06.16.2017 – The Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires will move to the midway point of the season when all three series roll into the Road America paddock early next week. The championship battles are taking shape and we’re also seeing the all-too-familiar early departure of drivers who are fighting funding hurdles, as well as upward movement by those who have elected to re-group for next season. Here’s my first Insider update on some of the news that’s hitting my desk as we’re just over a week out from car’s hitting the track in Elkhart Lake.
The most disappointing news comes from the Newman Wachs Racing camp, which has been hard at work to fill their seats for Road America. It appears that 2016 rookie standout and now sophomore frontrunner Dakota Dickerson will be on the sidelines next weekend, as he has not been able to raise the backing necessary to maintain his seat with the new team. Dickerson has been a shining light in the series and improved steadily through this freshman season, and he sits fifth in the USF2000 point standings, thanks to stellar consistency. Dakota has not finished outside the top-10 this year, and has four top-six finishes in the six races. Only two other drivers have six top-10 finishes: Oliver Askew and Rinus VeeKay. I tab DD as one of the top young American talents in the sport; one who puts in the work to find sponsors himself, not through his parents. This is a tough pill to swallow. I’m hoping that something or someone comes to the rescue to keep him in the series. In Dickerson’s absence, NWR has a fleet of open seats to fill, as they also lost Andre Castro after the second event of the year when he was sidelined due to the budget hit he took after his St. Petersburg and Barber crashes. On a positive note for the team, I’m hearing that American rookie Darren Keane will be moving from Team Benik to NWR for at least a one-off run at Road America.
Don’t expect to see Pato O’Ward back in a Team Pelfrey Indy Lights car any time soon. The Mexican-American driver remains focused on putting together the backing for a full-season Indy Lights assault in 2018, but for now, Pato’s driving will be focused on the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. O’Ward is currently tied with his Performance Tech teammate James French for the PC class point lead in the series, having scored wins in the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring. They are unbeaten through the first four races of the year, and will be back on-track on June 29-July 2 at Watkins Glen for the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen.
USF2000 drivers Calvin Ming and Moises de la Vera will be on-track this weekend at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez in Mexico City for the final round of the FIA NACAM F4 Championship. Ming currently leads the championship standings on the strength of six wins and, and he will look to build momentum for his return to his Pabst Racing Tatuus USF-17 for the doubleheader at Road America. De la Vera, who races for DE Force in USF2000, sits fifth in the F4 standings with two wins to his credit. Both drivers are focused on maximizing on-track opportunities.
Pro Mazda Championship driver Bobby Eberle announced a new partnership with DynaPro Athletics via press release earlier today, who will be joining his efforts on the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires. DynaPro will partner with Eberle for Rounds 5 and 6 of series at Road America. DynaPro will join TITLE Boxing Club in Eberle’s pursuit of the overall championship and his quest to show fans and supporters that ‘age is just a number’. The company produces high quality workout products including resistance bands, exercise balls and jump ropes. Throughout the coming month, Eberle will work with DynaPro Athletics to demonstrate the exercise equipment and show how these help him to maintain his edge and fitness.
Exclusive Autosport drivers Parker Thompson and Dev Gore will return to USF2000 competition next week with momentum and confidence. The duo had the opportunity to race in the Quebec-based Formula Tour 1600 series in May and June, taking advantage of EA’s fleet of venerable Spectrum F1600 chassis. Gore scored a victory at the historic Mont Tremblant facility in the series opener on May 28, while Thompson swept the program’s doubleheader that was part of the Canadian Grand Prix F1 weekend in Montreal last weekend. Gore finished seventh in the first race on the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve track, and improved to fifth in the second event, which took place on the Sunday morning before the F1 race won by Lewis Hamilton.
I have more updates in the works and will look to publish another ‘Hard Card Access’ segment early next week.