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.
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.