MRTI: Juncos Pro Mazda signings highlight recent news

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There’s not a ton to report on the Mazda Road to Indy front, the three ladder divisions run by Andersen Promotions on the run up to IndyCar.

But one team has made all of its announcements this week, former Pro Mazda title-winning team Juncos Racing. The squad announced four full-season entries for the championship, with a pair of Americans likely to lead the charge.

Spencer Pigot, who’s shown promise for years in USF2000 and Pro Mazda, shifts over from Team Pelfrey where he won once in 2013. The young American, 20, is keen to deliver this season. He’s a former Team USA Scholarship recipient and is one of two drivers backed by the new Rising Star Racing initiative this year.

Kyle Kaiser is the second American, who moves over to Juncos after a year with World Speed Motorsports. He scored a handful of top-five finishes in 2013 and will have teammates for the first time.

Julia Ballario, an Argentine, and Mexican Jose Gutierrez round out the lineup. The pair made a handful of starts for Juncos in 2013 and seek to gain further experience and track time later this year.

Some of the others already committed to this year’s championship are a pair from Andretti Autosport, Team Pelfrey, Cape Motorsports and at least one car from JDC Motorsports. More information should come out ahead of the Cooper Tires Winterfest, which begins next week, Feb. 21-22, at NOLA Motorsports Park in New Orleans.

Sage Karam, Tony Kanaan fastest in Monday’s practice for Indy 500

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In the second-to-last practice session of the week, Sage Karam paced the 33 drivers qualified for Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 on Monday.

Karam had a field-best speed of 226.461 mph, followed by Tony Kanan (225.123 mph), Ryan Hunter-Reay (224.820), Charlie Kimball (224.582) and Alexander Rossi (224.507).

Sixth through 10th fastest were Will Power (224.445), Helio Castroneves (224.368), Marco Andretti (224.148) and rookie Zachary Claman Demelo (224.91) and Scott Dixon (223.966).

Power and Castroneves ran the most laps of all drivers at 120 and 118, respectively.

Two other Team Penske drivers struggled to get speed out of their cars. Defending Verizon IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden was 28th-fastest (221.982 mph) and Simon Pagenaud, who was the slowest (220.902 mph) of the 33 cars on-track.

Pole sitter Ed Carpenter was 14th-fastest with a best speed of 223.573 mph in a 100-lap effort.

Most drivers were in race trim or were testing things for Sunday’s Greatest Spectacle In Racing such as fuel mileage, chassis setup and more.

Rookie Matheus Leist missed most of the session with an apparent electrical problem that kept him to just 19 laps.

There was one incident of note during the 3 ½ hour session: IndyCar rookie Robert Wickens crashed coming out of Turn 2 during the first hour of practice.

Wickens appeared to skim the outside SAFER Barrier, went left and then violently turned hard back into the outside retaining wall.

MORE: Wickens wrecks during Indy 500 practice

The Honda-powered machine for the Canadian driver suffered heavy damage to the right side, particularly the right front tire and the right side of the front end.

There will be no further on-track activity for the Indy cars until Friday’s final practice to fine tune things for Sunday’s 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

We’ll have the full practice speed chart, as well as What Drivers Said, shortly. Please check back soon.

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