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

Photo courtesy Toyota Racing
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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