Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

MRTI: Road America Friday Notebook

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Friday at Road America for the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires saw all three series take to the 4.048-mile road course. The Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires completed its first race of the weekend, and saw a first-time winner take the checkered flag, while the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda completed practice and qualifying – Indy Lights held Race 1 qualifying, while USF2000 held qualifying for both of its races.

A recap of Friday’s MRTI action at Road America is below.

Pro Mazda: Malukas Rolls to First Career Victory in Race 1

David Malukas celebrates winning Race 1 at Road America. Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda

BN Racing’s David Malukas had been fast throughout the first half of the 2018 season, but outside of second and third place efforts in Race 2 at St. Petersburg and Race 1 at Barber Motorsports Park, the 16-year-old native of Chicago didn’t quite have the results to genuinely show how fast he has been.

That all changed on Friday at Road America, as Malukas, who started on the pole, rolled to his first career victory in Pro Mazda, leading all 15 laps along the way.

“When I saw the white flag I was so happy, but I think I made every mistake on that last lap! When I made it to the checkered flag, it was such a good feeling,” said an elated Malukas.

Malukas’ triumph was also noteworthy for the BN Racing team, as teammate Toby Sowery, making his Pro Mazda debut, finished second to make it a BN 1-2.

“It was a tough race but it was a great race for BN Racing,” race winner Malukas added. “I realized it was my teammate behind me, in his first Pro Mazda race, and that was a bit of a relief. I had enough of a gap that I could judge how far back he was on each lap. But having him back there and trying to maintain that gap really helped me keep my focus.”

Harrison Scott rounded out the podium for RP Motorsport Racing, while the battle for fourth proved to be an all-out duel between title combatants Parker Thompson, Rinus VeeKay, and Carlos Cunha.

Thompson, who started second, faded to sixth off the initial start, but made a late charge to catch Cunha and VeeKay in the final laps. He got around Cunha with a handful of laps remaining, and set his eyes on VeeKay. However, Cunha was able to get back around Thompson – the Exclusive Autosport driver ran a little wide exiting Turn 5 in the final laps after trying a pass on VeeKay.

Yet, Thompson regrouped again to get back around Cunha, and made a final-lap pass of VeeKay to finish fourth, leaving the Juncos Racing duo of VeeKay and Cunha to finish fifth and sixth.

Race 1 results are below. Race 2 rolls off at 3:05 p.m. ET (2:05 p.m. local time) on Saturday.

Indy Lights: Franzoni Takes Maiden Indy Lights Pole

Victor Franzoni during practice at Road America. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Victor Franzoni and Juncos Racing took an emotional pole position for Race 1 on Friday. Not only is it the first Indy Lights pole for Franzoni, it comes as he and the team race with heavy hearts – Jeff Green, who raced with Juncos in Pro Mazda last year alongside Franzoni, passed away last weekend due to injuries sustained in a crash during a vintage race.

Franzoni, last year’s Pro Mazda champion, will be flanked on the front row by Santi Urrutia, with points leader Colton Herta qualifying third. Pato O’Ward, Aaron Telitz, Ryan Norman, and Dalton Kellett complete the field.

Results are below. Race 1 rolls off at 1:00 ET (12:00 local time).

USF2000: Lindh Sweeps Both Poles

USF2000 ran qualifying sessions for both Race 1 and Race 2 on Friday, and Rasmus Lindh swept them both to the the poles for both races.

In Race 1, Lindh will be flanked on the front row by championship leader Kyle Kirkwood. Calvin Ming, Igor Fraga, and Kaylen Frederick round out the top five. Alex Baron, the second place driver in the championship, languished in 13th.

In Race 2, Lindh starts alongside Frederick, with Lucas Kohl, Kyle Kirkwood, and Julian Van der Watt, while Baron again struggled – he’ll started Race 2 in 11th.

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Mario Andretti says Colton Herta could be next American star in F1

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Mario Andretti’s last Formula One victory is also the last by an American driver in more than 42 years on the international open-wheel road racing series.

If you had told Andretti that while he was celebrating on the Grand Prix of the Netherlands podium on Aug. 27, 1978 at the Vandzoort circuit, he wouldn’t have believed it.

“Absolutely not,” Andretti told Kyle Petty during the most recent “Coffee With Kyle” episode (video above). “It’s a shame. Somehow we have so much talent here, and either there’s no invitation or something there. But I think it’s time to give some of this young talent that, in my opinion, is absolutely capable.”

The Dutch GP was the last of Andretti’s 12 victories in F1 and came during his championship season. No one since has come close to matching his success in F1.

Mario Andretti drives his Lotus-Ford to victory in the 1978 Grand Prix of the Netherlands (Bernard Cahier/Getty Images).

Andretti’s son, Michael, took a full-time ride with McLaren in 1993 but left with three races remaining in a season marred by crashes and mechanical problems.

Scott Speed was the last American to run a full F1 season in 2006, and Alexander Rossi made the most recent F1 start by a U.S. driver in 2015. Rossi has said he has no desire to return to racing in Europe after winning the 2016 Indianapolis 500 and becoming an IndyCar championship contender.

But Mario Andretti believes Andretti Autosport has another rising star with F1-caliber ability.

“Colton Herta is one that comes to mind,” Mario Andretti said. “As a young lad, his dad sent him to Europe, he was doing Formula 3, and he knows most of the circuits there. He’s trained. He’s showed in his rookie season and won some premium races at COTA (and Laguna Seca), beat two of the very best Indy has to offer (in) Will Power and Scott Dixon.

“This is one kid I’d love to see him get a break over there to fly the U.S. colors again.”

Herta, 20, seems interested in exploring an F1 leap over the next few years. After winning Sept. 13 at Mid-Ohio from the pole position (his third career victory in the NTT IndyCar Series), the No. 88 Dallara-Honda driver is ranked fourth in the standings in his sophomore year and regarded as one of the series’ top prospects.

Herta recently told RACER.com “I’d love to give Formula 1 a crack” but said he also would be happy driving in IndyCar and IMSA.

A naturalized U.S. citizen who told Petty about spending several years with his family in an Italian refugee camp before coming to America, Mario Andretti said F1 brought an enormous sense of patriotic pride.

“Formula One is like the Olympics in a sense,” he said. “You’re in a different country, a different continent. When you earn that highest step of the podium, they play your national anthem. That’s when you take nothing for granted. You feel like I’m representing my country, and the proudest moments are those.

“I’d just like to see some other American drivers experience that. It’s time.”

Mario Andretti with four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton before the Nov. 22, 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).

During the “Coffee With Kyle” conversation, Andretti also discussed:

–His versatility as a winner in IndyCar, sports cars, NASCAR and Formula One;

–His 1967 Daytona 500 victory and how he enjoyed racing with crew chief Jake Elder at the famed Holman-Moody team;

Mario Andretti Colton Herta
Mario Andretti and Kyle Petty saluted “The King” by wearing their Richard Petty-style hats during the latest “Coffee With Kyle” (NBCSN).

–Why he delayed his entry to F1 for a few years because of his earnings power in IndyCar. “I always say I’d race for free, but at the same time, you’re thinking of family and the future,” he said. “It was in the back of your mind that you can’t give up the earning power of IndyCar. That kept me from going full time in Formula One, but I always said that sometime in my career, I’d have to devote a period to Formula One.”

–On what it was like racing in an era when driver deaths were more prevalent. “If you’re going to do this, you’re not going to dwell on those negatives,” Andretti said. “There’s no way. You knew it was present. Especially in the ‘60s at the beginning of the season at the drivers meetings, you couldn’t help but look around and say, ‘I wonder who is not going to be here at the end of the season.’ We’d lose four to five guys. In ’64, we lost six guys.

“It’s something if you dwell on that, you’re going to take on a different profession. It’s a desire and love to want to drive that overcame all that and then the confidence it’s not going to happen to me. And then you pray.”

Watch the full “Coffee With Kyle” episode in the video above or by clicking here.

Mario Andretti looks on before the 103rd Indianapolis 500 on May 26, 2019 (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).