By Christopher DeHarde, IndyCar & Road to Indy Writer
SPEEDWAY, Indiana — At the track where he made his Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires debut two years ago, Victor Franzoni earned his first Pro Mazda win in dramatic fashion by out-dueling series points leader Anthony Martin.
The Juncos Racing driver started on the pole but lost the lead at the start to Martin. The Cape Motorsports driver held the lead for the next few laps while Franzoni gradually closed the gap.
On Lap 5, Franzoni got alongside Martin and stayed that was for the first four corners of the lap before Martin pulled ahead for the rest of the lap. The next time around, Franzoni and Martin got even closer, nearly touching on the main straight before Franzoni secured the lead.
Behind that duo, Team Pelfrey had third, fourth and fifth on lockdown for much of the race as TJ Fischer managed to get third from teammate Carlos Cunha while Nikita Lastochkin was in fifth for much of the race before Phillippe Denes secured fifth place near the end of the race.
For Franzoni, this victory brings the championship hunt closer to Martin at a track that gave him so many firsts.
“It’s great, it’s unbelievable, almost everything happened here, my first race in Pro Mazda was here, my first test with Juncos Racing was here, and now my first victory in Pro Mazda was here, so it’s awesome and this place is different, this city is a racing city, the people are racing people, it’s really nice to win here.”
“We were almost side by side the entire track fighting against each other so it was fun, and we respect each other a lot which is good,” Franzoni said.
Martin’s points lead shrank by finishing second at the track he got his first USF2000 win but he had a smile on his face thanks to the battle he had with Victor.
“It was very close, I think at one point our wheels were overlapped for a couple of corners,” Martin said.
“I don’t think you can get much closer than that. I’ve got some battle wounds on the car from Victor but that’s racing. I love it, it’s probably the best race I’ve had in a couple of years. That’s what I started racing for, because of those close proximity racing between other drivers and I’m glad to be able to have another one of those races again because even though I was second, I’ve got a big smile on my face because I’ve had a crazy amount of fun out there on the race track and that’s what we all love about racing,” Martin added.
For Fischer, the start was the most difficult part because of how close everybody was.
“It was great, qualifying second starting on the front row, I mean that’s always great in the Pro Mazda field at Indy,” Fischer said. “Sure enough, me and Victor got similar jumps and I was kind of going off of him and then I could see right away Anthony got on him and was bump drafting Victor on his tow hook and I was like ‘That’s the move, we’re not doing that!’ and I just said bye to everyone and got swallowed up by the entire field. It’s the nature of the beast here,” Fischer added.
Pro Mazda Championship Standings
Anthony Martin 91
Victor Franzoni 83