MRTI OBSERVATIONS: Sunday at Barber Motorsports Park
The wet weather may have made for a slippery track, but both Mazda Road to Indy divisions delivered with the action.
Kicking off the show with the Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires, mistakes proved costly for a couple drivers on the tricky 17-turn road course. Both David Malukas and Carlos Cunha lost spots on the initial start, but Parker Thompson stood out more as a slip up entering turn five cost him the lead. With his pace remaining on point the rest of the way, including a period of being all over Harrison Scott’s bumper, it’s now a classic what if scenario. You can’t complain about the weekend, though, with a win and a runner-up.
Andres Guitierrez looked to be the most impressive in the conditions, highlighted by a masterful pass on Scott for the lead. Of course, that won’t be what is remembered. Instead, a lot of people will probably recall when he got out of line on the wet conditions, losing the lead to Scott and dropping back to seventh for the checkered.
The battle between Rinus Veekay and Rafael Martins was great to watch, though. Really, tough conditions made for a much more exciting race than the dry event on Saturday. But like Guitierrez, we won’t remember that, but rather race control’s decision to fly the yellow with five to go and run under caution until the checkered. There’s no arguing reason for doing that due to conditions, but they should’ve just called it, rather than create false hope. By the way, caution flies seconds sooner and Guitierrez wins. Ouch.
If the race would’ve went back green, the gamble by both Oliver Askew and Kory Enders to pit for rain tires would’ve been interesting to watch. Neither driver lost much by what they did either, so that’s a good thing.
Meanwhile, there was no question who had the dominant car and likely to win the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires race. Pato O’Ward led every single lap on Saturday, and did the same once again following a stellar start. So that’s now three wins in four races, and easily could’ve been four if not for a mistake at St. Petersburg. The only shock is how long it took for funding and this ride to come together for him.
As a whole, though, Andretti Autosport has been impressive as Colton Herta has been fast, and put together a great pass on Santiago Urrutia to place third. We also got to see the Aaron Telitz we are used to with a fourth-place finish as he looks to leave his bad luck in the rearview.
Even with O’Ward dominating, the Indy Lights cars put on another great show with some exciting passes, as we watched drivers not to try and slip up too much. Talent is certainly here.
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