Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

MRTI Sunday notebook: Mid-Ohio

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Sunday concluded action for the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires, with Race 3 for the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and Race 2 for Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires wrapping up the weekend.

Pro Mazda saw utter dominance from one of its title contenders, while Indy Lights saw a duel to the checkered flag after several heavy hitters stumbled.

Reports on both races are below.

INDY LIGHTS: JAMIN OUTDUELS URRUTIA AS HERTA, KAISER FALTER

Nico Jamin swapped the lead with polesitter Colton Herta a couple times in the early laps of Indy Lights Race 2 and assumed the lead on lap 3 after Herta spun out of the lead exiting turn 9. Jamin then had to withstand a late charge from Race 1 winner Santi Urrutia, who closed onto the Frenchman’s gearbox in the final laps.

Urrutia made a serious run at Jamin entering turn 4 on lap 34 and got to the outside of Jamin on corner entry. However, he locked up the brakes briefly and Jamin was able to hold him off. Jamin kept him at bay from there to secure the victory. It is Jamin’s sixth victory in his last eight Mid-Ohio races – he swept a USF2000 triple-header in 2015 and won twice during last year’s Pro Mazda triple-header (he finished third in the other race). Including Saturday’s Race 1 finish of third, Jamin has eight consecutive podiums at Mid-Ohio.

Nico Jamin won Indy Lights Race 2 at Mid-Ohio. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

“I screamed on the radio (because) I was so happy!” said an elated Jamin. “The whole 27 team has been struggling so to be first and third this weekend and coming back a bit in the championship feels really good.”

Shelby Blackstock drove a quiet, but solid race to finish third, with Zachary Claman de Melo and Aaron Telitz doing the same to finish fourth and fifth.

Herta was able to regroup after his spin to finish sixth, taking the position from Nicolas Dapero on lap 33. Championship leader Kyle Kaiser, however, endured a much more difficult Race 2, this after struggling massively in Race 1.

Kaiser was running seventh in the early laps, and actually looked poised to grow his points lead over Herta and Matheus Leist, with both drivers running behind him due to Herta’s spin and a poor qualifying from Leist, who started 13th. However, Kaiser made a poorly timed dive inside Juan Piedrahita entering turn 5 as they battled for sixth. Contact was made, Kaiser’s right-front with Piedrahita’s left-rear, and both drivers spun. While they were able to rejoin, neither was in contention from then on. Piedrahita ended up 11th, with Kaiser 12th at the checkered flag.

Matheus Leist, meanwhile, endured another race in which he seemed to lack the necessary pace to run up front, finishing tenth. Combined with his Race 1 finish of 11th, Leist was rarely a factor during the weekend.

Despite the mistake, Kaiser retains the top spot in the championship, and with a still healthy margin at that. Kaiser now leads Urrutia and Herta, who are tied for second, by 42 points (297 for Kaiser, 255 for Urrutia and Herta). Leist sits fourth on 249 points, with Claman de Melo fifth on 243. Nico Jamin sits sixth with 242 points.

Results are below. Race 2 for Indy Lights airs tonight (7/30) at 11:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

PRO MAZDA: MARTIN REBOUNDS TO DOMINATE RACE 3

Anthony Martin completely dominated Race 3 at Mid-Ohio. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Anthony Martin rebounded from a disappointing and controversial second-place in Race 2 to run away with Race 3. Martin shot off into the lead after starting on pole and never looked back, steadily increasing his lead all the way through, eventually winning by nearly 14 seconds.

In fact, Martin never appeared to ease up at any point, actually setting his fastest lap on lap 22, the second-to-last lap of the race.

“I knew I had one job to do and that was to win the race. I was a little ticked off from yesterday so I might have had a little more aggression today, but I had to put what happened yesterday out of my mind – racing is racing and those things happen,” Martin quipped afterward.

Martin added that the knowledge of Victor Franzoni’s running position (Franzoni quickly moved into second after starting the race in third) was plenty of motivation to keep pushing. “I didn’t look behind me until the back straight, when the team told me that Victor was in second and that I needed to go. From there, it was head down. The Cape boys gave me a great car all weekend and it was almost a 100 percent successful weekend. It was great to see we could do it and that helps with three races to go,” he finished.

Title rival Franzoni battled with Carlos Cunha for second the entire race. Franzoni got the better of Cunha off the start and moved to second with an inside pass entering the keyhole, but Cunha stalked him from there, closing to within a couple car lengths on multiple occasions as they worked through lapped traffic.

However, Franzoni held off every challenge to secure second place, with Cunha rounding out the podium in third.

Unofficially, Martin’s victory puts him back ahead of Franzoni by four points (259-255) in the championship. But the results are not official yet, per this statement from series operators Andersen Promotions:

“Under the direction of series officials, the cars of Martin, Franzoni and Fischer have been impounded for further evaluation to be performed in Indianapolis this week. This is an extension of the current inspection process. When completed, the procedure and outcome will be published. The results from today’s race will remain unofficial until that point.”

(Editor’s note: NBC Sports has confirmed that impound independently as well, with a series spokesperson estimating impound results to be released mid-week).

Race 3 results are below.

Both Indy Lights and Pro Mazda pick their seasons back up at Gateway Motorsports Park on August 26.

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Hunter-Reay released from hospital; not yet cleared to drive at Pocono

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Ryan Hunter-Reay has been released from a nearby hospital at Pocono Raceway after his accident in qualifying for Sunday’s ABC Supply 500 (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN) but has not yet been cleared to drive. He’ll be re-evaluated by INDYCAR Sunday morning.

The full release from INDYCAR and Andretti Autosport is below:

Verizon IndyCar Series driver Ryan Hunter-Reay was evaluated at Lehigh Valley Hospital – Cedar Crest in Allentown, Pennsylvania, on Saturday for injuries to his left hip and knee sustained in a crash in qualifying for the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway. Hunter-Reay was treated and released but has not been cleared to drive, pending a re-evaluation Sunday morning.

“During qualifying today, out of nowhere, the car stepped out on me,” Hunter-Reay said. “It was a bit of a wiggle, which I caught. The second time it happened, it came with no warning – which is a bit confusing. I hit my hip pretty bad as well as my knee, so the doctors thought it would be best to go in for further evaluation. After a CT scan and MRI, I am able to go and get a good night’s sleep. I’m sure I’ll wake up sore, but will hopefully be able to get back in the DHL machine tomorrow.

“I know the entire Andretti Autosport team worked hard to get the car put back together and with 500 miles, there is still a chance to win from the back of the field. I can’t thank the Holmatro Safety Team enough for their quick response along with the medical staff at INDYCAR, Pocono and Lehigh Valley Hospital – Cedar Crest. Also, thank you to the fans for reaching out with their support.”

IndyCar Paddock Pass: Pocono (VIDEO)

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NBCSN’s coverage of the Verizon IndyCar Series continues this weekend with the series trip to the “Tricky Triangle” for the ABC Supply 500 (Sunday, 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

The NBC Sports Group original digital series Paddock Pass also continues for another episode from the three-turn oval, Pocono Raceway, in Long Pond, Pa.

NBCSN IndyCar pit reporter and Indy Lights analyst Anders Krohn checks in for the latest edition of the show, which you can see above.

On tap in this week’s episode are interviews with Team Penske teammates Josef Newgarden and Will Power, and Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay.

Hunter-Reay led first practice; however was involved in a heavy accident in qualifying later Saturday afternoon and transported to a nearby hospital.

His status is unclear for Sunday.

Newgarden leads the championship but had a tough qualifying run – he was only 14th Saturday afternoon – while Power was second among Chevrolets and starts fifth. He is the defending Pocono race winner.

You can see the episode above. Past IndyCar Paddock Pass episodes are below:


Chaves, Harding continue to shine at Pocono

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LONG POND, Pa. – In two previous starts in the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season, Gabby Chaves and Harding Racing have been shining stars, finishing ninth at the Indianapolis 500 and fifth at the Rainguard Water Sealers 600 at Texas Motor Speedway, avoiding several crashes and incidents in both races to do so, and advancing from 25th and 20th on the grid, respectively.

Returning to the series for this weekend’s ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway (Sunday 2:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN), the combination continues its remarkably strong form, qualifying eighth for Sunday’s race, third fastest of the Chevrolet runners.

And with the goal of turning the team into a full-time effort next year, Chaves and the team appear to be picking up right where they left off.

“We’re just here to improve our team, get it ready for next year,” Chaves told NBC Sports. “We’d like to go home with a great result of course, that’s always the aim. But I think the work we did throughout the practice improved the car enough to wear I was pretty comfortable at the end.”

Of course, even though the team is still very new to the world of racing (their first race was this year’s Indianapolis 500), it doesn’t stop Chaves from having lofty expectations.

“You always want to shoot for the win,” he asserted when asked about expectations for this weekend’s ABC Supply 500. “Obviously it’s never easy – with the limited time we have on track, it just makes it even harder on top of it. We’re always trying to keep our expectations high and do the best job we can to accomplish them.”

Gabby Chaves and Harding Racing have been very impressive out of the box. Photo: IndyCar

And perhaps Chaves is right to have big expectations given the team’s first two races. Ninth at Indianapolis and fifth at Texas are genuinely impressive results for the brand new team. And on the surface, they are a surprise, given the organization itself hadn’t run any races at any level prior to this year. But, Chaves explained that the people involved in the team are more than familiar with the sport and know how to build a successful operation.

“It’s just a matter of having the right people involved,” Chaves said of their early success. “Our team owner, Mike Harding, is very dedicated to making sure that we have the means to go out and hire the best people we can. It’s hard to do when the full-time teams have already got most of those guys, but there’s a few guys left out there who are very quality guys. Then that comes down to our team manager, Larry Curry, who has been able to track down these guys and give them a good offer to come on board with us. We’re just going to get better from here.”

Specifically, team manager Curry has been instrumental in recruiting talent and helping the team get ahead of the game, as Chaves explained.

“When it came down to our Indy deal, we started getting our car ready, and a little bit through his connections, we were able to get our mockup engine a little sooner, our body fit sooner – enough that we had the time to go out and test and do a shakedown run at Texas before Indy. It’s that type of experience and knowledge that Larry brings to the team that helps us out.”

NBCSN’s Robin Miller reported earlier this weekend in a piece for RACER.com that the team is ready for a full season in 2018, with Harding also telling the Advance Auto Parts IndyCar Radio Network’s Jake Query that “100 percent number” Miller cited is closer to 95 percent.

Chaves stopped short of going that far, but feels confident that a full-season effort will come together.

“Obviously, our plans are still to go out and run the full season. I’d say every day we get closer and closer to that. I’d say it’s looking really good. I know (Robin Miller’s report) mentions 100% – I think we’re close to that. But, it’s not done until it’s done. So I’ll just keep focused on my job here this weekend.”

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Power tops final practice at Pocono

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LONG POND, Pa. – Team Penske’s Will Power topped final practice for tomorrow’s ABC Supply 500 from Pocono Raceway. Power’s best lap of 216.294 mph was turned late in the session and pipped teammate Simon Pagenaud for the top spot, making it a Team Penske 1-2 in final practice. Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Max Chilton and Tony Kanaan were third and fourth, the best of the Honda teams, while Helio Castroneves rebounded from his earlier qualifying crash to end the session in fifth, putting three Penske cars in the top five.

Of note: pole sitter Takuma Sato was 11th quickest and Ed Carpenter was 16th, Carpenter having missed qualifying as Ed Carpenter Racing made repairs to his No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet and missed the lineup time for pre-qualifying inspection by only a few minutes.

Also: Andretti Autosport’s No. 28 DHL Honda, usually piloted by Ryan Hunter-Reay, did not venture onto the track for final practice, with Hunter-Reay currently being evaluated at a local hospital following a qualifying crash.

Times are below. Tomorrow’s ABC Supply 500 begins at 2:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

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