Elkhart Lake, Wis. – Team Pelfrey’s Nikita Lastochkin secured two third-place finishes at Road America, securing his first podium finishes in the Mazda Road to Indy Championship Presented by Cooper Tires. The 2017 season marks the Russian’s third year in the series, however his first year with 2016 Pro Mazda Championship Presented By Cooper Tires champions.
After being exposed to a wet practice session, the trio got to work Thursday for the first of two-qualifying sessions. Road America rookie, Carlos Cunha lead the Pelfrey-power pack by finishing his No. 81 EMS Team Pelfrey Mazda on the second and third row for both races. TJ Fischer and Lastochkin held their own and came away with a top-six starting positions for both races.
In Race One, Cunha and Lastockin were paired together in row two as the green flag waved commencing one of the most popular events on the Mazda Road to Indy schedule. Lastochkin who was second-fastest in practice, showed impressive pace in the opening laps passing teammate Cunha as he went on to chase the leaders. Lastochkin narrowed in on the back of points leader Victor Franzoni for the duration of the race collecting his first podium finish, in third-place. As the number of green laps faded, Cunha made an unscheduled pit stop on Lap 6 after reporting his front shock cover had fallen, which ultimately placed him in the back of the field with eight laps remaining. The Brazilian continued laying down fast lap times but had to settle for a ninth-place finish as the field crossed the start/finish line. Fischer, piloting the No. 82 #Race2TheRescue Team Pelfrey Mazda, ran into mechanical issues this weekend after accumulating four podium over the course of the 2017 season. His race ended with a twelfth-place finish due to a defective fuel pump.
Race Two began with Fischer on the outside of row one beside Cape Motorsports Anthony Martin. The 23-year-old Californian tucked-in behind Martin for the opening five laps. Fischer and Cunha worked together running in the front of the pack when unfortunately, Fischer’s race was cut short seven laps into the contest with mechanical problems forcing him to stop in Turn 1, however he maintained setting the fastest lap of the race. Cunha had an excellent restart overtaking teammate Lastochkin only to find the Russian determined to collect his second podium finish of the weekend after passing Cunha in “Canada Corner” on the final lap. Cunha ended the weekend with a fourth-place finish.
Nikita Lastochkin (No. 80 RKM Team Pelfrey Mazda): “It was a great weekend overall that started with a good pace in the wet practice and we were able to carry that momentum into the races. It was great to get two podiums and the team did a great job of giving me the car to deliver. I’m looking forward to continue on working hard to get the results in the second half of the season.”
Carlos Cunha (No. 81 EMS Team Pelfrey Mazda): “I knew I was going to like this track as it is more like the tracks I’m used to, but I wasn’t at my best, physically; I had been sick all week and it was touch and go all weekend even to see if I would be in the car. I could feel my energy fading at the end of each race, and really could not push as usual. Overall, I learned a lot, and the guys at Team Pelfrey worked super hard to give me the best car possible, but the results are not yet clicking in the way we all want. That said, our work in setting up the car keeps improving every session so I am confident going into Mid-Ohio, another track I think I’ll enjoy. The atmosphere of the fans and all the racing history at Road America was incredible, I don’t think a lot of people outside the US understand how cool this event is, I was very impressed. The Mazda Road to Indy is a very special place to be and I am learning all I can in my first year, I want to be here for the long run so it is all valid for me.”
TJ Fischer (No. 82 #Race2TheRescue Team Pelfrey Mazda): “I had a really good start to Race 2 from my Team Pelfrey teammate, Carlos, who snuck-up underneath me and gave me a huge tow. We were bump drafting, which was different from the Race 1 where I was bumping our teammate, Nikita into second. This time, Carlos was bumping me, so that was cool. Then, I settled into second-place, set-up a good guard and started to size-up the leader of the race at the time, Anthony Martin, to see where we were quicker. We had a good strategy for the weekend, the way we set-up the tire situation was really in our favor for the race, so I was really looking forward to taking advantage of that. But, unfortunately, I felt the engine let go as I was going up the straight, so I ended up stopped in Turn 1. We were competitive on the track, we put in the fastest lap of the race, so we just had a solid car, where we really had a shot at winning the race. So, a big thank you to Team Pelfrey for putting out a car that was that quick. We were really due in for a win, especially with a car that was that quick, but that’s racing sometimes, so we just have to rebuild from here and move forward.”