With the Mazda Road to Indy nearing the end of the 2017 season, the three series will compete in seven races this weekend at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio could very well determine who can win the championships and the Mazda driver development scholarship that goes with a title.
Each of the three current Mazda scholarship drivers comes into the race weekend in the top-five in points, and with a wealth of confidence. Aaron Telitz, last year’s Pro Mazda presented by Cooper Tires champion, brings momentum from a strong weekend in Toronto in the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires races.
“Mid-Ohio is one of my favorite race tracks,” said Telitz, who drives the Soul Red No. 9 Indy Lights car with Belardi Racing. “[It has] elevation changes, blind corners and really fast corners as well. It’s a lot of fun to drive, but in terms of racing, it can be frustrating because there aren’t a lot of heavy brake zones. I would say there’s only one heavy brake zone [at the end of the long back stretch] to pass. You won’t have a ton of opportunities to pass, so qualifying is very important.”
Telitz recorded second- and fifth-place finishes at the most recent Indy Lights races. He’s fifth in the point standings, but only 11 points behind third-place.
“It really translates to a lot of confidence,” the Wisconsin native Telitz said. “As a team, we haven’t had the best of luck, so to have two strong finishes at Toronto and having the speed to make moves during the race is a confidence builder for me and the team. I think we’ll be strong at Mid-Ohio.”
In the Pro Mazda category, scholarship driver Anthony Martin trails points leader Victor Franzoni by seven points, but has fond memories of his performance here last year. Martin earned three pole positions and three wins at Mid-Ohio on his way to the USF2000 championship with his Cape Motorsports team. This weekend, the Pro Mazda series will have three races.
“It definitely gives me confidence,” said Martin, who hails from Australia. “Knowing that I had a clean sweep weekend last year, I’m not too worried about learning the track. We’re really focused on getting the car spot-on and I know the Cape guys have a really good car. They also swept the Pro Mazda races there last year [with his then-teammate Nico Jamin], so hopefully with that combination, we should be well set.”
Martin, who drives the No.8 Soul Red Pro Mazda, has played a big role in working with his younger teammate Oliver Askew, who leads the USF2000 series point standings. Askew won last year’s Mazda Road to Indy Shootout which earned him a scholarship for this season. Askew has six victories so far this year in his No.3 Soul Red USF2000 car, and has tested the Mid-Ohio track in both rain and dry conditions.
“The guys at Cape Motorsports have done a great job of giving me the best car that they can,” said Askew. “My confidence is very high. We’ve been competitive everywhere we’ve gone and I’m looking forward to it.”
Askew credits Martin with helping him traverse his rookie season.
“[Martin] won the last USF2000 championship, so he’s been through it all and has a tremendous amount of experience in what I’m going through now,” Askew said. “I’m not competing against him, so we have a very friendly relationship. We’re always bouncing ideas off of each other. It’s very much a positive and I’m very thankful to have him on the team.”
Martin has enjoyed sharing his experience with the Florida-native Askew.
“We’re obviously very good mates,” Martin said. “He’s a Mazda scholarship driver like myself and we’re on the same team. He’s like a younger brother to me. He asks a lot of questions and I’m all for answering those as best I can, giving him all the knowledge I have. He’s such a good driver and he raises good questions. At Toronto, I wasn’t racing, so I was up there doing all I can to get every bit of speed out of him.”
The Mazda Road to Indy season will conclude September 1-3 at Watkins Glen International.
You can follow all of the MRTI action with timing/scoring and video via the Road to Indy mobile app and the official websites for each of the three categories this Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Mazda Road to Indy Races at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course
(All times Eastern)
Race One: 12:30 pm, Friday, July 28
Race Two: 12:10 pm, Saturday, July 29
Race One: 3:35 pm, Friday
Race Two: 1:05 pm, Saturday
Race Three: 10:20 am, Sunday, July 30
Race One: 3:35 pm, Saturday
Race Two: 1:20 pm, Sunday
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