By Steve Wittich
A trio of drivers from three different teams has shared the first seven wins in the PM-18 era of the Pro Mazda Presented By Cooper Tire Series. But, it’s the driver that has been the most consistent that leads the championship.
Parker Thompson, with wins at Barber Motorsports Park, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and Lucas Oil Raceway, has visited the top step of the podium one more time than Rinus VeeKay and Harrison Scott, who each have two wins.
The 20-year-old Exclusive Autosport rookie leads the win category but has also maximized his results when mechanical issues kept him from qualifying up front. Thompson is the only driver to finish in the top five in each race so far. The Red Deer, Alberta driver, has gained 11 spots from where he’s started, a big reason why he has a 40 point lead headed to Road America.
“The entire Exclusive Autosport crew and myself are feeling very confident headed into the summer swing that kicks off in Road America,” said Thompson. “We know we’ll have some stiff competition come race time with lots of teams doing their homework after Indianapolis, but that doesn’t change our approach. We need to win as many races as we can. Our philosophy is that the best defense is offense, and we’re ready to do what it takes to fight for more wins in Wisconsin.”
Current Pro Mazda Presented By Cooper Tire points.
|7||Sting Ray Robb||114|
This year’s doubleheader will mark the 13th and the 14th time that the series will race on the 4.014-mile, 14-turn natural terrain road course. Guy Cosmo was the first Pro Mazda winner at Road America in 2002.
Former “house” team Star Race Cars are joined by active teams Juncos Racing and Team Pelfrey with two wins each. The three teams also lead the way with a pair of the pole a piece. When it comes to podiums though, it’s Juncos Racing, with six trips to the podium that leads the way.
Pro Mazda Presented By Cooper Tire winners at Road America.
|2017 Race #2||Anthony Martin||Cape Motorsports|
|2017 Race #1||Victor Franzoni||Juncos Racing|
|2016 Race #2||Aaron Telitz||Team Pelfrey|
|2016 Race #1||Aaron Telitz||Team Pelfrey|
|2010||Conor Daly||Juncos Racing|
|2008||Peter Dempsey||Andersen Racing|
|2007||Ron White||Maxwell Racing|
|2006||Ron White||Ross Smith Racing|
|2005||James Hinchcliffe||AIM Autosport|
|2004||Michael McDowell||Star Race Cars|
|2003||Michael McDowell||Star Race Cars|
|2002||Guy Cosmo||Racers Edge Motorsports|
Here is the 2008 race that featured a ton of action up front, but was eventually won by Peter Dempsey.
Despite each winning a pair of races, VeeKay nor Scott are the drivers closest to Thompson at the head of the Pro Mazda points table.
That honor goes to Juncos Racing pilot Carlos Cunha, who is long overdue to collect his first Mazda Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires race win. The Brazilian has four podiums this year and a total of ten in his 19 race Pro Mazda career.
Cunha’s consistency, he and Thompson are the only drivers to complete every lap so far this year, and pace, he has one the four quickest race laps in five races so far, should translate into a trip to the top step of the podium.
VeeKay, who is a single point behind his Juncos Racing teammate Cunha will hope to duplicate his results from last year. The Dutch driver, who won both USF2000 races at Road America last year, was the third quickest driver in testing last week.
The 17-year-old who has 15 career Mazda Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires podiums in 19 starts is looking to avoid going three races without a podium for the first time in his career.
Scott, David Malukas, Oliver Askew and Sting Ray Robb are currently ranked fourth through seventh and are separated by a scant 16 points. A dominant weekend by any of the quartet will bring them solidly into the championship conversation.
The first goal for Scott and Malukas will be to avoid each other. The pair has been involved in a couple of incidents together in the last two races that have cost them valuable points.
Scott, the reigning Euroformula Open champion has excelled at the first four road course races of the year, winning twice and finishing second on one occasion.
Malukas has clearly had the pace to compete at the front of the Pro Mazda field. The 16-year-old has started his last four races in 2nd, 4th, 3rd, and 3rd, but has two DNF’s two penalties and only one top-five finish.
The Chicago, Ill. native scored his first career Mazda Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires pole and podium at Road America last year and led the recent Pro Mazda test, so expect him to be near the front of the field this weekend.
Last year’s USF2000 champion Oliver Askew has started three races on the pole, but only has one podium to show for it. It would be unfair to call the 21-year-olds season a failure yet, but descriptors like disappointing and underwhelming are starting to feel appropriate.
Robb, a sophomore who is driving for Team Pelfrey, has shown solid race pace but needs to find that last few tenths-of-a-second, especially in qualifying if he wants to compete at the front of the field.
Robert Megennis (Juncos Racing) and Andres Gutierrez (Team Pelfrey) are two other drivers that could contend for podiums this weekend.
With two races ruined by mechanical issues, the 18-year-old Megennis, who scored his second podium of the year in the last race at Lucas Oil Raceway Park, is due some luck.
Guttierrez, who skipped the oval race, has shown the pace to contend for podiums but a combination of mechanical issues and mistakes mean the talented Mexican driver is still looking for his first Mazda Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires podium.
Fatboy Racing! and pilot Charles Finelli deserves a round of applause for coming home in the top ten in the last two races. Finelli has been working with sports car standout Kenton Koch as his driver coach and show marked improvement this season. Contesting the oval race at Lucas Oil Raceway Park was unexpected, but Finelli acquitted himself very well, keeping it clean and scoring an impressive seventh-place finish.
Making his stateside debut this weekend is Raul Guzman. The Guadalajara, Mexico Native spent the early part of this season and last season in Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0. In 2016, Guzman finished third in the tightly contested Italian F4 Championship.
BN Racing recently announced that Toby Sowery would be returning to North America to join their Pro Mazda squad. The 21-year-old made two starts in USF2000 with BENIK at Barber Motorsports Park but has extensive open-wheel experience in Europe.
Sowery, who ended the recent Road America test with seventh quickest lap, spent the past two seasons contesting the BRDC British Formula 3 championship. The British driver collected seven wins, four poles, and 21 podiums while finishing third and fourth in the hotly contested championship.
“Returning to competition in North America is something that I have been working towards for quite some time,” explained Sowery. “I can’t thank Bryn and BN Racing enough for the opportunity and look to make them proud at Road America.”
- After only starting on the pole on one occasion in the first seven Pro Mazda races at Road America, the race winner has begun on the pole in the last five contests.
- Ron White, the race winner in 2007, drove from 27th spot in 19 laps, passing an average of 1.4 cars per lap.
- The Pro Mazda pole sitter has finished on the podium in ten of 12 races at Road America.
- Last year’s second race, which Anthony Martin won by 0.1799 seconds over Victor Franzoni was the closest of the 12 finishes. The race has been decided by less than a second in half of the series visits to the 4.014-mile, 14-turn natural terrain road course.
Pro Mazda Grand Prix of Road America Presented by Cooper Tires shedule
1:15 PM – 1:45 PM – Practice
4:40 PM – 5 PM – Qualifying #1
8:40 AM – 9 AM – Qualifying #2
12:20 PM – 12:50 PM – Autograph Session
2:20 PM – 3 PM – Race #1
2:05 PM – 2:45 PM – Race #2