Mazda Road to Indy Heads to Road America
 June 19, 2018| 
  • Series News
Lights RA 2018 Advance Web

Double-Header Rounds on Deck for All Three Premier Development Series

PALMETTO, Fla. – Almost 50 drivers representing 15 different nationalities from around the globe will convene this week in rural Wisconsin, where all three levels of the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires open-wheel development ladder will feature a pair of races in support of the Verizon IndyCar Series’ Kohler Grand Prix at the historic Road America facility in Elkhart Lake, Wis.

The challenging and undulating 4.014-mile road course marks the halfway point in the season for Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda.

The Mazda Road to Indy is unique in the world of auto racing, each year providing prizes and scholarships valued at over $3.5 million to enable talented young drivers to progress all the way from the grassroots of the sport to the Verizon IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500.

There will be a poignant moment on Saturday when Indy Lights racer and reigning Pro Mazda champion Victor Franzoni paces the Pro Mazda race in his Indy Lights Dallara IL-15 in tribute to Illinois racer Jeff Green, who tragically lost his life during a vintage event last weekend at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. Green became both a close friend and supporter of the Brazilian during their time together at Juncos Racing last year in Pro Mazda. Team principal Ricardo Juncos will give the command to start engines.

Intense Action in Indy Lights
The effectiveness of Indy Lights is well proven. No fewer than 25 of the 33 starters in last month’s 102nd Indianapolis 500 had graduated from the top step of the Mazda Road to Indy. But in some ways the series has become a victim of its own success. This year three drivers – 2017 champion Kyle Kaiser, Matheus Leist and Zachary Claman DeMelo – and one prominent team, Carlin (which fielded four cars in 2017), have moved on to the Verizon IndyCar Series, leaving a significantly smaller field than usual. Nevertheless, both the quality and level of intensity remain high, as confirmed by a sensational six-car battle for supremacy during the recent Freedom 100 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Second-generation racer Colton Herta, from Valencia, Calif., emerged narrowly on top at the conclusion of the frantic 40-lap race, marking his third successive victory for Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing. Herta thereby leads the points table by a slim, six-point margin over Andretti Autosport teammate Patricio “Pato” O’Ward and is seeking to follow in the footsteps of his father, Bryan Herta, who secured the title in 1993.

Fellow teenager O’Ward, from Monterrey, Mexico, who finished second at Indy, will seek to emulate the form that took him to the top step of the podium in three of the first four races, while Uruguayan Santiago “Santi” Urrutia, third in the championship table for Belardi Auto Racing (after finishing second in both 2016 and 2017), hopes to repeat the race victory he claimed at Road America in 2016.

Teammate Aaron Telitz, from Rice Lake, Wis., also has high expectations after sweeping both races at his home-state track in 2016 en route to the Pro Mazda Championship.

“I always look forward to my home race at Road America the most,” said Telitz, who won twice during his rookie Indy Lights campaign in 2017 and has a pair of recent podium finishes to his name after a difficult start to his season. “For me, it’s the biggest race of the year. I get my family and friends to come out along with my biggest supporters from Rice Lake Weighing Systems. We made some serious gains at the series’ test last week and I feel really good about my Belardi Auto Racing car heading into the race weekend. I’ve been building momentum since my St. Pete crash and even though I had a gearbox issue at the Freedom 100, I feel like we’re really coming on strong as a team halfway through the year.”

Franzoni, too, carries some momentum into the weekend after topping the charts during last week’s open test.

“This is the kind of track I really like,” said the Brazilian. “We’re working on a car that’s fast and really suits me well, so I’m very confident going into the race.”

The Mazda Indy Lights Grand Prix of Road America Presented by Cooper Tires will commence with a 45-minute practice session at 9:15 a.m. on Friday, June 22, followed by 30 minutes of qualifying later in the afternoon at 4:55 p.m. to set the grid for Race One. A second qualifying session for Race Two will start at 8:00 a.m. on Saturday. The green flag for Race One is set for 12:05 p.m., with Race Two scheduled for 9:50 a.m. on Sunday, June 24. All times are CDT.

Coverage can be found on a series of platforms including Road to Indy TV, the Road to Indy TV App and dedicated broadcast channels on demand via Apple TV, Amazon Fire, Roku and the Xbox One Official App. Live streaming and live timing is available on the series’ website and indycar.com. Indy Lights is also featured on the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network broadcasts on Sirius 214, XM 209, IndyCar.com, indycarradio.com and on the INDYCAR Mobile app.

Sunday’s Indy Lights race will feature same-day coverage on NBCSN at 10:00 p.m. EDT.

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