Santi Urrutia claims Pro Mazda title in dramatic fashion at Mazda Raceway

Santiago Urrutia. Photo: Photos @ Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

MONTEREY, Calif. – Santiago Urrutia has captured the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires championship at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, at the site where his Uruguayan countryman and racing hero Gonzalo Rodriguez lost his life on the same weekend some 16 years ago.

Urrutia drove the No. 81 Team Pelfrey car to the championship with a runner-up finish behind Garett Grist, who led flag-to-flag from pole.

“For us it is so special to win here at this track, after Gonzalo 16 years ago,” Urrutia said. “I was racing with him this weekend. To win the championship I’m so happy. I’m pretty sure Gonzalo was here with us. I can’t explain how happy I am at the moment.

“This is all the work from the last year, the past year… you can’t win championships always. I have to say thanks to everyone who made this happen.”

For the majority of the 30-minute race, Urrutia led Neil Alberico for second place, behind race leader and eventual race winner Grist. As it stood then, Alberico was down 32 points and would have needed a miracle on Sunday to overtake Urrutia.

But on the second-to-last lap, Alberico spun at the Corkscrew, and that ensured Urrutia had enough points to claim the title. Alberico could not get restarted as contact messed up the fuel disconnect.

“It was just my mistake. I was pushing and I clipped the curb in the Corkscrew, and I bottomed out and it sent me off,” Alberico said. “I was just pushing to catch Santi because otherwise, it was game over.”

It will award him a Mazda Motorsports scholarship, just shy of $600,000, to advance into Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires in 2016.

On the cool down lap, a corner marshal presented Urrutia with his native flag at Turn 4, and he drove around the track to celebrate.

Will Owen finished third in the race, thus making it a 1-3 for Juncos Racing.

A start line accident took out Pato O’Ward and Victor Franzoni and put the opening stanza of the race under caution. Once the race restarted, things settled down, with Grist winning after controlling the race.

IndyCar disappointed by delay of video game but aiming to launch at start of 2024

IndyCar video game 2024

An IndyCar executive said there is “absolutely” disappointment that its long-awaited video game recently was delayed beyond its target date, but the series remains optimistic about the new title.

“Well, I don’t know how quick it will be, but the whole situation is important to us,” Penske Entertainment president and CEO Mark Miles said during a news conference Monday morning to announce IndyCar’s NTT title sponsorship. “Motorsport Games has spent a lot of money, a lot of effort to create an IndyCar title. What we’ve seen of that effort, which is not completely obvious, is very reassuring.

“I think it’s going to be outstanding. That’s our shared objective, that when it is released, it’s just widely accepted. A great credit both to IndyCar racing, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, something that our fans love.”

In June 2021, IndyCar announced a new partnership with Motorsport Games to create and distribute an IndyCar video game for the PC and Xbox and PlayStation consoles in 2023.

But during an earnings call last week, Motorsport Games said the IndyCar game had been delayed to 2024 to ensure high quality.

Somewhat compounding the delay is that IndyCar’s license for iRacing expired after the end of the 2022 season because of its exclusive agreement with Motorsport Games.

That’s resulted in significant changes for IndyCar on iRacing, which had provided a high-profile way for the series to stay visible during its 2020 shutdown from the pandemic. (Players still can race an unbranded car but don’t race on current IndyCar tracks, nor can they stream).

That’s helped ratchet up the attention on having a video game outlet for IndyCar.

“I wish we had an IndyCar title 10 years ago,” said Miles, who has been working with the organization since 2013. “We’ve been close, but we’ve had these I think speed bumps.”

IndyCar is hopeful the Motorsports Game edition will be ready at the start of 2024. Miles hinted that beta versions could be unveiled to reporters ahead of the time “to begin to show the progress in a narrow way to make sure we’ve got it right, to test the progress so that we’re ready when they’re ready.”

It’s been nearly 18 years since the release of the most recent IndyCar video game for console or PC.

“(We) better get it right,” Miles said. “It’s something we’re very close to and continue to think about what it is to make sure we get it over the line in due course.”