Jeff Green, 61, a former competitor in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, passed away on Saturday as a result of injuries sustained in a crash while competing in a vintage race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.
Per a report from TSO Ladder, Green, competing in the Vintage Automobile Racing Association of Canada (VARAC) Vintage Grand Prix, had started on the pole in his Lola T300, but crashed entering Turn 8 after the back straight away.
Green, a native of Peoria, Illinois, where he also owned a pair of car dealerships, was extracted from the car and tended to by the on-site medical staff before being transported to a local hospital, but he was unable to survive his injuries.
Green demonstrated steady progress in the 2017 Pro Mazda season, finishing fifth on two occasions (Race 2 at Road America and at Gateway Motorsports Park, where he also recorded the third fastest lap of the race).
However, his impact on that year’s championship came outside of his own driver’s seat.
As described in the aforementioned TSO Ladder report, when Juncos Racing expanded last year to include a two-car Indianapolis 500 effort, team owner Ricardo Juncos dropped his Pro Mazda program, and Green ultimately purchased the equipment with the intention of racing it himself.
However, he later elected to work with an established team, and Juncos’ Pro Mazda program was reborn, but they needed a second driver in the mix to run for the championship.
Enter Victor Franzoni, a standout in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, but he lacked sufficient funding to continue his racing career, so he entered 2017 thinking he’d be on the sidelines.
Franzoni was added as a full-time teammate to Green, and the rest as they say is history – Franzoni won seven races on his way to the Pro Mazda crown.
A heartbroken Franzoni posted the below message on his Instagram page:
“Devasted!! Yesterday this awesome guy Jeff Green had a racing accident and left us. Jeff was one of the most amazing person I met, always extremely happy and helping everyone!! I learned a lot with you Jeff!! You were an inspiration and You’ll be always remembered. Prayers for his family and friends. R.I.P Jeff Green.”
Juncos Racing also expressed their grief on their twitter page.
We are devastated with the passing of Jeff Green, our former 2017 Pro Mazda driver. Jeff was an incredible man, who had a contagious smile and was an extremely genuine and kind person.
A look at other stories to emerge from Toronto are below.
Toronto Takes a Bite of IndyCar
Toronto is infamous as a venue that produces close quarters and often lots of contact between drivers, and Sunday’s race was no different.
And Toronto did not discriminate either, attacking veterans and young guns alike. Sebastien Bourdais (four-time champion, two-time Toronto winner) and spun and backed into the Turn 1 tire barrier. Ryan Hunter-Reay (former champion, Indy 500 winner, and 2012 Toronto winner) nosed into the Turn 3 tire barrier after locking up the brakes.
Josef Newgarden (defending IndyCar champion and 2017 Toronto winner) and Will Power (2014 IndyCar champion, this year’s Indy 500 winner, and a two-time Toronto winner) both clouted the wall exiting the final corner.
Alexander Rossi (2016 Indy 500 winner and a winner from this year’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach) suffered two damaged front wings and made six pit stops on the day. And rookie Rene Binder spun and stalled in Turn 8.
Indeed, Toronto was its usual carnage-filled self. But it wasn’t only because of the tightly packed circuit. Sunday’s race was also contested in hot and slick conditions, with tire marbles and dust also prominent from the outset.
Newgarden particularly highlighted the marbles and dust when describing his contact with the Turn 11 wall.
“It was a tough race. Making contact with the wall didn’t help. I don’t know what it was to be honest with you, it was either marbles or dust from the sweepers; they’re trying to clean off the track and that yellow, when we already had tons of marbles 27 laps in,” he explained.
Even race winner Dixon bumped the wall once exiting Turn 1. While he didn’t suffer damage, he also noted how tricky the conditions were, and revealed just how exhausting the day was.
“I’m worn out, man, that was a physical race,” he detailed. “It was definitely easy to pick up lots of debris on the tires out there, and I think that’s what happened to Josef (Newgarden) on that restart where we took the lead. He tried to go a little bit fast into the last corner there in Turn 11, got into the gray and that was pretty much it.”
Indeed, the tricky conditions combined with the already difficult Toronto street circuit to create another chaotic outing north of the border.
Wickens, Hinchcliffe Give Canadian Crowd Something to Cheer About
Canadian fans are among the most enthusiast race fans you’ll ever find, and they’re particularly passionate about their homegrown heroes.
And they had plenty to cheer about on Sunday, notably in the form of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammates Robert Wickens and James Hinchcliffe.
Starting ninth (Hinchcliffe) and tenth (Wickens) respectively, they maneuvered their way through the chaos to run inside the top five – Wickens even used a slick move on a Lap 34 restart to go from fifth to second.
Wickens eventually finished third after battling with Simon Pagenaud, while Hinchcliffe was elevated to fourth after a late pit stop by Marco Andretti – Andretti needed a splash of fuel with one lap left.
Their results mark the third year in a row that a Canadian driver has been on the podium in Toronto (Hinchcliffe finished third in the 2016 and 2017 outings).
Wickens, who acknowledged he doesn’t typically get emotional, couldn’t help but feel a little emotion after scoring a podium finish in his home race.
“Thankfully, I’m not an overly teary guy, but that (finishing on the podium in Canada) was really cool. I can’t thank these Toronto fans enough. I mean, this whole week has been such a whirlwind of emotions, and to stand on the podium in my first professional home race, I couldn’t ask for anything better,” Wickens revealed.
For Hinchcliffe, finishing fourth was just as impressive, if not more so given that he did it with a damaged car. Hinchcliffe suffered suspension damage following the Lap 34 crash in Turn 1, in which he had contact with Takuma Sato.
“On that restart melee, we got tagged by Takuma, which I should know better than staying on the inside of him in a corner like that. I bent the toe link, and from there, it was a bit of a struggle to feel the car out and see how it was going to change with the bend in the suspension,” he detailed. “Honestly, the Arrow Electronics car was still pretty great, and in that last stint, we were chasing down the leaders. Who knows what could have been, but ultimately happy with Robbie being on the podium and two SPM cars in the top five.”
And their results paid dividends in their championship standings. Wickens now sits sixth, while Hinchcliffe is back inside the top 10 – ninth.
New Faces Grace the Top 10
Because so many of the usual suspects had trouble, some new faces graced the top 10, and even the top five, for the first time in 2018.
Charlie Kimball gave Carlin Racing its first top five by finishing fifth, his best finish since he finished sixth at Road America last year.
Tony Kanaan finished seventh for A.J. Foyt Racing, their first top 10 since Race 2 of the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit (Kanaan also finished seventh there).
Zach Veach finished eighth, his best result since he finished fourth at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
Marco Andretti was running fourth before he pitted for a late splash of fuel – it would have been only his second top five of the year (fourth in Detroit in Race 1 is his best result of 2018).
And Jordan King just missed out on his first top 10, finishing 11th.
They all found themselves in position to capitalize as others around them faltered, and some were rewarded immensely as a result.
Conor Daly deserves kudos for a strong outing after a last-minute call up from Harding Racing. He qualified 11th and ran a clean race to finish 13th. While unspectacular, Daly gave a nice account for himself as he seeks to return to IndyCar full-time.
A possible top five, what would have been his third in a row, got away from Takuma Sato when he smacked the wall exiting Turn 11. Combine that with Graham Rahal being involved in the Lap 34 pileup, suffering damaged suspension in the process, and it was a day to forget for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.
Very quietly, Zachary Claman De Melo, the “other” Canadian in the field, drove another clean race to finish 14th. While it won’t garner attention like the results of his countrymen, it is another solid outing for a rookie who is still learning the ropes.
The Verizon IndyCar Series now takes a weekend off before heading to the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio (July 29 on NBCSN).