If you’re looking for a single standout weekend in Kyle Kaiser’s 2017 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires campaign, you might point to Mid-Ohio – because that’s about the only one where things didn’t go right for him.
The Californian came into the season with two years of Lights experience under his belt, coupled with all of the advantages brought about through the continuity of having been a Juncos driver since his second year of Pro Mazda in 2014. Expectations were high and he delivered, matching Matheus Leist with three wins, but overwhelming his Carlin rival on the consistency front, courtesy of ve podiums to the Brazilian’s one.
Key to Kaiser’s season was Toronto. Going into the weekend it was Leist who had the momentum after stringing together three victories from four starts, including a memorable win in the Freedom 100 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Needing to regain the initiative, Kaiser opened the Canadian weekend with pole position, and ended it with back-to-back wins. The consequent points buffer proved especially helpful when the next race at Mid-Ohio yielded only a pair of 12ths.
Kaiser went into the finale at Watkins Glen with such a huge points advantage that simply taking the green flag was enough to secure the championship. As his reward, he’ll spend at least three weekends next year as an IndyCar driver, including the Indianapolis 500. And with Juncos still working toward an IndyCar Series program of its own, there’s a chance that driver and team could make the leap in tandem.
“I don’t think it has really sunk in,” said Kaiser. “I can’t fathom what my emotions are going to be, walking on the stage when they’re introducing me to 300,000 people [at Indy]. It’s going to be amazing.”
The spoils of victor(y)
If the Mazda Road to Indy is designed to prepare IndyCar drivers of the future, then Victor Franzoni learned a lot of lessons about cut-and-thrust racing on his way to winning the 2017 Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires.
The Brazilian won six races and finished second in all of the others, but still had to wait until the season finale at Watkins Glen to nally secure the title ahead of last year’s USF2000 champion Anthony Martin.
“Both as a driver and personally, I’ve grown a lot,” Franzoni said. “I had to push myself 100 percent every time, and without [making] any mistakes. I had
to be perfect all season.
“I think [Martin] was the best and the worst guy to ght for the championship, because as a driver, he’s exactly like me – and that’s a problem. He’s really fast, he doesn’t make any mistakes. He’s good at setup, because they were fast all the time.
“It was like competing against myself. It was really dif cult. I think if it was any other driver, this season would be easy for both of us. If it wasn’t me, he would win, and I think if [he] was another guy, I could win the season easier.”
How well will the lessons learned from the intensity of this year’s ght translate at a higher rung on the ladder? With a scholarship for a place on the 2018 Indy Lights grid in his pocket, Franzoni won’t have to wait long to find out.
Get the full version of this story in the 2017 Formula 1 Issue of RACER magazine, on sale now.
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