ST. PETERSBURG, Florida – Robert Megennis and Oliver Askew reigned supreme in a same-day doubleheader Saturday to kick off the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda season and christen the new Tatuus USF-17 chassis.
Megennis (left), driving the No. 80 Palo Alto Networks Tatuus for Team Pelfrey, backed up his first career pole Friday to lead wire-to-wire for the win while holding off a strong charge from Askew (No. 3 Cape Motorsports).
Askew, the 2016 Mazda scholarship shootout winner, ran down Megennis in the final 10 minutes, mounting a charge going into Turn 1 on the next-to-last lap, but wound up 0.2617 of a second short at the checkered flag. Rinus VeeKay (No. 21 Pabst Racing) charged from 14th to finish third.
“That race was pretty intense, especially when Oliver and Rinus were right there,” said Megennis. “I was getting a little worried, but I held them off and got the race win.”
Askew redeemed himself in the afternoon, claiming the win in the second race of the day.
The 20-year-old from Jupiter, Florida, started second and took the lead when pole sitter Parker Thompson (No. 90 Exclusive Autosport) ran wide going into Turn 1 on a restart just past the halfway mark. Askew never put a wheel wrong the remainder of the race and took the win 1.2 seconds ahead of VeeKay, while Thompson fought his way back to third.
“At the start, I came out in second and started pacing him,” Askew said. “I was planning on relaxing, but then the caution came out and threw that plan out the window. Parker overshot the restart and then it was on from there.”
Martin wins Pro Mazda season opener
Anthony Martin kicked off his maiden Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires season with a dominating win in the first race of the St. Petersburg doubleheader.
The 22-year-old Australian, winner of last year’s USF2000 title to earn the Mazda scholarship and step up to Pro Mazda, got a clean start in his No. 8 Soul Red Mazda and built a steady lead on Juncos Racing’s Victor Franzoni (No. 23 Juncos Racing) after the first turn. Martin’s lead see-sawed as they navigated lapped traffic, but he kept the Brazilian at bay and crossed the line 0.5084 of a second ahead at the checkered flag.
“I knew if I got a good start I could keep him behind me because of the difficulty to pass,” Martin said. “Once I got in front of Victor, I was focused on hitting my marks and I think this helped keep him behind me. I knew he would jump at any opportunity, so I didn’t want to give him any.”
TJ Fischer (No. 82 Project O2) led a Team Pelfrey sweep of Positions 3-4-5, followed by series debutants Carlos Cunha and Nikita Lastochkin.
Martin will start Race 2 from the pole. It begins at 4:30 p.m. ET Sunday and will be streamed live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com.
Telitz dominates in Indy Lights debut
Aaron Telitz became the third Mazda scholarship driver to win Saturday by dominating the first Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires race of the weekend.
Telitz, who won the 2016 Pro Mazda championship on the strength of six wins, lead all 35 laps and only faced a challenge from the dive-bomb move of Juan Piedrahita (No. 2 Team Pelfrey Dallara IL-15) in the race’s first corner.
Telitz cleared Piedrahita and set sail, building an 11.03-second lead of by the checkered flag in his No. 9 Soul Red Mazda/Dallara IL-15 for Belardi Auto Racing.
“The start was a little hectic,” Telitz said. “I saw Juan come up the inside and let him go for it and hoped he’d run wide. Sure enough, he did and I went on from there.
“I knew I couldn’t let up or give up. I think I kept running approximately the same lap time the whole race because I knew if I backed off too much, that’s when you have mistakes.”
Colton Herta (No. 98 Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing Deltro Energy), the son of former Indy car driver Bryan Herta, fought his way to second place in his Indy Lights debut. Neil Alberico (No. 22 Carlin) claimed his first Indy Lights podium with a third-place finish.
The second Indy Lights race begins at 9:45 a.m. ET Sunday and streams live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com.