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.