Victor Franzoni speeds at Watkins Glen
Victor Franzoni won Pro Mazda Race 1 at Watkins Glen, extending his points lead. | Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

With the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires title fight separated by three points, leader Victor Franzoni and chaser Anthony Martin sparred in Race 1 at Watkins Glen with Franzoni coming out on top.

A clean start allowed Franzoni to lead the opening turns of Lap 1 but Martin quickly pulled alongside and successfully passed the Juncos Racing driver through the bus stop chicane to put the No. 8 Cape Motorsports machine into the lead.

Franzoni was still close to Martin when a caution flag flew four minutes into the race for Team Pelfrey’s Robert Megennis and Nikita Lastochkin who came together in Turn 9.

Following several laps of caution, the race resumed with 15 minutes to go and Franzoni continuing to chase Martin with Pelfrey driver Carlos Cunha close behind in third. After the restart, the top three separated from the rest of the field and had opened up a 17-second gap over fourth-placed Sting Ray Robb of World Speed Motorsports with five minutes to go.

Franzoni reclaimed the lead with just over four minutes remaining with a similar pass through the bus stop chicane. Once out front, the No. 23 Mazda’s lead quickly grew to more than one second.

Anthony Martin races at Watkins Glen
Anthony Martin finished second in the first Pro Mazda race at Watkins Glen. | Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Comfortably in clean air, Franzoni sped to the white flag and on to the checkered with a 3.6-second advantage over Martin. The win coupled with Martin’s finish of second gives Franzoni an eight-point lead in the championship heading into the last race of the year.

“This weekend, they brought everybody from Juncos for me,” Franzoni told The Apex after his victory. “Juncos is putting everything on me so I have to do the same for them.

“I think we had a better car and I was not trying to save anything. Even the downshifts with the Pro Mazda, we have to take a lot of care. I was seeing the red all the time on the dash, I was like, ‘let’s go. I don’t care if it explodes.’

“But everything worked perfect, didn’t explode. The car is intact for qualifying so everything was good.”

Cunha held on to the third position at the end while Robb finished fourth. Kris Wright completed the top five for JDC Motorsports.

Matt Machiko, Bobby Eberle, Brendan Puderbach and Charles Finelli rounded out the top nine and were the only other cars running at the finish.

Both Pelfrey’s TJ Fischer and Juncos’ Jeff Green were listed as off course at the race’s conclusion, finishing in the 10th and 11th positions, respectively.

Following their contact earlier in the race, Megennis placed 12th and Lastochkin was listed in the last position.

The series will be back on track at The Glen for Race 2 qualifying at 5:30 p.m. EDT on Saturday. The final round of 2017 follows on Sunday at 7:55 a.m. with live streaming available on INDYCAR Race Control.

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