WATKINS GLEN, New York - Less than 24 hours after crowning its three newest champions, the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper handed out more than $2 million is scholarship prizes and maybe a lot more.
“Like I said yesterday in the interviews, you aren’t just giving out prize money, you’re giving hope,” said 2017 Pro Mazda presented by Cooper Tires champion Victor Franzoni. “The Mazda Road to Indy is just amazing.”
The season-ending celebration ceremony, held Monday evening at the Harbor Hotel Watkins Glen on Seneca Lake, honored top drivers from each of the Mazda Road to Indy's three series, including champions Oliver Askew (Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda), Franzoni and Kyle Kaiser (Indy Lights presnted by Cooper Tires).
One of the most competitive seasons for the development ladder saw the rapid rise of Askew, a 21-year-old Floridian driving for Cape Motorsports.
Less than a year after winning the Team USA Scholarship and the $200,000 Mazda Road to Indy Shootout to earn his way onto the first rung of the MRTI development ladder, Askew captured the USF2000 title. It delivered the team its astonishing seventh consecutive championship in the series.
“What a year it has been,” Askew said. “In the course of a year, I won three championships and without them I wouldn’t have been able to continue in the sport. My dreams that I thought were impossible have been made possible. It was an unforgettable year.”
Askew earned a scholarship worth nearly $400,000 to advance to Pro Mazda, the next stage of the MRTI ladder, in 2018.
This year’s Pro Mazda title came down to the wire between Franzoni of Juncos Racing and Anthony Martin of Cape Motorsports for the doubleheader event at Watkins Glen International. Franzoni, a 21-year-old Brazilian, swept the final two races to win the championship and secured a prize worth almost $800,000 to move up to Indy Lights next season.
“One week before the season started I found a ride, and it was the ride of my life,” Franzoni said. “Juncos Racing made me a champion and taught me everything I had to learn to be a champion, and it was an amazing year with those guys. This year was awesome and it ended the way we needed it end because this was my last chance (in racing).”
The final scholarship of the evening went to Kaiser, who earned the Indy Lights championship and secured a $1 million Mazda scholarship that awards him three races during the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season, including the 102nd Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.
"I’ve been part of the Mazda Road to Indy for five years now, and it’s been an eventful five years,” the 21-year-old Californian said. “I’ve had many ups and plenty of downs, but all of it has shaped me into the driver I am today. I’m proud to represent the Mazda Road to Indy and hope I’ve been a good ambassador for the sport.”
The MRTI Hall of Fame also introduced three new members: Bobby Oergel, a former USF2000 driver who is now team principal of PR1/ Mathiasen Motorsports, which has developed numerous standout drivers; former Mazda Road to Indy competitor and current NBC Sports broadcaster Anders Krohn and 1993 Indy Lights champion, former Indy car competitor and two-time Indy 500-winning team co-owner Bryan Herta.
Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires 2017 Award Winners:
Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires
Champion ($1 million scholarship) – Kyle Kaiser, Juncos Racing
Second place ($75,000) - Santiago Urrutia, Belardi Auto Racing
Third place ($50,000) – Colton Herta, Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing
Fourth place ($25,000) – Matheus Leist, Carlin
Fifth place ($10,000) – Zachary Claman De Melo, Carlin
Rookie of the Year ($15,000) – Herta
Tilton Hard Charger Award ($1,000) – Ryan Norman, Andretti Autosport
Team Championship ($15,000, plus $5,000 from SSTube) – Belardi Auto Racing
Hi-Tide Boat Lifts Kids on Track Spirit Award ($5,000) – Dalton Kellett, Andretti Autosport
Royal Purple “Slickest Pass” Award ($5,000) – Urrutia
Dallara Bent Pushrod Award ($2,000) – Carlin
Jostens Champion’s Ring – Kaiser
Freedom 100 Champion’s Ring – Urrutia
Mazda Road to Indy Rings (drivers contesting all three levels) – Nico Jamin and Aaron Telitz
American Racing Winning Driver Team Owner Trophy (set of street wheels) – Ricardo Juncos
Cosworth Champion’s Cash Award ($25,000) – Kaiser
Dallara Champion’s Parts Credit ($25,000) – Kaiser
Original artwork by Jim Swintal – Kaiser
Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires
Champion ($601,700 scholarship) – Victor Franzoni, Juncos Racing
Second place ($25,000) – Anthony Martin, Cape Motorsports
Third place ($12,500) – Carlos Cunha, Team Pelfrey
Fourth place ($7,500) – TJ Fischer, Team Pelfrey
Fifth place ($5,000) – Nikita Lastochkin, Team Pelfrey
BBS Rookie of the Year ($7,500 and new Mazda road car) – Martin
National Class Champion – Brendan Puterbach, Fatboy Racing!
Team Championship ($7,500) – Team Pelfrey
INDYCAR Mechanic of the Year ($1,000) – Tom Vasi, Team Pelfrey
Hi-Tide Boat Lifts Kids on Track Spirit Award ($5,000) – Bobby Eberle, World Speed Motorsports
Royal Purple “Slickest Pass” Award ($5,000) – Lastochkin
Carl Haas Auto Golden Wishbone Award – Team Pelfrey
Quarter Master Hard Charger Award ($1,000) – Franzoni
Jostens Champion’s Ring – Franzoni
Original artwork by Jim Swintal – Franzoni
Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda
Champion ($363,850 scholarship) – Oliver Askew, Cape Motorsports
Second place ($10,000) – Rinus VeeKay, Pabst Racing
Third place ($5,000) – Parker Thompson, Exclusive Autosport
Fourth place ($3,000) – Kaylen Frederick, Team Pelfrey
Fifth place ($2,000) – Calvin Ming, Pabst Racing
Rookie of the Year ($1,500) – Askew
Team Championship ($4,000) – Pabst Racing
INDYCAR Mechanic of the Year ($1,000) – Jay Green, Exclusive Autosport
Hi-Tide Boat Lifts Kids on Track Spirit Award ($5,000) – Thompson
Royal Purple “Slickest Pass” Award ($5,000) – Kory Enders, DEForce
Carl Haas Auto Golden Wishbone Award – Pabst Racing
Tilton Hard Charger Award ($1,000 product certificate) – Devin Wojcik, Arms Up Motorsports
Jostens Champion’s Ring – Askew
Original artwork by Jim Swintal – Askew