Thompson drives to first USF2000 win in Barber opener

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Parker Thompson raced to his first Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda victory today, leading every lap from the pole position to take the checkered flag in the first of two Grand Prix of Alabama races at Barber Motorsports Park.

Driving the No. 5 Weyburn Energy Mazda for Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing, the 18-year-old Canadian thwarted an early challenge for the top spot and never looked back in winning the 40-minute timed race.

Brazilian Victor Franzoni (No. 9 ArmsUp Motorsports Rotary Systems Inc./Novac Sports Mazda) jumped from fourth place to second on the opening lap and hounded Thompson all 22 laps, but the Cape Motorsports pilot was able to widen his gap at the end to win by 4.2783 seconds.

“I got a really good start and I really needed that, because if you leave the door open here, someone’s going to take it,” Thompson said. “I saw in my mirrors that there was an orange car, which was Franzoni, so I knew I had to manage the gap.

“I pushed some and got fastest lap, but I knew that if a late-race caution came out, there were some aggressive drivers behind me that would take advantage. I had to make sure I still had enough Cooper Tire rubber under me and everything worked out perfectly.”

Thompson’s teammate, Anthony Martin (No. 8 Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing Burgess BLA Mazda) started alongside the pole sitter on Row 1 and rounded out the podium, followed by Luke Gabi (No. 91 JAY Motorsports Mazda) and Jordan Lloyd (No. 21 Pabst Racing Mazda).

Race 2 of USF2000 weekend starts at 6:35 p.m. ET Saturday (streamed live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com).

Grist wins pole in wet Pro Mazda qualifying

Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires qualifying was delayed by 20 minutes following a heavy midday rain, forcing the field to battle it out amidst changing weather and track conditions.

Team Pelfrey’s Aaron Telitz survived the challenge, posting a lap of 1 minute, 22.466 seconds in the closing seconds to edge Garrett Grist of Juncos Racing (1:22.480) to win the pole position for Saturday’s first race of the Mazda North American Operations Pro Mazda Grand Prix of Alabama doubleheader.

All drivers began the 20-minute session on wet tires. Grist (No. 5 Lander Property Management Mazda) sat atop the timing sheets as the clock began to run short, but in the final minutes, Team Pelfrey drivers Pato O’Ward (No. 80 GAP Guard Mazda), Weiron Tan (No. 81 Resorts World Mazda) and Telitz (No. 82 Rice Lake Weighing Systems Mazda) put slick tires on and rocketed to the top.

Grist responded with his best lap on slicks in the final minute until Telitz struck again with the pole winner.

“Awesome to qualify on pole here at Barber Motorsports Park,” said Telitz, who will lead the field to green for the first time in his Pro Mazda career. “My car was great even though the conditions were a little sketchy. There was some water in places, we were on slick tires, so it was tough, and we kept on getting quicker every lap. I managed to do the fastest lap at the end and that’s what counted.”

Race 1 begins at 5:30 p.m. ET Saturday (streamed live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com).

Jones tops Indy Lights practice speed chart

Carlin’s Ed Jones was the only Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires driver to complete a lap under 1 minute, 14 seconds in two practice sessions ahead of Saturday qualifying and the first of two Legacy 100 races at Barber Motorsports Park.

Jones’ fast lap in the afternoon was 1:13.9608 (111.951 mph) in the No. 11 Jebel Ali Resorts and Hotels Mazda IL-15. Teammate Felix Serralles (No. 4 Carlin Mazda IL-15) was second in the afternoon and overall (1:14.0412, 111.830 mph), with RC Enerson’s fast lap in the morning practice holding up for third overall (1:14.4437, 111.225 mph) in the No. 7 Lucas Oil/Curb Records entry for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb/Agajanian.

Indy Lights qualifying is set for 8 a.m. ET Saturday with Race 1 of the weekend at 1 p.m. ET. Both will be streamed live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com.

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