Mazda Road to Indy Fields Set for Revived Gateway Oval Challenge
 August 23, 2017| 
  • Series News

PALMETTO, Fla. – Much is at stake as two of the three steps on the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires open-wheel development ladder – Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires and the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires – prepare for a brand-new challenge this weekend at the recently repaved Gateway Motorsports Park in Madison, Ill. Both series will hold races on Saturday evening in conjunction with the headline Bommarito Automotive Group 500 for the Verizon IndyCar Series, which will return for the first time since 2003.

Indy Lights also last visited the venue in 2003, while Pro Mazda will be making its debut appearance at the 1.25-mile oval situated just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, Mo.

Martin Vs. Franzoni Rivalry Takes to the Oval 
The battle for this year’s Pro Mazda crown, plus a Mazda Scholarship worth $790,300, looks like it will go down to the wire. After nine of 12 races, Australia’s Anthony Martin (Cape Motorsports) leads Brazilian Victor Franzoni (Juncos Racing) by a scant four-point margin. The pair has been separated by mere fractions of a second, and that trend looks set to be continued as they prepare for Saturday evening’s 55-lap St. Louis Pro Mazda Oval Challenge Presented by Cooper Tires.

The series’ only visit to an oval track this season will mark its debut at Gateway Motorsports Park, and the only single-race event on the schedule. It promises to be an intriguing contest.

The season began with Martin, last year’s USF2000 series champion, sweeping both races on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla. Next time out, on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Grand Prix circuit in Indiana, it was Franzoni’s turn to shine as he claimed a pair of comfortable victories. Since then the pair have shared the honors between them. Each won once at Road America, Wis., while the most recent triple-header round at Mid-Ohio was edged by Martin who claimed two wins to his rival’s one.

“My mindset is the same as Mid-Ohio – to maximize every championship point I can get,” said Martin. “I have to really focus on working with the team to make my car perfect from practice through to the race.

“We tested here two weeks ago,” continued Martin. “We learned a lot with the car and we were able to get faster and faster each session. The surface is brand new and it is soooooo smooth. It really is like a billiard table! I have never driven an oval that is high speed like this one so it is definitely different to be driving around corners at those speeds.”

The battle for third place in the overall championship also is being keenly fought – among Team Pelfrey teammates TJ Fischer, Carlos Cunha and Nikita Lastochkin, who are separated by just 16 points. Fischer, from Los Angeles, Calif., set out his stall early with four consecutive podium finishes, while rookies Cunha, from Campinas, Brazil, and Los Angeles-based Russian Lastochkin have made steady progress in their quest to challenge the leaders.

Payette, Idaho’s Sting Ray Robb, the youngest driver in the field at age 15, enjoyed the most competitive outing of his rookie season in the most recent race at Mid-Ohio, where he finished a strong fifth for World Speed Motorsports.

The Pro Mazda contestants will start their weekend with a 45-minute practice session on Friday evening. Qualifying will take place at 1:00 p.m. CDT on Saturday, followed by the 55-lap race at 4:55 p.m. 

Coverage of the Mazda Road to Indy 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 and Roku and, most recently, the Xbox One Official App as well as live streaming and live timing on the series’ respective websites 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.

 
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