Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Martin emerges from latest Cape teammate scrap for USF2000 title

Leave a comment

The form book followed the preseason script in Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda almost to a T.

The two top returning drivers in the series, Anthony Martin and Parker Thompson, switched from their respective single-car teams to the proverbial powerhouse of the championship, Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing, and promptly set the stage for a title bout.

And it’s not the first time this has happened in recent years. The two more prominent title battles in recent years occurred with Matthew Brabham and Spencer Pigot in 2012 and Scott Hargrove and Neil Alberico in 2013; lesser teammate title tilts were Florian Latorre and Jake Eidson in 2014 (with RC Enerson proving the interloper) and Nico Jamin and Aaron Telitz last year.

The Martin-Thompson bout felt most akin to the Brabham-Pigot one, though. You felt for both of them at various points throughout the year and you really never wanted either of them to lose the crown, because both had worked so hard to deserve it.

Ultimately Martin ended ahead on a more significant seven-to-four win advantage over Thompson, and also had one fewer direct pitfall that hurt his points hopes. Two finishes of 15th or worse were enough to doom Thompson despite an otherwise sincerely consistent season.

For Martin, who follows the lineage of other Australians who are trying to make it in America – Will Power and Ryan Briscoe come to mind as two of the most successful, along with New Zealander Scott Dixon – the title may have been the make-or-break moment of his career going forward.

Thompson, Martin, Franzoni. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
Thompson, Martin, Franzoni. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

The 21-year-old from Kalgoorlie never got too high or too low throughout the year. Bounce backs from two incidents in Toronto to a runner-up in the second race there and a crucial three-race weekend sweep at Mid-Ohio were among the deciding factors in the title win.

Earlier, though, Martin had taken as much a psychological win at Lucas Oil Raceway outside Indianapolis when he used a slower car as a pick on Thompson, denying him a near certain victory. It propelled Martin forward to two more wins at Road America to cap off a four wins-in-five race stretch, to counter Thompson’s prior run of three wins in four races earlier in the season.

“Yeah mate, it’s been a big roller coaster ride essentially,” Martin told NBC Sports. “Parker and I swapped points numerous times. The big thing for me was putting my head down and moving on to the next thing.

“I made the pass at Lucas Oil to take the win there, and that started a chain of events. Grabbed a couple wins at Road America, Toronto, then Mid-Ohio – the big turning point – I grabbed some important points there. The past was the past and you couldn’t change it; you just had to move forward.”

Martin had shifted from John Cummiskey Racing, where he overachieved as a rookie on a single-car team renowned for excellent car preparation. With the Capes, he took the next step.

“For sure, yeah the team developed me as a driver,” Martin reflected. “They got me better the technical aspects, and I suppose they’ve toughened me up!

“Dom and Nicholas really push you. But at low moments they pick you up. Move forward and attack it. For as well as the technical aspect, they’ve helped me grow. We’ve had an awesome car all year. When I go out, I have a good car underneath me. They’ve helped me grow.”

Martin was not present at the weekend’s Chris Griffis Memorial Mazda Road to Indy test, thus missing his first shot to test a Pro Mazda car, but he’ll be in line for a step up there next year.

In the interim, he’ll be back home in Australia, carrying the torch and flying the flag as potentially that country’s next big open-wheel star. He raced with Jordan Lloyd and Luke Gabin here, with all three having had their moments in USF2000 in 2016.

Here are the starting times for 2020 NTT IndyCar Series action on NBC and NBCSN

INDYCAR Photo
Leave a comment

Another important tidbit for NTT IndyCar Series fans is out as INDYCAR and NBC announced starting times for the 2020 season. The full television schedule is also included.

There are different starting times at four races in 2020 from 2019. Those include the March 15 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the AutoNation INDYCAR Challenge at Circuit of the Americas on April 26, a later starting time for the Saturday night race at Iowa Speedway on July 18 on NBCSN

INDYCAR released the green flag times today for the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season that features starting time shifts at four races – St. Petersburg, Circuit of The Americas, Iowa and Mid-Ohio – and the anticipated evening return to Richmond Raceway.

Those four returning races represent the only significant green flag start time changes from a year ago in the 17-race 2020 NTT IndyCar Series schedule, beginning with the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg scheduled for Sunday, March 15.

The August 16 Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio will be moved to an earlier starting time and will be broadcast on NBC. Previously, the race was scheduled for 4:05 p.m., but has been changed to a 12:45 p.m. Eastern Time green flag.

INDYCAR’s return to Richmond Raceway on Saturday, June 27 will begin at 8:15 p.m. ET. That is the only new event on the schedule.

Detailed broadcast information for the entire season will be announced at a later date.

Here are the notable changes to the starting times on the schedule:

The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, which began at 1:40 p.m. ET this past season, will now have a 3:30 p.m. green flag. The race on the downtown streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., will be celebrating its 10thanniversary as the series’ season opener and be televised on NBC Sports Network.

The AutoNation INDYCAR Challenge at Circuit of The Americas on Sunday, April 26, will have a similar shift, moving from a 1:43 p.m. ET green flag this past season to 4:10 p.m. (3:10 p.m. local) in 2020. The permanent road course in Austin, Texas, will play host to the fourth race of the season and be broadcast on NBCSN.

The Iowa 300 at Iowa Speedway, set for Saturday, July 18, on NBCSN, will be better accommodated for an evening race under the lights with the green flag moving from 7:15 p.m. ET to 9 p.m. (8 p.m. local).

“The return of a night race for INDYCAR at Iowa Speedway is exciting news for our race fans, sponsors, and the entire region,” Iowa Speedway President David Hyatt said. “The cars look great under the lights, and the competition should be even more fierce given what should be cooler conditions. Our track provides some of the best racing you’ll see anywhere, which will be good for attendance. This will be a can’t-miss weekend for all race fans.”

The return to a true night race at Iowa was the result of fans requesting it. The race will begin at 8:00 p.m. CT on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network. And for fans and drivers, it is nostalgic, hearkening back to the first race many of them experienced … a night race on a short track.

The series hasn’t held a race that began after dusk at Iowa Speedway since 2015, and drivers and fans are welcoming it. Not only does it look more vibrant — and create sparks as cars bottom out — it also makes for better racing. Tires grip better when the track is cooler. Fans also avoid sweltering conditions during summer afternoons.

The Honda Indy 200 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on Sunday, Aug. 16, will be the only race among the four that moves to an earlier start time. The race, which had a 4:05 p.m. ET start this past season, will shift to a 12:45 p.m. green flag in 2020 and be televised on NBC.

The NTT IndyCar Series heads to Richmond Raceway – the only new addition on the 2020 schedule – for the 11th race of the season on Saturday, June 27. The field will take the green flag at 8:15 ET for the start of the first Indy car race at the .75-mile oval since 2009. The race will be broadcast on NBCSN.