Pro Mazda – Tan Tops Timesheets at Freedom Fest

The 2015 Mazda Road to Indy Freedom Fest on the Day Before the 500 at the Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis featured not only the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda and USAC’s Silver Crowns, but also the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires. The Pro Mazda drivers negotiated 90 laps around the 5/8-mile oval, or at least five out of the fifteen did. While the USF2000 and USAC races ran clean and incident-free, there were tears before bedtime for four of the drivers including points leader Santiago Urrutia.

During qualifying, the Andretti Autosport duo of Weiron Tan and Dalton Kellett gave a great demonstration of the proper and unique line around the oval. Normally, an oval turn is not entirely unlike a road course turn in which you set up wide, dive to the apex, and track out wide. At Lucas Oil Raceway, the fast way around is to stay right up next to the wall all the way around the track. That takes a lot of confidence in your machine and your skill, and it’s not something that many young drivers have in abundance. The Andretti boys put their cars on the front row with Weiron taking top honors.

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Weiron and Dalton surged forward at the drop of the green flag, but very soon the pace would cause an error from Dalton causing him to brush the outside was exiting Turn 4. Weiron, on the other hand, kept cruising and set a blistering pace for the race, running away from everyone else. Dalton’s brush with the wall compromised his suspension and he rapidly slid down the order until there was contact between him and Juncos Racing’s Timothé Buret.

“It’s really unfortunate the way that our race here at Lucas Oil Raceway Park turned out. The team gave me a great car and we were able to put the No. 28 Mazda on the front row beside my teammate Ron (Tan). I think, given the pace we had, we had the car to beat to fight for the win. Unfortunately, on the second lap, I took a little bit too much in Turn 3 and I made contact with the wall coming out of Turn 4, and that caused some suspension damage.

2015-Indy500_05-23-15_122After that, it was pretty much all I could do to keep the car off the wall – it was quite the ride. About one-third of the way through the race, while I was going for a pass, the car following me thought he was able to go in the same space as mine which resulted in me getting spun and unfortunately collecting another car who was on the high line. Overall, an unfortunate end to the weekend, but we have to put our heads down, take what we learned here and apply it to Iowa when we head there, and have a good weekend in Toronto, which is our next race coming up next month.” – Dalton Kellett, #28 Andretti Autosport

The innocent bystander in the Lap 29 incident was Team Pelfrey’s Raoul Owens who had no place to go as the mayhem developed right in front of him, and was collected by Dalton’s car at the entry to Turn 4. Timothé didn’t see the incident quite the same as Dalton and felt that the position was his.

“This past weekend was the first time I have competed on an oval circuit. Unfortunately I was involved in an incident with Dalton Kellet when he moved in front of me when I was overtaking him. I’m disappointed that our race ended early and we were not able to continue the run we had going especially after I had struggled all week to find the speed during practice and qualifying. When I pulled into the pit the first time the guys replaced my rear wing and after I left the pit I realized my front suspension was broken too. I pulled back into the pits and that’s when we had to end our day. I want to thank Juncos Racing for all of the support and help they gave me all weekend. I’m really looking for a fresh start in a few weeks when we compete on the streets of Toronto.” — Timothé Buret, #6 Juncos Racing

The innocent bystander in the Lap 29 incident was Team Pelfrey’s Raoul Owens who had no place to go as the mayhem developed right in front of him. That altercation and the subsequent caution allowed Juncos Racing’s Will Owen, who had already moved up to second, to close the gap to Tan. Owen could continue to hound Tan for the remainder of the 90-lap feature, but he never was able to overtake the mercurial Malaysian.

“I am very excited to be back on the podium. I’m disappointed however that we were not able to pull off a win since it was so close there at the end. I had a great run today in my car and I’ve got to thank Juncos Racing because the car was fantastic throughout the whole race. In the beginning when the tires were cold I was able to have a lot better pace than the guys around me. We almost caught the leader in the end and we will give him another run next time. I want to thank all of my sponsors AMR, Speed Group, Mazda and Cooper Tires.” – Will Owen, #23, Juncos Racing

Weiron Tan in his first ever oval race led all 90 laps securing a flag-to-flag victory and securing MUCH needed points. Weiron, who is nearly unstoppable when everything is right, has suffered serious consistency issues this season. In spite of this being his third victory of the season, a number of poor results and DNFs have him lanquishing in fourth place in the championship.

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“That was a really incredible race. We made a good start and pushed on from there with very consistent times. We pulled quite a big gap before the caution came out. Once it went green, it was just a matter of being consistent, to not force myself to make any mistakes, to make clean passes on traffic and finish the race. I was really hoping for the race to finish! The Andretti team gave me a really good race car; we’ve been fast since we got here. This will help me in the championship, since every bit helps, and now we look forward to Toronto! We need to score some really good points and hope the championship comes to us.” – Weiron Tan, #22 Andretti Autosport

Leading the championship right now is Team Pelfrey’s Santiago Urrutia. In spite of his mechanical retirement early in the race, he remains just ahead of Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing’s Neil Alberico, 201 points to 193. Back in third place is Timothé Buret who remains just ahead of Weiron Tan in fourth, 162 points to 158. The championship is still not out of reach for any of these drivers, especially as the series heads to the tight and treacherous turns of Toronto where they will run a double-header over the June 12-14 weekend. In two races on a street circuit, anything can happen, so it’s very possible that we will see a new championship leader when the series returns to oval racing at the Iowa Speedway in July.

Photos from the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires Mazda Freedom 90 at the Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis

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