MRTI – Championship Battles Tighten After MidOhio
The Mid-Ohio IndyCar weekend is a special one to many of us here at OpenPaddock.net. Ok, two of us: Mr. Whitesell and myself. While we do enjoy the IndyCar action throughout the weekend, one of the true joys of the event is the variety and quantity of racing one gets to enjoy. The Mazda Road to Indy was fully represented with Indy Lights and Pro Mazda holding double-headers and USF2000 holding a triple-header. The multiple points-paying races meant that the championship standings could change dramatically, and there were indeed some changes! The final events of the 2014 season are going to be quite interesting and the championship battles may all go down to the final race.
“The race was really good for us. We knew we had to get a good start because it can be a little difficult to pass here. I took the lead on the start and held it and then the rain came so that made for difficult conditions. Running a rain line with slick tires was awkward but I was able to hold it out to the end. These are more points toward the championship and hopefully we will continue to catch up there.” — R.C. Enerson, #7 Team E Racing
“I don’t really know what happened the first few laps. It was all a blur really. I passed a few cars and I was able to pass my teammate after a couple of laps. We had a full course caution and by then I had moved up to second. I didn’t do too well on the restart and lost a position. We had another caution and I was able to get a good restart that time. I saw that Victor [Franzoni] and RC [Enerson] were battling pretty hard and I was hoping to take advantage of any mistakes they made and they did. It feels great to get my second win and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.” — Jake Eidson, #2 Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing
Sunday’s finale to the triple-header weekend saw a third winner in Florian Latorre. In contrast to Race #1 and especially Race #2, the third race of the weekend was held under perfect conditions, even if it had to be delayed until the fog had lifted enough to allow the medical helicopter to fly. With clear skies and a dry track, Latorre dominated the race winning from pole, leading all race laps, and setting the fastest race lap, sweeping all possible bonus points.
“The car was very, very fast and good throughout the race. The start was hard because RC [Enerson] gave me a lot of pressure. When I saw the caution come with three laps to go, I knew I had to stay focused and take a good restart to make a gap, but in the end the restart didn’t happen. It was a great weekend for us.” — Florian Latorre, #3 Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing
Enerson would finish on the podium, but fellow championship contender Jake Eidson would have a rough race only managing P8. With Enerson and Eidson both having poor finishes in one of the three races on the weekend, Latorre, who finished P2, P4, and P1, has stretched a lead. Right now, the championship standings are Latorre (277), Enerson (247), and Eidson (244). The season finale is at Sonoma Raceway (I still think of it as Sears Point), and the advantage definitely belongs to Latorre. Sonoma is a challenging circuit, though with big elevation changes and blind apexes. It ain’t over yet, folks!
“It was a tough race. I had to manage the start and all the restarts the best way I could and it worked. It was important to make a gap especially the first lap so they don’t draft me on the back straight. I managed to do that. The last couple of laps, I knew Ryan [Booth] was coming but I was kind of not pushing – I was just pushing in the places that I thought he might pass. It worked. It was tight but it worked and I am really happy for Team Pelfrey. They have done a cracking job for me the last three races that I have been with them. They really deserve this and I am really happy for my first win in the championship.” — Nicholas Costa, #82 Team Pelfrey
It was a tough race for championship leader Spencer Pigot of Juncos Racing and he would struggle from a mid-pack qualifying position and just fall short of the podium finishing in fourth. Fortunately for Pigot, his championship rival Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing’s Scott Hargrove would finish behind him in sixth.
“We got (Nicolas) Costa on the inside to Turn One, and we held (Kyle) Kaiser on the other side… from there, we never looked back. We had a great car with consistent laps, and if we needed to turn it up, I was able to. I’m so thankful to my Lander Property Management/DaVinci Foods guys for everything they did this weekend; I’m very happy to bring home the win for them and my family who made the trip down (from Canada) to support me.” — Garrett Grist, #27 Andretti Autosport
Spencer Pigot still holds control over the championship with 259 points over Scott Hargrove’s 245, but the Milwaukee Mile is not a forgiving oval. Spencer, having more experience in the Pro Mazda Chassis and with oval racing in general, I think will hold the advantage next weekend. Hargrove, on the other hand, needs to make sure to put in a solid performance at Milwaukee if he’s to have a chance at catching Pigot in the season finale at Sonoma.
“Today’s race was a little bit harder than yesterday. I think yesterday we set the bar and the other guys responded pretty well. My car was fantastic again. I am not sure what happened at the start but all I saw was Zach [Veach] and Gabby [Chaves] come through in second and third. These guys are on fire in the championship and they were the last two people I wanted to see in those positions. I had a good restart. They were also very fast and I was pushing as hard as I could at that moment just to be sensible, to be smart and not overwork anything. The car felt as good at the end as it did at the start so just a big thank you to all my team and my sponsors. I wouldn’t be here without them so this victory is as much for them as it is for me.” — Jack Harvey, #42 Schmidt Peterson Motorsport
Chaves still leads the championship with 431 points, but Harvey is closing in with 413 points. Veach is still within reach, in spite of dropping to third in the standings, holding 407 points. Like the Pro Mazda Series, the Indy Lights Series now heads to the Milwaukee Mile before wrapping up the season with a double-header at Sonoma. I think Chaves has the strong advantage going into Milwaukee. He’s the current leader, and he has swept both ovals this season winning at both Indianapolis and at Pocono. The real question is whether Harvey and Veach can keep in contact enough to challenge at Sonoma.