8.4.13 – Our final day at the 13-turn permanent road course of Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course was no less action-packed than the rest of the weekend. All three of the Mazda Road to Indy series, along with the IZOD IndyCar Series, had races today at the Lexington, OH circuit.
Starting the day off with the USF2000 Championship, Canadian Garett Grist came away with his first career win after starting from the pole position; the win granted Grist to move up two spots in the championship points fight putting him now in third place. Fourteen-year-old Austin Cindric captured his best finish to date with his top-10 finish of ninth. Gaining 11 positions for Race Three, Luca Forgeois crossed the finish line in P11 after starting 25th.
Next up was Pro Mazda Championship's Race Two where championship points leader and MAZDASPEED scholarship driver Matthew Brabham captured his ninth win – marking a new record of most wins in one season. Driver of the No. 28 Starstruck machine, Shelby Blackstock, clinched his eighth top-five finish of the season with a fourth place during the shortened race this morning.
Starting the afternoon's festivities was Firestone Indy Lights' Mid-Ohio 100. Carlos Munoz reeled in a fourth-place finish after dropping to 11th following a spin early on in the race; the Colombian remains the championship points leader heading into Baltimore next month. Ohio native Zach Veach captured his fifth top-five finish with a fifth place today and sits sixth in the points fight.
Rounding out the day were the fab four IZOD IndyCar Series drivers. Ryan Hunter-Reay led the way across the twin checkers with his seventh top-five finish of the season in fifth. The reigning champion said: "We picked the wrong strategy today… we went with what we thought. If we had one yellow in there it would have been our race — it would have been between Will (Power) and I, I think. Will and I were on the same strategy, and we both worked really hard to save fuel — I know I worked my tail off. It is some of the hardest work in a race car to save that much fuel and to have nothing to show for it, that sucks. But we'll pick up and head to the next one. It's frustrating; things just aren't falling into place right now… we can't be finishing fifth."
Third generation racer Marco Andretti was next with a ninth place – his 12th top-10 finish of 2013 – after starting from fourth, the 26-year-old's best road/street course start this year. "For whatever reason we just didn't have the same car we had in warm-up," Marco said. "I didn't have the car for a three-stop race; we were just hanging on. We're going to have to make something happen (in Sonoma). I definitely want another Firestone Fast Six and to build on that. We need to find points for the RC (Cola) car wherever we can."
Canadian James Hinchcliffe was up next in the Andretti Autosport roster. Coming home with a 10th-place finish, the Mayor of Hinchtown sits eighth in the championship points fight heading into Sonoma in three weeks. "I definitely like doing the three-stopper better than the two-stopper, but with where we started, and it was my mistake in qualifying who put us in the back, we knew we had to be the first guy to do something on the three-stopper," commented Hinch. "So, we went for that early stop, and it was looking like it was going to work out well… if I had managed to get Helio (Castroneves) on his outlap there on the last stint, it would have made our race look a whole lot different for us. But ultimately, we were a bit off from some of these guys, no doubt. If we had gotten ahead of them, we might have been able to stay ahead of them, but we weren't great in traffic. Huge effort from the GoDaddy guys – really great in the pits all day.
"We had one little bobble on one stop but other than that it was fun. It's fun running around Mid-Ohio flat out. But yeah, from where we were at the start of that last stint, it would have been nice to finish fifth or sixth instead of 10th. With the season we've had, anytime you get a top-10 finish in this series is good. If you look at the guys in front of us – guys like Scott Dixon, Justin Wilson and Marco Andretti – it's not like we're slumming it; it's just that competitive right now. We missed it by the smallest amount today, but the team did such a great job all weekend. Big congrats to Charlie – that's awesome. I know what that feels like. We'll take this and move on to the next one. I feel good, the team's working well and we just gotta put our heads down and fight."
Rounding out the team was E.J. Viso with a 17th-place finish. The Venezuelan sits 12th in the points standings before the 15th round of competition at Sonoma Raceway in Northern California. "Well, definitely finishing 17th is not at all what we were looking for," Viso said. "I think many factors during the race didn't play in our favor. I believe the direction that we went when we made the decision on how much downforce we were going to put on the car didn't help. We just trimmed a lot to be faster in the straights, but definitely cost us some time in the corners. At the same time, we were asking a bit too much from the tires that we wanted them a little bit sooner than expected. The second to last pit stop really cost us time as well. Losing those three or four seconds allowed the group of cars behind me to cycle out in front of me in the next pit stop. Anyways, these things happen and all we have to do now is stay strong and head into the next one."
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