Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

MRTI: Former Pro Mazda racer Jeff Green dies at 61

Leave a comment

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.

“We are deeply saddened by the passing of Jeffrey Green,” said Myles Brandt, President and General Manager of Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, in a statement on the track’s website. “We offer our deepest condolences and prayers to his family, friends and fellow competitors.”

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).

Jeff Green’s most impressive performance of 2017 came at Gateway Motorsports Park, where finished fifth and turned in the third fastest race lap. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

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.

Follow@KyleMLavigne

Female racer makes history with record finishes in dirt national midget events

Photo courtesy Toyota Racing
Leave a comment

Holly Shelton is riding high after setting a milestone for a female driver in a national midget series feature event on dirt this past weekend.

The Sacramento, California-area resident recorded the highest finish ever for a female dirt national midget series driver with a runner-up finish last Friday at the POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget League double-header weekend at Valley Speedway in Grain Valley, Missouri.

Shelton broke her own national record for top finish by a woman in a national dirt event – she finished third in a USAC race at Lawrenceburg, Indiana, last year.

One night after setting her new national record, Shelton and her Keith Kunz Motorsports Toyota roared back Saturday to finish third (started on the outside pole) in the second half of the weekend double-header, making her the first female dirt driver ever on the national midget circuit to earn back-to-back podium finishes.

“It’s cool making history as a female, but my number one thing is I just want to win,” said Shelton, who will be graduating from Cal-State Sacramento with a B.A. in Criminal Justice this fall. “Truthfully, on the track I don’t even remember that I’m a girl. I’m just racing all the guys with the same goal they have – to win.”

Only one other woman has finished second in either a USAC or POWRi midget feature – Sarah McCune at Winchester (Ind.) Speedway in 1999 – but that was on pavement, not dirt.

The record-setting weekend was great consolation for Shelton, who missed three races earlier this season due to surgery and then sat out three other races last month after suffering a race-related concussion.

“It felt good,” she said of her back-to-back podium finishes. “It builds up my confidence. The car is fast and we keep getting better and we want to build on it.”

Shelton was one of four women that competed in midget competition this weekend. The others were 19-year-old Maria Cofer and 16-year-olds Holley Hollan and Presley Truedson.

“It’s awesome seeing all the little girls come up to me excited to see me at the track,” Shelton said. “Hopefully, it encourages them to pursue their dreams as well and, as the years go on, more girls will get into it.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski