Pro Mazda and USF2000 Head to ‘Night Before the 500’
 May 21, 2013| 
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Mazda Road to Indy Clinic and First-Ever Fan Fest Enhance Busy Week

PALMETTO, Fla. – The Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda return to racing action this week with the traditional Visit Hendricks County ‘Night Before the 500’ at Lucas Oil Raceway. Rising drivers on the first two levels of the Mazda Road to Indy will join the USAC Midget Series for a night of racing under the lights on May 25, the evening before the 97th running of the Indianapolis 500.

Following over five hours of combined testing for both series on Friday at the 0.686-mile oval located just outside Indianapolis in Clermont, Ind., Saturday’s packed schedule includes practice and qualifying rounds with the green flag for the USF2000 race at 7:40 pm followed by Pro Mazda at 8:25 pm and the USAC feature at 9:30 pm. 

The ‘Night Before the 500’ is the lone oval event on the 14-race USF2000 schedule and is the first of two oval races for Pro Mazda competitors on its 16-race calendar, preceding the Milwaukee IndyFest at The Milwaukee Mile on June 15.

Ones to Watch – Pro Mazda
Series points leader and MAZDASPEED driver Matthew Brabham set the pace in a recent test at Lucas Oil Raceway on May 11. Brabham, of Andretti Autosport and the reigning USF2000 champion, turned an unofficial lap of 19.904 seconds, besting the track record set by Connor De Phillippi in 2011 of 19.999 seconds.

Teammate Shelby Blackstock was second quickest with a lap of 20.314, followed by Diego Ferreira of Juncos Racing (20.363), Spencer Pigot of Team Pelfrey (20.379) and Scott Anderson also of Juncos Racing (20.461).

Brabham started on pole for last year’s USF2000 race at Lucas Oil Raceway and finished second to Pigot after an exciting side-by-side duel between the then Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing teammates.

Another driver on the radar is Anders Krohn, 25, who will be making his debut with Team Pelfrey. The vastly experienced Norwegian driver participated in only the final test session but was quickly up to speed posting the sixth best time overall with a lap of 20.485. Krohn is the 2010 Star Mazda Championship runner-up.

Ones to Watch – USF2000
As with Pro Mazda, it was USF2000 points leader Scott Hargrove at the top of the timesheets in testing on May 11. Hargrove, who contested a partial season of USF2000 in 2012 which did not include the Lucas Oil Raceway event, will be making his oval debut this weekend. His best lap of 21.478 was .156 seconds clear of Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing teammate Neil Alberico (21.634) in second. 

ZSports Midwest with Team E Racing’s young gun RC Enerson, who topped the second of three sessions, was third overall with a best time of 21.705, followed by Danilo Estrela of Belardi Auto Racing (21.744) and Stefan Rzadzinski of JDC Motorsports (21.806).

The entire field of 25 cars was covered by 1.174 seconds. Narrowly missing the top five in testing were MAZDASPEED driver Peter Portante of Belardi Auto Racing (21.811), Henrik Furuseth of PRL Motorsports (21.817), Matt McMurry of Belardi Auto Racing (21.918), Wyatt Gooden of Afterburner Autosport (21.986) and Jason Wolfe of Pabst Racing Services (21.992).

By the Numbers
With three wins in four Pro Mazda events to date, Brabham has amassed a 13-point lead over Ferreira, who also has been a model of consistency with one win and three additional podium finishes. Blackstock lies 23 points in arrears of Ferreira, finishing on the podium in the last three races and sitting on pole for the two most recent rounds in St. Petersburg, Fla.

In USF2000, Hargrove has a commanding 43-point lead after three wins and a second-place drive. Gooden lies in second after a pair of second-place runs with Jesse Lazare of Pabst Racing Services in third, only nine points behind Gooden, leading a string of drivers in a tight points battle.

Hometown Ties
Brandon Newey will have a busy week of activity. The 20-year-old Indianapolis native and Purdue University sophomore will not only be preparing for his USF2000 oval debut, but will be dividing his time between Lucas Oil Raceway and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway where he will be cheering on Bryan Herta Autosport, which is co-owned by his father Steve Newey. The team will be seeking its second Indy 500 victory after winning in 2011 with the late Dan Wheldon.

Pro Mazda and USF2000 teams with a short drive this weekend include Andretti Autosport, based in Indianapolis, and Juncos Racing and Belardi Auto Racing in Brownsburg. 

Results Equal Opportunity
Brabham and Hargrove will have the opportunity to drive their Pro Mazda and USF2000 entries at the famed Brickyard on Carburetion Day. As what has now become a tradition, the series points leaders will pace the Firestone Freedom 100 Indy Lights race.

The winners of the ‘Night Before the 500’ and Firestone Freedom 100 races will also have a moment to shine at the Speedway when they are interviewed on the Victory podium just prior to the start of the Indianapolis 500.

Drivers Head Back to the Classroom
Following Indianapolis 500 Community Day activities on May 22 which include an autograph session and on-stage Q&As, drivers will take part in the final phase of the Mazda Road to Indy Summit beginning with a Fitness and Wellness Course at PitFit Training hosted by owner Jim Leo.

On May 23, drivers will attend seminars at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Media Relationship Building with Curt Cavin of the Indianapolis Star; Performance Thinking with Dr. Jacques Dallaire of Performance Prime; Simulator Training with Kelly Jones and Peter Olrich of RaceCraft1; and Return on Investment with John Doonan, Director of Motorsports at Mazda North American Operations, and Dean Case, MAZDASPEED Motorsports Communications Officer. 

First-Ever Visit Hendricks County ‘Night Before the 500’ Fan Fest Scheduled
The Town of Brownsburg, Lucas Oil Raceway, Visit Hendricks County, Brownsburg Park and the Brownsburg Chamber of Commerce have teamed up for the first-ever ‘Night Before the 500’ Fan Fest on Thursday, May 23. Held on the town square in front of the Brownsburg Town Hall (61 North Green Street), the family-friendly event will feature autograph sessions with drivers competing in Saturday’s races; a local band; a game truck, bounce house and photo booth for children; food merchants; local vendors; and a silent auction of racing items.

The Fan Fest will run from 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm ET with the driver autograph session scheduled from 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm.

Indianapolis 500 Field Dominated with Mazda Road to Indy Ties
Over half the drivers in this year’s Indianapolis 500 have honed their skills in one or more levels of what is now the Mazda Road to Indy – USF2000, Star Mazda (now Pro Mazda) and Indy Lights. By starting position, these include:

1. Ed Carpenter (Indy Lights), 2. Carlos Munoz (Indy Lights) 3. Marco Andretti (Star Mazda/Indy Lights) 8. Helio Castroneves (Indy Lights) 9. James Hinchcliffe (Star Mazda/Indy Lights) 10. JR Hildebrand (USF2000/Indy Lights) 12. Tony Kanaan (Indy Lights) 13. Oriol Servia (Indy Lights) 16. Scott Dixon (Indy Lights) 19. Charlie Kimball (USF2000/Indy Lights) 22. Townsend Bell (Indy Lights) 25. Josef Newgarden (Indy Lights) 26. Graham Rahal (Star Mazda/Indy Lights) 27. Sebastian Saavedra (Indy Lights) 28. Tristan Vautier (Star Mazda/Indy Lights) 29. Ana Beatriz (Indy Lights) 30. Pippa Mann (Indy Lights) 31. Conor Daly (Star Mazda).

Of Note
Michael Johnson, who competes in USF2000 and is the only paralyzed racer on the Mazda Road to Indy, will have his 2014 Pro Mazda car on display at the Speedway in the Vets Help booth to showcase what is possible even when you are faced with a disability. Johnson’s goal is to race in the Indianapolis 500 and he will progress up the ladder to Pro Mazda competition next year with his JDC MotorSports team… Andrew Hobbs of ArmsUp Motorsports is another driver who will be turning some laps at the Speedway. Hobbs, grandson of former Formula One driver and current commentator David Hobbs, will drive Michael Andretti’s Kraco car in the Vintage Lap sessions taking place this Thursday and Friday.

Follow the Action
Live commentary and Timing & Scoring for the ‘Night Before the 500’ races will be available at usf2000.com and promazdachampionship.com. 

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