By Christopher DeHarde, IndyCar & Road to Indy Writer
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. — Victor Franzoni got closer to the 2017 Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires trophy and the Mazdaspeed scholarship by winning the first of two Pro Mazda races this weekend at Watkins Glen International for Juncos Racing.
The race began with Franzoni leading from the pole but Cape Motorsports’s Anthony Martin would take over the lead heading to the inner loop on the first lap. Martin would lead the first two laps but unfortunately the green flag wouldn’t last much longer.
Team Pelfrey teammates Robert Megennis and Nikita Lastochkin collided in Turn 9 on Lap 2, causing a full course yellow that took about ten minutes of green flag time off the race.
On the restart, TJ Fischer had a bad run coming through the esses and was swallowed up by the field, culminating in contact with him and Kris Wright in the inner loop. Martin still maintained the lead on the restart.
Lap after lap Franzoni would attack Martin but lap after lap Martin would rebuff Franzoni’s attacks, even as Franzoni got alongside Martin coming through the toe of the boot in the late stages of the race.
On Lap 12, Franzoni would get a massive run heading through the esses and got around Martin heading to the inner loop and would then set his fastest lap of the race.
From that point on, Franzoni would lead the rest of the way to score his sixth victory of the season ahead of Martin with Team Pelfrey’s Carlos Cunha in third.
“It was great,” said Franzoni. “I think I never thought so much in a fast space of time because when I was coming to the brakes I was a little bit in front of him but I wasn’t even a half car in front of him.
“In the bus stop, braking side by side almost from the outside isn’t a smart decision but when I was approaching him I was like ‘I’m going, I’m not going, I’m going, I’m not going’ and then right before the braking I was like ‘I’m going to go, I’m going to brake later, turn, use a lot of the curb and work it’ so it was a crazy move, kind of lucky but not too much thinking there.
“It was really important for me to win today to make sure I have enough points for tomorrow so it was really good. I had some good luck and it was nice. This race was one of the most important races for me.”
Martin has to win tomorrow in order to have any chance of the championship assuming Franzoni has issues.
“My car was super good in the first couple of laps there,” Martin said. “I was able to get a really good run on the start and make a move around the outside of him so that was really good and I was able to fight with him pretty much the whole race. He just had a little bit more (speed) than me so I wasn’t able to hold him off for too long. I’m a bit disappointed in that but there’s only so much you can do. We’ll move forward and work out where we can go faster for qualifying and make the car faster and put it on pole.”
Franzoni would have to finish second if Martin won tomorrow and scored every bonus point. Both drivers would tie on victories but Franzoni would win the tiebreaker with six runner-up finishes compared to five for Martin.
The final Pro Mazda race of the season is Sunday at 7:55 AM ET.