Qualifying sessions for the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda and Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires are in the books early Friday morning at the 2.439-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. The Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires qualifying occurs from 12 to 12:45 p.m.
Before we get to those session recaps, a quick note of thanks to some of the rock stars of the Mazda Road to Indy paddock.
Mazda Road to Indy Gives Thanks to Holmatro Safety Team
Following Thursday’s track activity and despite heavy storms which blew through the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, most of the Mazda Road to Indy field – plus a number of other Verizon IndyCar Series luminaries and Mazda Road to Indy graduates – all gathered for an informal, casual but deserved honoring of the Holmatro Safety Team at the Andersen Promotions hospitality.
The Holmatro Safety Team not only serves IndyCar but the entire Mazda Road to Indy at all its events, and the presence of the team led by Mike Yates is invaluable.
“They are the people that have your back,” Dan Andersen said during the event.
Andersen noted how stressful and difficult this work can be on the crew, most who have regular day jobs and add this work to their plate.
The site here is particularly poignant since the Holmatro crew’s work was the first step to saving James Hinchcliffe’s life after his devastating accident in practice last year, before Hinchcliffe was transported to IU Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis. Although Hinchcliffe was unable to attend Thursday night, he has paid tribute to the crew in numerous ways already this season.
Among the IndyCar notables besides the Mazda Road to Indy drivers in attendance were past Indy Lights champions Bryan Herta and Townsend Bell, Indy Lights and USF2000 graduate Charlie Kimball and a host of others. More than 100 people were estimated in attendance.
The morning’s USF2000 qualifying ahead of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Grand Prix of Indianapolis Powered by Mazda was hectic, fast and chaotic and the drama didn’t end until after the checkered flag.
Early runs on the green track, since it rained heavily since the series was last on track, forecast that Nico Jamin’s 1:26.1799 track record would be broken. Additionally, temperatures were pretty cool at just 55 degrees ambient.
Victor Franzoni of ArmsUp Motorsports was first up on cold tires to post the provisional pole time, with a 1:26.4516 in the No. 9 car.
But times would drop throughout the remainder of the 30-minute session. Australian Luke Gabin continued his weekend pace with a 1:26.3965 in the No. 91 JAY Motorsports entry to supplant Franzoni, and then Gabin’s countryman Jordan Lloyd topped Gabin’s time with a 1:26.2219 in the No. 21 Pabst Racing car to ascend into the provisional pole.
It was Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing’s Parker Thompson though, the series points leader in Cape’s No. 2 entry, who was first to break Jamin’s track record time with a new record of 1:26.1738.
That stood for maybe a minute at best before another of the trio of talented Australians, Thompson’s Cape teammate Anthony Martin in the No. 8 car, clocked a 1:26.1053 lap.
Gabin then came through to post an even quicker lap, the first 1:25 lap, at a 1:25.9602 time.
But the time proved too good to be true for Gabin and JAY Motorsports, with word from Race Control after the end of the session that Gabin had blown the checkered flag, and would thus lose his times.
Gabin was one of three drivers, along with Team Pelfrey’s TJ Fischer and ArmsUp Motorsports’ Max Hanratty, who had all their lap times invalidated in the session per Race Director Scot Elkins.
That promoted Martin back to his second straight pole position, having also started on pole in Round 4 at Barber Motorsports Park.
However it marks the first time the native of Kalgoorlie qualified on pole in a qualifying session, rather than having his second best time from a session set the grid for race two of the weekend.
Thompson was second ahead of Lloyd, Franzoni and Yufeng Luo, who led Thursday’s combined practice times with his best lap in first practice.
The first 30-minute race of the weekend takes place at 1 p.m. this afternoon, and with Gabin’s penalty, he’ll be hungry to advance through the field.
Qualifying times are below:
|24||6||Max Hanratty||No Time||—||17|
|25||82||TJ Fischer||No Time||—||16|
|26||91||Luke Gabin||No Time||—||13|
Pro Mazda Qualifying
While the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda qualifying was nuts, the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires qualifying later Friday morning under sunny but cool skies (59 degrees ambient) was all but decided early.
Series points leader Pato O’Ward, in the No. 80 Gap Guard entry for Team Pelfrey, secured his third pole position in five rounds.
O’Ward’s early flier of 1:22.8800 was more than four tenths clear of teammate Aaron Telitz in the No. 82 Rice Lake Weighing Systems entry.
It was also a new track record by more than a tenth, ahead of Spencer Pigot’s best time of 1:22.9623, set in 2014.
O’Ward ran his laps in the opening 15 minutes of the 30-minute session and could afford to sit on his time for the remainder of the session.
Juncos Racing completed the top six with all four of its cars, with Will Owen, Jake Parsons, Garett Grist and Nicolas Dapero all six tenths or more behind.
The Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing teammates, Nico Jamin and Jake Eidson, were a further ways back in seventh and eighth.
The first race for Pro Mazda takes place at 1:55 p.m., following the first USF2000 race of the weekend.
Qualifying times are below:
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