St. Petersburg, Fla. – Team Pelfrey’s Pro Mazda team trio of Nikita Lastochkin, Carlos Cunha and TJ Fischer enjoyed strong outings on the street circuit of St. Petersburg, Fla. which played host to the opening two rounds of the championship. Fischer was able to capture two third place finishes, marking his first ever podium on the Mazda Road to Indy.
The yellow #PelfreyPower machines took to qualifying on Friday around the 1.8-mile, 14-turn street circuit and the team proved to be fast as all three drivers qualified in the top-six for race one. Fischer qualified third, while teammates Cunha and Lastochkin followed closely behind in fourth and sixth-positions respectively.
The green flag for race one waved Saturday morning as the field charged towards Turn 1, commencing the 25 lap race. The Pelfrey trio had a clean and competitive battle as the California native Fischer claimed his first Pro Mazda podium. Additionally, Lastochkin moved up a position to finish fifth as Cunha maintained his starting position to come home in fourth.
Race two saw Cunha and Fischer swap starting positions in third and fourth, with Lastochkin once again lining up in the sixth position. After a competitive start for the #PelfreyPower trio, it was Cunha who took the fight to the leading duo of Anthony Martin and Victor Franzoni. After countless laps of being all over the back of Franzoni, Cunha made a daring pass around the outside of turn 1 and immediately raced up to Martin’s gearbox. Unfortunately, Cunha suffered a shift cable failure on the front straight with 15 minutes remaining and he was forced to retire from the race. From there, Fischer slotted into third and took the fight to Franzoni, but in the end he had to settle for another third place podium finish in what was an excellent opening weekend to his campaign. Lastochkin endured a topsy-turvy run after suffering at the hands of lapped traffic in the closing laps. With some excellent recovery driving, Lastochkin made up the lost positions before the final re-start to maintain his fifth place finish.
Team Pelfrey’s Pro Mazda team will be in action May 11-13 at the Indianapolis Grand Prix Circuit, a 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course. Follow the team’s journey as they prepare for next rounds of the championship hosted at their home track on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram at @TeamPelfrey or visit pelfreypower.com for more information.
Nikita Lastochkin, No. 80: “It was a challenging weekend that started on the wrong foot for me and never really got better. With only a couple of test days before the season, a street course is not the best place to find the limit of the car, and I'm generally happy that I was able to walk away being 4th in the points. We have a great team and quick cars that are capable of winning races so I'm excited about the calendar ahead and working to be further upfront at the next event.”
Carlos Cunha, No. 81: "We came to my first street race and first race in the US with the goal of learning and making sure we were competitive with the front runners while being safe and not pushing any limits, and we achieved that. I drove a very restrained first race to finish fourth because I did not want to risk anything. After working very hard with the team, we decided to change the set up a bit for today and it really suited me and my driving style, and that gave me a lot more confidence in what I could do with the car. I started the second race driving conservatively and concerned with saving tires knowing it would be a long race, but after about the mid-point I started to think that I could try and move forward because I felt I had more speed than the guys in front of me, I was feeling good and the car was feeling good and not on the limit at all. I passed the second-place guy at the end of the straight, although it was on the outside it was comfortable and started to set my eyes on the leader and I think I started to decrease the distance to him and I think it would be a good battle for the win at the end. Unfortunately, I had a mechanical that forced me to stop and it was a big heart break but race cars sometimes break down and I am happy with my driving and this team's work, this was a positive first weekend for me here in America even if the results were not what we wanted. We go to Indy knowing we are on the right path. This was only the first weekend and the championship is far from over!"
TJ Fischer, No. 82: “What a solid weekend for us. We’ve made so much progress during the off-season, and it’s great to get validation of the steps we’ve taken with two podiums. This gives me a lot of confidence for the rest of the season and I appreciate Team Pelfrey’s efforts in getting us to this point.”