Pro Mazda 2016 season preview

Nico Jamin steps up. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

The upshot of the increased Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires field is that the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires field loses a number of drivers this year. With fewer teams in the championship, there’s no way to sugarcoat it: it’s a sparse field.

Although there’s just eight full-season primary class cars confirmed – albeit with more possible – there’s still enough talent sprinkled in to where it doesn’t figure to be a runaway by any one driver. The three confirmed series veterans – Garett Grist, Weiron Tan and Will Owen – do figure to have an early edge over the five rookies in the three teams.

For purposes of this preview, we’ll be looking at the primary class entries. Jay Horak and Bobby Eberle also run in the National Class.

Team Pelfrey

Team Pelfrey has upgraded its presence in Pro Mazda, and has two confirmed new drivers for the year. Santiago Urrutia steps up to Indy Lights after winning last year’s title; and Pato O’Ward also tested at Barber.

  • 81-Weiron Tan: The Malaysian returns for his second season after winning four regular season races and two Winterfest rounds a year ago with Andretti Autosport. With greater consistency, should challenge for the title.
  • 82-Aaron Telitz: Don’t let Telitz’s humor and easygoing personality fool you; he’s intensely serious behind the wheel. Will be keen to emerge at the head of the “Nico-Aaron-Jake” logjam that dominated USF2000 last year.
  • 80-Pato O’Ward: The young Mexican has tested both in Pro Mazda and IMSA Mazda Prototype Lites this winter. If he returns for a full season, he’ll give Pelfrey another set of data and a bit of continuity.

Juncos Racing 

The four-car Juncos effort features two returnees and two newcomers. Purely on strength of numbers, Juncos has the best shot to win the title.

  • 5-Garett Grist: The 20-year-old Canadian is one of the preseason title favorites as he returns for his third year in Pro Mazda, with the sole purpose of securing the title. Came on strongly in second half last year and should be even better this season.
  • 23-Will Owen: Also 20, the series sophomore should win his first race and potentially vie for the title. Juggles his studies at TCU with racing; also raced down under in New Zealand in the Toyota Racing Series this winter.
  • 31-Nicolas Dapero: Argentine 17-year-old rookie graduates from F3 and karting into Pro Mazda. Should develop nicely as the year goes on.
  • 00-Jake Parsons: No word yet if he’ll garner the “Double 0” nickname to match his car number, but the 21-year-old Australian is an intriguing prospect, having raced primarily in Asia in Formula Masters and Formula BMW.

Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing

Cape’s been regarded as the team to beat in USF2000 but has come up short of Pro Mazda titles with Scott Hargrove and Neil Alberico the last two years. They’ll have two USF2000 graduates look to break the drought this year.

  • 2-Nico Jamin: Jamin, 20, dominated the USF2000 season and will win races in Pro Mazda. The question is how many and if he can get on enough of a roll to upend the few returning drivers in the series.
  • 3-Jake Eidson: Another 20-year-old, the young American fought valiantly against the Cape juggernaut in USF2000 last year and now rejoins the team as he steps into Pro Mazda this year. Wins are likely, but he needs to find that next-level killer instinct if he wants to contend for a title.

JDC Motorsports

John Church’s team continues with at least one full-season entrant and perhaps a National class car for Kevin Davis at selected rounds.

  • 19-Jorge Cevallos: The 21-year-old Mexican was a late add to the Barber test, and has raced formula cars primarily in his home country.

Ryan Hunter-Reay hired as replacement for Conor Daly at Ed Carpenter Racing

Ryan Hunter-Reay Carpenter
Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Ryan Hunter-Reay was named to replace Conor Daly in Ed Carpenter Racing’s No. 20 Dallara-Chevrolet, starting in the NTT IndyCar Series event next week at Road America.

Hunter-Reay is the 2012 series champion and 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner. He finished 11th for Dreyer & Reinbold last month in the 107th Indy 500, his first start since the 2021 season finale. He drove full time for Andretti Autosport from 2010-21.

“We need to improve our competitiveness and I wanted to add a fresh perspective from a driver like Ryan who has a massive amount of experience and success as well as a reputation as a team leader. I am excited to welcome Ryan to the team,” team owner Ed Carpenter said in a team release. “We have worked together in the past as teammates and he tested for ECR at Barber Motorsports Park in October 2021, where he made an immediate impact as we were able to qualify one of our cars on the pole following that test. I am confident that his experience and technical abilities will be an asset to ECR as we move forward toward our goals as a team.”

Hunter-Reay has 18 IndyCar victories, most recently in 2018. He also is a winner in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, having been a part of winning entries in the 2020 Twelve Hours of Sebring and 2018 Petit Le Mans. Last year, he was an endurance driver for Cadillac Racing while being on standby for Chip Ganassi Racing.

He replaces Daly, whose departure was announced a day earlier in what the driver and team said was a mutual decision.

“I was surprised when I got the call from Ed,” Hunter-Reay said in a team release. “He described how frustrated he was that his team has not been able to realize its potential despite their efforts, investments, as well as technical and personnel changes over the past few years and asked for my help. Ed and I are very close friends and have been for a long time. I’ve worked with the team in the past and they are a very talented group with high expectations and a committed partner in BITNILE.COM.

“This will certainly be a challenge for me as well. It’s a tough situation jumping in a car in the middle of the season without any testing in what I believe to be the most competitive series in the world. Certainly, part of my motivation in saying ‘yes’ to Ed is the great challenge ahead. The last time I turned right driving an NTT IndyCar Series car was in October of 2021 with this team at Barber. However, I remain very confident in both my driving and technical abilities and believe by working with the talented people at ECR and Team Chevy, while representing BITNILE.COM, we will make progress. I am going to do everything I can do to help the team achieve its long-term objectives.”

Said Milton “Todd” Ault, the chairman of sponsor “It is great for to be aligned with an Indy 500 Winner and an NTT IndyCar Series champion. I have followed Ryan’s career for years and I am confident he will challenge the entire ECR team to perform at higher levels. I wish everyone luck at Road America.”