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Contact, penalties, and extended championship, a maiden win, and the first win of the season for a legacy team were the stories of the opening race of the final day of the “Soul Red Finale” at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

After three previous podiums in 2016, Nicolas Dapero got his first win in the U.S.A. and also helped Juncos Racing extend a team Pro Mazda winning streak. The Ricardo Juncos led team has now won a Pro Mazda race in every season since 2009.

Nicolas Dapero celebrates his first Pro Mazda presented by Cooper Tire win at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca (Photo courtesy of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography)

Nicolas Dapero celebrates his first Pro Mazda presented by Cooper Tire win at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca (Photo courtesy of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography)

The 18 year-old from Argentina said he was thankful to have his first win in the USA, and also heaped praise on the Juncos Racing crew for giving a him a winning car.

Heading into the morning race, Team Pelfrey teammates Aaron Telitz and Pato O’Ward were separated by only 8 points, with the rookie Telitz leading the sophomore O’Ward. After the two drivers made contact on the opening lap and were both assessed drive-thru penalties, Telitz ended up finishing the race in fifth and O’Ward finished 10th. That leaves Telitz leading the championship by 11 points with one race left at 3:35pm this afternoon to decide who takes home the $600,000 Mazda Motorsports Advancement Scholarship and moves up to Indy Lights.

Will Owen came home second, his seventh podium of the year and his 11th career Mazda Road To Indy presented by Cooper Tire podium. Owen was joined on the podium by Cape Motorsports with /WTR driver Nico Jamin.

After an almost two hour delay for foggy conditions, the first of two Pro Mazda Grand Prix of Monterey Presented by Allied Building Product races of the day got under way just before 10am.

Telitz, who was starting on pole for the second day in a row got a jump on O’Ward as the green flag flew, however O’Ward’s Topo Chico sponsored No. 80 was able to draft Telitz’s Rice Lake Weighing Systems sponsored No. 82 and get beside him heading to Turn 2. O’Ward went around the outside of Telitz in the Andretti Hairpin and the teammates made contact when Telitz slid wide at the exit of the double apex corner.

O’Ward was able to limp back to the pits where his damaged Team Pelfrey No. 80 came to the attention of his crew who immediately went to work on the left rear suspension. They were able to make quick repairs and get O’Ward back on track, but the 17 year-old was four laps down.

At the end of the first lap the running order was: Telitz, Dapero, Fisher, Parsons, Owen, Jamin, Burton-Harris, Swanbeck, de la Vara, Eberle, Enders and O’Ward.

Telitz was immediately dinged with an avoidable contact penalty, which the 24 year-old served on Lap 5. After the slow drive down the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca pit road, the native of Birchwood, Wisconsin re-entered the race in 11th.

On the following lap, O’Ward was also handed a drive-thru penalty for having too many men over the wall.

Telitz was able to get by Enders, and Swanbeck for 9th and 10th before the half-way point of the race, and was pressuring Burton-Harris for 8th.

The running order half-way through the race was: Dapero, Fisher, Parsons, Owen, Jamin, Burton Harris, de la Vara, Swanbeck, Telitz, Eberle, Enders and O’Ward. Diaper’s lead over Fisher 6.7 seconds, who was being hounded by Parsons, Owen and Jamin for the final spot on the podium.

On the very next lap, Fisher and Parsons made contact while battling for position in the “Corkscrew,” causing the first yellow flag of the day to fly on Lap 13.

Fisher and Parsons both retired which allowed Telitz to move up to 6th and O’Ward, despite being 3 laps behind, to move into the top 10.

The field went back to green with only 3 and a half minutes remaining on lap 16. Dapero was able to get the jump on Owen, his more experienced Juncos Racing teammate.

On the third last lap, Telitz was able to get by de la Vara as they exited Turn 11 and immediately set off after Burton-Harris for fourth, but was not able to get by the newcomer and settled for a fifth place finish.

The white flag flew on Lap 18, with Dapero, Owen, Jamin, Burton-Harris and Telitz crossing the line and heading to the Andretti Hairpin for the last time.

Moises de la Vara who is making his Mazda Road To Indy presented by Cooper Tire debut with DE Force Racing won the National Class. The team and driver are planning on taking part in the 2017 Cooper Tires USF2000 Powered by Mazda championship with the new Mazda powered Tatuus USF-17.

Results of the second Pro Mazda Grand Prix of Monterey Presented by Allied Building Products

1 Nicolas Dapero 19 Laps
2 Will Owen -0.4456
3 Nico Jamin -2.2509
4 Joseph Burton-Harris -4.854
5 Aaron Telitz -5.3339
6 Moises de la Vara -6.5866
7 Dan Swanbeck -10.5695
8 Kory Enders -11.1676
9 Bobby Eberle -14.6183
10 Pato O’Ward -3 laps
11 TJ Fischer -8 laps
12 Jake Parsons -8 laps