MIAMI- With the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires season rapidly approaching, drivers from three Verizon IndyCar sanctioned divisions made their way to Homestead-Miami Speedway to participate in Spring Training, which began on Friday and concluded on Monday. The drivers who took part in the tests will be competing in either the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship presented by Mazda, the Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires or the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires divisions this season.
At stake is the opportunity for drivers to progress from the grassroots to the pinnacle of the sport in North America – with Mazda Scholarships. Scholarships are awarded at each level to assist drivers in their development. In 2017, Kyle Kaiser claimed the coveted Mazda Scholarship in the Indy Lights division, valued at $1 million, to ensure entry into a minimum of three Indycar Series races in 2018, including the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 27.
More than 40 drivers took advantage of multiple days of track activity, where they tested on both Homestead-Miami Speedway’s 1.5-mile oval and its 2.21-mile road course. Of the drivers who participated in the event, four reside in South Florida – two of which are 2017 Mazda Road to Indy champions.
Boca Raton-resident Victor Franzoni, 22, won the 2017 Pro Mazda championship. Franzoni, a native of Brazil, will be moving up the IndyCar ladder in 2018, as he is set to compete in the Indy Lights division. Also ascending the sport’s ranks this season is 2017 USF2000 champion Oliver Askew. During the 2018 campaign, the 21-year-old from Jupiter will be competing in the Pro Mazda division.
The four-day testing session gave the drivers the opportunity to gain valuable racing data that they could use for the 2018 Mazda Road to Indy campaign.
“It’s really important to come out here for Spring Training because it allows us to learn a lot of things about racing on a road course and on an oval,” said Franzoni. “When it comes to the weather, the temperature that it is here is what we will be experiencing during the summer in other states, so every detail of this test is important.”
“This is the first time where all the teams are together and all the drivers get to see how they have progressed throughout the offseason,” said Askew. “We want to start off the year strong, so this test definitely sets the tone for what we can expect during the first part of the season.”
In addition to Franzoni and Askew, Mazda Road to Indy drivers Calvin Ming and Darren Keane also have South Florida ties. Ming is a 21-year-old residing in Miramar who will be competing in the USF2000 division in 2018. He currently attends Florida International University and is the first Mazda Road to Indy driver from Guyana. Keane, 18, of Boca Raton will be joining Ming in USF20000 this season. Keane is a senior at North Broward Prep in Coconut Creek and is planning to attend college to major in mechanical engineering.
While Ming is focused on the 2018 USF2000 season, he has clear aspirations of moving along in the racing progression.
“I would love to race in IndyCar,” said Ming. “If I could just perform to the best of my abilities, rack up some wins and not make any mistakes, I can definitely see myself there.”
The Spring Training tests at Homestead-Miami Speedway were in advance of the opening races of the 2018 Mazda Road to Indy campaign, which will be held on the Streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., in conjunction with the Verizon IndyCar Series, March 9-11.
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