The “Nico Jamin Show” at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course rolled on in the second of two Royal Purple Pro Mazda Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio races in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, the second rung of the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires ladder.
Driving the Soul Red No. 2 Mazda for Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing, the Frenchman captured his fifth win in a row at the 2.258-mile road course, albeit not in as straightforward a rout as his win was this morning.
The 40-minute race was the last track activity of the day and followed the Pirelli World Challenge race which had just proceeded it, and the track had the interesting mix of the Pirelli rubber coupled with then some spritzes of rain that popped up during the race.
The race for all intents and purposes, though, was decided on a chaotic and perhaps crazy first lap – although it was the first chapter in a fairly entertaining race filled with a number of passes and contact.
Aaron Telitz had the pole position by way of qualifying in the No. 82 Rice Lake Weighing Systems entry for Team Pelfrey, ahead of Jamin and Will Owen in the No. 23 AMR entry for Juncos Racing. The grid is below.
Note Pato O’Ward, in fifth, took his No. 80 Topo Chico Team Pelfrey entry for an installation lap following IndyCar qualifying after an electrical issue was diagnosed in the first race, which may have hampered O’Ward’s start to his day.
|7||81||TJ Fischer||1:19.3821||Race 1|
From the start, Telitz led Jamin but only just, with Jamin and Telitz side-by-side into the Keyhole (Turn 2) before Jamin briefly emerged ahead onto the backstraight.
That lead didn’t last long with the two of them side-by-side, with Owen close and O’Ward only just behind, having got around Owen’s teammate Jake Parsons.
Owen, who seemingly would not be denied, got what Telitz later called the “run of the century” to make it a side-by-side affair with Telitz through Turns 4 and 5.
However, with Telitz later saying he got “pinballed” in the four-way fight, he lost momentum to open the door for Jamin, who then slid by at Turn 7 for the lead, himself. Jamin made it around the outside of Owen at Turn 6 which positioned him for the inside of Turn 7.
At the end of the first lap the order was jumbled with Jamin leading Owen and O’Ward, with Telitz down to fourth and Parsons down to fifth. At the back of the field, National class driver Bob Kaminsky spun on his own exiting the final turn and stopped driver’s right, but resumed after finding reverse.
Reports of light rain followed on pit lane, and the rain would later intensify to bring out a full-course caution for moisture. Before the rain, Telitz had made it around O’Ward for third, which proved a pivotal move considering those two drivers’ respective status in the championship chase.
The restart came at Lap 15 with the order just before Jamin, Owen, Telitz, O’Ward and TJ Fischer.
A somewhat crazy restart followed, with Telitz getting a monster “run of the century” of his own out of the final corner and coming to Owen’s inside down the front straight to move into second place.
But the pass didn’t last for long, with Owen able to get back by for second a lap later, on Lap 16. And shortly thereafter Owen would begin his pursuit of Jamin, although a quick run wide at Turn 4 put pause to those hopes and he was focused on securing the runner-up position.
Roughly 1.7 to 1.9 seconds covered the two drivers, although both were more than one second behind Jamin up front.
Further back, Parsons later pitted out of fifth and Fischer limped around without a front wing.
The checkered flag flew with Jamin up front for his second win of the day, and the season, by 1.8594 seconds over Owen, with Telitz in third.
O’Ward and Fischer were fourth and fifth. Team Pelfrey now has its first race of the season – in 13 races – that isn’t a first or second with at least one of its drivers. The team won the first 11 races and Telitz was second in Round 12 this morning, but today marked the first Cape/Juncos top two team performance.
After the post-race press conference, all three podium finishers rewatched portions of the race with a mix of laughter, cheers and awe, as well as shock at wondering how they all made it through the race without major contact.
Jamin called his second consecutive Mid-Ohio Mazda Road to Indy weekend sweep an “amazing feeling” but noted the start was so crazy, and if he was to have any chance of winning from second on the grid, he’d “need to go for it” in a super aggressive manner.
Owen secured his third double podium weekend of the year for Juncos (second and third at Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis weekend, and third in both Road America races) and was almost surprised at how he hung onto the car in that “run of the century.” He called Telitz’s restart “borderline” but was otherwise very happy with his day.
Telitz explained his take on the day’s proceedings, which didn’t mean to see him get aggressive before the start all but forced him into it.
“I never wanted to be super aggressive. It just happened that way,” Telitz said. “I got him on the backstraight. Then Will had the ‘run of the century’ on the outside.
“It was great… but the only thing I didn’t like about it was he ‘parked it’ in Turn 6, and that gave Nico the run.
“But I wasn’t as concerned about either of them because they’re not in the championship and have nothing to lose. Since I was P4, then I realized Pato’s ahead of me, I had to get aggressive. I did not want him to have any momentum at all going to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. But while I felt I got hit a lot, I knew it was important to not hit Pato – and I didn’t hit him! Quite a day.”
Results are below:
And so, that leaves the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires as the first of the three Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires series with only one weekend remaining – the aforementioned Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca weekend on Sept. 9-11, for a tripleheader weekend.
After this result, Telitz carries in an unofficial 14-point lead, 345 to 331, over O’Ward. O’Ward won six of the first seven races; he’s been off the podium in five of the last six. Telitz has been on the podium in all six, with four wins, a second, and a third.
Jamin is now a clear third in points in the role of spoiler heading into Mazda Raceway, a place where he swept both Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda races last year.
At 271 points scored, Jamin is too far back to mount a championship challenge even if he’s not technically mathematically eliminated. But, he does have a chance to end the year on a high note and pull off another weekend sweep at Mazda Raceway as he did this weekend at Mid-Ohio.
Owen has a lot to be proud of after his performance this weekend, and with 254 points, he’s got a good chance to usurp Jamin for third, be “best of the rest” behind the Pelfrey drivers and look to end a two-plus year winless drought dating to a USF2000 race in similar tricky half wet, half dry conditions at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in 2014. Any win at Mazda Raceway would be his first in Pro Mazda.
This concludes the Pro Mazda portion of our TSO Ladder coverage this weekend from Mid-Ohio. We hope you enjoyed it, and we’ll have the weekend cappers for USF2000 and the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires tomorrow.