By Christopher DeHarde, IndyCar & Road to Indy Writer
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. — Ahead of the Soul Red Finale weekend at Watkins Glen, New York for the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires are two championship battles that are very close between two drivers and one that is close to being clinched. Let’s take a look at all three battles ahead of the four races this weekend.
Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires
Juncos Racing’s Kyle Kaiser has the easiest championship position this weekend for Indy Lights. Kaiser simply has to take the green flag and he will earn enough points by finishing last to win the championship. For the California native, his third season in Indy Lights has been marked by a remarkable amount of consistency with just one bad weekend at Mid-Ohio.
Behind Kaiser, Belardi Auto Racing’s Santiago Urrutia is the only driver with a shot at Kaiser but a near act of God would have to happen to Kaiser’s engine to get Urrutia the title. Plus, Urrutia would need nearly every bonus point available in order to win the championship and with odds like that, Urrutia better buy some lottery tickets if he wins the championship.
There’s no other changes to the Indy Lights entry list for this race compared to the vast majority of the season and that’s a good thing. Driver continuity is a major plus and instead of having many drivers start some races, every driver in this weekend’s entry list has competed in every race this year except for Team Pelfrey’s Juan Piedrahita in race one at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course because of a wrecked car.
Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires
Two points between two drivers and two races. That’s the big story in the final 2017 Pro Mazda race weekend of the season and it all comes down to Juncos Racing’s Victor Franzoni and Cape Motorsports’s Anthony Martin.
Franzoni and Martin have been in a league of their own almost all season long. With the exception of the second race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, the two have claimed every single victory and second place finish with both having five wins on the season. Martin’s fourth place at Indianapolis is the only oddity that has allowed Franzoni to take a two point lead.
Breaking down the points scenario, Martin has six pole positions to Franzoni’s three, Martin has four fastest laps compared to Franzoni’s five while Martin has led the most laps in six races compared to Franzoni’s four. That translates to 16 bonus points for Martin and 12 for Franzoni yet Franzoni leads the points 287 to 285, which is amazing.
Behind the two of them is the rest of the field, boosted by the addition of Robert Megennis to doing Pro Mazda driving duties for Team Pelfrey. Megennis will also be racing in USF2000 this weekend and as such is the first driver to race in multiple Mazda Road to Indy series in the same weekend.
Pro Mazda is the only Mazda Road to Indy series with two races at Watkins Glen.
Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda
Two drivers are separated by 13 points heading to the final race of the season in USF2000’s first race back at Watkins Glen in a very long time.
Cape Motorsports’s Oliver Askew leads Pabst Racing’s Rinus VeeKay by 13 points and must finish on the podium if VeeKay maximizes all bonus point scoring opportunities. However, there are three part time wild card drivers that could play a major part in this weekend’s activities.
BN Racing’s David Malukas came on strong at Road America, putting everyone on notice as he ran in the lead pack throughout the weekend except after the last corner of the last lap of race two as he spun off. ArmsUp Motorsports’s Alex Baron ran up front with Malukas on the streets of Toronto in race two until the two of them collided, collecting Askew in the process. Both have enough skill to run in the top five and make life difficult for Askew and VeeKay.
However, the third part time driver that could make this weekend interesting is Niall Murray. The 2016 winner of the Walter Hayes Trophy Race and Formula Ford Festival is making his American racing debut this weekend for Newman Wachs Racing and if the Irish driver does well enough then he will look better for an American drive in 2018.
Back to the points standings, behind Askew and VeeKay, Parker Thompson is locked in third place and Kaylen Frederick is locked into fourth in the standings.