Indy Lights, Pro Mazda and USF2000 Teams Set for Four Days of Running at Homestead
PALMETTO, Fla. – Teams and drivers from all three levels of the acclaimed Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires will converge next week at Homestead-Miami Speedway in South Florida for an official Spring Training test. The four-day outing will comprise over six hours of testing for Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires competitors on the 1.5-mile oval on Monday, February 27, followed by two days of running on the 2.21-mile road course for the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, then one final day on the road course for Indy Lights on Thursday, March 2.
The Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires offers scholarships at every level for talented drivers to make their way from the grassroots of the sport to the Verizon IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500. A total of 23 of the 33 drivers who qualified for last year’s historic 100th Indianapolis 500 were graduates of one or more of the three open-wheel development series. More than $3.5 million in scholarships and awards are up for grabs during the 2017 season which will commence – in conjunction with the Verizon IndyCar Series – on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., on March 10-12.
2016 Title Contenders Urrutia, Kaiser Head Indy Lights Contingent
An intriguing mix of veterans and rookies are among a high-quality Indy Lights field, headed by Santi Urrutia, from Uruguay, and Kyle Kaiser, from Santa Clara, Calif., who finished second and third in the 2016 title-chase.
Urrutia, 20, sprung to prominence in 2015 when he claimed the Pro Mazda championship as a rookie, then, carrying the distinctive Soul Red Mazda colors last year, put himself in contention to emulate Pigot’s feat of claiming back-to-back Mazda Scholarships. Urrutia fell agonizingly short, by just two points, but now returns with a vengeance after joining Belardi Auto Racing which won more races (six) in 2016 than any other team.
Fellow veteran Shelby Blackstock, from Nashville, Tenn., will join Urrutia at the Indianapolis-based squad.
Kaiser, who will celebrate his 21st birthday on March 5, also has his sights set firmly on the championship – and a prize valued at $1 million which will guarantee a minimum of three Verizon IndyCar Series races in 2018, including the Indy 500. Kaiser won twice last year for Juncos Racing. Rookie teammate Nicolas Dapero, from Argentina, doesn’t have much experience but did claim a maiden Pro Mazda win at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca last fall to round out an impressive debut campaign.
The Carlin team, which last year added to its remarkable sequence of open-wheel feeder series championships in Europe by claiming a maiden Indy Lights crown with Ed Jones, will field a quartet of 450 hp Dallara-Mazda IL-15s for Californian Neil Alberico; relatively inexperienced Canadian Zachary Claman De Melo, who posted two fastest race laps during a promising debut Indy Lights campaign; Brazilian rookie Matheus Leist, from Brazil, who won the 2016 BRDC British Formula 3 Championship; and Pennsylvanian Garth Rickards, who steps up after two years in USF2000.
Andretti Autosport also will oversee four young chargers. Canadian Dalton Kellett, who finished on the podium last year in the Freedom 100 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, is the only one with prior Indy Lights experience but his three rookie teammates are all proven winners. Frenchman Nico Jamin was a dominant USF2000 champion in 2015, while Ryan Norman, from Cleveland, Ohio, romped to last year’s Atlantic Championship and Colton Herta, 16, whose father Bryan claimed the Indy Lights crown in 1993, won races last year in the EuroFormula Open series. Herta’s car will be run under the banner of Andretti Steinbrenner Racing following a new link between Michael Andretti and George Michael Steinbrenner IV, grandson of long-time New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.
Wisconsin rookie Aaron Telitz, who steps up to Indy Lights after following Urrutia’s lead by winning the Pro Mazda title in 2016, will fly the Soul Red Mazda colors with a team announcement expected shortly. Likable Colombian Juan Piedrahita will round out the field with Florida-based Team Pelfrey.
The entry list for the two days of testing is available here. Live timing of all sessions will be available on the respective series websites, indylights.com, promazda.com and usf2000.com, as well as on indycar.com and the Road To Indy TV App.