MRTI: Brabham, Hargrove, Owen score Friday Indy wins

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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.

INDY LIGHTS

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.

PRO MAZDA

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.

USF2000

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.

Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
IMSA
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As his season gathers steam, Helio Castroneves said his prospects for finding new rides for 2021 in IMSA and IndyCar also are gaining momentum.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner said Monday he is optimistic about landing in either or perhaps a combination of both series when Team Penske and Acura end their DPi partnership after this season.

“A lot of people I spoke with, four to five teams, are interested,” Castroneves said. “Whether it’s doing Indy 500 only, whether it’s pushing to do full time or do the sports cars as well. It’s been a very nice conversation.

LOOKING AHEADTeam Penske drivers seeking new rides for 2021

“I have a lot of respect for all the teams that have been talking, and I feel the same feedback. We just have to wait for their (sponsor) connections, and I’m also looking for some connections on my side as well, so hopefully we’ll be able to put this together and get something very soon.”

Given two decades of success with Penske in IndyCar and IMSA, Castroneves’ resume hardly needs burnishing. But the Brazilian has combined with co-driver Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Acura DPi to win the past two overall victories at Road America and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

But Castroneves, who doesn’t have a manager, said he has been working the phones hard rather than wait for the strong results to bring in the calls.

“At this point, I feel like I’m the one who needs to be talking to them because people need to know I want to continue racing and understand my desire,” Castroneves, 45, said. “There is opportunity, no question, in both (IndyCar and IMSA), which I’m really happy about it. However, because of the COVID-19, a lot of things sometimes have to be a little delayed. But I’m excited. Whatever the opportunity and whatever destiny guides me, whether IndyCar or sports cars, trust me I’ll be as happy as it could be and doing my 100 percent like I always did.

“It’s like politics, you need to be out there, good news or bad news. People have to make notice of your presence. I’m hustling. I want to continue to keep it going. Hopefully, we’ll have good news very soon.”

The news has been all good lately on track for Castroneves and Taylor, who hope to continue their run Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The No. 6 duo has surged to sixth in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings, 10 points out of the lead with four races remaining. After thinking there was “no hope” to be competitive after opening the season with three consecutive poor finishes, Taylor now sees an opportunity for a happy ending.

“With the program going away, Helio has won all the big races and given so much back to the team and left such a mark, he’s really part of Penske history,” Taylor said. “For me, it’s been an opportunity of a lifetime to be a part of it. I’d like to leave my little mark as well. Helio has won everything except for a championship.

“Obviously, we’ve won races already together, but we can win a championship now. I think if both of us can do that together and both win our first championship for ‘The Captain,’ that would be an absolute dream come true, and we can tie a bow on it and be happy.”