MONTEREY, CALIF. – The Final race, on the last day, championship Sunday, 23 year-old rookie Aaron Telitz captured the 2016 Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and the Mazda Scholarship by winning the final race of the year.
Going into the final day, after O’Ward had dominated proceedings in Race 1 on Saturday, Telitz’s championship lead of eight points over teammate Pato O’Ward played a pivotal role with two races in the championship remaining. After a nearly two-hour fog delay, the Team Pelfrey Pro Mazda trio strapped in for Race Two.
Telitz led O’Ward going into the “Andretti Hairpin” and into turn two. On the exit of turn two, O’Ward and Telitz collided. O’Ward completed a 360 degree spin before regaining control of his No. 80 Buy Gap Guard / Topo Chico Mazda. O’Ward headed straight to pit lane for repairs while TJ Fischer, driver of the No. 82 Rathbun Associates Mazda, clinched second position, while Telitz was penalized with a drive-thru penalty due to contact with O’Ward. Fischer’s strong run would end early, as a competitor made contact with the Vacaville, Calif.-resident at the bottom of the circuit’s signature “Corkscrew’’ complex. Telitz recovered to finish fifth, O’Ward 10th and Fischer 11th. After the race, Telitz’s lead grew to 11 points.
In the final race of the Mazda Road to Indy weekend finale, Telitz led O’Ward to the green flag. With the $590,300 Mazda Scholarship prize and graduation to the Indy Lights Championship Presented by Cooper Tires on the line, the pressure didn’t get to Birchwood, Wisc. -native. Both drivers raced clean and fair, maintaining first and second place respectively. Telitz’s gap over O’Ward grew to over 1.7 seconds within the first seven minutes of the 40-minute race.
O’Ward was caught by the field nearly halfway through the race. He suffered contact to his right rear a-frame, hindering his car’s overall performance. The 17 year-old series sophomore held on for sixth place and Fischer, seventh.
It was Aaron Telitz’s day, as he cruised past his team personnel on the way to his sixth win of the year. Telitz was joined by his family in victory lane as Mazda Motorsports Director, Jon Doonan and President of Andersen Promotions, Dan Andersen – presented the 2016 Mazda Scholarship and Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires trophy.
Team Pelfrey won 13 of the 16 contested Pro Mazda Championship races and finished on the podium a Pro Mazda Championship record 23 times, edging Andretti Autosport’s previous record of 22 in 2013.