For the second time this year and fourth time in his Mazda Road To Indy presented by Cooper Tire career, Victor Franzoni stood on the top step of the podium.
Franzoni nabbed all 33 points, but was still eliminated from championship contention with podium finishes by Cape Motorsports with /WTR teammates Parker Thompson and Anthony Martin, the two drivers he was chasing.
Thompson came into the “Soul Red Finale” weekend 21 points behind Martin in the chase for $363,000 Mazda Motorsports scholarship, and by beating his teammate to the checkered flag, he has moved to within 18 points of Martin.
Thompson said he has no pressure on him this weekend and all he needs to do is keep proving that he belongs in Pro Mazda presented by Cooper Tire next year.
If Thompson scores the maximum of 32 points tomorrow, Martin needs to finish sixth or better to hold onto the championship.
The first run down the hill into the Andretti Hairpin was clean but chaotic at the same time. Michael Scott, making his first Mazda Road To Indy presented by Cooper Tire start, started the race
At the end of the first lap the running order was: Franzoni, Martin, Thompson, Gabin, Lloyd, Luo, Dickerson, Lastochkin, Megennis, Rickards, Denes, Frederick, Kohl, Scott, Das, Ottis and Armington.
By lap seven, Franzoni had pulled away to a dominating 56 second lead, but behind him third place Thompson was hounding Matin for second.
On lap eight, Nikita Lastochkin went off track while battling with Megennis, Rickards, and Denes for 8th place.
On lap 11, Thompson, who had been hounding Martin for the last five laps was able to get by his teammate for second place in the tough to pass Turn 6.
Martin said that his car hit a brick wall after a few laps and the rear tires went away. He made the decision to let Thompson get by and focus on holding Gabin and Lloyd behind him.
Thompson said that somewhere around lap five, he found the right setting with his sway bar and his car really came to him at that point.
Martin quickly fell into the clutches of fellow Australian Gabin who was turning laps significantly quicker.
With 9 minutes left in the race, Gabin was only 0.9 seconds behind Martin, and Lloyd was another 1.8 seconds behind Martin.
With 7 minutes left, Gabin had cut the gap to Martin down to 0.6 seconds, while Lloyd had cut the gap to Gabin down to 1.3 seconds.
Gabin and Lloyd continued to hassle their Australian countryman for the final spot on the podium, but the Cape Motorsports with /WTR sophomore was able to hold them off. With a five point difference between finishing third and finishing fifth, his defensive driver could go a long way to helping him wrap up a championship on Sunday.
Martin explained he spent the rest of the race trying to roll speed through the quick parts of the track to keep Gabin and Lloyd behind him.
The results of the first Cooper Tires USF2000 Powered by Mazda race
|1||Victor Franzoni||21 LAPS|
|16||Robert Armington||-3 LAPS|
|17||Michael Scott||-11 LAPS|