Martin Bests Franzoni In Wisconsin Pro Mazda Duel

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Anthony Martin won Saturday's Pro Mazda main event at Road America. (Al Steinberg Photo)

ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Anthony Martin bested Victor Franzoni to win a thrilling Pro Mazda Championship event on Saturday at Road America.

Martin beat Franzoni to the finish line by a scant .1799 of a second for his third victory of the year.

Los Angeles-based Russian Nikita Lastochkin overtook Team Pelfrey teammate Carlous Cunha on the final lap to finish third. Cunha settled for fourth, followed by Jeff Green in fifth.

Franzoni, who on Friday had extended his points lead to 14 following a comfortable victory from the pole, made his job Saturday rather more difficult when an ill-timed red flag waved in qualifying mere moments before he was able to set a solid lap time. So instead of claiming another pole, Franzoni started from the back of the grid.

Martin, who instead started from pole, translated that advantage into the lead, although he was unable to shake off the third Team Pelfrey car of T.J. Fischer, who remained glued to his tail for the opening five laps. Franzoni, meanwhile, was scything through the order.

Franzoni was up into third place inside just four laps, although at that stage his deficit to the two leaders was already more than six seconds, so he faced a difficult challenge with time ticking away in the 30-minute race. It seemed as though he was in luck when National Class contender Brendan Puderbach slid off the road in turn 14 to ensure a full-course caution. The advantage enjoyed by Martin and Fischer was erased.

Franzoni quickly sliced past Fischer at the restart, whereupon the Californian’s strong performance was cruelly ended by a mechanical problem which forced him out of the race.

Franzoni immediately put the pressure on Martin, but the Aussie was determined not to make it easy. He was granted a couple of reprieves by two more brief full-course cautions, after which there remained enough time for one more lap of green-flag racing once the yellows had been withdrawn. Again, Martin stuck to his guns, kept all the doors firmly closed, and held on to win by the narrowest of margins. Franzoni had to be content with second place.

“Gaining points is the biggest thing,” said Martin. “I got a really good start and I kept that gap for a good while until the safety car came out and bunched everyone up. And at that point, I saw the standard white and purple car in third place and thought ‘OK, he’s definitely got pace.’ I just had to put my head down and my bum up and really focus on the road ahead of me and not behind me. It’s hard, because you have that car in your mirrors but you can’t let it affect you. That worked out a lot better today than yesterday. We will go back and work on a few things to find some speed and be ready for Mid-Ohio.”

The finish:

Anthony Martin, Victor Franzoni, Nikita Lastochkin, Carlos Cunha, Jeff Green, Bobby Eberle, Dave Zavelson, Charles Finelli, Kris Wright, Kevin Bury, Sting Ray Robb, T.J. Fischer, Rob Kaminsky, Brendan Puderbach, Max Hanratty.