MRTI: All 3 of Indy Lights, Pro Mazda, USF2000 return to Barber

USF2000 at St. Pete. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – St. Petersburg represented the kickoff to the Mazda Road to Indy season, but this weekend’s Mazda Road to Indy races for the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda seasons may paint a more representative picture of what is to come the remainder of the 2016 season.

Road courses more than street courses dominate the schedule. From the Indianapolis GP, to Road America, to Mid-Ohio and to Mazda Raceway, there’s still four more road course weekends to go on the calendar after Barber, compared to just two street courses (Toronto, Boston). So doing well here at Barber might pay dividends down the road.

Here’s what to look for in the respective series:

INDY LIGHTS

The Legacy Indy Lights 100 weekend features the same 16 cars you’ve seen at both St. Petersburg and Phoenix, the only change Scott Anderson back in the No. 77 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Dallara IL-15 Mazda instead of Heamin Choi. Otherwise, status quo.

Kyle Kaiser enters as the hottest driver in the series on the heels of a third, second and first in the first three races, and enjoys an 18-point lead over Felix Serralles. Kaiser’s Juncos Racing team swept the weekend here last year in dominant fashion with then-teammate Spencer Pigot.

Beyond the Juncos pair of Kaiser and Zachary Claman DeMelo, this is an important weekend for Carlin’s trio of Serralles, Ed Jones and Neil Alberico.

Neither Serralles nor Jones figured much on the road courses last season; Jones and Serralles posted a fourth apiece here last year. It’s crucial that the team, engineered by ace engineer Geoff Fickling, finds the setup on race weekend to match its pace in testing here, and get ahead of Juncos or else risk getting further behind. Alberico, who’s thus far struggled to find the optimum pace in qualifying on the Cooper Tires since stepping up from Pro Mazda, remains in search of his first top-five result.

This could be a good weekend for the SPM crew, particularly RC Enerson and Santiago Urrutia. Enerson scored his first Indy Lights podium here last year and his first win on a similar road course in Mid-Ohio. Urrutia led the way here in testing. If there’s a place the Uruguayan could win his first Indy Lights race, it’s here.

Belardi’s pair should be tough and win contenders this weekend with both of Felix Rosenqvist and Zach Veach. Veach has plenty of track experience and Rosenqvist, the St. Pete race two winner, will seek a bounce back weekend after a tough oval debut at Phoenix. He’s been busy with two races in Europe the last two weeks, in the Blancpain Endurance Cup and ADAC GT Masters.

Andretti Autosport should have a decent weekend and rookie Dean Stoneman could well be in line for his first podium finish, if not his first win. Teammates Shelby Blackstock and Dalton Kellett are overflowing with track experience from their time in the Mazda Road to Indy.

Team Pelfrey enjoyed a good test here in the spring and looks for decent results with its pair of Juan Piedrahita and Scott Hargrove.

PRO MAZDA

We touched on half the likely contenders for the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires’ Mazda North American Operations Presents the Pro Mazda Grand Prix of Alabama weekend earlier this week, with a look at Team Pelfrey’s St. Petersburg domination and a pondering of whether it would continue.

Beyond the Aaron Telitz-Weiron Tan-Pato O’Ward trio at Pelfrey, Juncos’ Pro Mazda team is in search of an improved weekend after a challenging St. Petersburg. Garett Grist should be leading the way of its four drivers.

At Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing, Nico Jamin and Jake Eidson banked three top-fives between them at St. Petersburg, and will be looking to upend the Pelfrey trio this weekend. Jorge Cevallos (JDC Motorsports) rounds out a modest 10-car field.

USF2000

Arguably the biggest wild card of the weekend on the Mazda Road to Indy card are the two USF2000 races, the Cooper Tires USF2000 Grand Prix of Alabama, which feature a 24-car field. Last year, Telitz and Jamin won the pair of races for the Capes and the Capes, who endured a rare podium-less weekend in St. Petersburg, look to amend that stat this weekend.

Anthony Martin mightily impressed last year with fourth and second in the then-single car John Cummiskey Racing effort and could well score his first series win now with Cape. You could say the same for teammate Parker Thompson, who finished fifth both races here last year.

But those two – and Cape’s third driver Nikita Lastochkin – will have to get through Pabst Racing’s trio of Jordan Lloyd, Yufeng Luo and Garth Rickards first. Even though Lloyd didn’t race in the regular season here last year, he does have track experience from Cooper Tires Winterfest last year. He’ll be keen to improve on sixth and a DNF in two races.

Further down the order Luke Gabin has continued with JAY Motorsports despite only previously being set for St. Petersburg, and he’ll have a teammate for the first time in Cameron Das.

Pelfrey’s four-headed rookie quartet of James Munro, TJ Fischer, Jordan Cane and Robert Megennis are sleepers – 14-year-old Cane has the potential to make some history this weekend to follow up on a podium scored at St. Petersburg.

Also keep an eye on veterans Victor Franzoni (ArmsUp Motorsports) and Ayla Agren (John Cummiskey Racing), and last year’s Team USA Scholarship winners Michai Stephens (RJB Motorsports) and Dakota Dickerson (Afterburner Autosport).

IndyCar releases schedule for 2023 season

IndyCar schedule 2023
Douglas Stringer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
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The NTT IndyCar Series’ 2023 schedule will feature the same number of races and tracks as this season with some minor reshuffling of dates.

IndyCar will open the 2023 season March 5 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida, and will conclude Sept. 10 at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, California. The 107th Indy 500 will take place May 28 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The 17-race schedule will conclude with a stretch of eight races in the final nine weeks.

“The NTT IndyCar Series is on an impactful upward trajectory, making progress at a pace that befits our thrilling style of competition,” Penske Entertainment Corp. president and CEO Mark Miles said in a release. “The 2023 season provides an opportunity to further build on this trend, bringing our sport and its stars to more markets and households and reaching new consumers across the globe.”

There will be 15 events on NBC: 13 races (including six of the final seven) plus Indy 500 qualifying May 20-21. There also are three races on USA Network and the Toronto race exclusively on Peacock. All races on NBC and USA also will have live simulstreams on Peacock.

In partnership with NBC Sports, the 2022 IndyCar season was the most-watched in six years and the most-watched across NBC Sports on record. The 2022 season also was the most streamed season on record.

“We’re very excited for our 2023 NTT IndyCar Series schedule and to build on this past season’s viewership milestones,” NBC Sports vice president of programming Mike Perman said in a release. “In providing comprehensive coverage across NBC, Peacock and USA Network, NBC Sports is once again looking forward to telling the stories of these world-class drivers and this compelling series.”

Notable elements on the 2023 schedule:

–There will be the same balance of seven road course races, five street courses and five ovals.

–St. Pete will be the season opener for the 13th time.

–The Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix will move from Belle Isle to the streets of downtown.

–The NASCAR doubleheader weekend at the IMS road course will shift to mid-August.

–The World Wide Technology Raceway event will move from Saturday to Sunday.

Start times for the 2023 events will be announced at a later date.

Here’s the 2023 IndyCar schedule:


Date Race/Track Network/Platform
Sun., March 5 Streets of St. Petersburg NBC, Peacock
Sun., April 2 Texas Motor Speedway NBC, Peacock
Sun., April 16 Streets of Long Beach NBC, Peacock
Sun., April 30 Barber Motorsports Park NBC, Peacock
Sat., May 13 Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Road Course) NBC, Peacock
Sun., May 28 The 107th Indianapolis 500 NBC, Peacock
Sun., June 4 Streets of Detroit NBC, Peacock
Sun., June 18 Road America USA Network, Peacock
Sun., July 2 Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course USA Network, Peacock
Sun., July 16 Streets of Toronto Peacock
Sat., July 22 Iowa Speedway – Race 1 NBC, Peacock
Sun., July 23 Iowa Speedway – Race 2 NBC, Peacock
Sun., Aug. 6 Streets of Nashville NBC, Peacock
Sat., Aug. 12 Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Road Course) USA Network, Peacock
Sun., Aug. 27 World Wide Technology Raceway NBC, Peacock
Sun., Sept. 3 Portland International Raceway NBC, Peacock
Sun., Sept. 10 WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca NBC, Peacock

*dates and networks/platforms are subject to change