By Steve Wittich
Talk about pressure. Only two points separate Victor Franzoni and Oliver Askew heading into the Pro Mazda Watkins Glen Grand Prix Presented by Cooper Tires double header at Watkins Glen International this weekend. On the line? Only a $790,000 Mazda Motorsports Scholarship that will allow the winner move up to Indy Lights, the last step of the MRTI ladder.
The two drivers, who each have five wins on the season, have traded the points lead on five different occasions, including last Saturday’s 55 lap oval race at Gateway Motorsports Park, that saw Franzoni make a daring outside pass in Turn 1 and Turn 2 to take the lead and consequently move two points into the championship lead.
“I’m really excited for the final races,” said Franzoni, who drives for Juncos Racing, and will turn 22 years-old on Tuesday. “This has been the best year of my career and I’m driving better, for sure. I think I grew up a lot this season. For the final, that’s two more races that I have to do my job, do my best and try to win both. It won’t be easy, but I’m ready. Juncos Racing is ready, so it’ll be fun and the most important moment of my life.”
Martin, who is the reigning USF2000 champion, can join Matthew Brabham (USF2000 and Pro Mazda) and Spencer Pigot (Pro Mazda and Indy Lights) as back-to-back winners of MRTI scholarships.
“Last year’s title fight has helped me this year,” said Martin. “Just knowing what is needed at the end of the season when it’s crunch time. You really have to work harder than ever with your team to get the most out of your car and yourself. It is super important because every point is crucial and can determine whether you win the championship.”
Some other stats and facts related to tight title tilt between Franzoni and Martin:
- The two drivers are tied with five wins apiece.
- Franzoni leads Martin in podiums by a margin of 10 to 9.
- Both drivers have 10 top fives, and 10 top 10s each.
- Martin has six poles compared to three for Franzoni
- Martin has slim advantage in bonus points, leading over Franzoni by a margin of 16 to 12.
- Franzoni has 205 points on road courses,which tops Martin by 12.
- Martin has led 157 laps compared to 98 for Franzoni
- Martin and Franzoni are the only two Pro Mazda drivers to complete every lap so far this season.
- Martin leads Franzoni in average starting position – 1.7 to 3.1
- Franzoni leads Martin in average finishing position – 1.5 to 1.7
The Pro Mazda presented by Cooper Tire series is making only it’s second appearance at Watkins Glen International. The series ran a single race with the Rolex Sports Car Series (Grand-Am ) in 2008. That race was won by Charles Hall, who was driving for current series promoter Dan Andersen.
The Team Pelfrey trio of TJ Fischer, Carlos Cunha, and Nikita Lastochkin, are currently only separated by a total of 20 points for third place. Fisher has the lead, but is only holding on to third by five points over Cunha.
Pro Mazda Watkins Glen Grand Prix Presented by Cooper Tires schedule:
|9:30am – 10am||Pro Mazda Practice #1|
|2:30pm – 2:50pm||Pro Mazda Qualifying #1|
|4pm – 4:30pm||Pro Mazda Autograph Session|
|11:30am – 12:15pm||Pro Mazda Race #1|
|5:30pm – 5:50pm||Pro Mazda Qualifying #2|
|7:55am – 8:45am||Pro Mazda Race #2|
Don’t miss any of the action: