SPEEDWAY, Ind. – The eighth annual Chris Griffis Memorial Mazda Road to Indy Open Test concluded Sunday afternoon after two days of intense running at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Grand Prix road course.
Weather conditions once again proved to be important, with the cool overcast of Saturday replaced Sunday morning by a glorious blue sky and significantly warmer temperatures.
Lap times, accordingly, weren’t quite as quick in general, although the leaders in all three series – Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires, the Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda – remained closely matched.
Just as in the regular season for Indy Lights, Andretti Autosport remained as the team to beat as Oliver Askew, Ryan Norman and Robert Megennis each took a turn at the top of the timing charts during today’s three practice sessions.
Askew, who won the 2017 USF2000 championship and finished third in Pro Mazda this year, laid down a marker Sunday morning by posting a best lap of 1:15.0008 (117.071 mph) around the 2.439-mile road circuit.
That time remained good enough for second overall during the two-day test, fractionally adrift of the 1:14.9283 (117.184 mph) set Saturday in ideal conditions by Norman.
Norman bounced back to the top after lunch with a best lap of 1:15.4915 in the heat of the day, narrowly ahead of Askew and Megennis, but it was Megennis who took the final bragging honors during an intense final session – with shadows lengthening as evening approached.
His time of 1:15.0749 on new tires was enough to edge out Askew’s 1:15.1076.
All in all, it was an impressive day for the two rookies, Askew and Megennis, taking over the respective cars of Patricio O’Ward and Colton Herta, who finished first and second in this year’s championship.
“My first Indy Lights experience is over here at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It was an amazing experience working with Andretti Autosport and that is the biggest thing to take away from this,” noted Askew. “What I learned from these guys will definitely help me and I think I made a huge stride in my career this weekend. We showed good pace too. We were quickest on the day which is great.
“I was jogging back and forth with my teammates throughout most of the sessions so that shows just what kind of job these guys do. I can’t thank Andretti Autosport enough for the opportunity and I hope I get to do some more of this in the future,” Askew added. “Now the off-season officially starts and I’ll be focusing on a drive for next year and where we are going to be. It has been a great weekend overall and I am extremely happy with how it went.”
Victor Franzoni did not drive an Indy Lights car Sunday, but his time for Belardi Auto Racing from yesterday, 1:15.0306, remained good enough for third overall ahead of Megennis and recently crowned Pro Mazda champion Rinus VeeKay (Juncos Racing), who also was well within two-tenths of a second of the benchmark time.
David Malukas (Belardi Auto Racing), from Chicago, Ill., bounced back from a minor incident yesterday to post the sixth fastest time ahead of Canadian Parker Thompson (Team Pelfrey), Brazilian Lucas Kohl (Belardi Auto Racing) and Korea’s Heamin Choi (Juncos Racing). All nine drivers were blanketed by just more than 1.5 seconds.
For the second day in a row, different drivers took an opportunity to shine during Sunday’s three Pro Mazda test sessions.
Former series champion Franzoni laid down a marker by posting the fastest time of the day for Peter Dempsey’s new Turn 3 Racing team, with major assistance from Newman Wachs Racing’s Brian Halahan and “Shaggy” Russell.
Meanwhile, Julian Van der Watt (BN Racing), the Juncos Racing pair of Rasmus Lindh and Cameron Shields and RP Motorsport Racing’s Mathias Soler-Obel all showed their paces on a regular basis.
Nevertheless, the warmer conditions ensured that no one approached the fastest time of the weekend, 1:19.2971 (110.728 mph), which was set yesterday for RP Motorsport Racing by Florida’s Darren Keane, who concentrated his Sunday efforts on his USF2000 priority with Cape Motorsports.
After showing good speed yesterday in Indy Lights for Belardi Auto Racing, Franzoni reverted his attention to the middle rung on the Mazda Road to Indy and Turn 3 Racing, for which he works full-time as mechanic, driver coach and test driver.
The 2017 series champion quickly got to grips with the car in the cooler morning air by turning a best lap of 1:19.6712, edging Van der Watt by a scant 0.0979 second.
Franzoni again was fastest in the session immediately after lunch at 1:20.1703. Then, later in the afternoon, Colombian teenager Soler-Obel stopped the clocks for the Italian-based RP team at 1:19.9980.
Hunter McElrea and Darren Keane continued the long-time USF2000 rivalry between Cape Motorsports and Pabst Racing by trading fastest times during Sunday’s trio of 45-minute sessions.
McElrea – who was born in California, carries joint New Zealand citizenship and now hails from the Gold Coast in Australia – continued to turn heads for Pabst Racing. The teenager took advantage of ideal conditions this morning to turn the fastest lap of the weekend at 1:24.5064 – fractionally quicker than his best from Saturday.
College engineering student Keane actually set a slightly faster time, only for it to be disallowed due to a technical infraction.
Keane bounced back to set the fastest time in each of Sunday’s subsequent two sessions, including being the only driver to dip below the 1:25 bracket in the warmth of the afternoon.
Keane wound up with the second quickest time of the weekend, 1:24.6246, from Saturday’s second session.