Mazda Road to Indy Contenders Begin 2015 Season at Cooper Tires Winterfest
 February 16, 2015| 
  • Series News

Pro Mazda and USF2000 Teams Vie for $50,000 Cooper Tires Prize Fund

Palmetto, Fla. – The international nature of this year’s Mazda Road to Indy will be featured prominently this week as drivers from no fewer than 15 nations take part in the annual preseason Cooper Tires Winterfest at NOLA Motorsports Park, near New Orleans, La., and Barber Motorsports Park, near Birmingham, Ala. The Winterfest will hold special significance, since both venues also will host rounds of the “regular season” championships which begin on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., on March 28/29.

All three levels of the Mazda Road to Indy – the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires – which collectively offer opportunities for drivers to progress all the way from the grassroots of the sport to the Verizon IndyCar Series via scholarship packages at every level, will be in action.

The Indy Lights teams will have two days of testing, totaling 10 hours of track time, at each venue, beginning at NOLA on Wednesday, February 18, before moving to Barber Motorsports Park on Tuesday, February 24. Contestants in Pro Mazda and USF2000, meanwhile, will contest three races at each track, beginning at NOLA on Thursday, February 19, and then switching over to Barber the following Wednesday, February 25, competing for an enhanced prize fund totaling $50,000 and early bragging rights.

Veterans Grist, Gutierrez and USF2000 Champ Latorre Among Pro Mazda Contenders
The 14-car field in Pro Mazda includes a stout mix of returning veterans and rookies. Garett Grist, from Grimsby, Ont., Canada, won twice as a rookie last year en route to eighth in the series standings and has joined reigning champion team Juncos Racing in search of the championship crown and a MAZDASPEED scholarship prize to graduate into Indy Lights for 2016. Grist will join talented young Mexican Jose Gutierrez, from Monterrey, who remains with the team after claiming his first victory in the final race of 2014 at Sonoma Raceway. Gutierrez has topped the timesheets in several recent test sessions. 

Canadian Dalton Kellett, who earned one podium visit last year, will drive with 2013 champion team Andretti Autosport alongside Malaysian Weiron Tan, who claimed a double victory in the final rounds of the 2014 German Formula 3 Championship.

Michael Johnson, the only paralyzed racer on the Mazda Road to Indy, also will return for a second season with JDC MotorSports. The native of Flint, Mich., scored some promising results using his hand-controlled car.

Frenchman Florian Latorre will lead a strong rookie contingent, stepping up with the same team, Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing, which guided him to the USF2000 championship and a MAZDASPEED Driver Development Scholarship in 2014. Canadian David Burkett also will move up from USF2000 aboard a second Cape Motorsports entry.

Other Pro Mazda newcomers will include Briton Raoul Owens (JDC MotorSports), a graduate of European Formula Renault, and highly rated Tristan DeGrand, from Eureka, Mo., who claimed two F1600 championships in Canada last year and is now dipping his toes in the Mazda Road to Indy waters by taking part in the Barber Motorsports Park races with M1 Autosport.

Live Timing and Scoring for all sessions will be available on the series website.

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