Photo: Team Pelfrey

MRTI: TJ Fischer joins Team Pelfrey USF2000 lineup

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TJ Fischer joins the previously announced Robert Megennis and Jordan Cane with Team Pelfrey’s Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda program for the 2016 season, with the 21-year-old announced on Thursday.

The full release is below:

Team Pelfrey announced today that TJ Fischer will sign with Team Pelfrey for the 2016 season in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda.

Fischer, 21, arrives at Team Pelfrey after competing in Formula Renault 2.0 ALPS during the 2015 season where the Vacaville, C.A. native raced on world class circuits throughout Europe and managed a career-best 5th place finish at Monza and a 7th place finish at GP de Pau. Fischer claimed 8th place overall in the championship, the highest finishing rookie.

“I’m stoked to be joining Team Pelfrey’s organization under their USF2000 program. The team as a whole is very professional and goes about racing in a methodical manner that has results to back-up what they’re doing,” said Fischer.

Fischer will pilot the No. 82 Rathbun Associates-sponsored Team Pelfrey Mazda when the green flag waves in St. Petersburg, Fla. On March 11, 2016.

“I’m excited to have Rathbun Associates onboard for this season as the title sponsor. As always, results aren’t the only incentive for sponsors and it’s as much to do with how I’m able to deliver for them off the track that makes the difference. Also, a big thanks to our associate sponsors which include Kunshan Haixin Precision Hardware and Electronics, XComGlobal, MeUndies, ONNIT Supplements, Molecule, Adidas Motorsport and Bell Helmets. We’re excited to continue our brand building with our friends and supporters to date as well as bringing onboard our new partners. We’re still working with a few more partners that we hope to announce soon.”

Fischer’s love for motorsports began when he was ten years old racing karts in Northern California. In 2013, he captured the Formula Car Challenge National Championship, the SCCA Majors Western Conference Championship, and the Formula Car Challenge Western Conference Championship. In 2014, Fischer raced for Cliff Dempsey Racing Team in BARC Protyre Formula Renault Series where he finished the season with six top-5 finishes and in 6th place in the overall season championship.

“Honestly, I’m excited to head into the 2016 season with the confidence of a solid team capable of winning behind me, as well as a really well thought out testing plan to get myself gelled with the car and team. New year, new team, new continent of racing circuits. Time to get to business.”

Fischer’s teammates are Mazda Road to Indy newcomers, Robert Megennis and Jordan Cane. The 2016 season will see Team Pelfrey become the only team to operate at every level of the Mazda Road to Indy ladder, as well as the F1600 Formula F Championship Series.

April 5 in Motorsports History: Alex Zanardi’s amazing Long Beach rally

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Alex Zanardi entered the Long Beach Grand Prix on April 5, 1998 as the race’s defending champion and the series’ defending champion.

But the Italian didn’t seem a serious contender for much of the 105-lap event. Zanardi started 11th position and lost a lap early when he was involved in a multicar spin in the hairpin.

Alex Zanardi celebrates after winning the 1998 Grand Prix of Long Beach. Photo: Getty Images

But the race was still young, and despite emerging from the incident in 18th place, Zanardi slowly progressed through the field while battling radio problems that made communication difficult with his team.

With five laps remaining, Zanardi passed Dario Franchitti on the backstretch for second place and then focused in on leader Bryan Herta.

With two laps remaining, Zanardi made his move, making a daring pass on the inside of Herta in the Queen’s Hairpin (which no longer exists as the track layout was changed the following year).

The move was reminiscent of Zanardi’s famous last-lap move on the inside of Laguna Seca’s famed Corkscrew in 1996, which deprived Herta of his first CART victory.

Franchitti passed Herta as well, and Zanardi went on to clinch his first victory of the season.

“On a day when everything went wrong, we came back and won,” Zanardi said following the race. “I can’t explain it. It wasn’t until I saw Bryan ahead of me that I ever thought I had a shot at winning. It was amazing. I have no words to describe it.”

Following Long Beach, Zanadri won six more times in 1998 en route to his second and final CART championship.

Also on this date:

1992: Bobby Rahal led from start to finish to win the Valvoline 200 at Phoenix International Raceway. The win was the first of four victories for Rahal during his championship season.

2009: Ryan Briscoe won the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the first of three victories for the Aussie in 2009. The race was also the first IndyCar Series on Versus, which was rebranded as NBC Sports Network in 2012.

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter @michaele1994