MONTEREY, Calif. – Dean Stoneman had to learn the layout of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, then he learned how to go around the picturesque 11-turn, 2.238-mile road course.
The Englishman topped the time sheets on the opening day of practice for the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires season-ending doubleheader -- the Soul Red Finale -- with a lap of 1 minute, 16.0981 seconds in the No. 27 Andretti Autosport car as practice came to a close.
CLICK HERE: Laguna Seca notebook; Visor cam lap of Laguna Seca with Zach Veach
"The first session was learning the track and the car. The second session was more about developing the car,” said Stoneman, one of six drivers with a chance to win the $1 million Mazda scholarship that provides a ride in at least three 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series races that goes along with the Indy Lights championship.
“We’ve got what we feel is a pretty good setup on the car. Temperatures and the conditions change quite a lot around here with the sand on track, it doesn’t help. Hopefully we can try to repeat this tomorrow and end the year on a high.”
Sean Rayhall, returning to the series this weekend with Team Pelfrey, and title contender Ed Jones of Carlin were second and third, respectively, on the overall time charts. Rayhall turned a lap of 1:16.3290 in the afternoon session, while Jones’ fast lap of 1:16.5086 stood up from the first session.
Championship leader Santiago Urrutia (Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian) was seventh, though neither he nor Jones opted to use a new set of Cooper ties in the afternoon practice session. Urrutia leads Jones by one point heading into Saturday's qualifying (12:20 p.m. ET) and the first of two weekend races (6 p.m.). All sessions in the three Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires developmental ladder are being streamed live this weekend on RaceControl.IndyCar.com.
Owen tops opening day of Pro Mazda practice
Juncos Racing picked up where it left off in 2015 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
Will Owen topped the opening day of practice for the Pro Mazda Grand Prix of Monterey presented by Allied Building products with a lap of 1 minute, 24.6770 seconds in the first of two sessions. His teammate Jake Parsons was second at 1:24.9709.
“I’m very, very happy and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca is one of my favorite tracks,” said Owen, whose team swept Pro Mazda races at Laguna Seca with driver Garett Grist last season. “Being up at the top is really awesome, but we can’t get complacent because tomorrow is going to be a really tough day.”
Championship leader Aaron Telitz led the afternoon session with a lap of 1:25.2311 after multiple issues in the first session limited the Team Pelfrey driver to only 16 laps for the day.
“The first session, I didn’t get a lot of laps in with a cut tire, clutch issues and an oil leak. You name it, it all went wrong in that session,” said Telitz, who leads teammate Pato O’Ward by 14 points in the standings. “But I’m glad it happened then instead of tomorrow. We’ve got all the gremlins sorted and I was able to go pretty quick in that second session, which was really my first session of the day. We still have things we need to do for tomorrow.”
Qualifying for the first of three scheduled races this weekend is scheduled for 11:35 a.m. ET Saturday, with the first race slated for 5:05 p.m.
Franzoni leads opening sessions for USF2000
Victor Franzoni has a slim chance to win the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda title, but the ArmsUp Motorsports driver is still intent on ending the season on a high.
The Brazilian led the way during the two practice sessions for USF2000 with a quick lap of 1:27.758 in the opening session.
Australian Luke Gabin of JAY Motorsport turned in the second-quickest lap, only two-tenths of a second behind Franzoni. Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing sophomore Parker Thompson turned in the third-quickest lap.
The Canadian, who trails teammate Anthony Martin by 21 points heading into this weekend's climactic doubleheader, was a quarter of a second quicker than Martin, who was sixth. Franzoni is 53 points behind Martin with a maximum of 66 points available.
USF2000 qualifying is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. ET Saturday, with the first weekend race at 7:05 p.m.