Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Franzoni’s outside move nets decisive Pro Mazda win in Gateway

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MADISON, Ill. – Victor Franzoni and Juncos Racing rolled the dice on a lower downforce setup, cranked the wing back, and went for it in Saturday night’s Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires race at Gateway Motorsports Park.

And it paid dividends at a rare 1.25-mile oval race for the second rung on the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires ladder. Big time.

Franzoni, who started second behind Pro Mazda title rival Anthony Martin of Cape Motorsports, doggedly pursued the Australian the opening stanza of the race before Lap 19 of the scheduled 55-lap race (which was shortened one lap to 54 laps owing to time constraints).

Franzoni got enough of a run on Martin to try to the outside of him through Turns 1 and 2, and emulating his Brazilian countryman in the Verizon IndyCar Series, Tony Kanaan, Franzoni pulled it off.

The two cars were side-by-side but Franzoni edged ahead as the two headed for Turn 3.

From there, Franzoni pulled ahead by several tenths a lap, and ultimately scored his fifth – and most important – victory of the season by 4.692 seconds over Martin.

The two title combatants now head to Watkins Glen International for next week’s season finale, with two races set to wrap up the season.

With Franzoni having secured the most laps led and fastest race lap bonus points, and Martin getting an extra point for pole, Franzoni has moved from four points down to two points ahead of Martin, unofficially, at 287 to 285.

Laps were even faster under cooler conditions later this afternoon compared to qualifying to kick off the day, when Martin took the pole.

Carlos Cunha finished third for Team Pelfrey, the only other car on the lead lap besides the top two. TJ Fischer was fourth in the second of three Pelfrey cars, with Jeff Green (Juncos) an impressive fifth after a late-race pass of Nikita Lastochkin (Pelfrey).

Unofficial results are below.

Supercross points leader Eli Tomac finds silver linings in interruption

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Though his Monster Energy AMA Supercross championship charge was put on hold, the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic had a silver lining for Eli Tomac.

Off the road while the season was postponed for nearly three months, the points leader was able to be present as his girlfriend, Jessica, gave birth to their daughter, Lev, on April 26

“A huge blessing for us there,” Tomac told host Mike Tirico during a “Lunch Talk Live” interview (click on the video above) in which he also joked about becoming a pro at busting off diaper changes. “That was one good blessing for us as we had our daughter on a Sunday, that would have been on a travel day coming back from the race in Las Vegas.

NBCSN

“That was probably the only positive out of all this mess was being able to be there for the birth.”

But there also could be more good fortune for Tomac as the series resumes Sunday at Salt Lake City, Utah (3-4 p.m. ET on NBCSN, 4-6 p.m. on NBC).

The final seven events will be held over 22 days in Rice-Eccles Stadium, which sits at just over 4,000 feet.

The elevation could favor Tomac, who was born and lives in Colorado and is accustomed to riding and training at altitude, which is a departure for many Supercross riders (many of whom hail from California and Florida).

COVID-19 TESTING REQUIRED: Supercross outlines protocols for last seven races

“That’s going to be the test for us,” said the Kawasaki rider, who five of the first 10 races this season. “We’re at elevation in Salt Lake, so when you’re on a motorcycle, you have a little bit of a loss of power. That’s just what happens when you come up in elevation. And a lot of guys train at sea level, and we’re at 4,000 to 5,000 feet, so cardio-wise, we’ll be pushed to the limit.

“Most of our races are Saturday nights and back to back weeks, but this go around it’s Sunday and Wednesday, so recovery is going to be key.”

Supercross will race Sunday and Wednesday for the next three weeks, capping the season with the June 21 finale, which also will be shown on NBCSN from 3-4:30 p.m. ET and NBC from 4:30-6 p.m. ET.

Tomac, who holds a three-point lead over Ken Roczen (who also recently visited “Lunch Talk Live”), told Tirico he had been riding for 90 minutes Thursday morning on a track outside Salt Lake City.

“Most of us we can rely on our past riding pretty well,” Tomac said. “The question is if you can go the distance. That’s what a lot of guys have to train on is going the distance. We go 20 minutes plus a lap. That’s what you’ve got to keep sharp is your general muscles. Within two to three days, your brain starts warming up more if you take a few weeks off the motorcycle.”

Here is the schedule and TV information for the rest of the season:

  • Sunday, May 31 (3-4 p.m. ET, NBCSN; 4-6 p.m. ET, NBC);
  • Wednesday, June 3 ( 10:00 pm – 1:00 am ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 7 (5-8:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Wednesday, June 10 (7–10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 14 (7-10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Wednesday, June 17 (7-10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 21 (3-4:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN; 4:30 – 6:00 p.m. ET, NBC).
Eli Tomac rides his No. 3 Kawasaki in the Feb. 29 race at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia (Charles Mitchell/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images).