Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Hargrove, Pelfrey, plan Phoenix, Barber in working towards full season

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One of the most talented drivers in the Mazda Road to Indy is set to continue for at least the next two Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires weekends, with the plan of extending it to a full-season effort.

Scott Hargrove is set to continue in the No. 3 Gap Guard Team Pelfrey Dallara IL-15 Mazda at the Phoenix International Raceway and Barber Motorsports Park race weekends, the second car to teammate Juan Piedrahita.

It’s the next step as Hargrove, the 2013 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda champion, and his partners – others of note include Vancouver-based Full Torque Gear (apparel company) and Electra Meccanica (electric car company) – work towards finalizing a full-season program.

“I’ll be at Phoenix, and we’re going to try to run the whole season,” Hargrove told NBC Sports. “That was (always) the plan… and we just needed to put the pieces together.

“But it’s looking positive. We’re still working the business deals and looking to find a few more sponsors. Our intentions are to go run at Phoenix and Barber, and show we can run up front.”

Hargrove, who besides the USF2000 title has also won the Porsche GT3 Canada championship, has said his ability to look for new partners is one of his favorite parts of the sport.

“Racing is my passion but at the same time, but I’m absolutely hugely interested in the business side of the world,” he explained. “It’s a natural fit being able to move different parties and find solutions for their needs. It’s a lot of fun.

“Yes you hope to race, but the negotiating with different companies is a ton of fun. I’ve learned a lot from that. The whole thing is that sometimes I think that I learn more doing this than I would at school!

“And this year has been a lot more relaxed than last year. I go in thinking, ‘Whatever happens, happens, and I’ll give it my best shot.’ But things are looking positive. It’s all about the mindset and how you work on it.”

Hargrove finished second in the season opener at St. Petersburg, fighting through a broken car. Unfortunately he was caught up in an accident in the second race of the weekend on Sunday.

“We knew we had the speed to run up front,” Hargrove said. “The start went really well. The inside line moved a lot better than the outside. After that, we kind of settled in. It wasn’t too crazy.”

Hargrove’s chance to gain a position opened up when then-leader Zach Veach encountered electrical issues roughly halfway through the 30-lap race.

“Zach (Veach) had his issue and my eyes got pretty wide! I didn’t know what was going on with his car. I used my push-to-pass. He was figuring out why his car was having an issue. I don’t think he saw me.

Hargrove at St. Pete. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
Hargrove at St. Pete. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

“We made slight contact and it bent the toe link. I ran the whole second half with a bent toe link and still came in second. I was really hoping to challenge Felix (Serralles) for the win, but after the contact, it was hanging on. Kyle Kaiser was right on me the rest of the race. It was definitely exciting.”

Sunday’s race still produced a positive despite first-lap contact at Turn 4.

“I’d been three-wide into (Turn) 1, and had some contact, side to side,” Hargrove said. “I thought I’d got through good. I had a good run coming on Shelby (Blackstock). I tried to go around the outside. After the contact with Shelby, I realized I had a flat tire. So that’s why I carried more speed into the corner than I was expecting. Unfortunately he was there.

“The positive was, we were still the second quickest lap of the race. We came into the pits with a bent suspension. But the guys were jumping on it working to fix it! For our team, the result was disappointing but the effort was outstanding. You can’t complain too much.”

He’ll now head into the next two weekends having tested at both tracks, although the Phoenix test was truncated with mechanical issues. Barber saw him at the pointy end of the timesheets.

“We were really happy with having such pace,” he said. “I hadn’t raced at Barber since 2014, so it was a good reminder of which way the corners go. We’re confident going there.”

The mindset of St. Petersburg though, although it was only one race last year, was different this year compared to last year then as 8Star Motorsports.

“It was a one-race deal going into St. Pete. But that said… compared to last year, things are looking a lot better now,” he said.

“It was a different situation. (This year) I was pretty sure we were going to Phoenix. So it seems different. Everyone’s happy at St. Pete, and we’re continuing. I’m just hoping that continues for the rest of the year.”

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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