By Steve Wittich

Good day, and welcome to our coverage of the first official Mazda Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires (MRTI) test of the year.

I (Steve) will be on hand with all of your details.

I arrived in Florida on Thursday afternoon after a loooong day of travel that began when my alarm went off at 4 a.m. and ended when I rolled into my hotel at 9 p.m.

Since my Mom was planning on visiting some friends in Florida and she had not traveled since she lost my Dad, we made plans to travel together to Florida. Since her friends winter in Fort Myers, Fla. we flew to the Gulf Side of the Sunshine State.

My wonderful wife dropped us off at the airport in Indianapolis, Ind. at 6 a.m. for what was supposed to be an 8 a.m. departure. The first group of passengers had just boarded the plane when they were turned around and they told us there would be a slight delay for a mechanical issue.

A slight delay became a five+ hour delay when the copilot’s window that had a leak could not be quickly fixed, and a new plane had to be flown to Indianapolis to bring us south. No complaints from any passengers when it was explained that a decompression of the cockpit at 30,000 feet would have been possible.

After arriving in Florida and picking up our rental car, we met my Mom’s friends for an early dinner at Cheddar’s Scratch Chicken. Since I hadn’t eaten since breakfast, I was pretty hungry. I had an order of chicken-fried-chicken, mashed potatoes, and green beans. I would definitely order that entree again.

Me, being me (frugal, tight, cheap, or whatever you want to call it) decided to take the Tamiami Trail through the Everglades instead of paying the toll on I-75. That might have been a mistake.

The two-lane U.S. Highway 41 was busy and I was bogged down by construction a number of times, and the trip took a lot longer than I anticipated.

Alright, now that we have the travel portion of the trip out of the way, we’ll get to the on-track action.

The first of two Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires oval sessions ended the same way last year’s oval test at Homestead-Miami Speedway ended – with the No. 98 Andretti Steinbrenner Racing of Colton Herta leading the way with a lap of 186.810 mph.

The first of four days MRTI testing at Homestead-Miami Speedway got underway 90 minutes after the scheduled start time of 9 a.m. after a light morning drizzle made the track damp.

A total of six Mazda MZR-R powered Dallaras are taking part in today’s oval test, with the first 30 minutes set aside for the three rookies. One of those drivers, the newly signed Alfonso Celis, Jr., is making his first ever oval appearance, and two drivers, Victor Franzoni and Patricio O’Ward were sampling the Indy Lights car on an oval for the first time.

All three oval rookies were quick to take to the 22-year-old track and completed their portion rookie testing quickly.

Herta was the first of the veteran drivers to hit the track and within two minutes (four laps), he had turned the lap that would stand as the quickest of the session.

The half-dozen drivers turned a total of 172 trouble-free laps. Andretti Autosport rookie O’Ward, who turned 36 laps, was the busiest pilot.

Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires time-sheet 

1 Colton Herta 186.810 27
2 Pato O’Ward 184.426 36
3 Ryan Norman 184.361 27
4 Dalton Kellett 182.157 16
5 Alfonso Celis 179.569 31
6 Victor Franzoni 178.815 35


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