kalitta, 3.762, 326.79 def. Dom Lagana, 3.865, 319.37; Tony Schumacher, 3.839, 318.69 def. Leah Pritchett, 3.928, 300.26; Scott Palmer, 3.888, 319.67 def. Shawn Langdon, 4.270, 196.82;

QUARTERFINALS — Torrence, 3.827, 323.27 def. Millican, 7.241, 84.20; Force, 3.838, 316.67 def. Palmer, 3.901, 314.90; Brown, 6.622, 103.10 was unopposed; Kalitta, 3.805, 325.37 def. Schumacher, 3.900, 299.00;

SEMIFINALS — Brown, 3.789, 324.98 def. Force, 3.932, 279.09; Torrence, 3.827, 322.42 def. Kalitta, 3.854, 319.37;

FINAL — Torrence, 3.857, 320.28 def. Brown, 3.932, 306.74.

FUNNY CAR: ROUND ONE — Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 4.664, 260.36 def. Del Worsham, Toyota Camry, 4.689, 254.95; Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, 4.019, 294.18 def. Jeff Diehl, Toyota Solara, 11.687, 77.47; Robert Hight, Camaro, 4.880, 189.10 def. J.R. Todd, Camry, 13.961, 64.63; Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.082, 306.60 def. Jim Campbell, Charger, 23.920, 130.73; Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.722, 243.59 def. John Force, Camaro, 4.829, 206.13; Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.048, 316.82 def. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 4.242, 228.58; Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.010, 319.67 def. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.949, 182.85; Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.013, 317.94 def. Jonnie Lindberg, Camry, 4.044, 314.39;

QUARTERFINALS — Hight, 4.048, 314.75 def. Johnson Jr., 4.515, 195.05; Beckman, 4.285, 290.94 def. Pedregon, 4.286, 291.76; Capps,  def. DeJoria, Foul – Centerline; C. Force, 4.094, 312.28 def. Hagan, 4.374, 268.60;

SEMIFINALS — Beckman, 9.145, 72.26 def. C. Force, Foul – Red Light; Capps, 4.195, 260.31 def. Hight, 6.302, 107.84;

FINAL — Beckman, 4.100, 312.42 def. Capps, 4.143, 299.66.

PRO STOCK: ROUND ONE — Vincent Nobile, Chevy Camaro, 6.752, 208.68 def. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 18.629, 43.74; Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.611, 209.82 def. Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.635, 210.67; Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.647, 210.21 def. Kenny Delco, Camaro, 6.636, 208.78; Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.637, 209.59 def. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.645, 209.79; Alan Prusiensky, Dart, 6.806, 182.92 def. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.941, 207.69; John Gaydosh Jr, Chevrolet Camaro, 6.801, 199.70 def. Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.799, 176.12; Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.612, 210.28 def. Val Smeland, Camaro, 6.743, 198.50;

QUARTERFINALS — Nobile, 6.640, 210.37 def. Gaydosh Jr, Broke – No Show; Anderson, 6.611, 210.14 def. Johnson, 6.622, 209.56; Butner, 6.616, 210.14 was unopposed; Coughlin, 6.643, 209.49 def. Prusiensky, 6.715, 207.40;

SEMIFINALS — Nobile, 6.644, 209.56 def. Coughlin, 6.654, 208.62; Anderson, 6.632, 210.28 def. Butner, 6.648, 209.69;

FINAL — Anderson, 6.613, 210.44 def. Nobile, 6.665, 210.21.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: ROUND ONE — Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.854, 194.35 def. Cory Reed, 7.169, 182.65; Angie Smith, Buell, 6.942, 191.02 def. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.960, 195.51; LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.817, 196.27 def. Kelly Clontz, Suzuki, 6.978, 192.74; Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.870, 196.70 def. Chip Ellis, Buell, 6.859, 193.27; Scotty Pollacheck, Suzuki, 6.845, 194.30 def. Angelle Sampey, 6.858, 194.38; Hector Arana, Buell, 6.946, 195.56 def. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 7.014, 193.79; Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.902, 191.51 def. Joey Gladstone, Suzuki, 6.947, 193.79; Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.816, 196.79 def. Melissa Surber, Buell, 6.894, 192.66;

QUARTERFINALS — Stoffer, 6.894, 192.77 def. Arana, 6.874, 195.73; Savoie, 6.852, 195.45 def. Pollacheck, 6.938, 193.93; A. Smith, 6.942, 192.44 def. Tonglet, 7.257, 194.46; Arana Jr, 6.828, 196.02 def. Krawiec, 6.937, 194.38;

SEMIFINALS — Savoie, 6.878, 195.14 def. A. Smith, Foul – Red Light; Arana Jr, 6.854, 195.56 def. Stoffer, 6.899, 192.91;

FINAL — Savoie, 6.918, 192.85 def. Arana Jr, 6.862, 195.62.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

UPDATED POINT STANDINGS:

TOP FUEL: 1.  Antron Brown, 878; 2.  Steve Torrence, 871; 3.  Leah Pritchett, 842; 4.  Tony Schumacher, 766; 5.  Doug Kalitta, 648; 6.  Brittany Force, 609; 7.  Clay Millican, 520; 8.  Troy Coughlin Jr., 412; 9.  Terry McMillen, 392; 10.  Scott Palmer, 380.

FUNNY CAR: 1.  Ron Capps, 931; 2.  Matt Hagan, 802; 3.  Jack Beckman, 652; 4.  Courtney Force, 648; 5.  Robert Hight, 645; 6.  (tie) John Force, 587; Tommy Johnson Jr., 587; 8.  J.R. Todd, 444; 9.  Tim Wilkerson, 427; 10.  Del Worsham, 372.

PRO STOCK: 1.  Bo Butner, 837; 2.  Greg Anderson, 797; 3.  Tanner Gray, 758; 4.  Jeg Coughlin, 701; 5.  Jason Line, 668; 6.  Erica Enders, 579; 7.  Vincent Nobile, 562; 8.  Drew Skillman, 504; 9.  Chris McGaha, 421; 10.  Shane Gray, 382.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 1.  Eddie Krawiec, 358; 2.  LE Tonglet, 356; 3.  Jerry Savoie, 322; 4.  Andrew Hines, 263; 5.  Scotty Pollacheck, 250; 6.  Hector Arana Jr, 234; 7.  Joey Gladstone, 223; 8.  Karen Stoffer, 186; 9.  (tie) Steve Johnson, 167; Angie Smith, 167.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

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

Photo: Global MX-5 Cup
Leave a comment

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
Leave a comment

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
Leave a comment

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
Leave a comment

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.

Follow Kyle Lavigne.