Thompson, Martin, Franzoni. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

MRTI: Tight title battles beckon ahead of Toronto doubleheader

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The usual six-pack of Mazda Road to Indy races are back in action this weekend at Toronto, and this also starts a run of each of the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda series beginning their final seven races of the year.

Indy Lights has two races in Toronto, two at Mid-Ohio, one at Watkins Glen and two at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

Then for Pro Mazda and USF2000, it’s two in Toronto, with two Pro Mazda and three USF2000 at Mid-Ohio, then three Pro Mazda and two USF2000 at Mazda Raceway.

The beginning of the runs to each title and the respective Mazda Road to Indy advancement scholarships that come with them start this weekend at the series’ lone race outside the United States. Each series has one race Saturday, one race Sunday, a far cry from Road America when both Pro Mazda and USF2000 ran twice on Saturday.

Canadians set to compete this weekend on home soil include: Garett Grist, Dalton Kellett and Zachary Claman De Melo in Indy Lights and Parker Thompson in USF2000.

Serralles and Veach stole show at Iowa. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
Serralles and Veach stole show at Iowa. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

INDY LIGHTS

The three-way fight of Ed Jones, Dean Stoneman and Santiago Urrutia took a backseat to Felix Serralles and Zach Veach’s win battle at Iowa, but with Jones, Stoneman and Urrutia finishing in that order in third, fourth and fifth, the points situation didn’t change.

Jones has 236 points to Stoneman’s 213 and Urrutia’s 206. Lurking and not out of it are the Iowa sparring partners, Serralles and Veach at 199 and 194, with Kyle Kaiser hanging on at 189, 47 points back.

This weekend could be a “winnowing” if the top three in points dominate proceedings but if Serralles and Veach – or Kaiser, who drives for Juncos Racing and was arguably strongest on Indy Lights’ only other street course this year of St. Petersburg (third and second) – throw a big result up, then the title battle will remain wide open.

And Kaiser – or De Melo, for that matter – is a decent pick for the weekend because Juncos’ Spencer Pigot swept these races last year. Other potential big results could come from Felix Rosenqvist, back after a two-weekend absence, and Grist, who knows the streets of Toronto well and whose Team Pelfrey outfit bagged its only podium of the year on a street course, second at St. Petersburg, with Scott Hargrove.

O'Ward and Telitz. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
O’Ward and Telitz. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

PRO MAZDA

In the battle between Team Pelfrey teammates Pato O’Ward and Aaron Telitz, the pressure is now squarely on the 17-year-old Mexican who won six of the first seven races but watched from off the podium as Telitz swept on home soil at Road America.

Telitz has now closed to within 28 points of O’Ward following his domination at Elkhart Lake, and will look to carry the momentum this weekend. The pair split wins on the only other street course this year at St. Petersburg and with no pressure on him and riding the wave of momentum, Telitz will look to close that gap even more this weekend.

Juncos, which not only has a good Indy Lights setup on street courses, banked a Pro Mazda win here last year with Grist. Emerging star Nicolas Dapero, who’s scored two podiums in his last three races, or Will Owen could be in with a shot at their first series wins and ending the thus far Pelfrey sweep of the season. Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing returns to two cars with Jorge Cevallos back alongside Nico Jamin; the young Mexican ran the opening races this year for JDC.

USF2000

Simply put, whoever emerges ahead of the Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing teammates this weekend – Anthony Martin or Parker Thompson (pictured top of page) – will be the points leader.

Because the pair enter tied and Martin is the one surging after winning four of the last five races, including the last three in a row.

The Australian and the Canadian have different driving styles and while both are calm, good kids outside the cockpit, the pressure is intensifying between them since only one of them can win the title.

Thompson, who started stronger, will probably feel the weight of racing on home soil this weekend. Yes, Red Deer, Alberta is a fair way from Toronto, but it’ll still be important for Thompson to want to deliver with a win here.

Third place in points is ArmsUp’s Victor Franzoni, who should be better here than at St. Petersburg when he was in his first weekend for the team. Franzoni’s banked five podiums this year but is yet to win.

Pabst Racing could play spoiler, having had the best setup cars at St. Petersburg and having swept the weekend there between Jordan Lloyd and Yufeng Luo. Garth Rickards is due a good result for the team as well, as is fellow series sophomore Ayla Agren of John Cummiskey Racing, who was fourth last time out at Road America.

Another driver to watch is the third Australian, Luke Gabin, who it appears will race after JAY Motorsports has worked to find funding for the talented and likable young driver for this weekend. Gabin scored his first USF2000 podium at Toronto a year ago with Team Pelfrey. Englishman Jordan Cane, formerly of Pelfrey, could be poised for his first podium since St. Pete – both he and Robert Megennis (Pelfrey) banked podiums at the only other street race this year.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway can have 10,000 fans for IndyCar races

Indianapolis Motor Speedway fans
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Indianapolis Motor Speedway will have crowds for its NTT IndyCar Series race weekend next month, the first time fans are allowed at the track this year.

The track announced Friday that up to 10,000 fans will be allowed in the grandstands daily from Oct. 1-4. The IndyCar Harvest GP race doubleheader will be held on the track’s road course Oct. 2-3.

IMS has played host to several events this year without fans, including the 104th Indianapolis 500 on Aug. 23 and a NASCAR-IndyCar weekend July 4-5 that included the Brickyard 400. Plans originally were made to have fans at the Indy 500 before reversing course a few weeks ahead of the race. In a letter last month, Roger Penske vowed that fans would return for the 2021 Indy 500.

“We can’t wait to see fans come through our gates for the first time in 2020,” IMS president Doug Boles said in a release. “They’ll be greeted by a vastly improved facility, featuring significant upgrades to the spectator experience. We’re also extremely grateful to have a presenting sponsor with the expertise and resources of GMR as we look to implement our detailed and comprehensive health and safety plan.”

Fans will undergo temperature screenings upon entry and also be required to wear face coverings at all times on property. The track said each attendee will receive a mask and bottle of hand sanitizer.

The Friday, Oct. 2 race will be shown at 3:30 p.m. ET on USA, and NBC will broadcast the Saturday, Oct. 3 race at 2:30 p.m. ET.

Here’s the release from Indianapolis Motor Speedway:

INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020 – For the first time in 2020, Indianapolis Motor Speedway will welcome fans to the Racing Capital of the World for the INDYCAR Harvest GP presented by GMR weekend. Up to 10,000 spectators can be in the grandstands each day of racing action Oct. 1-4, per approval from the Marion County Public Health Department.

Tickets are available now via IMS.com and will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis.

The massive facility, which holds more than 300,000 people, will provide two spectator zones with up to 5,000 fans in each. The zones will be located in Turns 1 and 4 of the oval, offering strong sightlines of the road course. Strict health and safety rules will be in place, including the following:

  • Face coverings must be worn throughout the property at all times;
  • All fans will receive temperature screenings before gate entry;
  • Grandstand seats will be marked for distancing;
  • Attendees must use pre-assigned gates and remain in their designated zones.

Global Medical Response, the world leader in compassionate, quality emergency medical and patient relocation services, will be the presenting sponsor of the penultimate weekend of INDYCAR racing this season.

“We can’t wait to see fans come through our gates for the first time in 2020,” IMS President J. Douglas Boles said. “They’ll be greeted by a vastly improved facility, featuring significant upgrades to the spectator experience. We’re also extremely grateful to have a presenting sponsor with the expertise and resources of GMR as we look to implement our detailed and comprehensive health and safety plan.”

The plan, which includes each attendee receiving a mask and a bottle of hand sanitizer upon entering the track, was developed in consultation with state and local health officials.

This event weekend is highlighted by an NTT INDYCAR SERIES doubleheader, with races Friday, Oct. 2 and Saturday, Oct. 3. It will be the penultimate event of the series’ season as the field pursues the champion’s prestigious Astor Challenge Cup to be awarded Sunday, Oct. 25 at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

The INDYCAR Harvest GP will pay tribute to a storied IMS event, the Harvest Classic in September 1916. The Harvest Classic was the only racing event held outside of May at IMS from 1911 through 1993. The event featured three races, all won by legendary driver Johnny Aitken.

Fans also will see a host of facility improvements during the event weekend, including more than 30 new LED video boards, refreshed concession stands and restrooms, and 5G wireless connectivity throughout the facility.

The first race will air at 3:30 p.m. (ET) Friday, Oct. 2 on the USA Network. NBC will broadcast the second race at 2:30 p.m. (ET) Saturday, Oct. 3, with WTHR-13 airing the action live in Central Indiana.

Also racing that weekend will be the first pairing of two major sports car series — the Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli and its North American counterpart, GT World Challenge America Powered by AWS. Former Indianapolis 500 pole winner Ryan Briscoe is among the drivers in the Indianapolis 8 Hour event held Sunday, Oct. 4.

The event also will showcase drivers in SRO America’s Pirelli GT4 America, GT Sports Club America and the TC America series.

The full on-track schedule is available at IMS.com.