MRTI: Razia, Hargrove, Starrantino score Saturday IMS wins

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Five of six Mazda Road to Indy races on the revised 2.439-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course saw first-time series winners in the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tire, Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tire and Cooper Tire USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda.

Luiz Razia (Indy Lights) and Adrian Starrantino (USF2000) added their names to the IMS list of winners, while Scott Hargrove (Pro Mazda) made it 2-for-2 in that series this weekend (See Friday’s results here).

INDY LIGHTS 

From pole, Luiz Razia captured his first win of his Indy Lights career and the first for the usually dominant Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team this season. SPM, which has won the last four series championships in succession, was 0-for-5 heading into Saturday’s race.

Razia won from teammate Jack Harvey, who also scored his second podium in as many days (the pair were second and third on Friday, behind Matthew Brabham).

Behind them, championship protagonists Zach Veach and Gabby Chaves had another frustrating afternoon in ending seventh and eighth, respectively after off-course excursions at Turn 1 late in the race. They ended ninth and 11th on Friday.

Chaves’ Belardi Auto Racing teammate, Alex Baron, finished third behind the SPM pair ahead of Veach’s Andretti Autosport teammate, young “Matty Brabs.” The championship’s been shaken up as a result with both Razia and Harvey now fully into the title fight after finding their footing in the opening three weekends of the year.

PRO MAZDA

Scott Hargrove completed a weekend sweep of the Pro Mazda races on the IMS road courses, with his Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing teammate Neil Alberico finishing second in Saturday’s second race.

Hargrove held off Spencer Pigot, who had gone 4-for-4 in wins to start the season, in the early stages of the race before Pigot had an issue that dropped him to 14th. He rebounded to eight but it was still a rough weekend for the points leader.

Alberico came through to second with Pigot’s teammate at Juncos Racing, Jose Gutierrez, third and on the podium for the first time. Garett Grist and Kyle Kaiser completed the top five.

USF2000

Although he started from pole, JAY Motorsports’ Adrian Starrantino had to work hard Saturday to secure his first USF2000 win. But the young American pulled it off.

Starrantino fell behind Victor Franzoni at the start but on Lap 11, an issue dropped him back. Starrantino held on as Florian Latorre shaded him, with Franzoni third.

Clark Toppe finished fourth with one of Starrantino’s teammates, Henrik Furuseth, putting in a great drive to climb from 20th up to fifth.

After this weekend on the road course, Pro Mazda and USF2000 head to the 0.686-mile Lucas Oil Raceway oval for the Night Before the 500 on May 24, while Indy Lights’ next race is the Freedom 100 on IMS’ oval May 23, Carb Day.

James Hinchcliffe on Andretti: ‘It’s certainly the place I want to be’

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Since before the start of the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season, James Hinchcliffe tirelessly has worked to ensure the future would include a full-time return in 2021.

And with an opportunity to run the final three races this season with Andretti Autosport, there seems a surefire (albeit unlikely) path.

“If I go out and win all three,” Hinchcliffe joked with IndyCar on NBC announcer Leigh Diffey in an interview Friday (watch the video above), “it would be hard for them to say no, right?”

Regardless of whether he can go unbeaten at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course next weekend or the Oct. 25 season finale at St. Petersburg, Florida (where he earned his first career win in 2013), Hinchcliffe will have the chance to improve his stock with the team that he knows well and now has an opening among its five cars for 2021.

All three of Hinchcliffe’s starts this season — the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, July 4 at the IMS road course and the Indianapolis 500 — were with Andretti, where he ran full time in IndyCar from 2012-14.

“Obviously, the plan from January 2020 was already working on ’21 and trying to be in a full-time program,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed being reunited with Andretti Autosport, and everybody there has been so supportive. It’s been a very fun year for me on track. It’s been kind of a breath of fresh air in a lot of ways.

“It’s certainly the place I want to be moving forward. We’ve been working on that, working on those conversations. Genesys has been an incredible partner in my three races. We’ll be representing Gainbridge primarily, but Genesys will still have a position on our car in the last three.”

Gainbridge is the primary sponsor of the No. 26 Dallara-Honda that was vacated by Zach Veach, who left the team after it was determined he wouldn’t return in 2021. Hinchcliffe can empathize having lost his ride with Arrow McLaren SP after last season with a year left on his deal.

“You never want to earn a ride at the expense of somebody else in the sense that has happened here with Zach,” Hinchcliffe said. “I feel bad that he’s not able to see out the last three races of his season. I’ve got a lot of respect for him off track. He’s been a teammate this year, a colleague for years before that and honestly a friend for years before that. I’ve got a lot of time for him and his family. I understand a little bit of what it’s like in that position and what he’s going through.”

Hinchcliffe is ready to seize the moment, though, starting with the Oct. 2-3 doubleheader race weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He had been hoping to add the Harvest Indy Grand Prix to his schedule and had been working out for the possibility.

“Then last week I had given up hope (and) was resigned that wasn’t happening,” he said. “I told my trainer, ‘I think we’re done for this year.’ Three days later, this call comes. I’m glad we didn’t make that decision too early. I feel great physically.

“I look at it as a great opportunity to continue to show I’ve still got what it takes and should be there hopefully full time next year on the grid.”

Watch Hinchliffe’s video with Leigh Diffey above or by clicking here.