Milestone start for Piedrahita this weekend. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

MRTI: Grand Prix of Indianapolis preview notes

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Here’s some quick notes heading into the Grand Prix of Indianapolis Presented by Royal Purple Synthetic Oil Supporting the Lupus Foundation of America, the second weekend of the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires where all three rungs are in action and third overall for the MRTI this season.

Of note for all three series, the lubricant company will title all six rounds of competition at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 12 and 13. All races will be in support of the Lupus Foundation of America. May is Lupus Awareness Month; more information is available at the series website, linked here.

Also, starting this weekend and retroactive to the season-opening race in St. Petersburg, all race winners in the Mazda Road to Indy will be presented with special “rice spoon” (called a skakushi) decals for their cars from Mazda to acknowledge their accomplishments. The rice spoon is a talisman for good luck, victory, business prosperity and a safe household, and the characters on the spoon read “Certain Victory” and “Must Win.”

INDY LIGHTS

  • Herta won Indy Lights’ 400th race Sunday at Barber. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

    Top 5 in points: 1. Colton Herta, 101, 2. Kyle Kaiser, 85, 3. Nico Jamin, 75, 4. Aaron Telitz, 74, 5. Neil Alberico, 69

  • The 14-car entry list drops by one from the opening two rounds with Pato O’Ward not listed for this weekend at Team Pelfrey. O’Ward enters the weekend seventh in points with 58.
  • Juan Piedrahita makes his 100th Mazda Road to Indy start in Race 1 on Friday. Piedrahita, who’s spent nearly a decade in the ladder, has competed on all three rungs.
  • Recent past winners of IMS Road Course race: 2016-Ed Jones (Race 1), Dean Stoneman (Race 2), 2015-Jack Harvey (Race 1), Sean Rayhall (Race 2), 2014-Matthew Brabham (Race 1), Luiz Razia (Race 2)… also four different winners in four previous IMS road course races on old configuration from 2005 to 2007
  • DuraMAX Powered by RelaDyne will support Nico Jamin’s No. 27 Andretti Autosport Dallara IL-15 Mazda for both May races. The car takes on a new red, white and blue as a result. Jamin has won five of his six last race starts combined between IMSA’s Prototype Challenge series (LMP3 cars, both races at Sebring), Indy Lights (race one at Barber) and Pirelli World Challenge’s GTS class (both races at VIR) in the last month.
  • Andretti Autosport also announced an extension with technical supplier BIG KAISER, a high-precision tooling systems manufacturer, through 2017.
  • Oceanfront Recovery will be featured on the No. 22 Carlin Indy Lights entry of Neil Alberico for two races at the Indy Grand Prix road course and Freedom 100. Alberico resides in San Clemente, Calif, not far from Oceanfront Recovery’s premises in Laguna Beach, Calif.

PRO MAZDA

  • Top 5 in points: 1. Anthony Martin, 66, 2. Victor Franzoni, 50, 3. TJ Fischer, 44, 4. Nikita Lastochkin, 34, 5. Sting Ray Robb, 33
  • The 15-car entry list features one additional entrant versus St. Petersburg, Australian Steven Ford added in another National class entry as a fourth car at World Speed Motorsports.
  • Recent past winners of IMS Road Course race: 2016-Pato O’Ward (Races 1 and 2), 2015-Weiron Tan (Race 1, NOLA makeup), Timothe Buret (Race 2), Santiago Urrutia (Race 3), 2014-Scott Hargrove (Races 1 and 2)
  • TJ Fischer has been busy since St. Petersburg. The Team Pelfrey driver was a Team Captain in the American Lung Association in California’s 10th annual Fight For Air Climb on April 8 to raise funds and awareness for healthy lungs. The Fight For Air Climb is the only event in Los Angeles that challenges individuals and teams to ascend the entire height of the 858 foot skyscraper, the third tallest building in Los Angeles. The 23-year-old Vacaville, Calif. native led the #Race2TheRescue team to the top of the skyscraper, climbing 1,398 stairs and 63 stories, racing on behalf of Project O2’s #Race2TheRescue, an asthma awareness campaign. This raised more than $209,000.
  • The new Tatuus PM-18 Mazda had its first oval test at Iowa Speedway earlier this week with Aaron Telitz driving, marking the car’s first running on this circuit after road course running last month.

USF2000

  • Frederick (left) on Barber podium with Askew (center) and Parker Thompson (right). Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

    Top 5 in points: 1. Oliver Askew, 122, 2. Kaylen Frederick, 88, 3. Rinus van Kalmthout, 88, 4. Parker Thompson, 79, 5. Robert Megennis, 68

  • The 23-car field sees a handful of changes since Barber. In for their debuts are Callan O’Keeffe replacing Toby Sowery in the second BENIK entry with Jayson Clunie added in a fourth Exclusive Autosport entry. Newman Wachs Racing will only run one car for Dakota Dickerson; Andre Castro and Flinn Lazier will not continue.
  • Recent past winners of IMS Road Course race: 2016-Anthony Martin (Race 1), Parker Thompson (Race 2), 2015-Nico Jamin (Races 1 and 2), 2014-Will Owen (Race 1), Adrian Starrantino (Race 2)

Daniel Ricciardo to decide soon about moving from Red Bull to another F1 team

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LE CASTELLET, France (AP) Daniel Ricciardo says over the next six weeks he wants to decide between staying at Red Bull or joining another Formula One team for next year.

Ricciardo said on Thursday at the French Grand Prix, “It would be nice to go on the summer break knowing what I am doing.”

F1 is working its way toward its three-week break in August with speculation mounting that Mercedes, Ferrari, and McLaren are interested in luring Ricciardo away from Red Bull for 2019.

“I will be honest, everyone is talking about Mercedes and Ferrari as potential places for me to go, and I am aware that there will be interest from other teams,” he said.

The Australian driver has won seven races in his four-plus seasons with Red Bull. He is fourth in the standings behind leader Sebastian Vettel heading into the race at the Paul Ricard Circuit near Marseille.

Ricciardo’s stock has risen in recent months after his victories in Shanghai and Monaco. His Monaco win was particularly impressive because Ricciardo had to deploy some masterful defensive driving to protect his lead after losing an estimated 25 percent of his engine power.

Ricciardo said he had not directly spoken to rivals Ferrari and Mercedes, but he hedged when asked if his manager had.

“People talk, have coffees, I will leave that one open-ended,” he said with a laugh.

Ricciardo called the decision on whether to go or stay with Red Bull the biggest choice of his career following his decision to leave his native Australia and continue his racing career in Europe over a decade ago.

“For sure the priority is to get a car to win the world title because I really believe I can,” he said. “I am slightly careful because it is easy to think the grass is greener and maybe it is, but I also have it pretty good where I am.

“People do like a change but just to make change for the sake of making a change is not enough for me. I need to find some substance behind it to jump ship.”

Red Bull announced recently it would be ending its 12-year partnership with engine-maker Renault and switching to Honda motors for next year.

Ricciardo was hesitant to endorse or criticize the change, saying he was going to “try to keep putting the pieces together if it is a good move.”

But with the question of the engine manufacturer out of the way, Ricciardo said Red Bull would likely be looking to resolve its drivers’ lineup for next year.

“I haven’t been pushed yet, but I would say that there will be some movement in the next week,” he said. “Whether that is something that gets put down on paper (or not), for sure the discussions will start to ramp up in the next few days.”