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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Tony Kanaan’s “New Reality” in IndyCar

Photo by Stephen King, INDYCAR
Stephen King, INDYCAR
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AUSTIN, Texas – Tony Kanaan is one of the most popular drivers in the NTT IndyCar Series from the fans who love his aggressive racing style and his fearless attitude. His team owner is the most popular man in the history of Indianapolis 500 – the legendary AJ Foyt, the first driver to win the famed race four times in his career.

In 2019, this combination would rather win races than popularity contests.

Kanaan has won 17 races in his career but hasn’t been to Victory Lane since a win at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California when he was driving for Chip Ganassi Racing in 2014. He left Ganassi’s team following the 2017 and joined Foyt’s operation last season.

Foyt always admired Kanaan’s attitude and racing style because it reminded him of his own attitude behind the wheel of a race car. But in 2018, the combination struggled. Kanaan led just 20 laps for the season and finished 16thin the IndyCar Series points race.

“A lot of work has been done because obviously, we struggled quite a bit last year,” Kanaan admitted. “That was the challenge when I signed with AJ was to try to make this team better. It is not an easy task, especially with the competition nowadays.

“It’s a lot slower process than I thought it would be.”

Kanaan believes the biggest keys for him is to “keep digging and be patient.” But he’s also in a results-driven business.

The driver called it a long winter, but he has helped lure some of his racing friends to the team to help improve the two-car operation that also includes young Brazilian Matheus Leist.

At 84, Foyt still has control over the operation, but has turned the day-to-day duties over to his son, Larry. Just last week, the team hired Scott Harner as the team’s vice president of operations. Harner was in charge of Kanaan’s car when both were at Chip Ganassi Racing.

“The second year, we are trying to be better,” Kanaan said. “It’s not an excuse, it’s the reality we have. There are a lot of new teams coming along so we have to step up. Otherwise, we aren’t fighting the Big 3 teams, we are fighting everybody.

“We are working on it. I like the way we are heading. AJ has been extremely open to my ideas.”

Kanaan has moved his family from Miami to Indianapolis to be near the race team’s shop. The team also has another race shop in Waller, Texas and that is where Leist’s car is prepared.

Although Kanaan doesn’t believe it’s ideal to have two different racing facilities, he believes being closer to his team will help build a more cohesive unit for this season.

At one time, Kanaan would show up at the track with a car that could win the race. No longer in that situation, he has had to readjust his goals.

“The biggest challenge is to accept that and understand your limits on equipment and on the people that you have,” Kanaan said. “Being on some of the teams that I’ve been on in the past, with four-car teams and engineers and all the resources you can get and the budget; then to come to a team with limited resources, I have to self-check all the time. With that, comes a lot of pressure as well and block out people’s opinions like, ‘Oh, he’s old or he’s washed up or the team is not good.’

“You need to shield that from your guys, because psychologically, that gets to you. You need people to work well, even if you have a car that is going to finish 15th.

“What is our reality? Racing can be lucky, but we try to make goals. We are greedy, we try to improve, but we are trying to be realistic. I have to re-set and understand this is my reality now, and I have to accept it.”

At 44, Kanaan is the oldest driver in the IndyCar. The 2004 IndyCar Series champion won the Indianapolis 500 in 2013 and if his career ended this year, it would be one of the greatest of his era.

But Kanaan isn’t ready to call it an “era.” He has more he wants to accomplish.

“The mistake I have made in my career is counting your days,” Kanaan said. “The best line I ever heard is when I signed with AJ, he told me he drove until he was 58, so why am I talking about getting old?

“In his mind, I still have 14 years to go.”

There remains one race, more than any other, that Kanaan’s boss wants to win. It’s the one that made Foyt famous.

“For my boss, winning the Indianapolis 500 is all he cares,” Kanaan said. “I could not finish a single race this year and if I win the Indy 500, that would be enough for him.

“We are not in a position to win a championship and I accept that. So, we focus on the Indianapolis 500. We had an awesome car last year and were the fastest on the second day.”

Foyt and Kanaan believe success at Indy may be in the numbers.

“AJ is all about numbers and his number was 14,” Kanaan said. “He found out Dallara was making chassis No. 14 at the end of the year. AJ bought that chassis and said that is the one we are going to race at the Indy 500. I’m not allowed to drive that car until Opening Day at the Indianapolis 500.

“That’s how big the boss is about the Indy 500.”