Tan moves into title contention with runaway Iowa victory
Weiron Tan and Andretti Autosport kept alive their 100 percent record on the ovals this year by leading from flag-to-flag in this afternoon's Pro Mazda Iowa 100 at Iowa Speedway, Round 12 of the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires.
The victory was Tan's second on the ovals and fourth overall during an impressive rookie campaign, vaulting him from fourth to second place in the points standings with just four rounds remaining in the 16-race season.
The 100-lap race was interrupted by just a single full-course caution which came after 16 laps when Alessandro Latif (World Speed Motorsports) spun and collected the wall between Turns One and Two. The Englishman was uninjured.
Tan by then had already established a four-second lead over his nearest pursuer, championship leader Santi Urrutia (Team Pelfrey), and even though that margin was slashed to nothing by the caution, Tan immediately pulled away again at the restart. No one was able to offer a challenge as he romped clear to an astonishing 9.7311-second margin of victory.
"It was a tough race. 100 laps isn't easy to begin with, but going around at such high speeds is especially difficult," said Tan. "Tire management is so important to keep the pace up. The Cooper tires did really well. This was a good comeback for us, after what happened in the first practice. The team really deserves it, coming in one-two. We worked hard with limited track time. We're very lucky. We have really good guys around us to help us learn about the ovals. Especially for me, coming from Malaysia – oval track racing is not common. To be surrounded by experienced guys really helps us. We have four races to go and we're never going to give up. We're going to keep on pushing until the end and see what happens in the championship."
Urrutia, from Uruguay, ran confidently in second place for most of the race before coming under pressure firstly from teenaged teammate Pato O'Ward. Dalton Kellett, in a second Andretti Autosport entry, also made up ground in the middle stages of the race, moving up rapidly after a tardy start from fourth on the grid. Kellett fell briefly from fifth to sixth after the restart, then overtook Frenchman Timothé Buret (Juncos Racing), who had made excellent early progress after starting 11th.
Kellett next worked his way past Florian Latorre (Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing), who had run third in the early laps, then overtook the Pelfrey pair, O'Ward and Urrutia, in rapid succession to move into second place on Lap 69. The pass for third place on lap 65 earned Kellett the RePlay XD Move of the Race Award. The Canadian could do nothing about his own teammate, Tan, who remained well out in front, but second place still represented Kellett's best-ever finish.
Urrutia battled handling difficulties in the closing stages and slipped to fifth at the finish behind O'Ward, who snared his third podium finish in succession, and Canadian Daniel Burkett (Cape Motorsports), who charged from ninth in the early going to fourth.
Monterrey, Mexico's Jose Gutierrez (Juncos Racing) earned the Quarter Master Hard Charger Award, passing Neil Alberico (Cape Motorsports) into Turn One for sixth place on the final lap to complete a stirring drive from 13th on the grid. Other contingencies included the PFC Award to the winning team, Andretti Autosport, and the Staubli Award to Kellett.
Urrutia now leads the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires by a margin of 251-224 over Tan. Alberico follows on 218, then Buret, who slipped to ninth by the finish, on 210 and O'Ward on 203 as the championship heads next to Mid-Ohio on Aug. 1-2.