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.