Indy USF2000 winner Will Owen moves to Juncos Racing, Pro Mazda Series in 2015

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Will Owen, who impressively won the 2014 USF2000 race as a rookie at Indianapolis Motor Speedway this past May, is moving up the racing ladder.

According to a team media release, the 19-year-old Owen will compete for Juncos Racing for the 2015 Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires.

“I couldn’t be happier right now because of this new deal with Juncos Racing,” Owen said. “The opportunity to be with a championship winning team does not happen all the time, so I am beyond excited to see what we can achieve together in the future.

“Everyone involved in Juncos, from the mechanics to the coaches, share the goal of winning and they were very helpful in my test (recent test with the team). I truly believe that I will be able to take my driving and results to the next level because of the team’s resources, experience, and passion. Next season cannot come soon enough!”

Spencer Pigot won the Pro Mazda driver championship this season for Juncos Racing, which also won the team championship.

Owen will become part of the organization’s Driver Development Program, said team owner Ricardo Juncos.

“We took notice of Will (Owen) when he won the Indianapolis Grand Prix in May,” Juncos said. “His steady but solid performances in the USF2000 series proved that he possessed both the maturity and pace to make the move to Pro Mazda.

“Will integrated with the team incredibly well in his two-day evaluation test, and we are looking forward to seeing him succeed in this upcoming season.”

Owen joins Jose Gutierrez, who returns for his second season with Team Juncos, having finished seventh in the 2014 Pro Mazda series.

Owen began racing in 2010, competing in 22 kart races over three seasons, earning eight wins and numerous podium finishes.

He moved to Formula Mazda in 2013 and earned three wins and eight podium finishes with Texas Autosports.

He spent the 2014 season in the Mazda Road to Indy program in the USF2000 Championship for Pabst Racing. In addition to his win at IMS, he had four top-10 finishes in 14 starts.

Owen’s first race with his new team will be the Cooper Tires Winterfest Championship at NOLA Motorsports Park, Feb. 19-20, in suburban New Orleans.

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Alex Palou fastest as several go off course during IndyCar practice at IMS

IndyCar Harvest GP practice
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Alex Palou paced the opening practice Thursday for the IndyCar Harvest GP at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

The Dale Coyne Racing rookie turned a 1-minute, 10.177-second lap around the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course in his No. 55 Dallara-Honda.

Jack Harvey was second, followed by Colton Herta, points leader Scott Dixon and Max Chilton.

PRACTICE CHART: Click here to see the speed rundown from Thursday’s session

FRIDAY AT IMS: Details for watching Race 1 of the Harvest GP

Qualifying for Friday’s race will be at 6:20 p.m. ET Thursday on NBC Sports Gold.

Will Power, who won the pole position for the July 4 race at the track, spun off course with just more than a minute left in the session after the left rear of his No. 12 Dallara-Chevrolet made slight contact with the right front of Alexander Rossi’s No. 28 Dallara-Honda.

Power was among several drivers who went off track, but there were no damaged cars during the session. Marcus Ericsson missed the final 5 minutes of the practice after being penalized for causing a red flag with a Turn 8 spin.

Arrow McLaren SP drivers Pato O’Ward and Helio Castroneves, who is driving for Oliver Askew (who is recovering from concussion-like symptoms), also veered off course as did rookie Rinus VeeKay and Santino Ferrucci.

Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson was in attendance at the session before racing Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway. Johnson will be driving a partial schedule of road and street courses in IndyCar next season for Chip Ganassi Racing.

“Literally, the smallest of details, I can pick up on,” Johnson told NBC Sports pit reporter Kevin Lee. “It’s been really nice today just to see how a session starts and obviously to jump on the radio and listen to how the systems work and then obviously you get into the car and the setup and such. I’m at ground zero right now, a 45-year-old rookie trying to learn my way into a new sport essentially.”

Johnson told Lee his sponsorship hunt to run a Ganassi car “has gone really well. The fact that I’m here today and ingrained so deeply in the team is a great sign of where things are going. Looking forward to getting behind the wheel of a car soon and hopefully having some announcements for the world to see soon, too.”

Fans were in attendance Thursday for the first time this season at IMS, which is allowed a limited crowd of 10,000 for its races this weekend.