MRTI notes: Martin focused on Gateway in Pro Mazda battle

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Anthony Martin knows the gameplan.

The reigning champion of Cooper Tires USF2000 powered Mazda, he sits three races away from duplicating that feat at the second step of the Mazda Road to Indy ladder in the Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires.

However, the Cape Motorsports driver is locked in an intense battle for the Pro Mazda title and must focus on this week’s race at Gateway Motorsports Park – the only oval event on the 2017 schedule. Going in as the overall leader by just four points over Victor Franzoni, Martin is relying on his experience from the series’ Aug. 10 test at the 1.25-mile oval and his USF2000 win at Lucas Oil Raceway last season to help carry him through.

“I reckon it’s going to be some good racing there,” said Martin, driver of the No. 8 Soul Red Mazda. “Probably it’s going to be more entertaining than Lucas Oil because it’s going to be a lot about slipstreaming. Obviously, it’s a very fast track.

“For us Pro Mazdas, being flat out all the way down the straights, there’s a big chance to slipstream, draft and everything. I think there’s going to be some pretty good racing, but with the (recent track) resurface as well, it’s extremely smooth.

“It’s definitely a lot easier to drive on than what it would’ve been when it was really bumpy. It’s just like glass. It’s just so smooth. It’s really good. I think the racing is going to be really intense, to be honest.”

A five-time winner in the first nine events this season, Martin’s journey hasn’t come without its share of frustration. He won two of the three races in the last round at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, but Franzoni won the middle race in controversial fashion when his Juncos Racing teammate spun in front of the front-runners and Franzoni was able to pass Martin for the lead.

The incident was the latest in what has become an incredibly intense battle between the two drivers chasing the championship and accompanying Mazda scholarship of nearly $1 million that allows advancement to Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires in 2018.

“On Sunday morning (at Mid-Ohio), it was mainly to do with the incident, but we all sat down in the (Pro Mazda) race director’s office in the trailer and just had a bit of a talk to clear the air, I suppose,” said Martin.

“It was good. We’re not going out there to take each other out or do anything stupid. We’re out there to get the scholarship money and win races. It’s racing and these rivalries always happen, no matter what class you’re in.

“I sort of expected it to happen sooner or later, and it’s happening right now. It’s pretty cool, it’s fun. I’m along for the ride and I’m enjoying it. I always love a bit of rivalry action.”

Martin is focusing on the task at hand instead of the rivalry in his quest to become just the second driver to win back-to-back championships in the first two levels of the Mazda Road to Indy. The only driver thus far to accomplish the feat was fellow Australian Matt Brabham.

“There’s a lot around this oval (at Gateway) that has to do with the driver and how you influence the car,” Martin said. “We’re just focusing on how I can try and make the car a little bit better and focusing forward because I have to go into Watkins Glen (site of the season-finale doubleheader weekend) with the championship lead.

“It’s not very often someone can win the USF2000 championship and then go up to Pro Mazda and also win that,” he added. “It’s always been something that you don’t see happen, so for me to be able to do that would be a huge accomplishment.

“To join Matty Brabham, who also did it, it would be pretty cool to join a fellow Aussie and accomplish that.”

Juncos Racing orders three new Pro Mazda chassis

Juncos Racing backed up its commitment to the Mazda Road to Indy by announcing it has purchased three Tatuus PM-18 cars, the new chassis that will debut in Pro Mazda next season. The Tatuus PM-18 features a full carbon composite and aluminum honeycomb monocoque manufactured by Tatuus Racing.

“We have been in the Pro Mazda series for nine years now and we would not be where we are today without this series,” said team owner Ricardo Juncos. “This series has not only helped drivers grow into the next level, but has helped us grow as a team and a business. We have grown from a Pro Mazda team only to an Indy Lights and Pro Mazda team and now we are expanding to include the Verizon IndyCar Series.

“The new PM-18 car will also help us grow our successful driver development program, which this team is based on, by providing a car that is technologically advanced.”

Juncos Racing entered Pro Mazda in 2009, winning four races and finishing second in the championship with driver Peter Dempsey. Since then, the team has seen current Verizon IndyCar Series drivers Conor Daly (2010) and Spencer Pigot (2014) win Pro Mazda titles.

Buffalo welcomes Piedrahita for Puerto Rican and Hispanic Day Parade

Juan PiedrahitaJuan Piedrahita, the Team Pelfrey driver in Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires, was an honored guest Saturday at the Puerto Rican and Hispanic Day Parade of Western New York in Buffalo.

While there, the 25-year-old rode in a parade float and met with many Hispanic residents of the area – including those from his native Colombia.

“I think it was awesome,” Piedrahita said of the parade and surrounding events. “I’ve never had such a good time here in the States. I was not expecting such a big event.

“When we got here, we saw the Colombian people and we got to say hi to them. You just feel their support and it was really nice. Then during the parade, it was awesome to see. I was really surprised to see how many Hispanic people live here, so it was great.

Piedrahita also used the event to convince many of his new fans to attend the Indy Lights season finale at nearby Watkins Glen International from Sept. 1-3.

“I’m really looking forward to racing in the Glen,” he said. “I think it’s a great track. I’ve never driven there but I’ve seen videos and it’s really fast. I hope all the Hispanic people come to the race.”

Holden to make USF2000 debut with BN Racing

BN Racing announced today that Zach Holden, a 17-year-old from Greenfield, Indiana, will make his Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda debut in the season finale at Watkins Glen International on Sept. 2

Holden is currently competing in the U.S. F1600 Championship, where he sits third in the standings with three race wins this season.

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