Franzoni led both USF2000 sessions. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

MRTI: Friday practice sessions in the book at Mazda Raceway

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MONTEREY, Calif. – Six practice sessions are complete for the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires’ Soul Red Finale weekend at Mazda’s spiritual home of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, in advance of deciding the championships and the Mazda advancement scholarships.

Victor Franzoni led both sessions in Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, while Ed Jones and Dean Stoneman split the two Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires practices and Will Owen and Aaron Telitz split the two Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires sessions.

Quick recaps are below.

Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires

It’s going to be an intense qualifying session tomorrow if today’s two practice sessions for the Mazda Indy Lights Grand Prix of Monterey Presented by Cooper Tires are any indication.

Championship contenders Dean Stoneman and Ed Jones led the two sessions. Jones led in the morning before Stoneman dropped the hammer in the afternoon with the fastest time of the day, 1:16.098. Jones’ morning time was a 1:16.509 at the 2.238-mile Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca circuit.

Beyond Stoneman, the returning Sean Rayhall was second in the No. 2 Team Pelfrey car at 1:16.329, with Shelby Blackstock an impressive third in the No. 51 Andretti Autosport car at 1:16.805. Jones (No. 11 Carlin, 1:16.810) and Garett Grist (No. 3 Team Pelfrey, 1:16.898) completed the top five.

Points leader Santiago Urrutia was seventh in the No. 55 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian entry.

The second practice session was less eventful than the first, although it still featured one red flag when Heamin Choi ran off course in the No. 77 SPM car.

Jones led the opening 30-minute practice earlier in the day. The Dubai-based Brit clocked a best lap of 1:16.509, more than a half second quicker the rest of the field. Stoneman was second at 1:17.012, while Rayhall was third at 1:17.023.

Urrutia was sixth, but lost his front wing after running wide in Turn 9 of the course. He brought the car back to the pits with no other damage.

Two red flags interrupted the already short 30-minute first practice session, both for Zachary Claman De Melo. He stopped on course in the opening minutes past Turn 6, then after restarting later lost control off Turn 3 and nosed into the tire barriers.

Indy Lights times are linked here.

Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires

The Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires had a pair of practice sessions for the Pro Mazda Grand Prix of Monterey Presented by Allied Building Products, and once Aaron Telitz got earlier mechanical issues sorted from the morning session he led in the afternoon.

The championship leader, driving the No. 82 Team Pelfrey car, had a clutch, oil leak and tire puncture in the first session and therefore only completed four laps. The Juncos Racing trio of Will Owen, Jake Parsons and Nicolas Dapero were 1-2-3 with Nico Jamin fourth for Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing. Owen’s best time was 1:24.677, which stood as best of the day in the cooler conditions.

Telitz led the afternoon session but at a slower best time of 1:25.2311. Parsons and Owen were second and third. Telitz’s teammate Pato O’Ward was fifth in both sessions.

Times from both sessions are linked here.

USF2000

Ordinarily you’d expect Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing to be at the top of the timesheets but it was ArmsUp Motorsports that flexed its muscle in both practice sessions on Friday in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, ahead of the Cooper Tires Grand Prix of Monterey Powered by Mazda.

Victor Franzoni topped both sessions in his No. 9 car, and the likable young Brazilian topped the charts in both sessions. The morning session best time was 1:26.7907, which stood as the fastest USF2000 time of the day, while in the hotter and slower conditions of the afternoon, the best time was 1:27.758.

Cape was second, third and fourth in the morning with championship contenders Parker Thompson and Anthony Martin ahead of an impressive Nikita Lastochkin.

In the afternoon, Franzoni led Luke Gabin (JAY Motorsports), Thompson, Jordan Lloyd (Pabst Racing) and Cameron Das (JAY).

USF2000 times are linked here.

Steve Torrence takes NHRA points lead with Gatornationals victory

NHRA Gainesville Steve Torrence
Jeff Robinson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Two-time defending NHRA Top Fuel champion Steve Torrence took the points lead Sunday in the AMALIE Motor Oil Gatornationals, beating his father, Billy, in the final round at Gainesville Raceway.

Torrence had a 3.809-second run at 322.11 mph to win for the third time this year and 39th overall. He is now on track for another championship despite missing the season opener.

“We’ve got some good momentum and to be in the points lead, it’s a testament to how hard these guys work,” Steve Torrence said after the NHRA Gainesville victory. “We’ve just got to stay focused and concentrate on what the task at hand is, and that’s trying to win a championship. These guys give me an unbelievable race car and you just try not to screw it up.”

Ron Capps won in Funny Car, Alex Laughlin in Pro Stock and Matt Smith in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

Capps raced to his second win this year and 66th overall, beating Tim Wilkerson with a 3.937 at 323.12 in a Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat.

Laughlin topped Aaron Stanfield with a 7.068 at 204.76 in a Chevrolet Camaro for his first win this season and fourth in his career. Smith rode to his first victory in 2020 and 25th overall, topping Andrew Hines with a 6.843 at 196.99 on an EBR.