MONTEREY, Calif. – The celebration was on at the Monterey Plaza Hotel in Monterey Bay as the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires honored the 2016 champions for each of its three series.
More than $2.3 million in scholarship prizes were awarded as Dan Andersen, owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions, enjoyed arguably the most successful year to date since consolidating and operating all three levels of MRTI, the team and driver development program under INDYCAR sanction.
“Every year, the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires produces exciting racing and this year we outdid ourselves with all three championships coming down to the final race,” Andersen said Monday night, a day after the three series completed their Soul Red Finale weekend at nearby Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. “The racing was more intense, especially in Indy Lights, than ever before.
“It was a great season and I can’t thank our partners, Mazda and Cooper Tires, enough for everything they do to help these drivers move forward. We have crowned three deserving champions and I can’t wait to see what the future brings for every one of them.”
The ultra-competitive year saw Anthony Martin, a 21-year-old Australian driving for Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing, capture the Cooper Tires USF2000 powered by Mazda title. It delivered the team its astonishing sixth consecutive championship in the series.
“Going into the season, Cape won five in a row, so I knew they were going to give me a great car and that it was up to me,” Martin said. “I was able to focus in, really do my best to push the car to the limits and I think it really showed in the results.”
Martin earned a $363,000 scholarship to advance to the next stage of the MRTI stepladder – the Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires – in 2017.
This year’s Pro Mazda title came down to the wire between Team Pelfrey teammates Aaron Telitz and Pato O’Ward in the tripleheader at Laguna Seca. Telitz, the 24-year-old Wisconsin native, won the championship to secure a $601,700 prize to move up to Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires next season.
“It’s been awesome, but it hasn’t sunk in yet that I’ll be driving an Indy Lights car in 2017,” Telitz said. “I’m just so happy for it, I can’t believe in a season when I was down early, battling back to be able to pull it off and rally at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca – it’s just incredible.
“It’s just great what Mazda and Cooper Tires does for our program, where you get to win and advance to the next level to continue your career. I don’t think there’s another series in the world that does that.”
The long-awaited moment of the evening came from Ed Jones, who earned the Indy Lights championship and secured a $1 million Mazda scholarship that awards him three races during the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season, including the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.
“It’s been a great last 24 hours,” Jones said. “You know, winning the championship, it’s a dream come true. It took a while to sink in, but it’s finally starting to do so. The realization of being able to take part in the Indy 500 is incredible. The support from everyone from all over, friends and family, I’m so thankful for that. I’m ready to get to next year and to be able to show what I can do.”
Andersen also took time at the ceremony to remember Bryan Clauson, the short-track racing star who died a month ago from injuries suffered in a crash at the Belleville (Kan.) Midget Nationals. Clauson was one of the first driver development scholarship winners, first in Indy Lights and then at the Indianapolis 500.
The MRTI Hall of Fame also introduced six new members: U.E. “Pat” Patrick, former Indy car team owner and founder of the series that became Indy Lights; Roger Bailey, who helped Patrick found the series and was its longtime director; Chuck West, former Pro Mazda champion who became a team owner and driving coach; and past MRTI drivers Peter Dempsey, Tonis Kasemets and Spencer Pigot. After winning more MRTI races than anyone, Pigot is now driving for Ed Carpenter Racing in the Verizon IndyCar Series.
Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires 2016 Award Winners:
Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires
Champion ($1 million scholarship) – Ed Jones, Carlin
Second place ($75,000) - Santiago Urrutia, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
Third place ($50,000) – Kyle Kaiser, Juncos Racing
Fourth place ($25,000) – Zach Veach, Belardi Auto Racing
Fifth place ($10,000) – Dean Stoneman, Andretti Autosport
Rookie of the Year ($15,000) – Urrutia
Tilton Hard Charger Award ($1,000) – Zachary Claman De Melo, Juncos Racing
Team Championship ($15,000, plus $5,000 from SSTube) – Carlin
INDYCAR Mechanic of the Year ($1,000) – Tom Edwards, Carlin
Hi-Tide Boat Lifts Kids on Track Spirit Award ($5,000) – Veach
Royal Purple “Slickest Pass” Award ($5,000) – Felix Serralles, Carlin
Dallara Bent Pushrod Award ($2,000) – Carlin
Jostens Champion’s Ring – Jones
Freedom 100 Champion’s Ring – Dean Stoneman, Andretti Autosport
Mazda Road to Indy Rings (drivers contesting all three levels) – Neil Alberico, Garett Grist, Dalton Kellett
American Racing Winning Driver Team Owner Trophy (set of street wheels) – Trevor Carlin
Cosworth Champion’s Cash Award ($25,000) –Jones
Dallara Champion’s Parts Credit ($25,000) – Jones
Original artwork by Jim Swintal – Jones
Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires
Champion ($601,700 scholarship) – Aaron Telitz, Team Pelfrey
Second place ($25,000) – Pato O’Ward, Team Pelfrey
Third place ($12,500) – Nico Jamin, Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing
Fourth place ($7,500) – Will Owen, Juncos Racing
Fifth place ($5,000) – Nicolas Dapero, Juncos Racing
BBS Rookie of the Year ($7,500) – Telitz
National Class Champion – Bobby Eberle, JDC MotorSports
Team Championship ($7,500) – Team Pelfrey
INDYCAR Mechanic of the Year ($1,000) – Joe Haynes, Team Pelfrey
Hi-Tide Boat Lifts Kids on Track Spirit Award ($5,000) – Jamin
Royal Purple “Slickest Pass” Award ($5,000) – Owen
Carl Haas Auto Golden Wishbone Award – Team Pelfrey
Quarter Master Hard Charger Award ($1,000) – Owen
Jostens Champion’s Ring – Telitz
PFC Pro Mazda Team Award ($1,000 product certificate) – Team Pelfrey
Original artwork by Jim Swintal –Telitz
Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda
Champion ($363,850 scholarship) – Anthony Martin, Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing
Second place ($10,000) – Parker Thompson, Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing
Third place ($5,000) – Victor Franzoni, ArmsUp Motorsports
Fourth place ($3,000) – Jordan Lloyd, Pabst Racing
Fifth place ($2,000) – Luke Gabin, JAY Motorsports
Rookie of the Year ($1,500) – Robert Megennis, Team Pelfrey
National Class Champion – Eric Filgueiras, Spencer Racing
Team Championship ($4,000) – Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing
INDYCAR Mechanic of the Year ($1,000) – Jake Strack, ArmsUp Motorsports
Hi-Tide Boat Lifts Kids on Track Spirit Award ($5,000) – Franzoni
Royal Purple “Slickest Pass” Award ($5,000) –Thompson
Carl Haas Auto Golden Wishbone Award – Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing
Tilton Hard Charger Award ($1,000 product certificate) – Megennis
Jostens Champion’s Ring – Martin
PFC Team Award ($1,000 product certificate) – Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing
Original artwork by Jim Swintal – Martin