MRTI: Pro Mazda plus some other MRTI drivers in action this weekend

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Following a month-long break since the Freedom 100 (Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires) and the Night Before the 500 at Lucas Oil Raceway (Pro Mazda Presented by Cooper Tires and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda), the Mazda Road to Indy resumes starting this weekend with two different elements.

Pro Mazda is in action to support the Verizon IndyCar Series at Houston, while some other MRTI past or present drivers are in action at Watkins Glen for the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship Sahlen’s Six Hours at the Glen.

PRO MAZDA: HARGROVE VS. PIGOT TITLE BATTLE INTENSIFIES

After his double win at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis weekend and a runner-up finish at the Night Before the 500, Scott Hargrove has closed the gap on Spencer Pigot to just three points (180-177). Pigot went four-for-four to open the year before Hargrove and Garett Grist have won the last three races.

The Hargrove-Pigot battle isn’t limited to open-wheel, as both were in action last week in the Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Michelin at Calabogie. Hargrove took a win in the second race of the weekend for his third triumph in four starts there; he currently leads that points table by four points over Chris Green, with Pigot third in the standings (78-74-54 the gaps there).

At Houston last year, Pigot had one second in Pro Mazda and Hargrove one third, so both seek their first wins on the treacherous and bumpy street circuit this weekend.

The battle isn’t limited to these two, though. Grist and Andretti Autosport teammate Shelby Blackstock look to break through. Blackstock’s had a whirlwind couple of months where he’s raced in Pro Mazda, the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge with the GS class Fall-Line Motorsports BMW M3, and also in the Nurburgring 24 Hours last weekend.

Respective teammates for Pigot (Juncos Racing) and Hargrove (Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing), Kyle Kaiser, Jose Gutierrez and Julia Ballario (Juncos) and Neil Alberico (Cape) have shown flashes of brilliance this season and look for their first wins of the year.

There’s two new drivers as well with USF2000 drivers Clark Toppe and Felipe Donato moving up to Pro Mazda for the weekend with JDC Motorsports and M1 Racing, respectively. The two races are at 1:05 Saturday and 1:00 Sunday.

WATKINS GLEN: MRTI CROP INCLUDES CHAVES, ALUMNI THROUGHOUT 55-CAR FIELD

The 55-car field for the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship round features a number of Mazda Road to Indy alumni in the field, and the current Indy Lights points leader.

Gabby Chaves steps in once again to the DeltaWing coupe in Prototype, which he’s raced at both Daytona and Sebring and now shares solo with Katherine Legge this weekend. Chaves has also been involved in a couple tests for the team, where he’s continued to learn and develop as a driver.

Elsewhere recent Indy Lights alumni Gustavo Yacaman (No. 42 OAK Racing), Sage Karam (No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing), Tristan Vautier (No. 07 SpeedSource), David Ostella (No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports), Martin Plowman (No. 88 BAR1 Motorsports) and Rusty Mitchell (No. 08 RSR Racing) will be in the field in the P and PC classes. There are other Indy Lights graduates who raced in the 1990s and early 2000s; the numbers get higher the longer back you go.

Indy Lights: Askew wins at Gateway as Veekay’s tires wear off

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For the fourth consecutive race, Oliver Askew is an winner in Indy Lights competition, and with only four races reaming in the 2019 season, the 22-year-old Floridian is on the cusp of winning his first series championship.

After starting Saturday’s 75-lap event at World Wide Technology Raceway from the pole position, Askew was quickly passed by Rinus Veekay on the first lap. However, Askew continued to follow VeeKay closely before retaking the lead on lap 53, a lead which he would not relinquish through the checkered flag.

“I think our car was just better,” Askew told NBC Sports after winning his seventh race of the season.

“I understood that from the beginning that he [VeeKay] had more straight line speed than us, so he was more trimmed out, and I knew that he was going to lose his tires at the end, and he did.

“I just had to keep the pressure on and wait for my opportunity.”

With his victory, Askew now extends his lead over VeeKay in the point standings by 52 points.

For Veekay, who held on to finish second, the fight to remain in the title race will not be an easy one.

“I’ll try everything I can but it’s been very tough,” VeeKay said. “The team and I, we’re giving it all we have. That’s all we can do.”

David Malukas finished third, while Ryan Norman and and Robert Mcgennis finished fourth and fifth, respectfully.

Dalton Kellett took the checkered flag where he started in the sixth position, and Lucas Kohl finished the race in the seventh position.

Toby Sowery finished the race in the eighth and final position after bringing out the lone caution of the race by spinning in Turn 2 on lap 12.

Indy Lights drivers and teams will now head out to the Pacific Northwest for a double header at Portland International Raceway on Saturday, August 31 and Sunday, September 1. Both races will air live on NBC Sports Gold.

Click here for full race results 

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