By Christopher DeHarde, IndyCar & Road to Indy Writer
LEXINGTON, Ohio — Anthony Martin was challenged on Saturday. After finishing second to Victor Franzoni, Martin knew he had to win on Sunday, and win on Sunday he did in the final Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires race of the weekend at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
Martin started on pole with Franzoni in third. Martin made a statement early, setting fastest lap after fastest lap, while Franzoni had to get around Team Pelfrey’s Carlos Cunha for second.
Cunha did not let Franzoni pull away until the late portion of the race as the battle for second was the most entertaining during the middle section of the race.
As the race wound down, Martin set and reset fastest lap to further put an exclamation point on his rebound from a tough day on Saturday to let everyone know he was truly in charge, winning by almost 14 seconds over Franzoni with Cunha third, TJ Fischer fourth and an impressive drive by Sting Ray Robb to fifth.
Martin’s victory on Sunday was his fifth out of his last six races at Mid-Ohio dating back to the 2016 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda. He knew he had to win to get ahead in the championship and that’s exactly what the Australian did.
“The Cape (Motorsports) guys gave me an awesome car,” Martin said.
“They were telling me to slow down but the car just kept going faster and faster and I came over the radio and said ‘It just keeps going faster’ and they were just like ‘Okay, keep going’ and then so I just kept going and we just kept punching out lap times and I think my fastest was the second to last lap or something. I was very surprised, they were showing me the white flag and I saw the lap time on the dash and I was like ‘Jeez, this car’s fast!”
Franzoni wasn’t able to challenge but continued a 21 race streak of top-five finishes dating all the way back to the first USF2000 race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2016. Franzoni did not know about the statistic until told in post race media availability.
“I didn’t know that and now I’m a little bit happier and it’s really good,” Franzoni said.
“It shows that I’m doing a good job since USF2000 with another car and another team and now in Pro Mazda with another car, another team. I keep getting top fives so this is really good for me. I feel good about that.
“I think today we were unlucky because we had four sets of tires and this set is the set that I used in the first qualifying. We struggled a lot in qualifying and we were thinking it could be a bad set of tires. And now again it was terrible, it was so difficult to drive and we didn’t change anything in the car so I think we were just unlucky.
“It was still good because I managed to finish second so it could be much worse than that but I think for Gateway everything will be different. It will be another world, everything can change there but I’m excited for there a lot.”
Pro Mazda series officials have impounded the cars driven by Martin, Franzoni and Fischer. Their next race will be at Gateway Motorsports Park for the only oval in the Pro Mazda season.