MRTI: Andretti, Pelfrey teams to test New Orleans circuit on December 8-9

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Andretti Autosport and Team Pelfrey’s Mazda Road to Indy programs will get a crack at the updated NOLA Motorsports Park circuit in a test session on Dec. 8-9.

The Andretti camp will run one Pro Mazda car, while Pelfrey will run two Pro Mazdas and two USF2000 cars. This session, which is free and open to the public, will mark the first open-wheel test on NOLA’s new 2.67-mile course.

The top-tier Verizon IndyCar Series will stage its third round of the 2015 championship, the Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana, at NOLA in early April (tickets are now on sale, by the way).

Additionally, NOLA will be a major track for all three of the Mazda Road to Indy leagues. The MRTI’s Winterfest will take place there in February (with Indy Lights testing for two days), and both Pro Mazda and USF2000 will run doubleheaders as part of the track’s IndyCar weekend.

“We’re thrilled to finally have the first open-wheel test on the track since its completion,” NOLA president Kristen Engeron said in a statement. “We’re extremely excited to see cars on track, and we’re looking forward to hearing driver feedback on what we think are some exciting updates to the circuit.”

The NOLA test will also serve as the initial glimpse of Pelfrey’s new USF2000 program, which will join its ongoing Pro Mazda and F1600 programs.

“Everyone at Team Pelfrey is excited at the prospect of testing on the newly configured track at NOLA in preparation for the five Mazda Road to Indy races at the track in 2015,” Pelfrey team principal Nigel Tuckey said. “Besides the attendance of our Pro Mazda team, the test will also mark the first public appearance of our new for 2015 USF2000 team along with some very promising young drivers.

“Combine all of that excitement with the fun and great hospitality that Louisiana offers and December 8 can’t come soon enough.”

Donny Schatz edges Kyle Larson for Outlaws victory at Lake Ozark

Trent Gower/World of Outlaws
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Donny Schatz made a last-lap pass on Kyle Larson, snatching a World of Outlaws victory Saturday night at Lake Ozark Speedway.

Larson started on the pole, led 30 of 35 laps and was in control until a caution set up a two-lap shootout to the finish before a limited crowd in Eldon, Missouri.

Schatz and Larson traded the lead twice over the final two laps, but the 10-time champion emerged with his first victory since the NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series returned in mid-May from a two-month layoff because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

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“Man, I don’t know what to say, but Kyle’s a damn good racer,” Schatz, who led five laps, told DirtVision after his 296th Outlaws win. “I kind of had to go where he didn’t. We got that green-white-checkered, and I decided I was going to send it. He decided the same thing.

Donny Schatz celebrates at Lake Ozark Speedway after his second Outlaws Sprint Car victory of the season (Trent Gower).

“I’m glad to get the win. It feels like it’s been forever. I’ve been out here 24 years, and every night is a learning experience still.”

Larson finished second in his fifth start since he began racing with the Outlaws after being suspended from NASCAR.

“Obviously, it would have been nice to get the win,” Larson said on DirtVision. “I figured Donny would rip the middle. The restarts before, he’d almost clear me in (turns) 3 and 4. I should have known to protect and block his momentum. I felt I exited 2 OK. We don’t have spotters or rearview mirrors so you can’t see how close he is or really hear it when the pace is so slow.

“I just didn’t do a good enough job to run a smarter final couple of laps.”

Brad Sweet, Larson’s brother in law, finished third, with Shane Stewart and David Gravel rounding out the top five.

Larson rebounded from a 10th in Friday’s feature at Lake Ozark Speedway, continuing his streak of top-10 finishes in all five of his starts since the Outlaws’ return.

“We got our car a lot better from last night, so that was a plus,” said Larson, who finished second and first in back-to-back nights last week at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at Pevely, Missouri. “These guys are really tough. To be on the podium with Donny and Brad, they’ve won lots of big races and championships, it’s nice. I just didn’t do what I needed to do that last restart.”

Larson nearly had a flawless night Saturday, turning a 11.426-second lap to capture his second pole position this season and won the pole dash to start first in the feature.

Larson, who was fired by Chip Ganassi Racing from his NASCAR Cup Series ride last month for using a racial slur in an iRacing event, said last week that he plans to run several more NOS Energy Sprint Car Series races this year.

Larson remains indefinitely suspended by NASCAR but was approved to race by the Outlaws after completing sensitivity training.