Photo: Tony DiZinno

MRTI: Drivers visit SPCA ahead of Mazda Raceway races

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MONTEREY, Calif. – The old saying that a dog is a man’s (or woman’s) best friend was on display Thursday at the SPCA of Monterey County, as several drivers in the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires paid a visit to the facility ahead of this weekend’s Soul Red Finale at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

Considering the pressure some, if not all, drivers in the three series competing here this weekend are under with Mazda advancement scholarships on the line, it was nice to see those present embracing their soft sides as they got to meet a number of dogs and cats – or in two random cases, a rat and a horse.

Those drivers present included:

Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires

  • Kyle Kaiser, No. 18 Juncos Racing
  • Neil Alberico, No. 22 Carlin
  • Dean Stoneman, No. 27 Andretti Autosport
  • Dalton Kellett, No. 28 Andretti Autosport
  • Shelby Blackstock, No. 51 Andretti Autosport

Of note, Zach Veach, Andre Negrao and Santiago Urrutia were all at Sonoma testing IndyCars for the first time, and therefore unable to attend.

Stoneman and his family have embraced and worked with dogs and cats back home in England, and seeing him with a mini chihuahua presented a softer side of the 26-year-old Englishman that hasn’t really been witnessed too much during his first full-time season in America. It was quite nice to see.

Teammate Kellett, who was confirmed for another season in Indy Lights earlier this year, appeared to get congratulations from all parties.

Alberico played up a joke with fellow American Aaron Telitz, with the two Rising Star Racing-supported drivers eyeing each other as a rat named for Aaron was in-between, unbeknownst to the debauchery.

Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires

  • Bobby Eberle, No. 13 JDC Motorsports
  • Aaron Telitz, No. 82 Team Pelfrey

Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda

  • Parker Thompson, No. 2 Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing
  • Dakota Dickerson, No. 18 Afterburner Autosport
  • Garth Rickards, No. 22 Pabst Racing
  • Ayla Agren, No. 33 John Cummiskey Racing (not racing this weekend)
  • Robert Megennis, No. 80 Team Pelfrey

Four of these five had a fun time with dogs – Rickards in particular – while Thompson had a different animal of note he spent time with. He got paired with a horse named Parker.

Meanwhile, here’s Agren and Rickards with dogs.

March 29 in Motorsports History: Scott Dixon wins first race after reunification

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Reunited and it felt so good.

That’s what drivers likely thought before the 2008 IndyCar opener at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

For the first time since 1995, major-league open-wheel racing in the United States was under the banner of a sole sanctioning body as Champ Car and the Indy Racing Leauge had reunified just a month prior.

Scott Dixon celebrates after winning the 2008 IndyCar opener at Homestead. Photo: Jim Hines/IndyCar.

The first race after reunification also saw a reversal of fortunes for Scott Dixon, who won the race after losing the 2007 IRL championship in crushing fashion.

In the 2007 season finale at Chicagoland Speedway, Dixon ran out of fuel while leading on the final lap of the race. The race victory – and championship – went to Dixon’s future teammate, Dario Franchitti.

But the tides turned for Dixon nearly seven months later, and the Kiwi was able to win with the help of another driver’s misfortune.

Tony Kanaan was leading with seven laps remaining when E.J. Viso spun and made contact with Kanaan’s car. Kanaan remained on track through the caution period despite suffering obvious damage to his right front suspension.

On the final restart with three laps remaining, Dixon and others cars easily passed Kanaan’s wounded car on the outside. Dixon then maintained his lead through the checkered flag to win at Homestead for the second time in his career.

“I think Marco (Andretti) and T.K. probably had a little bit better cars today, but we came through with the win, and that’s what counts,” Dixon told ESPN after his 12th career victory.

Following his victory at Homestead, Dixon continued to redeem himself through the course of the 2008 season. In May, he won the Indianapolis 500 for the first (and so far only) time. Following Indy, he went on to win four more times in 2008 and won his second series championship.

Also on this date:

1998: Mika Hakkinen won the Grand Prix of Brazil, the first of eight victories in his first championship season.

2010: Will Power won the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, which was held on a Monday morning because of rain postponing the race on Sunday.

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