On Memorial Day Weekend, the Mazda Road to Indy drivers all ran for the first time on ovals, albeit different ones. The Firestone Indy Lights series ran the Firestone Freedom 100 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Carburetion Day, while the Cooper Tires Presents the US F2000 National Championship Powered by Mazda, the Star Mazda Championship Presented by Goodyear, and the Mopar USAC Midget Series raced on the Night Before the 500 at the newly renamed Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis. This weekend all four series will again compete on an oval, but this time, everyone will be running at the same venue, the historic Milwaukee Mile, and all of the series are embroiled in heated battles for the championship.
US F2000 National Championship
In the US F2000 National Championship, Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing driver Petri Suvanto (139 pts) and Andretti Autosport drivers Spencer Pigot (123 pts) and Zach Veach (113 pts) are running away from the rest of the field.
“The ‘Night Before the 500’ was a good points race for me and we made up a lot of ground. Working hard and staying on the podium these next few races is going to be crucial to my championship challenge. I know it will be a battle all the way until the last checkered flag! Milwaukee is going to be a fun race especially with the full Mazda Road to Indy ladder series there. It gives us drivers another great opportunity to get in front of the fans and the teams.” — Zach Veach, #7 Andretti Autosport
While Petri appears to have a comfortable lead, and tons of confidence after winning three of the first five races, Luke Ellery demonstrated that it only takes being in the wrong spot at the wrong time to go from the lead to the wall in the blink of an eye. The Mile is a more challenging track than the 5/8-mile of Lucas Oil Raceway, and we could see more mistakes during the race. It could also lead to there being more racing action and passing.
Star Mazda Championship
JDC MotorSports’ Tristan Vautier (117 pts) and Team Pelfrey’s Connor De Phillipi (116 pts) are separated by a single point in the Star Mazda Championship going into this weekend’s race. While Connor has won two of the three races thus far, with Tristan taking the other, Tristan has been consistent while Connor had a difficult time at Barber Motorsports Park, finishing in 10th.
“I really like racing on ovals; it’s a lot of fun and it’s totally different from road courses in many ways. Once you get on track, the window you have to adapt your driving style to the car balance is much smaller than on a road course, so getting the perfect set up is even more crucial, and I know that my feedback and my work with the JDC guys is going to be an ever bigger key to succeed.” — Tristan Vautier, #5 JDC MotorSports
Connor’s teammate, Nick Andries (101 pts), also suffers from inconsistent results classifying in 16th after an early collision with Juncos Racing’s Tatiana Calderon. At Barber and Lucas Oil Raceway, Nick finished in second which significantly helped his chances in the championship. Nick is hounded by the Juncos Racing drivers Martin Scuncio (96 pts) and J.V. Horto (89 pts) They, too, have had an inconsistent start to the season. Mistakes are easy at Milwaukee, and the results this weekend could really mix up the championship standings.
Firestone Indy Lights
There are four drivers with a legitimate shot of chasing down Firestone Indy Lights points leader and Sam Schmidt Motorsports driver Josef Newgarden (151 pts): Sam Schmidt Motorsports teammate Esteban Guerrieri (125 pts), Team Moore’s Victor Garcia (121 pts), Andretti Autosports’ Stephan Wilson (121 pts), and O2 Racing Technology’s Peter Dempsey (111 pts). Newgarden definitely has the upper hand with a 26-point lead, and it would be difficult for any driver to catch up in one race, but as I mentioned above, all it takes is one mistake to end a driver’s day prematurely. Worst of all, especially on a tricky oval like Milwaukee, it doesn’t even have to be your mistake. Josef and Esteban looked VERY strong, which should be surprising given the dominating position Sam Schmidt Motorsports has routinely enjoyed in Firestone Indy Lights. Last time at The Mile, though, the Sam Schmidt crew struggled, so this might be a good opportunity for Team Moore, Andretti Autosport or O2 Racing Technology to gain some ground in the championship.