Through 10 races in the 2017 Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires season, two drivers have combined to win them all. With two races remaining – this weekend at Watkins Glen International – those two drivers are ready to put it all on the line for the series crown.
Victor Franzoni and Anthony Martin are separated by two points heading into the season finale doubleheader, with a Mazda scholarship worth nearly $800,000 to drive next season in Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires at stake.
It was Franzoni’s gutsy pass around the outside of Martin at Gateway Motorsports Park on Saturday that scored the race win and put the Juncos Racing driver back on top with his sixth victory of the season. The Brazilian is focused solely on doing more of the same this weekend.
“I’m not thinking about the championship because we are (essentially) even in the points,” said Franzoni, from Sao Paulo. “Now I just have to win. We are even. I just have to be in front of him, it doesn’t matter what. There’s not too much to think (about), just to do it.”
Martin, from Kalgoorlie, Australia, has the same mindset. The 22-year-old has four wins to his credit in 2017.
“I think regardless of the championship, you’re always fighting to win the race,” said Martin of Cape Motorsports. “You’re doing whatever you can do to get the most points you can. I think in that respect it doesn’t really matter (who’s leading the points).
“Watkins Glen, if you’re fast there, you can really clean up and get a lot of points. There’s two races on offer and a lot of points, so depending how that goes, it’s win or lose, so it’s going to come down to the wire.”
Franzoni, 21, likes his chances. With its long straightaways and high-speed corners, Watkins Glen’s 3.37-mile permanent road course is comparable to Road America and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, where Franzoni won three of four races this season and stormed from 15th to second in Race 2 at Road America after a qualifying penalty.
“We are really confident,” Franzoni said. “I think we will be really strong. We have a really good setup for fast tracks and I tested there. (Martin) didn’t, so that’s a plus for me, so I’m excited.”
Martin’s fourth-place finish in Race 2 on the IMS road course is his only result outside the top two all season. Franzoni has finished first or second in every race. Now it’s crunch time as each looks to move up to the top rung of the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires development ladder.
“You have to win, there’s nothing else about it,” said Martin, the reigning Cooper Tires USF2000 powered by Mazda champion. “You just have to win and beat your opposition. I’m going to go in there and strive to do my best there.”
Pro Mazda will conduct practice and first-race qualifying on Friday, with Race 1 at 11:30 a.m. ET Saturday and second-race qualifying later that afternoon. Race 2 to decide the championship is set for 7:55 a.m. Sunday. Both races will stream live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com.