- The reconfigured Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course drew rave reviews last week when the Verizon IndyCar Series teams tested for the first time on the challenging new 2.439-mile, 14-turn layout in preparation for the upcoming inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis. The next generation of IndyCar Series stars will have their own opportunity to join in the fun this week as competitors on all three levels of the Mazda Road to Indy - the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires - will be on hand for two races of their own on May 9/10.
Indy Lights cars competed on an earlier version of the Indianapolis road course from 2005 to 2007, but this week will mark the first time either Pro Mazda or USF2000 cars have raced at the venue, previously having only turned laps during the Chris Griffis Memorial Mazda Road to Indy tests in 2011 and 2012.
Enerson and Team E Racing Lead the Way in USF2000
RC Enerson, 17, from New Port Richey, Fla., will lead an extremely competitive 23-car field when the USF2000 series makes its debut at the hallowed Indianapolis Motor Speedway this week.
In an era when well-established multi-car teams tend to lead the way, it is in equal parts surprising and refreshing to note that the Floridian has taken a commanding early lead in the battle for this year's championship - and the accompanying MAZDASPEED Scholarship to progress into Pro Mazda for 2015 - with a tight-knit, single-car operation run by his father, Neil Enerson. The youngster currently holds a 41-point advantage over his rivals after earning three wins and one second-place finish from the opening four rounds.
Of course, Team E Racing has a solid pedigree in the sport, having fielded a race-winning Indy Lights campaign in the late 2000s and possessing a wealth of experienced personnel to assist Enerson's learning curve. He has taken full advantage of those resources - and his own experience gained over the past two years - by clinching the preseason Cooper Tires Winterfest mini-series and beginning the "regular season" campaign so assuredly.
The high school student hasn't always been the fastest driver this year - he has claimed pole in only one of the four rounds held to date - but his racecraft and consistency aboard the #7 Peninsula Pipeline/Patriot Bank/Tampa Bay Rays/Bell Helmets/Sparco Van Diemen-Mazda have been exemplary.
There are plenty of equally accomplished rivals seeking to knock Enerson off his perch, including Round One winner Victor Franzoni (Afterburner Autosport), from Brazil; Frenchman Florian Latorre, who took the pole at Barber Motorsports Park, and Jake Eidson (Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing); Aaron Telitz (ArmsUp Motorsports), who finally capped his prodigious speed with a hard-earned podium finish - and fastest race lap - in the most recent race in Alabama; and Canadian Daniel Burkett (Belardi Auto Racing), who also has come on strong in recent weeks, gaining confidence with an impressive couple of Formula Atlantic race wins at Road Atlanta and securing a pair of fourth-place USF2000 finishes at Barber Motorsports Park.
A brand-new team headed by veteran IndyCar crew chief and team manager John Cummiskey will make its debut at Indianapolis, fielding a new Van Diemen-Mazda for two-time Canadian F1600 champion Nathan Blok, from Beachburg, Ont., Canada.
In common with the other two Mazda Road to Indy series, the 23-car USF2000 field will commence the weekend with a pair of one-hour sessions during a Promoter Test Day on Wednesday, May 7. After two more practice sessions on Thursday, qualifying will take place at 11:00 a.m. on Friday, May 9, followed by the first of two 40-minute races immediately after IndyCar Series qualifying at 3:30 p.m. Race Two on Saturday, May 10, will commence at 11:00 a.m.