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O’Ward secures first Pro Mazda win in Monterey tripleheader

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MONTEREY, Calif. – For the first time since Lucas Oil Raceway back in May, just the seventh race of the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires season, Pato O’Ward finished ahead of his Team Pelfrey teammate, Aaron Telitz.

He picked a perfect time and day to do it in the first of three Pro Mazda Grand Prix of Monterey Presented by Allied Building Products races at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Round 14 of the season.

Barely.

Telitz, who had finished ahead of O’Ward in each of the last six races, lost the momentum off the initial start despite scoring the pole position. O’Ward seized his opportunity and made it through Turn 2 into the lead.

From there, O’Ward set sail in a fashion reminiscent of his earlier season dominance, when he won six of the first seven races including five in a row from Barber Motorsports Park through Lucas Oil.

His lead was 1.5677 seconds at the end of the first lap, then progressively increased by about four to five tenths of a second per lap before it cleared the 10-second barrier on Lap 15, at 10.6472 seconds over Telitz, which then grew to a maximum margin of 11.6407 seconds over Telitz on Lap 16.

But the lead was erased in a single moment with just under five minutes to go, when National class competitor and series debutante Kory Enders of DeForce Racing beached his car in Turn 2. That wiped out O’Ward’s insurmountable lead.

The race restarted for a final one-lap sprint to the finish, which brought an incredible finish to light.

O’Ward locked up at Turn 2 and Telitz pulled an over-under to the inside to move ahead on the restart. But then O’Ward got him back on the inside at Turn 5 to snatch the lead and the win back, by a final margin of victory of 1.0176 seconds. It’s his seventh win of the season.

“It was a basic yellow. I was leading by 12 seconds. But I said at the time. “I’m not gonna lose this.” It was not easy, but I was determined,” O’Ward said.

Telitz added on the final lap, “I defended heavily. Turn 5, had no tires. He was trying to overtake. I struggled for grip. He’d have won anyway, even if he started 12th.”

With the win, and the most laps led and fastest lap to boot, O’Ward closed a 14-point gap going into the race weekend to eight points, 371-363, heading into Sunday morning’s second race of the weekend.

Telitz ended a hard luck second with Juncos Racing’s Nicolas Dapero an impressive third. Nico Jamin and Jake Parsons completed the top five.

The second race of the weekend is scheduled for 8 a.m. on Sunday morning, but, the potential exists it could be later if another morning fog delay occurs.

IndyCar teams with NASCAR on IMS road course doubleheader in 2021

IndyCar NASCAR doubleheader 2021
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The NTT IndyCar Series will be sharing Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the NASCAR Cup Series in a race weekend doubleheader for the second consecutive season, but both series will be on the road course in August 2021.

IMS announced Wednesday that IndyCar will hold an Aug. 14, 2021 race on its 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course. It’ll be a day before NASCAR’s premier series runs the same layout for the first time after the Brickyard 400 was contested on the 2.5-mile oval for the first time in 27 years.

This season’s rescheduling of the IndyCar GMR Grand Prix to July 4, 2019 (a day before the Brickyard 400) led to the first NASCAR-IndyCar doubleheader weekend. The Xfinity Series also raced on the IMS road course for the first time July 4 after the IndyCar race ended.

INDYCAR AT IMS THIS WEEKEND: Harvest GP schedule, entry lists

IndyCar will be holding its second race weekend this year at the IMS road course Friday and Saturday with the Harvest GP.

“Our first NASCAR-INDYCAR weekend was a big success last July, with positive feedback from
our loyal fans who watched the races on NBC and from the drivers, teams and participants
involved,” IMS president Douglas Boles said in a statement. “The Xfinity Series’ debut on the IMS road course provided exactly the kind of thrilling action from the green to checkered flags that we anticipated, so we know the teams and drivers of the Cup Series will put on a great show as they turn left and right for the first time at IMS.

“We can’t wait to welcome back fans to see NASCAR and INDYCAR together during this
exciting weekend as we add another memorable chapter in the long, storied history of the
Indianapolis Motor Speedway.”

It also will mark the first NASCAR Cup-IndyCar doubleheader with a crowd as fans weren’t permitted at IMS in July because of the novel coronvavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Over the course of Wednesday, NASCAR is releasing its 36-race slate for next season. IndyCar has yet to release its full 2021 schedule.