MRTI: Piedrahita, Martin win Gateway poles

Juan Piedrahita. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
0 Comments

MADISON, Ill. – The stage is set for today’s pair of Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires races from Gateway Motorsports Park, with the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires racing a 75-lap race and Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires racing 55 laps around the 1.25-mile oval.

While Anthony Martin’s Pro Mazda pole isn’t a particular surprise – he and title sparring partner Victor Franzoni have been duking it out for the top spot on the grid all season – Juan Piedrahita’s in Indy Lights is.

The Colombian, who has more than 100 career starts over eight years on the Mazda Road to Indy, scored his first career Indy Lights pole in the No. 2 Team Pelfrey Dallara IL-15 Mazda by the slimmest of margins.

Piedrahita ran only a 160.926 mph first lap but improved to 161.354 mph on his second, for a two-lap average speed of 160.823 mph, and a total time of 55.9620 seconds.

That supplanted Uruguayan Santiago Urrutia’s provisional pole speed and time by a microscopic amount. Urrutia’s first lap in the No. 5 Belardi Auto Racing with SPM car was quicker, at 160.600, but didn’t improve as much on the second lap, only at 161.044. That left him with a two-lap average of 160.822 mph, and a total time of 55.9626 seconds – just 0.001 of a mph and just 0.0006 of a second slower over 2.5 total miles.

“In one and two, because you have to lift, I had a bit of push. So I was downshifting to get a better exit; the car should be great. It’s been very hard for us since everyone else is so competitive. There’s tracks we struggle a lot with the setup but today we got it right,” he said.

“We just took wing out and changed springs on the rear. We knew we had a good car and it paid off.”

Championship leader Kyle Kaiser, who is poised to clinch the title today, enters with a 42-point lead and with Urrutia having been denied a critical point for his title hopes. The driver of the No. 18 Juncos Racing entry will roll off fifth after an abnormal run.

Kaiser’s warmup lap of 160.104 mph looked to see the Californian beat Piedrahita for the top spot, but actual qualifying laps of 160.610 and 159.850 mph left his two-lap average at 160.224 mph, inside of row three.

Andretti Autosport teammates Nico Jamin and Ryan Norman will roll off from row two.

Provisional speeds are below. The race goes off at 6 p.m. CT and local time, and will air on NBCSN on Monday, August 28, at noon ET.

In Pro Mazda, Martin topped Franzoni with the first and only 140 mph average in the series’ lone oval race this year. The Australian, who leads the Brazilian by four points entering the weekend, delivered a two-lap average of 140.001 mph, which was clear of Franzoni’s 139.433 mph speed.

“We learned a lot in the test here a few weeks ago, with a qualifying stint done in that,” Martin explained. “We sort of knew and expected what the temperatures would be. We went faster than what we did in testing. We were able to go quicker than normal. The Cape guys got me an awesome car from the moment I got on track.

“Nah, mate! It was on the edge. The second lap into one I went in really fast, I was so close to flat… I was really trying. The car was definitely on the limit.”

The Team Pelfrey trio of TJ Fischer, Carlos Cunha and Nikita Lastochkin complete the top five.

The Pro Mazda race goes off at 4:55 p.m. CT and local time. Qualifying times are below.

Both series also ran a practice session on Friday, with conditions closer to what should be expected for the races. Those times are linked here (Indy Lights, Pro Mazda); Urrutia and Martin topped those sessions.

Justin Grant prevails over Kyle Larson in the Turkey Night Grand Prix

Grant Larson Turkey Night
USACRacing.com / DB3 Inc.
0 Comments

On the heels of his Hangtown 100 victory, Justin Grant worked his way from 13th in the Turkey Night Grand Prix to beat three-time event winner Kyle Larson by 1.367 seconds. The 81st annual event was run at Ventura (Calif.) Raceway for the sixth time.

“My dad used to take me to Irwindale Speedway, and we’d watch Turkey Night there every year,” Grant said in a series press release. “This is one of the races I fell in love with. I didn’t think I’d ever get a chance to run in it, never thought I’d make a show and certainly never thought I’d be able to win one.”

With its genesis in 1934 at Gilmore Stadium, a quarter-mile dirt track in Los Angeles, the race is steeped in history with winners that include AJ Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Gary Bettenhausen and Johnnie Parsons. Tony Stewart won it in 2000. Kyle Larson won his first of three Turkey Night Grands Prix in 2012. Christopher Bell earned his first of three in 2014, so Grant’s enthusiasm was well deserved.

So was the skepticism that he would win. He failed to crack the top five in three previous attempts, although he came close last year with a sixth-place result. When he lined up for the feature 13th in the crowded 28-car field, winning seemed like a longshot.

Grant watched as serious challengers fell by the wayside. Mitchel Moles flipped on Lap 10 of the feature. Michael “Buddy” Kofoid took a tumble on Lap 68 and World of Outlaws Sprint car driver Carson Macedo flipped on Lap 79. Grant saw the carnage ahead of him and held a steady wheel as he passed Tanner Thorson for the lead with 15 laps remaining and stayed out of trouble for the remainder of the event.

“It’s a dream come true to win the Turkey Night Grand Prix,” Grant said.


Kyle Larson follows Justin Grant to the front on Turkey Night

The 2012, 2016 and 2019 winner, Larson was not scheduled to run the event. His wife Katelyn is expecting their third child shortly, but after a couple of glasses of wine with Thanksgiving dinner and while watching some replays of the event, Larson texted car owner Chad Boat to see if he had a spare car lying around. He did.

“We weren’t great but just hung around and it seemed like anybody who got to the lead crashed and collected some people,” Larson said. “We made some passes throughout; in the mid-portion, we weren’t very good but then we got better at the end.

“I just ran really, really hard there, and knew I was running out of time, so I had to go. I made some pretty crazy and dumb moves, but I got to second and was hoping we could get a caution to get racing with Justin there. He was sliding himself at both ends and thought that maybe we could get a run and just out-angle him into [Turn] 1 and get clear off [Turn] 2 if we got a caution, but it just didn’t work out.”

Larson padded one of the most impressive stats in the history of this race, however. In 10 starts, he’s won three times, finished second four times, was third once and fourth twice.

Bryant Wiedeman took the final spot on the podium.

As Grant and Larson began to pick their way through the field, Kofoid took the lead early from the outside of the front row and led the first 44 laps of the race before handing it over to Cannon McIntosh, who bicycled on Lap 71 before landing on all fours. While Macedo and Thorson tussled for the lead with McIntosh, Grant closed in.

Thorson finished 19th with McIntosh 20th. Macedo recovered from his incident to finish ninth. Kofoid’s hard tumble relegated him to 23rd.

Jake Andreotti in fourth and Kevin Thomas, Jr. rounded out the top five.

1. Justin Grant (started 13)
2. Kyle Larson (22)
3. Bryant Wiedeman (4)
4. Jake Andreotti (9)
5. Kevin Thomas Jr. (1)
6. Logan Seavey (8)
7. Alex Bright (27)
8. Emerson Axsom (24)
9. Carson Macedo (7)
10. Jason McDougal (18)
11. Jake Swanson (16)
12. Chase Johnson (6)
13. Jacob Denney (26)
14. Ryan Timms (23)
15. Chance Crum (28)
16. Brenham Crouch (17)
17. Jonathan Beason (19)
18. Cade Lewis (14)
19. Tanner Thorson (11)
20. Cannon McIntosh (3)
21. Thomas Meseraull (15)
22. Tyler Courtney (21)
23. Buddy Kofoid (2)
24. Brody Fuson (5)
25. Mitchel Moles (20)
26. Daniel Whitley (10)
27. Kaylee Bryson (12)
28. Spencer Bayston (25)