Indianapolis, Ind. – This evening’s rescheduled Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires race on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Grand Prix road course perhaps wasn’t the prettiest – other than through the eyes of Malaysian Weiron Tan, who held on to score his second win of the season for Andretti Autosport and vault from sixth to third in the championship standings.
Frenchman Timothé Buret, driving for defending champion team Juncos Racing, claimed the fastest race lap en route to his second runner-up finish in the last three races. Californian Neil Alberico extended his championship lead by a few points by finishing third for Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing.
Three caution periods interrupted the first of this week’s three Pro Mazda races – held as a makeup for Round Four last month at NOLA Motorsports Park which was postponed due to inclement weather. Tan, who started from the pole on a grid that was set according to second fastest laps from qualifying at NOLA, managed to get a great jump ahead of the pack, so led clearly into the tight Turn One from Buret, who had leapt from fifth on the grid to second.
Behind him, Pato O’Ward (Team Pelfrey) and Florian Latorre (Cape Motorsports), who had started second and fourth respectively, tangled at Turn Two, pitching the unfortunate Latorre into a lazy roll which ended with the 2013 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda winner’s MAZDASPEED scholarship car upside down in the gravel trap. The Frenchman was fortunate to emerged unscathed.
Tan withstood a strong move at the restart from Buret, who was edged wide at Turn Two, allowing Alberico, up from eighth on the grid, to dive past into second place. Not for long. At the end of the back straightaway, Alberico made his move for the lead on the outside, only for the door to be firmly closed at the exit, which resulted in Tan maintaining his lead and Buret regaining second position.
The yellow flags were out again shortly thereafter due to another incident in Turn Seven involving Dalton Kellett (Andretti Autosport) and Kyle Connery (JDC MotorSports). Then, following another restart and four laps of green-flag racing, the Pace Car was summoned again when Parker Nicklin (JDC) ran off course in Turn Nine. Following a rapid cleanup, there was time for just a one-lap dash to the checkered flag. Tan again timed his restart to perfection, leaving Buret in his wake and taking the checkered flag 0.5689 seconds to the good.
Alberico, who earned the RePlay XD Move of the Race Award for his impressive start, was content to settle for third ahead of his closest championship rival Santi Urrutia (Team Pelfrey), who again drove impressively after losing a lot of ground at the start and fighting his way from 11th to fourth at the close.
Garett Grist (Juncos Racing) muscled past O’Ward at Turn Seven on the final lap to snare fifth.
Bobby Eberle (World Speed Motorsports) finished 14th in the 21-car field to secure Expert class honors by just 0.4249 seconds over Bob Kaminsky (Kaminsky Racing), with Kevin Davis (JDC) a similar margin behind in third.
Scott Hargrove, who finished second in the 2014 title-chase and had secured a late deal to join JDC MotorSports, picked up the Quartermaster Hard Charger Award for finishing seventh from 16th on the grid. The PFC Award went to the winning team, Andretti Autosport, with the Staubli Award going to second-place finisher Buret.
Qualifying for the first of this week’s regularly scheduled two races – the Cooper Tires Pro Mazda Grand Prix of Indianapolis – will take place at 10:15 a.m. EDT tomorrow, followed by Race One at 2:00 p.m. Live timing and commentary for all sessions will be available on the new Mazda Road to Indy App and at promazda.com with live streaming on racecontrol.indycar.com.
Weiron Tan (#22 Andretti Autosport): “Watching footage from last year, I saw that Turn One was always chaos. Everyone is drafting each other going into Turn One; that’s the longest straight we’ve ever had. I had to be strategic and we got away with that. We needed the points this weekend. We’re a bit off the pace, so we did a good job to do whatever we could to stay in front. This is my first time here (at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway); I really like it. It’s unbelievably big – that was my first thought when I got here. It amazes me, I’ve never seen anything like this.”
Pro Mazda Championship