ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Anthony Martin continued from where he left off on Saturday, scoring another flag-to-flag victory in Sunday’s Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires event.
Martin, 22, led throughout the 40-minute race to enjoy a weekend sweep for himself and the locally based Cape Motorsports team on the streets of St. Petersburg.
The remaining podium finishers also repeated from Saturday, with Victor Franzoni finishing second for Juncos Racing and California’s T.J. Fischer taking third for Team Pelfrey.
Martin, last year’s champion in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, set a conservative pace in the early stages. He remained only narrowly ahead of Franzoni, with Carlos Cunha and Fischer also in close attendance.
All four contenders posted the fastest race lap at one point or another during the opening dozen laps. Fischer eventually lost the leading draft, leaving only one of the distinctive yellow-and-black Team Pelfrey cars to challenge the two leaders, but Cunha proved up to the task as he out-maneuvered his Brazilian countryman Franzoni with an opportunistic pass in turn one on lap 17. Sadly, almost exactly one lap later, Cunha’s No. 81 machine coasted to a halt.
Cunha’s pass delayed Franzoni just enough to allow Martin to pull away just a little for the first time. Coincidentally, Martin set what was to stand as the fastest lap of the race on the same lap to establish a healthy lead of more than two seconds.
However, that advantage was negated a few laps later when the yellow flags waved following an incident in turn nine involving National Class leader Kevin Davis, who had been running in ninth place overall at the time.
After the cleanup had been completed, Martin took off again into the lead and sped home to win by just over a second from Franzoni.
“I’m so happy to take the sweep at St. Pete and to come away from here with the championship lead,” said Martin. “To have Mazda backing and be driving the Soul Red colors seems to have pushed me harder than ever before. With the scholarship, there’s a lot of pressure, but I thrive on pressure and that’s one reason we’ve done so well this weekend. This race was 40 minutes which was much longer than yesterday’s race, so once I was able to get a gap I just drove to a lap time and kept it consistent. Just when I was starting to push harder to widen the gap, the safety car came out. It may have looked easy, but it was hard. As a race car driver, you want to drive hard all the time, so to hold yourself back is very difficult.”
Fischer finished hot on Franzoni’s heels in third, with 15-year-old Sting Ray Robb claiming fourth for World Speed Motorsports ahead of Nikita Lastochkin.
Anthony Martin, Victor Franzoni, T.J. Fischer, Sting Ray Robb, Nikita Lastochkin, Max Hanratty, Phillippe Denes, Bobby Eberle, Jeff Green, Charles Finelli, Kevin Davis, Carlos Cunha, Matt Machiko, Brendan Puderbach.