By Steve Wittich

Good morning from a chilly Watkins Glen International – my car had a number three as the beginning number of the temperature – where the first Mazda Road To Indy presented by Cooper Tire champion of the 2107 season will be crowned this afternoon.

We’ll get into the MRTI coverage with our next update, but wanted to update you with my travel adventures.

My journey, like it always does, started in Carmel, Ind., and similar to all but two of my trips, it involved windshield time, instead of a flight. I will miss only three IndyCar events this year – Long Beach, Phoenix, and Texas – and the only events I have flown to are St. Petersburg, and to the finale at Sonoma Raceway. That means I’ve driven to: Barber, Indy (duh), Detroit, Road America, Toronto, Mid-Ohio, Pocono, Gateway, and Watkins Glen.

My normal travel partner is my wife’s trusty Honda Fit, aka Roxy, who has now travelled to at least 60 races in the last five years. Roxy was fully prepared to be put into service one last time for the trip to “The Glen,” but our good friends at Mazda made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.

My Soul Red travel partner (Photo – Steve Wittich)

My road trip partner this weekend is a brand new Soul Red Mazda CX-5. The color is fitting since this weekend is the Mazda Road To Indy presented by Cooper Tire’s “Soul Red Finale.” I’ll have a full review of the mid-size crossover at a later date, but I’m awfully impressed with the sporty ride so far.

On Wednesday afternoon/evening I drove to Erie, Pa, before completing the drive to Watkins Glen International on Thursday morning. I’m staying west of the track in Bath, N.Y., which equates to a scenic 35-minute drive through the Finger Lakes region to get to the 11-Turn, 3.4 mile road course.

On Thursday night, a colleague and I made the pilgrimage to Seneca Lodge for a pint of beer in the historic Tavern Room, and dinner in dining room. Traditionally, the food at Seneca Lodge isn’t great, and isn’t bad, and that was the same this year.  But, you don’t go to Seneca Lodge for the food, you go to soak in the history of all the legendary racing names that have celebrated at the 69 year old watering hole, and that we did.

The Tavern Room at Seneca Lodge is a must visit for any racing fan. (Photo – Steve Wittich)

On Friday night, I joined with three other friends at Jerlando’s Ristorante and Pizza Company on Franklin Street in the heart of the village of Watkins Glen. If you are in the mood for massive servings of traditional Italian dishes, this is the place to visit. It’s also the place to be if you want to see some racing celebrities. Four-time winner at “The Glen,” Scott Dixon sat a few table away from us, and many other table were filled with familiar names from the paddock.

I had the Veal Parmigiana, which was melt in your mouth good. I also hear that the Pasta Carbonara is out of this world.

All right, USF2000 qualifying begins in 10 minutes. We’ll be back with those results in half-an-hour.

Saturday’s “Soul Red Finale” MRTI Schedule

7am Gates Open
8am – 8:30am USF2000 Qualifying
8:45am – 9:15am Indy Lights Practice #2
11:30am – 12:15pm Pro Mazda Race #1
1:15pm – 2pm USF2000 Race
2:15pm – 2:45pm Indy Lights Qualifying
5:30pm – 5:50pm Pro Mazda Qualifying #2

Don’t miss any of the action: