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

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

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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: Patricio O’Ward turns heads in Carlin debut

Chris Jones / IndyCar
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While the top story coming out of Sunday’s IndyCar Classic at Circuit of the Americas is undoubtedly 18-year-old Colton Herta’s victory in only his third IndyCar start, another teenager made quite some noise during the first IndyCar race at the facility.

19-year-old Patricio O’Ward made an impressive start to his 2019 IndyCar campaign by starting and finishing in eighth position. It was the first of his 13 races this season for Carlin Racing.

“I think it was a pretty good race for us. We ended exactly where we started and didn’t go backwards, so I’d say that was a successful day” O’Ward said. “I know the No. 31 Carlin Chevrolet had a top-five finish in it today and even though we couldn’t make it happen, it’s nice to know that we have the pace and can be fighting up front with the veteran drivers.”

O’Ward, the 2018 Indy Lights champ, made his series debut for Harding Steinbrenner Racing at last year’s season finale at Sonoma Raceway, where he made it to the Firestone Fast Six in qualifying and finished ninth. O’Ward was scheduled to race for the team full-time in 2019, but left in early February to pursue other options due to a lack of sponsorship.

Pato found a new home with Carlin, and despite missing preseason testing, he proved to be competitive from the get go and pressured some of IndyCar’s more tenured drivers, including Graham Rahal.

In what was undoubtedly the most daring move of the race, O’Ward ended a great battle with Rahal by hitting a superb outside pass on Lap 15.

O’Ward may have likely earned a better result on Sunday, if he didn’t have to save fuel in order to make the finish.

But with only two IndyCar starts to his credit, he is already racing like a seasoned veteran. Sunday’s IndyCar Classic may be the first of many successful outings for him this year.

After the race, he tweeted to his team: “Well done gentlemen … This is only the beginning.”

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