For the second straight day, it was Victor Franzoni who won the battle, but it was Anthony Martin who won the season long war for the $363,000 Mazda Motorsports Advancement Scholarship.
When the day started, we knew that one of two Cape Motorsports with /WTR pilots would become the sixth straight driver from the St. Petersburg, Florida based team to win the driver’s championship.
It was a typical all-out, but at the same time measured driver that allows Martin to join Petri Savant, fellow Australian Matthew Brabham, Scott Hargrove, Florian Latorre, and Nico Jamin as drivers to win the championship for brothers Dominc and Nicholas Cape.
The championship won by Martin today is the first in cars for the 21 year-old from Kalgoorlie, Australia. The previous best championship finish for the 2015 USF2000 Rookie of the Year was a second place finish in the 2014 Western Australian Formula Ford Championship in 2014.
Martin’s impressive year included seven trips to the top step of the podium and a total of 11 trips to the podium in 16 races.
Although he fell 21 points shy of winning the big prize, Thompson certainly proved he belongs in Pro Mazda next season collecting four wins, and 11 podiums, and driving with a maturity beyond his 18 years. The Canadian driver never lost his head, and raced his older teammate cleanly all season, and even when faced with elimination on the first lap of today’s race, the two drivers gave each other room to race.
Franzoni and his No. 9 ArmsUp Motorsports rocket ship were once again hooked up and dominated the entire weekend on the 2.238-mile, 11-turn Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca road course, winning the second-half of the “Soul Red Finale” double header by over 10 seconds. It was the third win of the year and tenth podium of the year for the always smiling Brazilian, who finished the season with a dozen straight top four finishes.
When the green flag fell, pole-sitter Franzoni got the jump on championship leader and out-side front row starter Martin. Thompson closely followed Franzoni and was able to get inside his Cape Motorsports with /WTR teammate into Turn 2 and pull off the pass to slot into second behind Franzoni.
Martin was able to get a better run off of Turn 4 and attempted to get inside Thompson at Turn 5, but the Canadian shut the door on the Australian. Martin looked to the outside of Thompson heading into “The Corkscrew” but tucked in behind his teammate and was able to make a daring pass on the inside in the “Rainey Corner,” to regain his second starting spot.
#SoulRedFinale @USF2000 Race 2: REPLAY @Anthony8Martin retakes P2 from co-championship contender @parkertracing pic.twitter.com/7ApuC0SEvp
— Road To Indy TV (@RoadToIndyTV) September 11, 2016
At the end of the first lap the running order was: Franzoni, Martin, Thompson, Lloyd, Gabin, Lastochkin, Luo, Kohl, Megennis, Scott, Das, Dickerson, Rickards, Frederick, Denes, Ottis, and Armington.
The biggest movers on the first lap were rookies Dakota Dickerson and Robert Megennis who had both gained two spots.
The 17 car field quickly settled into a rhythm while the drivers figured out how their Mazda powered Van Diemans were going to handle.
At the one-third point of the race (10 of 30 minutes), Franzoni was able to pull out to almost a six-second lead over Martin. Martin was busy trying to hold Thompson, who had parked himself on the rear wing of Martin’s No. 8. Australians Lloyd and Gabin rounded out the top five.
With ten minutes left in the race, Franzoni had stretched his gap over Martin to a massive 8.4 seconds. Behind Franzoni, Martin continued to hold off Thompson with the gap remaining under one second. Martin’s fellow Australians Lloyd and Gabin continued to hold down the final two spots in the top five.
On lap 12, Garth Rickards and Team Pelfrey newcomer Phillipe Dennes were battling for 12th spot when the No. 22 Pabst Racing machine of Rickards looped it coming off the final turn. Rickards kept it running, but fell down to 16th and ended up finishing … , capping off what was a disappointing year for the sophomore from Pensylvania.
#SoulRedFinale @USF2000 Race 2: @RobHowden reporting correctly, @GRickards230 spins out, no contact, falls to P16 pic.twitter.com/nCqz1Y0v5f
— Road To Indy TV (@RoadToIndyTV) September 11, 2016
The best battle on track in the final laps was between Yufeng Luo, Robert Megennis, and Lucas Kohl for seventh, and Cameron Das, Dakota Dickerson and Phillipe Denes for 10th.
On the penultimate lap, Megennis was able to get by Luo, but the Chinese born pilot was able to get back around Megennis on the final lap.
Even though his final pass of the race didn’t stick, Megginnis ended the year as the top rookie points scorer and also the top “passer” of the year. The 16 year-old ended up improving 56 spots over his starting position in the 16 races.
On the final lap, Dickerson was able to get by Das for the final spot in the top 10. Denes was also able to get by Das, completing an impressive debut Mazda Road To Indy presented by Cooper Tire weekend for the Team Pelfrey F1600 Formula F Championship Series driver. Denes, who is only 17 finished sixth and 11th, taking home the “award” for top newcomer in each race.
Cooper Tires Grand Prix of Monterey Powered by Mazda race #2
|1||Victor Franzoni||21 laps|
|17||Robert Armington||-1 lap|