Mazda Scholarship driver remembers friend and mentor with victory at Road America
The passing of Jeff Green following an incident in an F5000 Lola during a vintage race at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park was a sad reminder that racing can be a cruel sport. But for the Pro Mazda Championship community and Victor Franzoni in particular, it was much more – it was the loss of a friend.
Franzoni, the 2017 Pro Mazda champion and current Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires competitor, would not be in his current position if it weren’t for Green. It was indeed a bittersweet moment when only a week after Green’s passing, Franzoni took his first Indy Lights victory at Road America for Juncos Racing – a win he dedicated to Green.
“Everything started with Jeff at the start of 2017 when Juncos sold all their Pro Mazda stuff,” says Franzoni of how Green became his teammate. “Jeff bought it to run in Pro Mazda. They did a test at Homestead, and after the test, he wanted Juncos to run him and also he wanted a teammate to compare data, to coach him, [and] to have someone helping him. Juncos called me and we made this deal.”
As a result, Franzoni had the opportunity to move from the Cooper Tires USF2000 Powered by Mazda, where he finished third in the points in 2016, to the Cooper Tires Pro Mazda Championship in 2017, where the Brazilian won the title and the Mazda Scholarhip to compete in Indy Lights that goes with it.
“We developed a good relationship,” Franzoni says of he and Green. “It was nice being his teammate and helping him. He took me two times to test – he was helping with everything he could. At the end of the year, I won the championship. If it wasn’t for his help going to Pro Mazda, I wouldn’t be in Indy Lights today.”
Franzoni remembers Green, who owned a couple of car dealerships in Peoria, Ill., as an easygoing guy who made life easier for everyone on the team.
“He was always super happy to be at the racetrack. All the time he was making jokes, and it was a really fun year. It was a perfect season for our team; there was no stress and everybody was happy,” Franzoni recalls.
The Road America win that he dedicated to Green helped put Franzoni in a better position in the Indy Lights championship, placing him fourth overall. Franzoni admits to some struggles this season, but he credits Juncos Racing with doing a stellar job this season, and hopes he can make continued improvements in the points. But regardless of how the season turns out, he knows Green would be proud.