Team Pelfrey and Urrutia Maintain Title Challenge
 April 28, 2015| 
  • Team News
Palmetto, Fla.  – Team Pelfrey’s Santiago “Santi” Urrutia continued to impress in last weekend’s pair of races that comprised the Mazda Grand Prix of Alabama at the scenic and challenging Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala. Urrutia, 18, from Miguelete, Uruguay, moved to within a point of the lead in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires following a third-place finish on Saturday, and even though he lost a little ground in Race Two on Sunday, finishing second to series leader Neil Alberico, he lies just eight points in arrears with five of 16 races now in the books.

Teammate Pato O’Ward, from Monterrey, Mexico, also showed good pace, claiming a fifth and a seventh from the two 30-minute races.

Team Pelfrey’s newest foray onto the first rung on the Mazda Road to Indy development ladder, the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, also continues to bear fruit. Garth Rickards, 22, from Mechanicsburg, Pa., brought home the team’s best finish, sixth in Race One, while fellow rookie Luke Gabin, from Perth, Australia, displayed impressive speed before being involved in a  couple of incidents which hindered his results. Ayla Agren, 21, from Norway, and 24-year-old Los Angeles-based Russian Nikita Lastoshkin also claimed top-10 finishes.

After struggling to match the leading pace both in Thursday testing and official practice on Friday morning, Urrutia and O’Ward worked with their engineers to make some setup changes to their Pro Mazda cars for the lone qualifying session later in the afternoon. The improvements enabled them to snag third and fourth places on the starting grid for Saturday’s first race. The pair were split on the opening lap by points leader Alberico, and with overtaking opportunities at a premium on the 2.3-mile, 17-turn track, both drivers were content to maintain their positions until the finish.

A messy start to Race Two on Sunday morning saw Alberico leapfrog from fourth on the grid into the lead ahead of Urrutia, while O’Ward found himself bundled down the order from fifth to 11th. Urrutia couldn’t quite match Alberico’s pace but still brought home another second-place finish – his fourth visit to the podium in just five Pro Mazda starts – while 15-year-old O’Ward once again displayed his maturity by fighting his way to seventh by the checkered flag.

Santiago “Santi” Urrutia (#81 Team Pelfrey/Ancap/BSE/Antel/Corporacion de Maquinaria/AgroLavalle/Fadisol Pro Mazda) - Race One, started third, finished third; Race Two, started third, finished second: “I am really happy because we were not so fast at the beginning of the weekend but we did a really good qualifying and secured two podiums. It was excellent points for the championship and we need to keep it this way. Now we head to Indianapolis for the month of May, so let’s push for the victory there! I must thank my fans, my supporters and also Team Pelfrey for the great car.”

Patricio “Pato” O’Ward (#82 Team Pelfrey/Octane Energy Drink/POW Motorsports Pro Mazda) - Race One, started fourth, finished fifth; Race Two, started fifth, finished seventh: “This weekend did not go as planned. I did not know it was very, very difficult to pass until Race One, so our starting position did not favor us. Race One we ended P5 giving Alberico a good fight for fourth. Race Two I had many problems in the start and got shuffled back from fifth to 11th and then made my way back up to seventh. It’s amazing how hard it was to pass but I just needed to put my head down and keep moving forward for maximum points. Thanks to everyone that supports me and I'm very excited for Indianapolis GP which is a track I like and I know I am quick there.”

Dale Pelfrey’s race team, based in Palmetto, Fla., is built upon the same principles he used more than 35 years ago when establishing his business career – hire the best, acquire the best and expect the best in order to achieve the most. After fielding cars in the IndyCar Series from 1998 until 2000, Team Pelfrey was reformed in 2011, winning on its Pro Mazda debut and going on to earn the Team Championship as well as second and third in the drivers’ title-chase with Connor De Phillippi and Nick Andries. Team Pelfrey went one better in 2012, guiding Jack Hawksworth to the Drivers’ Championship and earning a second successive Team Championship. An expansion into the F1600 Championship Series for 2014 saw Ayla Agren, Garth Rickards and Augie Lerch secure the top three positions in the points table. The 2015 season also marks Team Pelfrey’s debut in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda.
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