Mixed track conditions made for a barnburner of an afternoon in three Mazda Road to Indy races at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. And for the most part, the drivers in the Cooper Tire-shod Indy Lights, Pro Mazda and USF2000 series did a good job in their respective races on the 2.439-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
Two 2013 MRTI champions – Matthew Brabham (Pro Mazda 2013, Indy Lights 2014) and Scott Hargrove (USF2000 2013, Pro Mazda 2014) – took their first wins on the next rung of the ladder, while rookie Will Owen scored his first USF2000 win as well.
The 40-minute sprint race, the first of two for Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tire, saw a wealth of passes and action as drivers fought for grip and traction on a drying track.
From his first career pole, Matthew Brabham finally secured his first Indy Lights win. The Andretti Autosport driver got a great start and headed off challenges from outside pole sitter Gabby Chaves and rookie Luiz Razia throughout the day to take home the triumph.
Behind him it seemed a bit of process of elimination. Chaves retired with an engine failure, points leader Zach Veach had a spin and finished ninth, and Jack Harvey ran off course early but then completed a sterling comeback to return to third.
After the podium finishers, Zack Meyer posted a career-best fourth finish with Alex Baron fifth.
Several accidents peppered the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tire race, which saw Scott Hargrove (pictured) finally take his first win for Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing.
With erstwhile series dominant force Spencer Pigot, 4-for-4 to open the season, involved in a first corner accident and Hargrove’s teammate, Neil Alberico, surviving a clash with Ryan Booth in a battle for the lead, Hargrove made it through to take top honors.
A late-race restart saw Shelby Blackstock shoot himself out of a cannon to nearly take the lead from Hargrove, but he was unable to complete the move and ended second. Alberico ended third.
Pabst Racing called in rookie Will Owen to change from wet-weather tires onto dry weather slicks as the IMS road course dried out during the USF2000 race, and it paid major dividends.
Owen turned a major deficit into more than a 15-second victory as the only driver on the slicks, with Jake Eidson second and Aaron Telitz third.
Florian Latorre finished fourth and 14-year-old Colton Herta was fifth, in an impressive rebound from 22nd on the grid after his car had an infraction found during post-qualifying technical inspection.
All three series have their second races of the weekend on Saturday.