By Steve Wittich

For the sixth time in 2017, and 15th time in his MRTI career, Anthony Martin collected the single bonus point for winning the pole, and extending his points lead over rival Victor Franzoni to five points. But it certainly wasn’t easy.

“No! No! No!,” explained the Australian when asked if his two lap qualifying effort was easy. “It was on the edge. On the second lap going into (Turn) 1, I was going in really fast. I was trying to get close to going flat out, but I wasn’t quite (flat out). But, boy was was I trying. I didn’t want to make any huge mistakes, but the car was definitely on the limit.”

In our preview for the St. Louis Pro Mazda Oval Challenge Presented by Cooper Tires we mentioned the importance of bonus points, especially with the quest for the $790,300 Mazda Motorsports only separated by four points heading into the weekend.

Martin, a Cape Motorsports rookie, was the only driver to average over 140.001mph, and over the course of the two lap run covered the 2.5 miles a quarter of a second quicker than Brazilian Franzoni.  Martin credited a recent test at Gateway Motorsports Park and a fantastic car from his team.

We learned a lot in the test a few weeks ago,” explained the 22 year-old Australian. “We did a qualifying simulation during the test, so we knew and expected what it was going to be like because the temperature is pretty much the same as it was today. I think we went a little bit faster then we did at the test day. With the IndyCar rubber down on the track, it is a little bit faster, and I was able to go a little bit quicker than normal. Overall, the qualifying run was really good. The Cape guys gave me an awesome car, and it’s been great from the moment I’ve stepped on this track.”

Fat Boy Racing! driver Brenden Puderbach is the only National Class driver present this weekend, and was the first driver on track for qualifying. His two lap average of 130.14mph was good enough for eighth quickest.

TJ Fischer who was the last driver on track was able to go 1.3 mph quicker on his second lap, to just nip his Team Pelfrey teammate Carlos Cunha for the third qualifying spot.

Anthony Martin was the only driver to qualify on Cooper Tire sticker rubber meaning he’ll be the only driver starting the 55 lap race on scuffed rubber.

What we’re watching for the race:

  1. Driving it too hard into Turn 1, and not being able to recover.
  2. Navigating lapped traffic.

Qualifying results for the St. Louis Pro Mazda Oval Challenge Presented by Cooper Tires

1 8 Anthony Martin 139.633 140.370 140.001
2 23 Victor Franzoni 139.109 139.760 139.433
3 82 TJ Fischer 135.157 136.445 135.798
4 81 Carlos Cunha 135.541 136.030 135.785
5 80 Nikita Lastochkin 134.709 135.621 135.163
6 60 Jeff Green 135.277 134.974 135.125
7 13 Bobby Eberle 130.883 131.556 131.219
8 31 Brendan Puderbach 129.680 130.531 130.104
9 14 Sting Ray Robb 130.263 129.757 130.010

The 55 lap race rolls off at 4:55pm, and if you are so inclined, you can listen to Rob Howden and I here:

Don’t miss any of the action: