Emotion, consistency fuel Urrutia’s Pro Mazda title run

Urrutia claims his crown. Photos @ Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

It was hard for the emotion not to show through.

Santiago “Santi” Urrutia took the checkered flag Saturday, September 12, at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca with fist in the air, following arguably the most important runner-up finish of his career.

Urrutia held his fist high after he’d claimed the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires title and a Mazda scholarship just shy of $600,000 to advance into the top rung of the Mazda Road to Indy ladder, Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, in 2016.

Then when he made it to Turn 4, he was presented with a Uruguayan flag from a corner marshal, with the chance to wave it high around the track.

This title win occurred 16 years and one day to the day, on the same track, where Urrutia’s hero and countryman Gonzalo Rodriguez lost his life in practice for the CART race at the track.

So there was always the underlying element that emotion would tie into the title.

How he got to this point was as unlikely as the odds of clinching at this circuit given the anniversary.

Urrutia struggled during the 2014 GP3 Series season with the Koiranen GP outfit. Neither he nor Carmen Jorda scored a single point all season, while teammates Jimmy Eriksson and Dean Stoneman both won races.

The dip in form came after fourth place finishes in his prior two seasons of action, in European F3 Open in 2013 (Indy Lights driver Ed Jones won the title) and in both Formula Abarth European and Italian Series the year before.

So come 2015, Urrutia shifted Stateside, a late arrival to the Mazda Road to Indy but in a good position with the Nigel Tuckey-led Team Pelfrey, which had captured the Cooper Tires Winterfest title this winter with Jack Aitken driving.

Urrutia also had the management of Chilean driver Eliseo Salazar, the ex-Formula 1 and IndyCar driver, to help guide him through his maiden season racing in North America.

Urrutia, 19, and 16-year-old teammate Pato O’Ward made for a young but potent driving combination in the two cars. Raoul Owens later joined in a third car.

A runner-up finish on debut in St. Petersburg and a win in Round 3 at rain-soaked NOLA Motorsports Park instantly marked him as a driver to watch this season.

“I came to America to win the championship, but I never thought I’d have the chance to win it,” Urrutia told MotorSportsTalk at Mazda Raceway, reflecting on the start of his season.

He banked his second win of the year at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis weekend, in the third race of what was the series’ lone tripleheader round after a NOLA race was canceled due to the rain.

Urrutia celebrates. Photo: IMS Photography, LLC
Urrutia celebrates. Photo: IMS Photography, LLC

His leap out of the car, in front of the Pagoda, stands as one of the images of the Mazda Road to Indy season.

Save for a brief dip in form on the ovals – he failed to finish at Lucas Oil Raceway outside Indianapolis and finished a respectable if anonymous fifth at Iowa – Urrutia’s consistency was never in doubt over the course of the year.

The Toronto weekend was a needed bounce back for him after Lucas Oil. He didn’t win either race but gained 22 points on closest title rival Neil Alberico in those pair of races.

A win and third place at Mid-Ohio positioned Urrutia for the championship at Mazda Raceway, where he entered the weekend 29 points clear of Alberico for the title.

Alberico ran third with Urrutia second in the dying stages of race one. Urrutia was close to securing the title, but finally did so once Alberico had an off at the Corkscrew.

The championship was secured, in front of dozens of his countrymen who’d made the trip to Monterey to witness the moment in person.

“I was champion already at P2. So I did my pace in the race,” Urrutia explained. “The goal was to win the championship, not the race.

“I’m so happy today. I can’t tell you today how happy I am. I’m only the driver. Behind me are my sponsors, my family, Team Pelfrey, everyone that has put in so much hard work for this moment.

“The Uruguayan people are so crazy. They come here, it’s about 20 hours from home. But they come and they celebrate.”

For good measure, Urrutia added another runner-up finish on Sunday’s season finale, like on Saturday behind Garett Grist.

The champion ended the year with three wins and 10 podium finishes in 16 races, securing a Mazda scholarship to advance into Indy Lights.

More importantly, Urrutia ended the year with his name firmly established as a driver to watch in North American open-wheel racing.

IndyCar results, points after Detroit Grand Prix


DETROIT — Alex Palou topped the results of an NTT IndyCar Series race for the second time this season, extending his championship points lead with his victory in the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix.

The Chip Ganassi Racing driver, who also won the GMR Grand Prix (and the Indy 500 pole position) last month, holds a 51-point lead over teammate Marcus Ericsson (ninth at Detroit) through seven of 17 races this season.

Ganassi, which placed all four of its drivers in the top 10 at Detroit, has three of the top four in the championship standings with Scott Dixon ranked fourth after a fourth at Detroit.

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Indy 500 winner Josef Newgarden is third in the standings after taking a 10th at Detroit. Pato O’Ward slipped to fifth in the points after crashing and finishing 26th

Here are the IndyCar results and points standings after the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix:


Click here for the official box score from the 100-lap race on a nine-turn, 1.645-mile street course in downtown Detroit.

Lap leader summary

Full lap chart

Best section times

Full section data

Event summary

Pit stop summary

Here is the finishing order in the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix with starting position in parentheses, driver, engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):

1. (1) Alex Palou, Honda, 100, Running
2. (7) Will Power, Chevrolet, 100, Running
3. (9) Felix Rosenqvist, Chevrolet, 100, Running
4. (4) Scott Dixon, Honda, 100, Running
5. (13) Alexander Rossi, Chevrolet, 100, Running
6. (12) Kyle Kirkwood, Honda, 100, Running
7. (2) Scott McLaughlin, Chevrolet, 100, Running
8. (11) Marcus Armstrong, Honda, 100, Running
9. (6) Marcus Ericsson, Honda, 100, Running
10. (5) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 100, Running
11. (24) Colton Herta, Honda, 100, Running
12. (17) Devlin DeFrancesco, Honda, 100, Running
13. (8) Simon Pagenaud, Honda, 100, Running
14. (20) Agustin Canapino, Chevrolet, 100, Running
15. (15) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 100, Running
16. (18) Christian Lundgaard, Honda, 100, Running
17. (25) Jack Harvey, Honda, 100, Running
18. (14) Rinus VeeKay, Chevrolet, 100, Running
19. (23) Helio Castroneves, Honda, 100, Running
20. (19) Benjamin Pedersen, Chevrolet, 97, Running
21. (22) Santino Ferrucci, Chevrolet, 97, Running
22. (26) Sting Ray Robb, Honda, 97, Running
23. (21) David Malukas, Honda, 85, Contact
24. (3) Romain Grosjean, Honda, 80, Contact
25. (27) Graham Rahal, Honda, 50, Contact
26. (10) Pato O’Ward, Chevrolet, 41, Contact
27. (16) Callum Ilott, Chevrolet, 1, Contact

Winner’s average speed: 80.922 mph; Time of Race: 02:01:58.1171; Margin of victory: 1.1843 seconds; Cautions: 7 for 32 laps; Lead changes: 10 among seven drivers. Lap Leaders: Palou 1-28; Power 29-33; O’Ward 34; Palou 35-55; Power 56-64; Palou 65; Rossi 66; Newgarden 67-68; Kirkwood 69; Ericsson 70-76; Palou 77-100.


Click here for the points tally in the race.

Here are the points standings after the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix:



Engine manufacturers

Pit stop performance

Top 10 in points: Palou 273, Ericsson 222, Newgarden 203, Dixon 194, O’Ward 191, Rossi 176, McLaughlin 175, Power 172, Herta 149, Rosenqvist 148.

Rest of the standings: Grosjean 145, Kirkwood 142, Lundgaard 136, Ilott 116, VeeKay 108, Ferrucci 105, Armstrong 101, Rahal 99, Malukas 91, Daly 88, DeFrancesco 81, Castroneves 80, Harvey 78, Canapino 77, Pagenaud 72, Pedersen 61, Robb 55, Takuma Sato 37, Ed Carpenter 27, Ryan Hunter-Reay 20, Tony Kanaan 18, Marco Andretti 13, RC Enerson 5, Katherine Legge 5.

Next race: IndyCar will head to Road America for the Sonsio Grand Prix, which will take place June 18 with coverage starting at 1 p.m. ET on NBC and Peacock.