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Franzoni dominates in USF2000 in Monterey

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MONTEREY, Calif. – A caution-free, 30-minute race for the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, the Cooper Tires Grand Prix of Monterey Powered by Mazda, saw Victor Franzoni and ArmsUp Motorsports continue their weekend domination.

The Brazilian led flag-to-flag from pole in the 21-lap race for his second win of the season, fourth in USF2000, and won by 12.9597 seconds.

Franzoni said he was “really calm” throughout the race – hoping not to get too lackadaisical and lose concentration. He thanked ArmsUp engineer John Walko, who said that thanks to a great setup off the truck and an “old school” mentality has paid dividends. Franzoni has finished in the top-five every race since the first of two races on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course back in May, so that’s a run of 11 consecutive races.

Behind him, Parker Thompson took second place in the first Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing car and gained three points on Anthony Martin, who finished third after holding off a race-long charge from a pair of his Australian countrymen, Luke Gabin (JAY Motorsports) and Jordan Lloyd (Pabst Racing).

Thompson made a move on Martin for second place at Turn 6 on Lap 11, which narrowed a 24-point gap at the time to 18, but he’ll still need a bit of help to overcome the deficit on Sunday.

Martin’s lead over Thompson is 18 points (369-351) headed to tomorrow’s season finale. Franzoni, who had a remote mathematical chance only at winning the title, was eliminated, but has clinched third in the championship behind the Cape twins.

Yufeng Luo finished sixth ahead of series debutante Phillippe Denes, the young American who staged an impressive drive for Team Pelfrey to come from 15th to seventh. Full-season rookie Robert Megennis was eighth in another Pelfrey entry with Lucas Kohl and Dakota Dickerson completing the top-10.

An off for Nikita Lastochkin at Turn 6 derailed a potential top-10 for him, while the other series debutantes Kaylen Frederick (13th) and Michael Scott (17th) – failed to figure in the day. Scott incurred a rare mechanical issue for John Cummiskey Racing.

An IndyCar iRacing Challenge at Talladega? Drivers have discussed it

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If Dale Earnhardt Jr. is interested in an IndyCar iRacing event on an oval, he might like the latest idea being kicked around by NTT Series drivers.

“I personally would want to run at Talladega, but I don’t think that’s an option,” Arrow McLaren SP driver rookie Oliver Askew told NBCSports.com in a Friday interview about his simulation work for the second round of the IndyCar iRacing Challenge. “IndyCar drivers have a group chat with iRacing, and someone had the idea of running at Talladega, and I thought it was brilliant.”

It actually would be a throwback of sorts as a USAC-sanctioned race with Indy cars at Talladega nearly happened 40 years ago.

The IndyCar iRacing Challenge will be running its second consecutive road course Saturday at Barber Motorsports Park (2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN or streaming here).

Of the four remaining races in the six-race series, there’s a chance that three of them could be ovals: A Drivers’ Choice track April 11; a “Random Draw” April 18 and a non-IndyCar “Dream” track May 2 (the April 25 race will be at Circuit of the Americas).

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IndyCar drivers are voting on next week’s track, and the options include high-speed ovals such as Texas Motor Speedway and Michigan Speedway.

A multicar crash at Talladega last October. (Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Talladega apparently isn’t on the list for next week, but surely it could be considered for a future race if it meant having Earnhardt in the field. The 15-time NASCAR Most Popular Driver is a six-time winner at Talladega, and the NASCAR on NBC analyst’s family is synonymous with the 2.66-mile oval where his late seven-time champion father won a record 10 times.

“I hope he can make that happen,” Askew said of racing against Earnhardt. “I hope IndyCar can grant his wish on that.”

The addition of Earnhardt would fit well with an IndyCar iRacing Challenge that already features champions from NASCAR (Jimmie Johnson) and Supercars (Scott McLaughlin).

Will Power would like to see more of that.

“I think that would be great if we can get big-name drivers from other series,” Power said. “Getting a couple guys from Europe would be cool.”