The Mazda Road to Indy schedule was fast and furious through the month of May, but has settled down over the summer in June and July.
This weekend though will prove crucial for the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires and Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires championships in their final oval events of the season at Iowa Speedway, which will both be held on Saturday. The Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda returns to action at Mid-Ohio next month.
The Milwaukee podium of Felix Serralles, RC Enerson and Juan Piedrahita played spoiler to the three championship contenders, Jack Harvey, Spencer Pigot and Ed Jones. Harvey, Pigot and Jones were only fourth, seventh and eighth at Milwaukee. At Indianapolis, Harvey won while Pigot was ninth and Jones 10th.
Even though Harvey admitted he had a tough weekend in Milwaukee, he’s still gained nearly enough points on both drivers on ovals thus far to hold the championship lead.
In the two oval races, Harvey has 49 points while Pigot has 28 and Jones 24. Overall this year, Harvey has 261 points to Pigot’s 247 (14 back) and Jones’ 232 (29 back).
“We tested there earlier in the year and the car worked fairly well,” Harvey told MotorSportsTalk after Milwaukee. “It should be a good weekend for us. We have to will it to happen if it’s not.
“That’s the stage of the season we’re at. We have to dig deep and see where we can extend the lead in Iowa, go to Mid-Ohio and kick ass. If we win Iowa it would put us in a good position for Mid-Ohio. It’s simple but it comes down to execution, really.”
The series returns to Iowa after a one-year hiatus. Sage Karam was the most recent Indy Lights winner there in 2013, leading a Schmidt Peterson Motorsports podium sweep ahead of Gabby Chaves and Jack Hawksworth.
Pro Mazda returns to action for the first time since Toronto last month, and for its second and last oval race after also racing at Lucas Oil Raceway in May. It also marks the series’ first trip to Iowa Speedway since 2012.
Uruguayan rookie Santiago Urrutia is still well-positioned in the championship, up 30 points on Neil Alberico, but had a DNF at Lucas Oil.
Meanwhile just 23 points separate Alberico, Timothe Buret, Weiron Tan, Garett Grist and Pato O’Ward from second to sixth. So depending on how they all do at Iowa, those positions could swing. Tan dominated at Lucas Oil, although the flat 0.686-mile oval is a different animal from the 0.875-mile Iowa Speedway, which is flat all the way around.
The focus of the Detroit Monster Energy Supercross round was on the mid-pack battle while Aaron Plessinger pulled away from the field, but when he crashed after hooking his foot in the dirt, the results once more looked like we’ve come to expect, with Chase Sexton, Cooper Webb and Eli Tomac sharing the podium for the fifth time in 10 rounds.
For Sexton, Plessinger’s late-race crash was a vindication of sorts. Several times already this season, Sexton has crashed while battling for the lead and the points that has cost him keeps him sporting the red plate. He lost points in Detroit for a different reason, however.
Sexton was allowed to keep the win, but was penalized seven points for jumping in a red cross section of the course. As a result, he dropped four points to Webb and two to Tomac. Sexton is now 17 points behind Webb in the championship hunt.
One week after snatching the red plate from Tomac for the first time in 2023, Webb stretched his advantage by two. With his second-place finish, Webb holds a three-point lead over Tomac, which essentially means both riders control their fate in the coming weeks. Webb continues to have a sweep of the top five this season with his sixth consecutive podium.
Coming off his worst finish of the season, Tomac rebounded to finish third. His eighth-place result last week was partially attributed to a stiff neck that hindered him in traffic and he still suffered some of those same effects in Detroit. Before Plessinger’s crash, he was destined to be the only rider in the three-man title scrum to finish off the podium in Detroit.
It is surprising what one position can do for one’s confidence.
Justin Barcia scored his fourth top-five of the season. He was part of the exciting four-man battle that dominated the middle stages of the race before Sexton and Webb gained a little separation. Finishing less than three seconds behind Tomac, he kept that rider honest for the entire race.
Coming off his first win of the season, Ken Roczen finished fifth. It was his seventh top-five of the season and it elevated him to fifth in the standings.
Hunter Lawrence tied his brother Jett Lawrence with 10 wins each after another dominating ride in the Detroit Supercross race and the results in the points continue to widen. With his fifth win in six rounds and a worst finish of third, Lawrence now has a 35-point advantage over Nate Thrasher with four rounds remaining. Finishes of 14th or better in the final four mains will give him his first 250 championship.
Jett will have an opportunity to retake his wins’ lead as Supercross heads west for the next two rounds in Seattle and Glendale, Arizona.
Nate Thrasher earned his third second-place finish of the season with a gap of 7.6 seconds to Lawrence. He won the overall in Arlington earlier this season, but a 15th-place finish in the opening round in Houston and 10th in Daytona hurts his championship chances.
Haiden Deegan scored his second podium and fourth top-five in six rounds of his young career. On his way to that finish, he rode aggressively against his teammate Jordon Smith in the heat race. Fans are getting a glimpse of what his on-track personality might be.
Jeremy Martin continues to be the model of consistency. He has not finished worse than sixth or better than fourth in six rounds now and that has allowed him to close to within two points of third in the 250 East championship standings.
Max Anstie entered the race weekend second in the points, but a hard crash in heavy traffic early in the main forced him to retire after two laps. Earning only one point for the round, he plummeted to fifth in the standings.
The news was worse for Smith, who was dropped out of the top nine in his heat after the altercation with Deegan and failed to advance through the LCQ. In the last chance race, he stalled his engine and had to mount a determined charge. He got only as high as seventh in that race after crashing while attempting to make a pass on fourth-place Jack Chambers.