WATKINS GLEN, New York – Robert Megennis is doing the unprecedented this weekend at Watkins Glen International: pulling double duty by competing in two rungs of the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires.
Currently sixth in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda standings, the 17-year-old New York City native is driving in the season finale for that series while also making his debut in the middle rung of the MRTI development ladder, the Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires.
Megennis qualified sixth this afternoon for the first of two Pro Mazda races this weekend on the 11-turn, 3.37-mile permanent road course with a best lap of 1 minute, 45.7982 seconds (114.470 mph).
Both of Megennis’ cars this weekend – the No. 80 Tatuus USF-17 Mazda in USF2000 and the No. 84 Mazda in Pro Mazda – are Team Pelfrey entries sponsored by Palo Alto Networks. Megennis was eager for the opportunity to run both.
“It’s a similar driving style, but since they are completely different cars, there is a different way of approaching it,” Megennis said after completing opening practice sessions in both series. “The (Pro) Mazda feels a little bit edgier and you have to be more refined with all of your inputs. The USF car, you can thrash around a little bit more.”
Last year’s USF2000 rookie of the year, Megennis will have a home-field advantage with family, friends and other guests in attendance cheering him on. He hopes for the opportunity to play spoiler in either series as others battle for their respective championships this weekend.
“I would love to,” said Megennis. “In both series, if they (championship contenders) want to finish 1-2 in both races, I’d love to screw with that, see if I can mix it up. I don’t want to be the guy that determines the championship, but I would like to be right there with them.”
Megennis finished ninth and 15th in the two USF2000 practices today, with a best lap of 1:48.6359 (111.676 mph).
This was the first step in what could be a busy offseason for the 2016 Tilton Hard Charger Award winner. Megennis has plans to test in Indy Lights as well as the new Pro Mazda Tatuus PM-18, which is set to debut next year.
“Honestly, I’m not sure what I want to do for next season yet,” he said. “I think I’ll test both, look at my options and see what budget we can put together. If I can do (Indy) Lights, great. If I can do Pro Mazda, great. They’re both super fun series.
“I’m trying out the Pro Mazda just to see what it’s like. It’s one step above USF2000. I know it’s a different car, but it’s a similar feel. I’m just trying to figure that out.
“This is just for fun and experience, but we’ll see what I’m going to do for next year.”
Pro Mazda qualifying recap
Championship contenders Victor Franzoni (Juncos Racing) and Anthony Martin (Cape Motorsports) finished 1-2 in qualifying today for the first race of the Pro Mazda doubleheader weekend. Franzoni, who leads Martin by two points, clocked a fast lap of 1:42.4376 (118.119 mph) that was nearly eight-tenths of a second quicker than Martin.
The first Pro Mazda race starts at 11:30 a.m. ET Saturday, with Race qualifying at 5:30 p.m. Both sessions stream live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com.
USF2000 practice recap
Pabst Racing drivers led both practice sessions today at Watkins Glen. Rinus VeeKay led the first practice with a lap of 1:47.0341 (113.347 mph). Teammate Calvin Ming paced the second practice with the fastest overall lap of the day, 1:46.6850 (113.718 mph).
VeeKay, who trails Oliver Askew (Cape Motorsports) by 13 points heading into Saturday’s USF2000 finale, opted not to turn any laps at speed in the second practice. Askew ran third in both sessions.
USF2000 qualifying takes place at 8 a.m. Saturday, with the race to determine the champion starting at 1:15 p.m.
Indy Lights practice recap
Shelby Blackstock led opening practice for the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires season finale, pacing the 14-car field with a lap of 1:32.7903 (130.746 mph) in the No. 51 Belardi Auto Racing Mazda Dallara IL-15.
Colton Herta was second in the No. 98 Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing entry at 1:32.9955 (130.458 mph). Kyle Kaiser of Juncos Racing, who will clinch the championship by starting the race, was seventh in practice.
Indy Lights qualifying is at 2:45 p.m. Saturday and the race is set for 10:50 a.m. Sunday. Both sessions will stream live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com.