Kaiser. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

MRTI: Kaiser, Telitz, Franzoni score Mazda Raceway poles

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MONTEREY, Calif. – Qualifying for the first of two races in each of the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires series in this weekend’s “Soul Red Finale” at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca is now complete.

Here’s quick qualifying reports, below:

Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires

What seemed a closely packed qualifying session for today’s first of two Indy Lights races on the Mazda Indy Lights Grand Prix of Monterey Presented by Cooper Tires weekend was quickly erased once Ed Jones dropped the hammer with just under 13 minutes remaining in qualifying.

That was, until Kyle Kaiser decided to interrupt Jones’ personal party at the top of the charts for today’s first race of the weekend, which goes green at 3:10 p.m. today

Kaiser, who has a wealth of bankable laps at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, edged Jones for the top spot with a late flier of 1:15.2733 in his No. 18 Juncos Racing Dallara IL-15 Mazda. Jones was second at 1:15.3904 in the No. 11 Carlin entry; Max Chilton’s 2015 lap record of 1:14.2329 will stand as the track record.

Jones secured the first sub-1:16 lap of the weekend at the 2.238-mile Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca road course, at a 1:15.6984. Jones’ lap put him nearly four tenths clear of the field – a relative light year in spec car terms – before more new tire runs took place as the session went on. Per Cooper Tire, the track temps rose from 77 degrees at the start of the session to 81 at the end of it.

“Friday was a very unique day. I’ve never felt this place to be that low grip before,” Kaiser said. “I had to learn a new setup. It gripped up a lot this morning. The team gave me a great car. We found a second on the last set of Coopers. Ready to go.”

Jones added, “With the first two sets we were really fast and quite comfortable. Last set, the car felt a bit different. A bit odd. Made it hard to put the lap together. My quickest lap, I went off at the Corkscrew and that slowed us down. Second today and provisional pole for tomorrow. Important result. Today, maximize the points. Start will be a very important part.”

Had Jones got the pole, it would have brought him into a tie with Santiago Urrutia, 319 points apiece, in the championship standings. As it is, Urrutia will have a one-point lead for today and took his No. 55 Soul Red Mazda for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian into third on the grid at 1:15.4164. But Urrutia dropped his car off the road at the end of the session and that may hurt him in terms of his second fastest lap for race two.

Zach Veach, who remains mathematically eligible for the championship but was dealt a significant blow earlier this week with a 10-point penalty assessed after winning at Watkins Glen, slotted into fourth in the No. 5 Belardi Auto Racing entry at 1:16.6074. Jones’ Carlin teammate Felix Serralles was fifth, at 1:15.6470.

The rest of the runners six through to 10 were as follows: the Team Pelfrey pair of Sean Rayhall and Garett Grist, then Dean Stoneman, Andre Negrao and Zachary Claman De Melo.

Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires

Championship leader Aaron Telitz banked a series of fliers in his No. 82 Team Pelfrey car to secure the top spot for the first of three races in the Pro Mazda Grand Prix of Monterey Presented by Allied Building Products weekend.

Telitz, who entered the weekend with a 14-point gap to teammate Pato O’Ward, set a best time of 1:23.2863 to capture the first pole of the weekend. Telitz also had a couple other second and third fastest laps, in the 1:23.4 and 1:23.5 ballpark, that will help him as the weekend goes on.

O’Ward led early but fell back to second behind his teammate, and only had a best time of 1:23.8741.

Juncos Racing rookie Nicolas Dapero posted an impressive third on the grid ahead of Pelfrey’s third car, TJ Fischer, with double Mid-Ohio race winner Nico Jamin completing the top five.

A fog delay caused a one-hour delay to the schedule, but race one for Pro Mazda will roll off at 2:15 p.m. this afternoon.

Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda

ArmsUp Motorsports drivers Victor Franzoni led his third straight session to kick off the weekend for the Cooper Tires Grand Prix of Monterey Powered by Mazda, this time securing the pole for the first of two USF2000 races. This one rolls off at 4:15 p.m. ET.

Franzoni’s best time in the No. 9 car was a 1:26.3066, which was laid down early, and not beat as the session went on.

While Franzoni has a mathematical but remote chance of scoring the title, the likelihood is that one of the Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing teammates will do it. Anthony Martin leads Parker Thompson by 21 points going into the race, and outqualified him as well on Saturday. Martin’s best lap in the No. 8 car was 1:26.6471, Thompson’s a 1:26.7100 in the No. 2 car.

Jordan Lloyd (Pabst Racing) and series debutante Michael Scott – and not Steve Carell’s character from the U.S. version of “The Office” – looked poised to complete the top five.

Scott fell down to seventh after the third Cape car, driven by Nikita Lastochkin, and Luke Gabin (JAY Motorsports) got ahead of the John Cummiskey Racing driver.  Lastochkin stopped on course betweens Turn 4 and 5 towards the end of the session, though.

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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