MRTI Mid-Ohio notes: Pro Mazda title fight drama builds

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LEXINGTON, Ohio – The Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires has been a close battle throughout the 2017 campaign, and it took a tumultuous turn in the second race of the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course weekend this afternoon.

After Anthony Martin claimed Friday’s win to close within three points of championship leader Victor Franzoni, Martin started from pole today and led the first 22 laps before running into trouble and losing the lead to Franzoni in controversial fashion.

While attempting to lap Jeff Green, Franzoni’s Juncos Racing teammate, Martin (Cape Motorsports) went wide at Mid-Ohio’s Turn 12 carousel, allowing Franzoni to slip past and into the lead. Martin and Green made contact in Turn 13, sending the latter spinning and bringing out a full-course caution. Franzoni held off Martin on the one-lap restart to claim his fourth win of the season.

“We won again, that’s what matters for us,” said Franzoni, who has finished first or second in all eight Pro Mazda races this season. “We are still leading (the championship). I lost some points in the first part of the week, but now I recovered a little bit. I’m good, I’m happy. Juncos gave me an amazing car for the race.”

Understandably, Martin was not as pleased with the result. He claimed all bonus points in Race 2 and only lost two points in the standings to Franzoni today, but was adamant they were lost through no fault of his own.

“The Cape Motorsports boys gave me an awesome car all day, even in the race,” said the Aussie. “We set fastest lap, we led the most laps. Getting taken out by Victor’s teammate is not the way you want it to finish, but hey, that stuff happens.

“Another race tomorrow – I’m on pole for that one as well – so we’ll just approach it the same as what I did today and I’m sure we’ll be fine. As long as this doesn’t happen again, we’ll be right.”

The final race of the weekend for Pro Mazda begins at 10:20 a.m. ET Sunday. It will stream live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com.

Urrutia claims third straight Indy Lights win at Mid-Ohio

Santi UrrutiaWith three wins in four previous races at the 2.258-mile permanent road course, Mid-Ohio had been kind to Santi Urrutia. With a dominant display today leading every lap from pole, the Uruguayan became the seventh different winner in Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires this season.

“I’m happy. I’m happy for the win and I’m happy for my team,” said Urrutia, who has endured a difficult season with Belardi Auto Racing that has seen him finish outside the top 10 five times in addition to five podiums heading into the weekend. “It’s good emotions. Good to be back at the top, especially for the team. They have been working a lot. I think we’re doing great work together.”

Urrutia was joined by Indy Lights rookies Colton Herta (Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing) and Nico Jamin (Andretti Autosport) on the podium, while championship leader Kyle Kaiser (Juncos Racing) struggled mightily, finishing 12th. Kaiser still maintains a 49-point lead heading over Herta into Sunday’s second race of the Mid-Ohio doubleheader weekend.

“I think we just need to do the same job that we did today,” said Herta, who will start on pole Sunday at 1:20 p.m. when the green flag waves (RaceControl.IndyCar.com). “We were super quick, and I think if we had clean air, we could have been quickest. Same job tomorrow, and just starting one place higher.”

Thompson goes wire to wire in USF2000 Race 2

Parker ThompsonSince a dismal run at Iowa earlier in the month put their championship hopes at odds, Parker Thompson and first-year team Exclusive Autosport have been nearly unbeatable in Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda competition.

Following a weekend sweep two weeks ago in Toronto and a second-place finish in Friday’s USF2000 race at Mid-Ohio, Thompson dominated today’s on-track action by leading every lap from pole en route to his third win in four races. Despite being mathematically eliminated from championship contention, Thompson and his first-year team have continued to show series-leading pace in the waning stages of the season.

“Midpoint of the season,” said Thompson, “I told this team if we just stick to the process, we stick to what we know, and the dedication we’ve been giving it since the start of the season, wins will come. Thankfully, the guys had faith in me to get the job done.”

Thompson was followed by Pabst Racing’s Rinus VeeKay and Team Pelfrey’s Kaylen Frederick on the podium, with championship leader Oliver Askew (Cape Motorsports) in fourth. With the season finale looming at Watkins Glen International on Sept. 2, Askew’s lead over VeeKay sits at just 13 points.

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