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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.

Will Power nips Jack Harvey at finish to pace Road America practice

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Will Power led the only IndyCar Road America practice of the weekend Saturday, shooting to the top of the chart on his 22nd and final lap of the session at 1 minute, 46.0021 seconds in his No. 12 Dallara-Chevrolet.

Dixon knocked Jack Harvey’s No. 60 Dallara-Honda from the top spot (which would have marked the first time that a Meyer-Shank Racing car led practice).

Josef Newgarden, Power’s Team Penske teammate, was third, followed by Felix Rosenqvist and Ryan Hunter-Reay (who went off course late in the session but sustained no damage).

Alex Palou, Colton Herta, Graham Rahal, defending race winner Alexander Rossi and Pato O’Ward rounded out the top 10 in the practice that preceded a Saturday-Sunday race weekend doubleheader for IndyCar at Road America.

PRACTICE RESULTS: Click here to see who was fastest in the session

RACE INFORMATION: What you need to know for today’s REV Group Grand Prix

RATED ROOKIE: Rinus VeeKay rebounding well from a tough debut

IndyCar tested some new cooling devices with cars from Andretti Autosport, Chip Ganassi Racing and Team Penske. Several drivers have said the cockpit heat caused by the new aeroscreen was stifling during last week’s GMR Grand Prix, and IndyCar repositioned drink bottles this weekend to keep liquids cool

Scott Dixon, who is seeking to open the season with his third consecutive IndyCar victory, was 15th fastest at the Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, road course. Other notables in Road America practice: Marco Andretti (12th), Simon Pagenaud (19th).

Power is aiming for his second consecutive pole position after qualifying first last week on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

Qualifying for the REV Group Grand Prix Race #1 will take place at 2:15 p.m. ET (NBCSNNBC Sports Gold).

The broadcast of the IndyCar race at Road America will begin at 5 p.m. on NBCSN.