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.

Supercross points leader Eli Tomac finds silver linings in interruption

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Though his Monster Energy AMA Supercross championship charge was put on hold, the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic had a silver lining for Eli Tomac.

Off the road while the season was postponed for nearly three months, the points leader was able to be present as his girlfriend, Jessica, gave birth to their daughter, Lev, on April 26

“A huge blessing for us there,” Tomac told host Mike Tirico during a “Lunch Talk Live” interview (click on the video above) in which he also joked about becoming a pro at busting off diaper changes. “That was one good blessing for us as we had our daughter on a Sunday, that would have been on a travel day coming back from the race in Las Vegas.

NBCSN

“That was probably the only positive out of all this mess was being able to be there for the birth.”

But there also could be more good fortune for Tomac as the series resumes Sunday at Salt Lake City, Utah (3-4 p.m. ET on NBCSN, 4-6 p.m. on NBC).

The final seven events will be held over 22 days in Rice-Eccles Stadium, which sits at just over 4,000 feet.

The elevation could favor Tomac, who was born and lives in Colorado and is accustomed to riding and training at altitude, which is a departure for many Supercross riders (many of whom hail from California and Florida).

COVID-19 TESTING REQUIRED: Supercross outlines protocols for last seven races

“That’s going to be the test for us,” said the Kawasaki rider, who five of the first 10 races this season. “We’re at elevation in Salt Lake, so when you’re on a motorcycle, you have a little bit of a loss of power. That’s just what happens when you come up in elevation. And a lot of guys train at sea level, and we’re at 4,000 to 5,000 feet, so cardio-wise, we’ll be pushed to the limit.

“Most of our races are Saturday nights and back to back weeks, but this go around it’s Sunday and Wednesday, so recovery is going to be key.”

Supercross will race Sunday and Wednesday for the next three weeks, capping the season with the June 21 finale, which also will be shown on NBCSN from 3-4:30 p.m. ET and NBC from 4:30-6 p.m. ET.

Tomac, who holds a three-point lead over Ken Roczen (who also recently visited “Lunch Talk Live”), told Tirico he had been riding for 90 minutes Thursday morning on a track outside Salt Lake City.

“Most of us we can rely on our past riding pretty well,” Tomac said. “The question is if you can go the distance. That’s what a lot of guys have to train on is going the distance. We go 20 minutes plus a lap. That’s what you’ve got to keep sharp is your general muscles. Within two to three days, your brain starts warming up more if you take a few weeks off the motorcycle.”

Here is the schedule and TV information for the rest of the season:

  • Sunday, May 31 (3-4 p.m. ET, NBCSN; 4-6 p.m. ET, NBC);
  • Wednesday, June 3 ( 10:00 pm – 1:00 am ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 7 (5-8:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Wednesday, June 10 (7–10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 14 (7-10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Wednesday, June 17 (7-10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 21 (3-4:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN; 4:30 – 6:00 p.m. ET, NBC).
Eli Tomac rides his No. 3 Kawasaki in the Feb. 29 race at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia (Charles Mitchell/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images).