Mazda Road to Indy at Mid-Ohio
One aspect of racing that I am passionate about is the Mazda Road to Indy. This is the future of IndyCar and a good barometer to the sports future is the health of these three series. I wish more fans paid attention to the ladder system. I realize fans come to see the big boys but IndyCar won’t get the best drivers if there is no development series. Think about the drivers that could have been in IndyCar if the MRTI had been around when they were developing their careers: Jeff Gordon, Kasey Kahne, Ryan Newman to name a few. This is one reason I made the commitment with this site to give these young drivers the opportunity to grow in writing and doing video. They need experience and support so that as they move up the ladder, they are confident in dealing with major media. It’s also an opportunity to get exposure, which the main media pays little attention to them, and gain some fans along the way.
It was a busy weekend for all three levels of the MRTI. I’m not going to take the time to post the results of each race as you can visit each levels website. There was drama in the first USF2000 race as two teammates from Team Pelfrey got together. Rickards and Gabin got tangled up and it ended Rickards day on lap 2. An early lesson is you never take your teammate out. You can race hard but don’t take them out. The driver that got hosed in both Pro Mazda races was Garett Grist. On the start of the first race, Urrutia jumped the start and race officials didn’t make them restart. How can the first place car not even lead the race before they get to the start/finish line? In race 2, Garett gets on the accelerator early (in race officials mind) and they yellow the start. To add insult to injury, Garett is given a penalty for jumping the start and they move him to start in last place. Wow!! If it was me, I would have been busting the door down on race control after the race and giving them a piece of my mind. In Indy Lights, Spencer Pigot and Jack Harvey got into each other in race 1. It looked like it would be a bad race for Pigot as he had to come into the pits and go to the back of the field. Harvey ended up having issues later in the race and Pigot finishes 3 places in front of Harvey. In race 2, more issues for Harvey who was not pleased with Seralles. At the end of the day, Pigot cut Harvey’s championship lead down to 6 points.
I was able to spend time with each of Open Wheels driver contributors this weekend. Ayla Agren and Garth Rickards
driver for Team Pelfrey. Mid-Ohio is Ayla’s favorite track on the schedule and her confidence was showing. She has learned a lot in her rookie season of USF2000. Garth Rickards has improved as the season has went on. He’s gone from finishing around 10th to finishing top 5. Garth is being mentored by none other than Bob Rahal and is sponsored by Rahal Automotive. Will Owen had the moves of the weekend in race 2 of Pro Mazda. He was making picture perfect passes going into the esses. Will plans to be back next year for his second season in Pro Mazda. His confidence has grown since I saw him at the GP of Indy. Michael Johnson competed in his first race since his nasty accident at St. Pete. The weekend was all about getting comfortable in the car again. He couldn’t train for a long time due to dizziness and eye problems. He worked hard once he was cleared to get back into driving shape. He’s an inspiration to many. Spencer Pigot was visibly frustrated with race one but is always cool as a cucumber. He’s putting all the pressure on Jack Harvey which is what he needs to do. Remember that this is Juncos Racing’s first year in Lights after making the jump from Pro Mazda. They are exceeding expectations and Spencer is very happy to be with the team.
I’ll leave you with this exciting news that came out yesterday is rule 6.2.3. IndyCar limited testing this year and all the teams have used up there testing, enter this rule. This rule allows IndyCar teams an additional test if they use an MRTI driver for 50% of the time with their full-time driver. What an opportunity for these young drivers. Here are the teams that are testing at Sonoma and the MRTI driver they chose:
Team Penske- Spencer Pigot, Nelson Piquet Jr.
Ganassi- Sean Rayhall
Andretti- Matthew Brabham
SPM- Jack Harvey