Ovals Beckon "Road" Racers

The second round of the Indianapolis tripleheader for the Mazda Road to Indy competitors begins on Friday – Indy 500 Carb Day – with the Freedom 100 Cooper Tires Indy Lights race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, then continues across town at Lucas Oil Raceway for the Cooper Tires USF2000 Powered by Mazda and Mazda Pro Championship Presented by Cooper Tires during the 69th Night Before the 500 on Saturday. Competitors in all three series face their first – and for the USF2000 racers, only – oval contests of the year.

Luis Razia claimed the pole for the Freedom 100, fresh off his win in the second of two races on the Indy road course. He sits second in the championship behind Zach Veach.

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.

In Pro Mazda testing at Lucas Oil Raceway, three different drivers topped the timing charts during a three-session, one-day test at the 0.686-mile oval on May 13. California-born Pigot, now a resident of Indianapolis, was the first to shine for Juncos Racing, returning to the form that had seen him sweep to victory in each of the first four races this season. Young teammate Kyle Kaiser, from San Jose, Calif., bested Pigot by a mere 0.0025s in Session Two, while man-of-the-moment Scott Hargrove, who swept both races on the IMS road course earlier this month for Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing, continued his strong form by posting the fastest lap of the day, 20.5274 seconds (an average speed of 109.610mph), in the final session before rain curtailed activities for the day.

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 by only 0.0737s. In the second session, Brazilian Victor Franzoni set the best 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.