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Road To Indy on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course – Eves makes it four in a row to extend his USF2000 championship lead

By Steve Wittich

Braden Eves was able to survive three restarts and a quick teammate to start his rookie Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship campaign with four straight wins.

Only two other drivers in USF2000 history have won the first four races of the season. Jay Howard won the first six races to start the 2005 season and the next year, J.R. Hildebrand won the first seven races of the season. Both drivers went on to win the championship.

The 20-year-old scored 65 of a possible 66 points, only missing out on the point for the quickest race lap in Friday’s race, to grow his championship lead from 15 to 33 points

Braden Eves navigates the “esses” on the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course on the way to his second win at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Photo Courtesy Of Andersen Promotions)

“With Darren behind me at the start, I was able to give him a little more of a draft because he’s further behind in the championship, but that was about it – we’re teammates off track, and we help each other to get better, but it’s all on when we’re racing,” said the 20-year old. “I focused on what I needed to do and keeping him behind me. But it still hasn’t set in, my start to the season, especially since Darren has been right with me all through testing. Everyone at Cape Motorsports is working super hard, and they’re very good at what they do, and everything has worked in my favor so far. It was so cool to see all the fans out there today – it really puts it all in perspective on the cool down lap, when everyone is waving at you. It’s a great feeling.”

Darren Keane finally got a result that matched his pace. The veteran from Deerfield Beach, Fla. had the quickest lap of the race twice, and the second and third fastest in his other two starts.

“I finally figured out how to go for it on that last restart,” said Keane. “I had been a little conservative earlier in the race because Hunter was so close; I didn’t want to make a mistake. The car was different from yesterday and it took a while to figure out how to make it go fast. Now I know what to do when I’m in that position the next time. But I have been pretty mellow since everything that happened at St. Pete, and that’s why I think I handled what happened yesterday so well. When something bad happens, I just focus on what’s next, working on my mindset. It allows me to filter the bad stuff a lot easier, and while I’m super happy now, I know that I can do better, and I can build from this. Points make prizes, and I took some good points this weekend.”

$200K Mazda Road to Indy Shootout winner Hunter McElrea extended his podium streak to four to start his rookie season. Typically, that would result in leading the title hunt, but the American-born Kiwi’s impressive start has been muted by Eves equally scintillating start to the season.

“We’re only four races into a long championship, and we’ve had a pretty good start, aside from Braden winning all four races. I learned from yesterday; it was a race I should have won, but that’s in the past. It was a solid race today and good points, so we’re focusing on the long run. It’s very easy to look at something with a smaller mind like I did yesterday, but I am on the podium at Indianapolis. I’ve watched races from here ever since I can remember so this is a dream come true. Thanks to Mazda Motorsports for giving me the opportunity, Pabst Racing and all my supporters at home.”

Eves trip to victory lane was the ninth in 12 Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course races for brothers Nicholas and Dominic Cape. The St. Petersburg, Fla. based team now has 17 podiums at this event, ten more than their closest rival Pabst Racing.

The first of three Road To Indy races on the final day of the INDYCAR Grand Prix got the green flag at 9:15 am. The sun was shining, but the temperature was struggling to reach 50F.

The Cape Motorsports duo on the front row immediately lined up nose-to-tail and held the position through the treacherous Turn 1. Behind them, the other 19 drivers were able to get through Turn 1 cleanly.

The running order at the end of the first lap was Eves, Keane, McElrea, Crawford, Shields, Baron, Kaminsky, Dickerson, Miller, Barrichello, Famularo, Sundaramoorthy, Rasmussen, Gold, Bogle, Round-Garrido, Siegel, Tomaselli, and Cabrerra.

Zach Holden who was slotted to start sixth was not able to take the green flag due to a mechanical issue, and Manuel Cabrera, who started ninth was immediately off the pace and was forced to retire after seven laps with a mechanical issue.

The biggest mover on the first lap was Legacy Autosport veteran Baron who ended the first lap seventh after starting 12th.

Sulaiman’s run of reliable results began to unravel when he fell from fourth to eighth on Lap 2 after experiencing problems shifting. Things would only get worse from there for the DEForce Racing rookie.

Eves gapped Keane by 1.5 seconds as the pair of Cape Motorsports drivers started the third lap of the race. Keane had McElrea right under his rear wing.

Behind the front runners, Dickerson, Sulaiman and Miller were engaged in a good battle for seventh, that ended when the bright red No. 40 of Miller and the metallic blue No. 12 of Sulaiman fell down the running order to 18th and 19th respectively.

The first caution of the 20-lap race came out as the leader crossed the line to start Lap 6. Jay Howard Driver Development driver Matthew Round-Garrido had an incident in Turn 7. The AMR INDYCAR Safety Team got him restarted, and he came to pits where the Jay Howard Driver Development crew got him back on track.

The top ten when the yellow-flag came out were Eves, Keane, McElrea, Crawford, Shields, Barron, Dickerson, Kaminsky and Barrichello.

The green flag came out on Lap 7 and Eves was able to hold his lead over his teammate.

Eves turned the quickest lap of the race to that point on Lap 8 and held a 1.2 second lead over his teammate. McElrea was pressuring Keane, with a Crawford a safe distance behind them in fourth.

The driver on the move was a late addition to the field Dickerson who had moved to fifth.

On Lap 11, McElrea was able to get around Keane for second place.

The second yellow of the race came out soon after for an incident involving Miller who retired from the race.

The top 10 at that point were: Eves, McElrea, Keane, Crawford, Dickerson, Baron, Shields, Barrichello, Rasmussen and Famularo.

The green flag came out to start lap 13. On the restart Keane was able to get past McElrea to retake 2nd, Baron went by his Legacy Autosport teammate Dickerson for 5th and Rasmussen up to 7th

The caution flag came out for the third time on Lap 14 when Sulaiman spun in Turn 1 and was forced to retire due to contact. The Mexican driver was assessed an avoidable contact penalty for an incident with

At the same time, Shields fell down the running order, ending the race in 16th.

The top 10 when the field came back across the yard of bricks was Eves, Keane, McElrea, Crawford, Baron, Dickerson, Rasmussen, Barrichello, Famularo, and Kaminsky.

Keane looked to the outside of Eves on the long run down to Turn 1 on the Lap 18 restart but was not able to make a move.

Barrichello got the best restart, getting by three drivers to move into the top five, the rookies best result of the season.

Eduardo Barrichello makes the 90-degree right into Turn 1 on the way to his career USF2000 finish. (Photo Courtesy Of Andersen Promotions)

Eves lead over Keane at the white flag was 0.7 seconds. Keane had his hands full defending again from McElrea, but was able to hold him off to claim the middle step of the podium.

Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Grand Prix of Indianapolis Race #2 Results

RANK

CAR NO.

DRIVER

TEAM

GAP

1

8

Braden Eves

Cape Motorsports

20 LAPS

2

2

Darren Keane

Cape Motorsports

0.5455

3

22

Hunter McElrea

Pabst Racing

0.8253

4

52

Jak Crawford

DEForce Racing

1.6128

5

41

Eduardo Barrichello

Miller Vinatieri Motorsports

2.6663

6

14

Alex Baron

Legacy Autosport

3.7259

7

77

Dakota Dickerson

Legacy Autosport

4.1714

8

6

Christian Rasmussen

Jay Howard Driver Development

4.9963

9

28

Anthony Famularo

BN Racing

5.3663

10

23

Colin Kaminsky

Pabst Racing

5.7823

11

24

Bruna Tomaselli

Pabst Racing

6.7514

12

3

Reece Gold

Cape Motorsports

7.4462

13

21

Yuven Sundaramoorthy

Pabst Racing

7.5940

14

36

Nolan Siegel

Newman Wachs Racing

8.8770

15

7

Christian Bogle

Jay Howard Driver Development

15.9421

16

73

Cameron Shields

Newman Wachs Racing

-1 LAP

17

5

Matt Round-Garrido

Jay Howard Driver Development

– 2 LAPS

18

12

Manuel Sulaiman

DEForce Racing

– 6 LAPS

19

40

Jack William Miller

Miller Vinatieri Motorsports

-10 LAPS

20

90

Manuel Cabrera

Exclusive Autosport

– 13 LAPS

21

27

Zach Holden

BN Racing

DNS

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ANTONIO SERRAVALLE AND PSERRA RACING JOIN FORCES AGAIN FOR INDY PRO 2000 EFFORT

ANTONIO SERRAVALLE AND PSERRA RACING JOIN FORCES AGAIN FOR
INDY PRO 2000 EFFORT
“Canadian reaffirms Road to Indy efforts in 2019”
February 28, 2019 – Hailing from Unionville, Ontario, Canada, 16-year-old Antonio Serravalle is another confirmed driver in the 2019 Road to Indy program. Piloting a Pserra Racing entry in the Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, Serravalle joins the series as part of a father and son team, in conjunction with Jay Howard’s Driver Development (JHDD) program.

“The PM-18 car is an amazing car. It’s fast, and I really enjoyed the whole program in 2018 as the series is top notch and very professional,” explained Serravalle. “2018 was a year of learning new tracks and absorbing all that I could from engineers and team members. The car was unexpectedly fast, but I took it all in stride and worked on gaining as much knowledge as possible. I’m very excited about joining the 2019 grid with Pserra Racing and Jay Howard Driver Development. I’ve raced with Pserra Racing all my life on and off, and together we have had a lot of success.”

Competing in a partial Indy Pro 2000 campaign in 2018, Serravalle made the jump from karts to cars, skipping the first rung of the Road to Indy ladder, the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship. As a top contender in the shifter kart ranks around the world, Serravalle garnered race wins and championships in Canada, the United States and in Europe, and is one of only a handful of North American drivers that have claimed victory at the highest level on the world karting scene. Having never competed in a formula car before the 2018 season, Serravalle managed to secure multiple top-ten finishes, including an impressive eighth place result during his first oval event in May.

Pserra Racing is owned by Peter Serravalle, father of the young Antonio, and he will manage the engine and transmission side of the program. Daniel Mitchell will oversee the engineering of Antonio at each and every event weekend, while Jay Howard and his operation will provide paddock space, coaching, and other team services.

Serravalle continued “Jay Howard is a great mentor and driving coach who will help steer me in the right direction. His development program is second to none, and Jay has had a lot of personal success in the Road to Indy program. Having come from the professional level of karting to a pro in the IndyCar Series, Jay knows what to teach the young drivers both on and off the track and uses his experience to provide knowledge for the future champions of the sport.”

“This is a big step for the team but I treat it like a corporate business, with a lot drive and passion on a personal level,” explained Peter Serravalle. “My motive has always been that if you put the right staff together and work hard, success will come. We have a great engineer in Daniel Mitchell, who I was very impressed with the first time I saw him at work. He is very in tune with the driver and main focus is to get the most accurate feedback possible. Our mechanics have a ton of passion to win and believe in the driver, which make things run very smooth. They have a wealth of experience and knowledge in the Tatuus chassis and thousands of hours of work experience collected in Europe and North America.”

“My goals are clear,” added Antonio. “I want to win races! I know I can be the best and I have a few things on my side including my age level of experience, my mechanical knowledge, and a great team. I have been racing since I was eight years old in North America and Europe against some of the best drivers in the world. I’m positive I can be a top contender in the 2019 Indy Pro Series as I work towards my goal.”

Antonio Serravalle and Pserra Racing would like to thank Tycoon Capital Limited, Scuderia Ferrari Club of Toronto, Cos Shore Inc. -Medi- Scan, Ferrari & Associates, and Camptech II Circuits for all of their support in the past, present and future.

For information on press releases or other media services offered by Race Tech Development, please contact Mike Maurini via e-mail at Info@RaceTechDevelopment.com or 317.270.8723. Race Tech Development can also be found on Twitter at @RTDMediaAndMGMT as well as Facebook at their Race Tech Development Fan Page.

Juncos Racing expands to a pair of 2019 Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires entries with the addition of Sting Ray Robb

Indianapolis, Ind. – Juncos Racing is pleased to announce today that Sting Ray Robb has joined the team for the 2019 Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires.

Sting Ray is the second driver announced by Juncos to the reigning 2018 Indy Pro 2000 (former Pro Mazda) champions line-up.

Sting Ray Robb, a young 17-year old from Payette, Idaho, joins Juncos Racing after collecting one podium, four Top-5’s and recording the fastest lap at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg during the 2018 Indy Pro 2000 season.

“I am excited about the 2019 season as I return to the Road to Indy with the series dominator, Juncos Racing.” Sting Ray stated.  “Juncos has proven to be the best in the industry and will, I’m sure, be challenging me to sharpen and hone my race craft to even higher levels.  I am blessed to have the opportunity to be racing amongst this very deep and talented pool of competitors.  I plan to be extremely demanding of myself as I learn from this team and we progress together throughout the season.  I am confident that as a driver for their awesome team, we will see success at many levels.  I stand amazed at how I have seen God work in every aspect of my life.  I’ll keep Him number one in my life and I’ll drive that #2 car to all my God-given ability. Let’s go racing – Godspeed!”

Sting Ray made his first appearance with Juncos Racing at the 2017 Chris Griffis Memorial Test and just completed a very successful test session with Juncos this week in Sebring, Florida.

Team Owner Ricardo Juncos said, “We are thrilled to add another great talent to our Indy Pro 2000 line-up.  Sting Ray (Robb) showed a lot of potential in his first test with our team back in 2017. This past year he had great consistency on track and we are looking to carry that momentum into this season. I would like to thank Sting Ray, his family, and supporters for the opportunity to add him to our strong Indy Pro 2000 line-up.”

Source: Team PR

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Hunter McElrea to Pabst Racing for 2019 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship effort

MCELREA TO PABST RACING FOR 2019 COOPER TIRES USF2000 CHAMPIONSHIP EFFORT

19-Year-Old Australian Ready to Race in America with Two-Time USF2000 Team Champions

Oconomowoc, Wis. – If there’s been a driver who’s been beaming since late last year, it’s 19-year-old Hunter McElrea.

After all, he’s coming off a terrific 2018 that saw him win the Australian Formula Ford Championship on the strength of 13 wins in a 21-race season and a triumph in the third annual Mazda Road to Indy Shootout which awarded him a season scholarship in the 2019 USF2000 championship.

Excited and grateful, McElrea cannot wait for the USF2000 season to start as he joins Pabst Racing, the two-time consecutive USF2000 team champions.

“I am ecstatic to be on the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship grid this year in the Soul Red Crystal No. 22 Pabst Racing car!” McElrea said. “Without the amazing support from Mazda Motorsports and my personal sponsors, Doric NZ and Miles Advisory Partners, I would not be here, so I cannot thank them enough for giving me this amazing opportunity!”

McElrea embarked on his racing career at age 9 as he competed in go-karts. By age 17, the young racer graduated to Formula Ford, winning events in Australia and New Zealand.

Certainly, McElrea, who was born in the United States before moving to Australia, looks forward to his return to America in an effort to climb up the open-wheel racing ladder. After testing with Pabst Racing during the Chris Griffis Memorial Open Test last fall, McElrea looks forward to his new car along with his transition back to the U.S.

Notably, McElrea recognizes the distinctions between his drive from last year to the one he’ll become acquainted with on a full-time basis in 2019.

“The main difference from the Formula Ford I was driving last year is having a slick tire and aerodynamics,” McElrea observed. “This obviously means a lot more overall grip which I really like. Living in the U.S. this year is also a new adventure which I am enjoying a lot.”

One thing that McElrea will enjoy is the winning attitude and ethics that make up the foundation of Pabst Racing. With two straight team championships in USF2000, McElrea recognizes what he will gain along with valuable experience.

“I am extremely happy to be joining a top Road to Indy team such as Pabst Racing,” he noted. “I am really looking forward to putting the massive effort from the team and myself from the offseason to use, and I will do my very best.”

The team is equally thrilled to welcome McElrea.

“This announcement has been in the making for quite some time and we couldn’t be more excited to have a talent such as Hunter as part of our team,” said team owner Augie Pabst. “Mazda Motorsports has been a huge part of open-wheel racing for many years and we couldn’t be more honored to put this effort on the racetrack for 2019.”

Given his life experiences in Australia, McElrea looks to some international IndyCar superstars for inspiration along with a Formula 1 immortal who still resonates with young drivers.

“I obviously look up to guys such as Scott Dixon and Will Power in the current era, who both have achieved my dream of winning the Indy 500 and IndyCar Championship,” McElrea said. “Ayrton Senna would be my racing idol, but I look up to many others.”

For a driver like McElrea, he will have the opportunity to further showcase his prowess, potential and talents on various tracks currently on the NTT IndyCar Series schedule and the 0.686-mile Lucas Oil Raceway Park in Indianapolis, Ind.

Likewise, McElrea cannot wait to drive his No. 22 car on these respected venues that his inspirations have competed at over the years.

“I am looking forward to all of the tracks,” McElrea said. “Obviously, tracks with history such as Indianapolis, Road America and Laguna Seca are going to be special, but also experiencing street courses and an oval for the first time will be a great experience. I can’t wait!”

Fortunately for McElrea and Pabst Racing, the USF2000 season is just around the corner with a series test coming up at Homestead-Miami Speedway on March 2-3 before the season opener at St. Petersburg, Fla. for rounds one and two on March 8-10.

Until then, McElrea and Pabst Racing look forward to the 15-round USF2000 season in the pursuit of wins and this year’s championship. This international talent looks to achieve his dreams of becoming an Indianapolis 500 winner and NTT IndyCar Series champion.

Source: Team PR

Circuit of The Americas – Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires Test Session #2 – Oliver Askew leads the way

For the second straight session, the top three drivers were from the Andretti Autosport stable. After finishing the first session in third, Oliver Askew was able to leap his teammates with a lap of 1:54.3065. Julien Falchero, who led the first session of the day and veteran Ryan Norman were both just over two-tenths behind the 22-year-old Askew.

After a cloudy start to the day, the second Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires session began under a bright blue Texas sky. By the end of the 75-minute session, the ambient temperature was a comfortable 62F, and the track temperature was 79F.

The ten drivers turned a total of 508 laps between the two sessions with Falchero’s 58 circuits equating to the highest number.

The Belardi Auto Racing crew was able to get the gearbox of rookie Lucas Kohl repaired about half-way through the session, and the Brazilian was able to complete 15 laps.

The entire session was run under green flag conditions.

Combined timesheet from the first day of Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires at Circuit of The Americas

RANK CAR NO. DRIVER TEAM QUICK LAP DIFFERENCE TOTAL LAPS
1 28 Oliver Askew Andretti Autosport 1:54.306 –.—- 52
2 26 Julien Falchero Andretti Autosport 1:54.530 0.2238 58
3 48 Ryan Norman Andretti Autosport 1:54.538 0.2315 56
4 13 Zachary Claman Andretti Autosport 1:55.342 1.0356 54
5 79 David Malukas Juncos Racing 1:55.423 1.1168 52
6 27 Robert Megennis Belardi Auto Racing 1:55.498 1.1915 53
7 21 Rinus VeeKay Carlin 1:55.597 1.2908 57
8 11 Logan Sargeant Carlin 1:56.161 1.855 52
9 67 Dalton Kellett BN Racing 1:56.791 2.485 54
10 5 Lucas Kohl Belardi Auto Racing 1:58.645 4.3386 20

I’ll be back a little later with some of the driver’s thoughts and pictures.

MRTI at Gateway Motorsports Park – Saturday – an emotional Harrison Scott and RP Motorsport snag first Pro Mazda pole

By Steve Wittich

A blistering first lap of qualifying, the only lap above 140mph, gave Harrison Scott and RP Motorsport their first Mazda Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires pole. Scott was emotional after championship leader Rinus VeeKay was not able to knock the Englishman from the top spot, celebrating enthusiastically with his RP Motorsport team.

“Unbelievable,” exclaimed Scott when TSO Ladder asked him about winning his first career pole in the United States. “I did not expect that at all. Honestly, we come here yesterday with only a 30 minute practice session, and a team, a whole unit the first time we ever set foot on an oval was at Lucas Oil Raceway Park (LORP).”

An emotional Harrison Scott celebrates his and his RP Motorsport teams first MRTI pole ((Photo courtesy of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography)

Championship leader VeeKay was the last driver on the track, but couldn’t knock off Scott and will start on the front row of a Pro Mazda race for the fifth race in a row and the seventh time this season.

Parker Thompson, who trails VeeKay by 25 points in the chase for the $790,300 Mazda Motorsports Advancement Scholarship was not able to qualify. An electrical issue that cropped in the first practice was not able to be fixed in time to make their spot in the qualifying line. The No. 90 Exclusive Autosport machine will start shotgun on the field on the inside of the sixth row.

de la Vara was the first driver to take to the 1.25-mile oval under sunny skies and thick humidity at 11:30 AM on Saturday, August 25, 2018.

The Mexican driver turned in a two-lap average of 137.730 mph, which held the provisional pole until Scott’s pole run. The DEForce Racing driver’s two-lap average was only surpassed one more time, and the rookie will start his second ever oval race on the inside of the third row.

Scott was the sixth driver on track and withstood five attempts to knock him from the top of the timing screens. The 22-year-old driver turned a first lap of 140.191 mph, almost an entire mph over any other driver, but had a moment on his second lap.

(With a knowing laugh and big smile) “Yeah, said Scott. “I got to Turn 3 and Turn 4, and it was like I didn’t have any tires left, and the rear was coming away from me. I was just holding on and had to be hesitant as a result. The big first lap blew it away. Nobody else was even close to that lap.”

Scott, who was forced to miss the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course double-header, after a VERY tough weekend in Toronto finished his chat with TSO Ladder by telling us:

“I’m incredibly proud – from Toronto to here – emotionally it’s been very tough on me. I love this sport, and I want to be racing at the top. This is all I want to do.

“Coming from Toronto, which was a big set back. I did a lot of thing over the break. To come here and put it on pole shows what I can do and also what the team can do.”

Oliver Askew was the second quickest driver in practice on Friday and had the third fastest time in the morning session. Unfortunately, those on pit road could hear big lift and a squeal of his Cooper Tires in a Turn 2 moment. Askew will start the race in fifth.

David Malukas, who is fighting Askew for third place in the championship will start on the outside of reigning USF200 champion.

Championship leader VeeKay was the last driver on track and also the closest driver to knocking off Scott of the inside of the front row, but the Dutchman’s two-lap average of 139.551 was not able to get the job done.

Mazda St. Louis Pro Mazda Oval Challenge Presented by Cooper Tires qualifying results

RANK CAR NO. DRIVER TEAM QUAL AVERAGE GAP LAP 1 LAP 2
1 10 Harrison Scott RP Motorsport Racing 139.738 –.—- 140.191 139.287
2 2 Rinus VeeKay Juncos Racing 139.551 0.0861 139.245 139.859
3 12 Moises de la Vara DEForce Racing 137.730 0.9387 136.969 138.500
4 9 Robert Megennis Juncos Racing 137.691 0.9572 138.012 137.372
5 3 Oliver Askew Cape Motorsports 136.782 1.3915 137.288 136.280
6 79 David Malukas BN Racing 136.332 1.6088 136.459 136.206
7 27 Mathias Soler-Obel RP Motorsport Racing 136.325 1.6121 135.709 136.947
8 82 Sting Ray Robb Team Pelfrey 135.083 2.2191 135.442 134.727
9 8 Nikita Lastochkin Cape Motorsports 134.781 2.3686 134.602 134.960
10 83 Charles Finelli Fatboy Racing 133.660 2.9287 133.848 133.473

The 55 lap race is scheduled to roll off at 3:45 pm (local).

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MRTI Update #7 – Saturday – Entertaining Indy Lights race ends with O’Ward on the top step of the podium

By Steve Wittich

If you only looked at the boxscore for Saturday’s Cooper Tires Indy Lights Grand Prix of Toronto Presented by Allied Building Products, it would appear that Patricio O’Ward, who led all 35 laps had a relatively easy drive to his fifth Indy Lights race win of 2018. That was anything but the case.

“It was not an easy race – at all,” explained O’Ward to TSO Ladder. “It’s a good win for me, I’ve got the points lead and some good momentum heading into the second race tomorrow and Mid-Ohio.”

Adding: “I think so far this is the most physical track I’ve done. It’s super bumpy. It’s super hard to get everything perfect, and it’s so easy to put it in the wall. If you go over that edge, you’ll lose it.”

Pure emotion as Patricio O’Ward celebrates his fifth win of the 2018 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires series. (Photo courtesy of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography)

Urrutia, who scored his 32nd career Mazda Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires podium, had an eventful race, dropping four spots on the start, driving his way up to second, falling back to fourth after an ill-timed spin, and finishing on the second step of the podium.

Ryan Norman finished on an Indy Lights podium for the second time on a road course this season. The 20-year-olds solid finish solidified his fifth-place championship standing and moved him to within 20 points of Victor Franzoni in fourth.

“I had a good start and was up to third, but I was struggling to keep the car under me early on,” explained Norman. “The car came to me by Lap 10, and I was able to chip away at it. It was pretty wet toward the end, but my car felt good in the rain, so I was able to power down and keep it clean. It was just a matter of braking on the inside and staying away from the rubber on the main braking line. I could brake deep, and that’s where I made up most of my ground. I got a podium at St. Pete in the first race of the season, and it’s been a drought since then so it’s good to be back here. There’s something about street races, I guess – this is definitely one of my favorite places!”

Pole sitter Colton Herta ended the morning qualifying session in the Turn 8 tire barriers and unfortunately sustained a non-displaced fracture at the base of his thumb. He was fitted with a brace and cleared to race.

After a pair of pace laps, the front row of Herta and O’Ward brought the field the green flag with light raindrops visible on the in-car camera of Dalton Kellett’s K-LINE sponsored No. 28 Andretti Autosport race car. The air temperature was 77F, and the track temperature was 95F.

It appeared that pole sitter Herta got a poor start with the car stepping out as he got to the gas. That caused the inside line behind him to accordion and the bright red Belardi Auto Racing No. 5 made nose to tail contact with the points leader.

Herta’s engineer Doug Zister told the ADVANCE Auto Parts IndyCar Radio Network that Herta’s poor start was due to Urrutia lifting Herta’s rear tires off the ground.

After the race, Urrutia told TSO Ladder: “Colton didn’t go, I don’t know what happened. At one point I just went, and I hit him, and then Franzoni came from behind and hit me really hard and broke my front wing.”

The ragged start of the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires race (Photo courtesy of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography)

At the end of the first lap, the running order was: O’Ward, Teltiz, Norman, Herta, Franzoni, Kellett and Urrutia.

Herta and his teammate Norman went side-by-side through Turn 4 for the final podium spot, with Norman holding him off after having the preferred inside line going into Turn 5.

Herta made a move for the final podium spot in Turn 3 on Lap 3, and when they crossed the line to start Lap 4, he was 2 seconds behind Telitz, who was three-quarters of a second behind leader O’Ward.

After ten clean laps, O’Ward’s lead was 1.1 seconds over Telitz with Herta another 1.3 seconds back.

After 10 of the scheduled 35 laps, O’Ward had a 1.1 second lead over Telitz, who had Herta another 1.3 seconds back.

On Lap 11, the familiar black and teal No. 28 of the Dalton Kellett, the only Canadian in the field, nosed it into the tires in Turn 8. The Andretti Autosport veteran was able to get going on his own, avoiding a full-course caution and came to pit road where his crew put on a new front wing.

Herta started to pressure Telitz for the final spot on the podium and was able to get by him on Lap 13. Herta immediately began to push to catch his teammate up front.

Further back in the field, Franzoni and Urrutia were waging an entertaining battle for the fourth spot.

After 20 laps, O’Ward’s lead over Herta was 1.6 seconds. Teliz had dropped 2.1 seconds back from the points leader.

Herta had cut O’Ward’s lead to 1.4 seconds on Lap 22, but on the next lap the yellow flag came out for the Yankee Blue and White No. 98 of Herta, who made substantial contact with the concrete barriers at the exit of Turn 5.

We caught up with Herta later in the afternoon and while he was in obvious pain, the second generation driver wasn’t too down. With the bumps, he did think this was one of the worst tracks that he could have hurt his hand at. He said Turn 1 through Turn 3 and Turn 6 and Turn 7 weren’t too difficult for him, but the rest of the bumpy 1.786-mile, 11-turn Exhibition Place street circuit was tough.

At the same time, there were some reports from around the racetrack that it was starting to drizzle.

The running order under the race’s first yellow flag was: O’Ward, Telitz, Urrutia, Franzoni, Norman, and Kellett, who was one lap down.

On the start of Lap 27, the green flag came back out. O’Ward got a great jump, and behind him, Urrutia put pressure on his teammate Telitz.

The two Belardi Auto Racing teammates fought for two laps before Urrutia got a good run down Lakeshore Blvd. and popped to the outside. The Uruguayan executed an over-under move getting ahead at corner exit. The two drivers made slight contact, which damaged the front wing of Telitz.

The No. 9 came to pit road for a new front wing and ended up finishing ninth.

There were reports on a track that the sprinkles were becoming a drizzle, but Urrutia was quickly catching O’Ward. Urrutia appeared to use too much curb in Turn 8 while trying to catch O’Ward with his car doing a half-spin at corner exit.

Urrutia lost a pair of spots to Franzoni and Norman but was able to get by Norman in Turn 3. Franzoni was the first driver to get to Turn 5, and he told us that he oversteered on ice like concrete. The result of that was an overcorrection and a hard hit into the concrete barrier in the same spot that Herta hit.

The race ended under caution with O’Ward crossing the under the checkered flag ahead of Urrutia and Norman.

O’Ward’s win is the first Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires race win in Toronto for Andretti Autosport.

Cooper Tires Indy Lights Grand Prix of Toronto Presented by Allied Building Products Race #1 Results

The Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires series will be back on track for their final race of the weekend at 12:25 PM on Sunday.

The NBCSN Indy Lights broadcast will air at 6 PM on Monday, July 16th.

Don’t miss any of the action:

Indy Lights at Iowa Speedway – A quick post on what to expect during the race today

By Steve Wittich

Don’t forget that the Mazda Iowa 100 Presented by Cooper Tires race rolls off at 11:15 AM. Check the bottom of this post for ways to follow all of the action during the 100 lap race.

The four Andretti Autosport cars led the way during qualifying, and the starting line-up is as follows:
1 – Patricio O’Ward
2 – Colton Herta
3 – Ryan Norman
4 – Dalton Kellett
5 – Santi Urrutia
6 – Aaron Telitz
23 – Victor Franzoni

Every one of the drivers that we chatted with yesterday, said that qualifying didn’t matter on the 0.894-mile “bullring.” That fact was proven out last year when the podium started in 10th, 11th and 5th.

That being said, most drivers told TSO Ladder that they didn’t concentrate on qualifying during the first and only practice session. The race car they’ll need for the race is very different than the car they’ll need to be successful for the race.

“The race car is going to be totally, totally different; Aero and everything,” explained Patricio O’Ward after qualifying. “Tomorrow we’re just going to have to see how the race car is, but I hope it’s good and I’m sure it’s going to be.”

“I think if you can save your rear tires for the end, that’s what is going to give the advantage to people if they did it right. If they didn’t (nail the set-up) they are going to go straight to the back.”

O’Wards championship-leading teammate Herta, who is starting alongside of him agreed, telling TSO Ladder: “It’s a bit of an unknown here because it (tire degradation) is massive here, but I think we have a pretty good race car.”

Telitz, who will start on the outside of row three, told TSO Ladder that multiple lanes are available at both ends of the track and figuring out where your car is more comfortable will be the key to keeping your rear tires underneath you for the entire 100 laps.

A pair of Andretti Autosport experiment with different lines during Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires practice at Iowa Speedway (Photo courtesy of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography)

With 50% more points on offer, the difference between first and seventh is 24 points, making today’s just a little more critical. A win by O’Ward could move him past Herta or bring Urrutia and Franzoni within striking distance.

Don’t miss any of the action:

The Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires race will air on NBCSN at 11 PM (ET) tonight.

An extensive preview of the 2018 Pro Mazda Presented By Cooper Tire season.

The Pro Mazda Presented By Cooper Tire series will take to the streets (and runways) of downtown St. Petersburg, Fla. for the 15th and 16th time this weekend. It’s the fifth straight and seventh overall year that the series contests their first race of the year on the shore of Tampa Bay.

Previous race winning drivers and teams at the Pro Mazda Presented By Cooper Tire events in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Year Driver Team Start
2017 Race #2 Anthony Martin Cape Motorsports 1
2017 Race #1 Anthony Martin Cape Motorsports 1
2016 Race #2 Aaron Telitz Team Pelfrey 1
2016 Race #1 Pato O’Ward Team Pelfrey 1
2015 Race #2 Neil Alberico Cape Motorsports 1
2015 Race #1 Neil Alberico Cape Motorsports 1
2014 Race #2 Spencer Pigot Juncos Racing 1
2014 Race #1 Spencer Pigot Juncos Racing 1
2013 Race #2 Matthew Brabham Andretti Autosport 5
2013 Race #1 Matthew Brabham Andretti Autosport 8
2012 Race #2 Jack Hawksworth Team Pelfrey 1
2012 Race #1 Connor DePhillippi Juncos Racing 1
2011 Race Connor DePhillippi Team Pelfrey 3
2010 Race Conor Daly Juncos Racing 1

 

Race weekend basics:

  • The official name of the pair of races is: Pro Mazda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Presented by Allied Building Products
  • Saturday’s Race 1 is scheduled for 25 laps or 40 minutes
  • Sunday’s Race 2 – is scheduled for 30 laps or 40 minutes
  • Each entry is permitted to use three sets of new Cooper Tire slicks, and can also carry over one set that has to be used in
  • the first practice session of the event
  • Each entry is permitted to use three sets of new Cooper Tire rains.
  • Driver points are distributed as follows: 30 – 25 – 22 – 19 – 17 – 15 -14 – 13 – 12 – 11 – 10 – 9 – 8 – 7 – 6 – 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 – an additional one point will be awarded to the pole sitter, and to the driver who leads the most laps

A few things we’ll be watching this weekend.

  • The first one, and the biggest is the engine situation. This worrisome issue is something that we’ll hopefully not have to get into more detail on as the weekend progresses, but let’s just say that the 275HP Mazda developed MZR-PM18A have been expiring at an alarming rate. The series hopes that it has found the problem, and any engines that have failed due to that problem (crank-shaft) will be replaced at no cost to the teams. The series has a plan in place to replace the offending parts during the break in the action after St. Petersburg, but the engines will be running with a much reduced maximum RPM this weekend.
  • The second thing that we’ll be watching is how the set-ups and driving styles translate from the drivers with USF-17 experience vs. the drivers with experience with the previous Pro Mazda car.
  • The last thing that we’ll be watching is who finishes up front. The lowest that a Pro Mazda champion has finished in races held in St. Petersburg is fourth, and the eventual champion has won races in 2012, 2014 and 2016. Will 2018 be the next year that happens?

Breaking down the teams and drivers:

Team Pelfrey has won four of the last eight Pro Mazda Championships and will have the opportunity to make it five of ten with a talented line-up that includes sophomore Sting Ray Robb, with rookies Andres Gutierrez and Rafa Martins. TSO expects to see the trio of drivers all competing for race wins early and often.

The 16-year old Robb, who is managed by Pieter Rossi (IndyCar driver Alex’s father), finished his rookie Pro Mazda season in 6th place, with a best finish of fourth (on three occasions). The Idaho native, was impressive in testing at Homestead-Miami Speedway two weeks ago, ending the two-day affair with the second quickest lap. If Team Pelfrey has the new PM-18 sorted, expect Robb to lead the charge for the black and yellow liveried squad.

Sophmore Sting Ray Robb will look to improve on his sixth place Pro Mazda championship after moving to Team Pelfrey in 2018 (Photo courtesy of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography – Joe Skibinski)

“It’s an amazing atmosphere at St. Pete – you see kids hanging on the fences, people walking around eating hot dogs and having fun,” explained Robb, “It’s cool to be running right on the streets of the city, and all the drivers look forward to it. We were P2 in Spring Training at Homestead last week, and that’s a good start. The same techniques apply whether you’re on a road course or a street course, and I have more time in this car before the start of the season than I did last year, so that’s a big help.”

Guttierez, from Monterey, Mexico, made three USF2000 starts in 2017, finishing sixth in the season finale at Watkins Glen International. Guttierez had a busy 2017, contesting five FIA Formula 4 Nacam Championship races (with two wins and five podiums) and six IMSA Prototype Challenge races (winning twice and finishing on the podium in all six races).

The third member of the trio is 19-year-old Rafa Martins. The Brazilian, who was a world class karter, is returning to racing this season after taking a year off to get his funding sorted. Martins spent the two years before that racing in the British F4 series, standing on the top step of the podium five times and scoring a total of nine podiums. Martins told TSO Ladder that everything about the PM18 is new and very different from what he has raced in the past, but he does have Tony Kanaan to lean on for advice this year.

“He (Kanaan) started helping me this year,” said Martins to TSO Ladder. “He’s going to mentor me this year. I really appreciate that. It’s very good to have been behind me helping me. I’m very happy to be working with him.

Last year, Victor Franzoni fought a fierce battle against Anthony Martin, but was able to bring home Juncos Racing’s second Pro Mazda driver’s championship. The Speedway, Ind. based team signed three outstanding drivers in an attempt to defend the title.

The driver with the most experience that will be piloting the familiar green, white and orange liveried Juncos Racing cars is Robert Megennis. The New Yorker, who has was recently accepted into Butler University, spent the previous two seasons in USF2000 with Team Pelfrey. The 17 year-old won the first race of the season in St. Petersburg last year, and a total of nine top-fives. Megennis told TSO Ladder that the progression from the USF17 to the PM18 is natural. It also shouldn’t hurt that just had the opportunity to develop a new car last season.

Rinus VeeKay, the 2017 USF2000 vice-champion, makes a move up to Pro Mazda, after also testing Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires machinery at the Chris Griffis Memorial Test last October. The 17-year-old, who is mature for his years, won three races, had 12 podiums in 14 races, and impressively never finished lower than he started in an impressive first season in cars. However, the Dutch driver had some engine troubles during testing and might start the season behind some of his competitors that completed more test miles.

“My goals for the upcoming season are winning the championship and maximizing my potential physically and mentally,” said VeeKay. “These past weekends have certainly been disappointing. Not being able to gain experience or data has been difficult but I’ve been training harder than ever before with my trainer, Raun Grobben.

“I’m ready for St. Pete. It’s been on my mind for the entire offseason, and I hope we don’t experience the same engine problems down in Florida. Our team has worked incredibly hard, and I’m coming into this weekend ready for battle.”

Last, but not least is Carlos Cunha. The sophomore Pro Mazda pilot has made a smooth transition from the venerable Star chassis / Mazda Renesis combination to the PM-18, leading the recent two days of testing at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Cunha, Meginnis, and VeeKay will all be drivers to watch in 2018 and should be able to push each other.

At least, that’s what Cunha told TSO Ladder, saying: “Of course. VeeKay and Megennis are both good drivers. It’s always really difficult to always be ahead of him, but I’m trying to my best all the time. It’s really good when you have someone that can push you to the front. It’s amazing.”

The third returning team, Cape Motorsports, who has won seven straight USF2000 driver’s championships is still looking for their first in Pro Mazda. The St. Petersburg, Fla. based team, who joined the series in 2014, have had a driver finish second in the championship three times, and third during the remaining season.

Leading the charge will be Oliver Askew, who is gunning for his third straight Mazda Motorsports advancement scholarship had seven race wins, eight poles, 13 podiums and set four track records. Not bad for the 21 year-olds first season in cars.

Oliver Askew get buckled in – the 21-year-old from Jupiter, Fla. will be attempting to win his 3rd straight Mazda Motorsports advancement scholarship. ((Photo courtesy of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography – Joe Skibinski

Returning to Cape Motorsports, whom he drove for in USF2000 is Nikia Lastochkin. The Russian driver, who only started racing a few years ago when he took part in a Skip Barber racing school, is coming off his most successful season of racing. The 27-year-old had two podiums, and eight top fives on the way to a fifth-place finish in the 2017 Pro Mazda championship.

Joining the three returning teams, are four new teams. BN Racing, DEForce Racing, and Exclusive Autosport are moving up from USF2000, while RP Motorsport and their championship-winning pedigree are moving to the United States from Europe.

The Chicago Ridge, Ill. based BN Racing will enter two PM-18 cars for David Malukas and Kris Wright.

Wright, from Pittsburgh, Pa., contested races in both USF2000 and Pro Mazda during the 2017 season, and also finished second in the IMSA Prototype Challenge Series.

The 16-year-old Malukas split his 2017 between USF2000 and the Formula 4 ADAC (German) series but will concentrate his racing on this side of the Atlantic in 2018. The former stand-out karter has plenty of speed, leading the latest series test at Barber Motorsports Park last weekend, but will need to improve his race craft if he wants to contend for the championship.

After a successful first season of Mazda Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires competition in USF2000, the Angleton, Texas-based DEForce Racing will make the jump to Pro Mazda with English driver James Raven.

Over the past decade, Raven has been one the most successful Formula Ford racers in the United Kingdom. Winning 15 races, the 2014 Formula Ford Festival, and finishing third in the most recent Walter Hayes Trophy finale.

Raven has spent most of his career piloting a Ray chassis for Cliff Dempsey Racing. Cliff Dempsey’s son Peter, the former Indy Lights driver, is the engineer for the DEForce Racing squad and told TSO Ladder that on his dad’s recommendation they brought Raven to the United States for a Formula 4 test, and that went so well that the team decided to run him in Pro Mazda instead.

The third team that is making a move up the ladder is Canadian squad Exclusive Autosport, whose Pro Mazda team will be flying the Canadian Flag proudly all season with a Canadian two-some behind the wheel of the pair of PM-18s.

Parker Thompson, who has seven wins, six poles, and 18 podiums in Mazda Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires competition, finished the 2017 USF2000 season with the same team in third place. Thompson has been near the top of the timesheets in the last two official series tests at Homestead-Miami Speedway and Barber Motorsports Park, and with veteran, open wheel engineer Tim Lewis leading the team should be in the running for the $790,300 scholarship and a spot in Indy Lights.

Veteran Thompson will have the chance opportunity to mentor, Antonio Serravalle, his 15-year-old Canadian teammate. Serravalle will be on a steep learning curve, but the youngster is the most recent U.S. and Canadian KZ Shifter Kart champion, and anybody that can handle a shifter kart should have no problem adapting to Pro Mazda.

RP Motorsport, who call Milano, Italy home, have won five team and four driver championships in the Euroformula Open Championship (formerly the European F3 Championship) are making a move to the U.S. for the 2018 Pro Mazda Championship. The team, who are entering their 21st year of competition have based their Ameican operations at Newman Wachs Racing shop in Mundelein, Ill.

Harrison Scott, who won 12 of 14 races on the way to a dominant Euroformula Open Championship, will a be a driver to watch this season. It might take the team a few races to get a hold of the PM-18, but when they do, expect the 21-year-old to find the podium.

Harrison Scott chats with his RP Motorsport crew (Photo courtesy of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography – Joe Skibinski)

Joining Scott is his 2017 teammate, Lodovico Laurini.

Gateway Motorsports Park – Indy Lights race notes and results

By Steve Wittich

The first Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tire race at Gateway Motorsports Park in 14 years was an exciting one, with Juan Piedrahita and Santiago Urrutia trading the top spot four times. Urrutia took the lead for the last time with only one lap left.

Kyle Kaiser, who could have clinched the $1 million Mazda Motorsports Advancement Scholarship with a top two finish, ended up fourth, and only needs to start at next weeks finale at Watkins Glen International to guarantee him a seat for at least three races in the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series.

The 75 lap race started with Piedrahita leading the field to the green flag, and getting the jump on Urrutia. The 15 car field got cleanly through the first three corners, but trouble found a quartet of cars in Turn 4.

Colton Herta on the inside, slid up the track into Neil Alberico, turning Alberico’s No 22 Carlin machine around and sending the Californian on a wild ride through the grass between the track and pit lane entrance. Shelby Blackstock spun to the top side of Turn 4 in avoidance, and further back, Blackstocks Belardi Auto Racing teammate Aaron Telitz spun in avoidance. The Soul Red No. 9 of Teltiz made light contact with the SAFER Barrier and was forced to pit road.

The John Brunner led crew looked over Telitz’s car, but determined there was too much damage for the reigning Pro Mazda champion to continue, ending a 42 race streak without a DNF.

When the green flag came back out on Lap 7, the top five were: Piedrahita, Urrutia, Kaiser (who had moved up from his fifth place starting spot), Nico Jamin, and Zachary Claman DeMelo.

As the field came though Turn 1, Claman DeMelo found himself going on a wild ride through the grass, and the yellow flag came back out.

The top 10 when the field restarted on Lap 9 were: Piedrahita, Urrutia, Kaiser, Jamin, Colton Herta, Ryan Norman, Nicolas Dapero, Dalton Kellett, Matheus Leist, and Neil Alberico.

Kaiser went around the outside of Urrutia for second on the outside of Turn 1 and Turn 2, and behind them Leist, Dapero, and Norman went three wide in Turn 3.

Urrutia tried Kaiser around the outside of Turn 1 and Turn 2 on Lap 15, but could not get the pass done, but a lap later was able to get under the championship leader on the inside of the same complex of corners.

With 46 laps left to go, the winner of the first two oval races of the year Matheus Leist was the quickest car on track and got by Herta for fifth.

Urrutia took advantage of Piedrahita getting balked by lapped traffic to grab the lead with a last minute move to the inside into Turn 1. Just behind the first two, Kaiser had his hands full with Leist and Jamin, with Herta and Claman DeMelo also joining the fight.

With 26 laps remaining, Kaiser got high in Turn 1, allowing Jamin to go by at the South end of the track and Leist to drop the Juncos Racing veteran to fifth.

For the next dozen laps Urrutia’s lead over Piedrahita stayed constant right around one second.

After the race, Piedrahita explained to TSO that the two cars were fairly equal, but that he had the better car in Turn 3 and Turn 4, and Urrutia was better in Turn 1 and Turn 2.

The yellow flag came out for the third time on Lap 62 for contact between the No. 84 of Chad Boat, the No. 22 of Alberico, and the No. 11 of Garth Rickards. Boat who was on the inside, and Alberico who was attempting to lap the USAC star on the outside, made contact, sending both into the SAFER Barrier and collecting Rickards.

All three drivers were able to exit their cars without the aid of the Holmatro Safety Team, but the three Mazda powered Dallaras were hooked together, and MRTI Officials decided to red flag the race to take the time to separate the cars without damaging them.

After an approximately 15 minute red flag, the race went back to green with seven laps to go. Piedrahita was able to make a brave pass around outside of Urrutia.

Behind the front two Jamin made a lazy spin, forcing Leist, Herta, Kaiser and Dapero to make impressive evasive maneuvers.

Jamin’s No. 27 Andretti Autosport machine got high-sided on the curb, and the fourth and final red flag came out setting up one final restart.

The final restart took place with three lap remaining, and Piedrahita was able to get a great jump as Urrutia spun his tires behind him. Urrutia got a better exit off of Turn 2 and the two went side by side in Turn 3, Turn 4, down the front straight, and Turn 1, before Urrutia pulled ahead exiting Turn 2.

Urrutia was able to hold off Piedrahita to score his first oval win, sixth Indy Lights win, and ninth MRTI win.

Further back, Matheus Leist was forced to pit with a flat tire, promoting Dapero to the fifth spot.

Race results:

RANK CAR NO. DRIVER DIFFERENCE
1 5 Santi Urrutia 75 LAPS
2 2 Juan Piedrahita 0.4518
3 98 Colton Herta 0.9641
4 18 Kyle Kaiser 2.5437
5 31 Nicolas Dapero 3.0843
6 13 Zachary Claman De Melo 3.1337
7 28 Dalton Kellett 4.1024
8 48 Ryan Norman 6.4154
9 51 Shelby Blackstock – 1 LAP
10 26 Matheus Leist -3 LAPS
11 27 Nico Jamin -7 LAPS
12 22 Neil Alberico -14 LAPS
13 11 Garth Rickards -14 LAPS
14 84 Chad Boat -17 LAPS
15 9 Aaron Telitz -74 LAPS
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