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:

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

Conor Daly honors friend killed Saturday amid Indianapolis unrest

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IndyCar driver Conor Daly posted a poignant tribute to Chris Beaty, a former Indiana University football player and Indianapolis business owner who was killed Saturday amid protests and rioting in the city.

Daly said he got to know Beaty, who owned an event and marketing promotions company, five years ago when he was organizing Indianapolis 500 afterparties.

Daly annually had been involved in Beaty’s parties since then and said Beaty helped get him home earlier this year when Daly’s blood sugar crashed while at an event.

TAKING A STAND: Lewis Hamilton speaks out on racial strife

“The world lost a tremendous person. RIP Chris Beaty,” wrote Daly, who also tweeted “The violence has to stop.”

According to the Indianapolis Star, Beaty died after suffering multiple gunshot wounds during Saturday night’s unrest in downtown Indianapolis. It’s unclear if the shooting was tied to the protests.

Graham Rahal also posted about his interaction with Beaty.

Daly, Rahal and the rest of the IndyCar Series will return to action Saturday night at Texas Motor Speedway (8 p.m. ET, NBC).