This weekend around 50 young Indianapolis 500 aspirants, representing all three levels of the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires development ladder, will chase victory on the Brickyard’s 2.439-mile Grand Prix road course in a total of six races which will comprise the Royal Purple Synthetic Oil Grand Prix of Indianapolis supporting the Lupus Foundation of America.
It will be the first time since the season began in March on the streets of St. Petersburg that competitors from Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda will share the spotlight in support of the Verizon IndyCar Series cars.
For the second straight year, Royal Purple Synthetic Oil – the Official Oil of the Mazda Road to Indy – will support Lupus Awareness Month to help spread the word on this mysterious disease and raise funds for lupus research and education. Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that can damage any part of the body. It is estimated that 1.5 million Americans – and at least five million people worldwide – suffer from a form of lupus. All MRTI cars will display a special decal in support of the Lupus Foundation of America, and the hashtag #RaceToEndLupus will be utilized throughout the event. Fans, drivers and teams can show their support by donating via a special page on the national Lupus Foundation of America website – www.lupus.org/racing.
O’Ward Seeks to Extend Championship Lead
Patricio “Pato” O’Ward has taken the Indy Lights series by storm for Andretti Autosport. After dipping a toe in the water by contesting four races last year, O’Ward, from Monterrey, Mexico, who finished a close second in the 2016 Pro Mazda Championship, has won three of the four races held so far this campaign – and could have swept all four if not for a mistake in the closing stages of Round Two in St. Petersburg which gifted the win to Belardi Auto Racing’s Santiago “Santi” Urrutia. Undaunted, O’Ward bounced back to dominate both races last month at Barber Motorsports Park. The teenager, who won both Pro Mazda races at Indy in 2016, now holds a 16-point margin, 110-94, over Urrutia.
“Coming into Indy as the championship leader obviously is not a negative,” notes O’Ward, “but there is a long way to go, so I will approach this weekend the same way as I’ve been doing. If I know I have a winning machine, I will go for the win, but if I’m struggling for pace, which I hope I won’t be, then I’ll be smart and settle for as many points as I can get.
“I know the Andretti team will give me a rocket ship, as they have been the past couple race weekends, so I’m definitely going to try and continue this good winning streak. I know it won’t be easy but it can definitely be done. I will be on my A-game.”
Aside from Urrutia, who has finished second in the Indy Lights title chase in each of the past two years – and is desperate to win the championship and a Mazda Scholarship, valued at $1 million which will ensure entry into a minimum of three Verizon IndyCar Series races in 2019, including the 103rd Indianapolis 500 – O’Ward can also expect a stern challenge from Andretti teammates Colton Herta, Ryan Norman and Dalton Kellett. Herta, who races under the Andretti Steinbrenner banner, claimed a fastest race lap in USF2000 at Indianapolis as a 15-year-old rookie in 2015.
Aaron Telitz, aboard a second Belardi Auto Racing Dallara-Mazda IL-15, will be looking to continue his bounce-back after failing to complete so much as one lap in each of the first three races. Telitz already is a proven winner and has no intention of giving up on his title aspirations.