Gabin, Rickards Knocking on the Door of Top-Five Pace
 April 28, 2015| 
  • Team News
Palmetto, Fla. – Team Pelfrey’s newest foray onto the first rung on the Mazda Road to Indy development ladder, the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, continues to bear fruit. Garth Rickards, 22, from Mechanicsburg, Pa., brought home the team’s best finish, sixth in Race One, while fellow rookie Luke Gabin, from Perth, Australia, displayed impressive speed before being involved in a  couple of incidents which hindered his results. Ayla Agren, 21, from Norway, and 24-year-old Los Angeles-based Russian Nikita Lastoshkin also claimed top-10 finishes.

The two USF2000 races – one held in dry conditions on Friday, the other in the rain on Saturday – saw Gabin running among the leaders on both occasions. A fine start to Race One saw the young Aussie rise from sixth on the grid to fourth, pursued by countryman Anthony Martin. The pair remained in close company until a small mistake saw Gabin run briefly off the road. It was enough to damage his car’s nosecone and end his race. Rickards (right) made up two places on the first lap, then passed young German Keyvan Andres Soori before finishing hot on the heels of Canadian Parker Thompson. Agren and Lastochkin, who started from the back of the grid following an incident earlier in the day, finished ninth and 10th.

Gabin again ran well in Race Two, chasing Friday winner Aaron Telitz for fifth in extremely wet conditions before sliding into the gravel. Rickards also slipped off the road, leaving Lastochkin as the highest-placed Pelfrey driver in eighth.

All three levels of the Mazda Road to Indy, which offers scholarships to help drivers progress from the grassroots of the sport to the Verizon IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500, will race next at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis on May 7-9.

Ayla Agren (#81 Team Pelfrey/Energima/BVR/Alt I Asfalt/Salming Hockey/KNA/CoForce/Women’s Sports Foundation Van Diemen-Mazda) – Race One, started 11th, finished ninth; Race Two, started 11th, finished 10th: “A bit of a tough weekend for us – top-10 finishes but I know we have more to work with so we can get the results we are capable of doing. We are getting all the pieces together and will come back stronger at the GP of Indy.”

Luke Gabin (#82 Team Pelfrey/MAZDASPEED/Skip Barber/Mandurah Panel and Paint/Colbyson Van Diemen-Mazda) - Race One, started sixth, finished 15th; Race Two, started fifth, finished 14th: “A really up-and-down weekend for me at Barber. We had top-five pace the whole weekend until bad luck struck me in both races. The car is definitely where I want it and my driving is better than ever. I’m hoping to continue this pace into the Indy GP weekend and grab some good results.”

Garth Rickards (#83 Team Pelfrey/Rahal Automotive Group/Snap 21 Van Diemen-Mazda) – Race One, started 10th, finished sixth; Race Two, started eighth, finished 11th: “I want to start off by saying how much fun Barber Motorsports Park is to race on and how much I enjoyed the weekend as a whole. I seemed to struggle in a few areas in testing on Thursday and the early part of Friday but really felt like I figured it out in the race Friday afternoon. Saturday was a different beast and I was improving every lap but with two to go I made another mistake and ended up toward the back of the pack. Overall I think myself and the team are getting better and I’m so exited to finally drive in Indy! The focus will be on eliminating the mistakes I’ve been making and to maximize myself in qualifying.”

Nikita Lastochkin (#84 Team Pelfrey/Russkaya Mekhanika) – Race One, started 15th, finished 10th; Race Two, started 12th, finished eighth: “It was a good weekend overall. We had some ups and downs. After the incident in practice I had to miss qualifying and start from the back of the grid. It was a good experience and I was able to make up a few spots and finish 10th. The second race gave us yet again more of the valuable seat time in the wet. As a team overall, we have seen great improvement in pace even though the results don’t reflect that yet. I am very excited to carry on the momentum into Indy and start off on a high and finish that way.”

Dale Pelfrey’s race team, based in Palmetto, Fla., is built upon the same principles he used more than 35 years ago when establishing his business career – hire the best, acquire the best and expect the best in order to achieve the most. After fielding cars in the IndyCar Series from 1998 until 2000, Team Pelfrey was reformed in 2011, winning on its Pro Mazda debut and going on to earn the Team Championship as well as second and third in the drivers’ title-chase with Connor De Phillippi and Nick Andries. Team Pelfrey went one better in 2012, guiding Jack Hawksworth to the Drivers’ Championship and earning a second successive Team Championship. An expansion into the F1600 Championship Series for 2014 saw Ayla Agren, Garth Rickards and Augie Lerch secure the top three positions in the points table. The 2015 season also marks Team Pelfrey’s debut in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda.
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