Team Pelfrey’s pair square off in Pro Mazda tripleheader

Telitz (82) and O'Ward (80). Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Similar to the first rung on the Mazda Road to Indy ladder (USF2000), the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires has seen a square-off between teammates for the 2016 title, and it’s again set to culminate with only one of the two taking the championship and the Mazda Advancement scholarship that goes with it.

And again, similar to USF2000, Pro Mazda season 2016 turned on its head after Lucas Oil Raceway in May and then with the trip north to Road America in June.

Mexican 17-year-old teenager Patricio “Pato” O’Ward entered as a series sophomore on only an eleventh hour deal for a weekend-to-weekend contract with Team Pelfrey. O’Ward responded to the early season pressure to perform with a storming start to the season, six wins in seven races including five in a row from Barber Motorsports Park through both Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course races and the 0.686-mile Lucas Oil Raceway oval.

Aaron Telitz needed to respond when the schedule turned to the land of brats, cheese and Spotted Cow at Road America. After finishing fifth at Lucas Oil, he trailed O’Ward by 55 points – 221-166 – and was on the verge of seeing the title slip away. But with a huge amount of pressure that came with a home race, in terms of extra family and friends on site, sponsors to impress, and media commitments to uphold, the Birchwood, Wis. native responded in a big way on home soil.

A double race win there re-established Telitz’s title hopes; two more wins followed in Toronto and a pair of podiums in Mid-Ohio have now seen Telitz take a 14-point lead (345-331) heading into what is now a tripleheader weekend at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The tripleheader weekend comes with a makeup race added to the weekend slate, following the cancellation of the Iowa Speedway round owing to a low car count.

Telitz has outscored O’Ward 179-110 (so by 69 points) in the last six races, with four wins and the two other podiums in that stint. O’Ward, whose runner-up to Telitz in Round 2 at St. Petersburg was his only non-win in the first seven races, has finished off the podium in every race but one since.

At a track where passing is difficult, it’s going to be important for either driver to get ahead in qualifying, and in O’Ward’s case, to get ahead of Telitz. Yes, he’ll only need to make up five points per race to overcome the 14-point gap and would accomplish that with three wins.

O'Ward (left) and Telitz (center) to square off for title, but Jamin (right) could play spoiler. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
O’Ward (left) and Telitz (center) to square off for title, but Jamin (right) could play spoiler. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

But the momentum is fully on Telitz’s side heading into the finale. If he can win at least once in the final three races, that would make the points gap harder for O’Ward to overcome.

Racing is but only one element that makes up the life of Telitz, the 24-year-old who drives the No. 82 Rice Lake Weighing Systems entry. When he’s not driving, he works as a caddie at the Minikahda Club in Minneapolis, helps out at his family’s resort and, when he has time, enjoys spending his leisure hours with activities that are pretty much the opposite of racing. Additionally, he does puzzles and knitting in his spare time.

With a high percentage of Mazda Road to Indy drivers in their teen years, Telitz is certainly a few years older, but no less determined to secure the title (see his Meet the Contenders piece here).

“I never got down when Pato was winning a bunch of races,” said Telitz, “because we weren’t even halfway through the season at that point. I thought that anything Pato had done in the first half of the season, I could do in the second half.

“I think it helps that I’m a little bit older, because I’m not intimidated that some of the other drivers have more experience in the car than I do – and I knew I would be quick at my home track of Road America to start the second half of the season.

“It’s an awesome, sort of mindless way to unwind. When you’re away from the track and you’re stressing about the team, sponsors and getting ready for the next race, a good way to take your mind off those shenanigans that drivers have to do is knitting or puzzling.”

O’Ward, meanwhile, has already risen to the pressure of the struggle to even make it this far in the No. 80 Topo Chico/Buy Gap Guard entry from earlier this year (see his Meet the Contenders piece here).

“It was hard. I knew I had just one shot and tried to make the most of it,” he explained. “I was really happy with how things went at St. Pete and I left there thinking that I would have to make the next race weekend just that much better. Up to the race at Lucas Oil Raceway, I pretty much did. I won almost every race but the transition to the second half of the year has been difficult for both me and the team.”

Despite the second half struggles, O’Ward has the potential to match his teammate of a year ago – Santiago Urrutia – in winning the Pro Mazda title for Pelfrey at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

Urrutia won the title in front of a wave of his countrymen from Uruguay, who all made the pilgrimage to Monterey for the occasion.

O’Ward now lives in Texas but has his Mexican roots, and would be keen to become the next Mexican star in North American open-wheel racing. The series has been devoid of one for quite a while, since the heyday of Adrian Fernandez, Michel Jourdain Jr. and Mario Dominguez.

Either one would be the candidate to succeed Urrutia as the next Pro Mazda champion and step into Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires with the Mazda Advancement scholarship that goes with it. Technically, 2015 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda champion Nico Jamin is still mathematically eligible, but he’d be eliminated within the Mazda Raceway weekend provided both drivers ahead of him score points.

Jamin can play spoiler, though, and considering his pace and double win at Mid-Ohio last time out, don’t rule him out from taking more wins to end his year on a high note.

But it’s most likely going to be one of the two Team Pelfrey drivers who figure to give team owner Dale Pelfrey another Pro Mazda crown.

Supercross 2023: Results and points after Seattle


The final results from the Monster Energy Supercross race in Seattle suggests the season is turning into a two-rider battle as Eli Tomac scored his sixth win of the season to tie Cooper Webb for the points’ lead and Chase Sexton crashed in yet another race.

Tomac downplayed the neck strain that caused him to lose the red plate for two weeks, but without that holding him back, it would appear it might have been a bigger problem than he admitted. Despite finishing on the podium in Detroit, Tomac has not shown the late-race strength everyone has come to expect. He was in a slump after scoring a season-worst in Indianapolis and described his sixth win as a “bounce back”.

With this win, Tomac tied James Stewart for second on the all-time list with 50 career Supercross victories. Six rounds remain and there is no sign that Tomac is slowing down. Jeremy McGrath’s 72 wins remains untouchable, for the moment at least.

RESULTS: Click here for full 450 Overall Results; Click here for 250 Overall Results

Cooper Webb was disappointed with second-place, but he recognized the Supercross results at Seattle could have been much worse. He rode in fifth for the first nine laps of the race, behind Tomac and Sexton. When Sexton crashed from the lead and Tomac took the top spot, Webb knew he could not afford to give up that many points and so he dug deep and found enough points to share the red plate when the series returns in two weeks in Glendale, Arizona for a Triple Crown event.

Justin Barcia scored his third podium of the season, breaking out of a threeway tie of riders who have not been the presumed favorites to win the championship. Barcia scored the podium without drama or controversy. It was his fourth consecutive top-five and his 10th straight finish of eighth or better.

Click here for 450 Heat 1 | Heat 2 | Last Chance Qualifier | Lap Chart

Jason Anderson kept his perfect record of top-10s alive with a fourth-place finish. Tied for fourth in the standings and 49 out of the lead, his season has been like a death of a thousand cuts. He’s ridden exceptionally well, but the Big Three have simply been better.

Sexton rebounded from his fall to finish fifth. He entered the race 17 points out of the lead and lost another five in Seattle. Mistakes have cost Sexton 22 points in the last three races and that is precisely how far he is behind Tomac and Webb. Unless those two riders bobble, this deficit cannot overcome.

The rider who ties Anderson for fourth in the points, Ken Roczen finished just outside the top five in sixth after he battled for a podium position early in the race.

Click here for 450 Overall results | Rider Points | Manufacturer Points

The 250 West riders got back in action after four rounds of sitting on the sideline and Jett Lawrence picked up where he left of: in Victory Lane. Lawrence now has four wins and a second-place finish in five rounds. One simply doesn’t get close to perfection than that.

Between them, the Lawrence brothers have won all but two races though 11 rounds. Jett failed to win the Anaheim Triple Crown and Hunter Lawrence failed to win the Arlington Triple Crown format in the 250 East division. In two weeks, the series has their final Triple Crown race in Glendale. When he was reminded of this from the top of the Seattle podium, Jett replied, “oof”.

Click here for 250 Heat 1 | Heat 2 | Last Chance Qualifier | Lap Chart

RJ Hampshire finished second in the race and is second in the points. This is fourth time in five rounds that Hampshire finished second to Lawrence. If not for a crash-induced 11th-place finish in the Arlington Triple Crown, he would be much closer in the points standings. With that poor showing, he is 23 points behind Lawrence.

Cameron McAdoo made a lot of noise in his heat. Riding aggressively beside Larwence, the two crashed in the preliminary. McAdoo could never seem to get away from Hampshire in the Main and as the two battled, the leader got away. It would have been interesting to see how they would have raced head-to-head when points were on the line.

Click here for 250 Overall results | 250 West Rider Points | 250 Combined Rider Points

The Supercross results in Seattle were kind to a couple of riders on the cusp of the top five. Enzo Lopes scored his second top-five and fourth top-10 of the season after crossing the finish line fourth in Seattle.

Tying his best finish of the season for the third time, Max Vohland kept his perfect record of top-10s alive. Vohland is seventh in the points.

2023 Results

Round 11: Eli Tomac bounces back with sixth win
Round 10: Chace Sexton wins, penalized
Round 9: Ken Roczen wins
Round 8: Eli Tomac wins 7th Daytona
Round 7: Cooper Webb wins second race
Race 6: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence win
Race 5: Webb, Hunter Lawrence win
Race 4: Tomac, H Lawrence win
Race 3: Chase Sexton, Levi Kitchen win
Race 2: Tomac, J Lawrence win
Round 1: Tomac, J Lawrence win

2023 SuperMotocross Power Rankings

Week 10: Chase Sexton leads with consistency
Week 8: Chase Sexton unseats Eli Tomac
Week 7: Jason Anderson narrowly trails Tomac
Week 6: Perfect Oakland night keeps Tomac first
Week 5: Cooper Webb, Sexton close gap
Week 4: Tomac retakes lead
Week 3: Ken Roczen takes the top spot
Week 2: Roczen moves up; Sexton falls
Week 1: Tomac tops 450s; Jett Lawrence 250s