Palmetto, Fla. – Less than two weeks after thrilling road course encounters as part of the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis, all three steps on 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 return to the Indianapolis area this week for some oval track competition. The most senior level, Indy Lights, will perform as part of the “Carb Day” activities prior to the 98th Indianapolis 500 on Friday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the Freedom 100, while Pro Mazda and USF2000 will thrill the crowds on Saturday night at nearby Lucas Oil Raceway for the 69th Annual Visit Hendricks County Night Before the 500 and the Allied Building Products Pro Mazda and USF2000 Oval Challenges.
Championship leaders Spencer Pigot (Pro Mazda) and RC Enerson (USF2000) each encountered difficulties on the road course, resulting in their previously commanding point advantages being eroded dramatically. Both young men are anxious to return to their winning ways and rekindle their challenges for MAZDASPEED Driver Development scholarships which will assist the respective champions in moving up to the next level of the Mazda Road to Indy in 2015.
Slaghekke Leads USF2000 Test for Belardi Auto Racing
Picking a winner for Saturday’s Allied Building Products USF2000 Oval Challenge is likely to be no easy task. The tone was set during a one-day test on May 13 when no fewer than 16 drivers were blanketed by less than a half-second. Each of the three sessions saw a different team and driver at the top of the timing charts before rain intervened.
Dutchman Jeroen Slaghekke’s time of 22.3573 seconds, set during the first session for Belardi Auto Racing, stood as the fastest lap of the day, but not by much. Just 0.0737, in fact. In the second session, Slaghekke could manage only the 12th fastest time out of the 21 cars present – a scant 0.1761 shy of Brazilian Victor Franzoni’s time for Afterburner Autosport. Fellow rookie Jake Eidson, currently third in points driving for Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing, which is unbeaten in three races at LOR since USF2000 made its return to the charismatic oval in 2011, was fastest in the final period.
RC Enerson, 17, from New Port Richey, Fla., still leads the championship points table following an impressive early season run which brought three wins and one second-place finish from the first four races for family-run Team E Racing. His form stuttered slightly on the IMS road course a couple of weeks ago when he was restricted to seventh and 10th-place finishes, but Enerson still holds a handy 21-point advantage prior to the only oval race of the USF2000 season.
Frenchman Florian Latorre, in another Cape Motorsports entry, lies second in the points table and has claimed pole in each of his last two road course events, at Barber Motorsports Park and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
California native and Indianapolis resident Adrian Starrantino, winner of the most recent race at IMS, continued that form by running strongly in the LOR test, as did JAY Motorsports teammates Henrik Furuseth, from Norway, and 14-year-old second-generation racer Colton Herta. Potential front-runners also will include Belardi Auto Racing teammates Daniel Burkett, from Canada, and Nico Jamin, from France; IMS road course winner Will Owen (Pabst Racing), from Castle Rock, Colo.; and the ArmsUp Motorsports pair of Peter Portante, from Plainville, Conn., who finished third at LOR last year, and rookie Aaron Telitz, from Birchwood, Wis., who has scored a pair of podium finishes in his last three starts.
The anticipated 23-car USF2000 field will have three test sessions on Friday, starting at 3:00 p.m. Two more half-hour practice sessions on Saturday, May 24, will lead into single-car qualifying at 4:10 p.m. The green flag for the 75-lap (or 30-minute) Allied Building Products USF2000 Oval Challenge is slated for 7:40 p.m.