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Herta And Franzoni Split Indy Lights Wins At Road America

by Paul Gohde

Race One: Future IndyCar driver Colton Herta scored his fourth straight Mazda Indy Lights series win at Road America Saturday for Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing. The California-native came from third spot in the seven-car grid, took the lead on lap six from pole-winner Victor Franzoni, and held off Pato O’Ward for his first Road America win. “Winning four in a row is massive. Now we have a car to win every weekend,” the 18-year-old said. “Our only issue was that there is a lot of tire degradation on this track and Pato kept the pressure on. I just wanted to get the car home.”

O’Ward tried hard to get by Herta but he also experienced a potential tire problem that kept him from getting to the winner. “I was catching them one-by-one trying to get to Colton, and I had one or two shots at him, but after going onto the rumble strips in turn five the car began to act ‘funky’ from the stones and gravel,” he explained.

Despite having dominated the past four events, Herta has only a 13-point lead for the Indy Lights championship, but he’s hoping that the Mazda scholarship prize money that goes with the crown could propel the team to IndyCar competition next year. “I need to get the $1 million that goes with the championship. It’s a massive boost. We’ve definitely been preparing for 2019 right from the get-go; even since 2016.”

A few more Lights wins in the future may be the fuel to get them there. They obviously have good backing.

Race Two: The Indy Lights winning streak for Colton Herta was likely to end sooner or later, but after winning on Saturday for win number four, the fifth was certainly in sight for today.

But Juncos team driver Victor Franzoni thought today was “the best race of my career” and it may have been as he bested Herta and the field to win his first career Lights race.

“Yesterday’s race was the worst of my career when I made many mistakes, but today was the best and I learned from Saturday,” noted Franzoni who became one of few to win in all three Mazda Road to Indy series. “I learned a lot today and what I learned yesterday I put into today.”

Pole-winner Pato O’Ward led early but had contact in turn five with Santi Urrutia that sent Urrutia to the pits for repairs and opened the door for Franzoni to roar up the hill and take the lead around the slowing O’Ward.

Franzoni then watched in his rear-view mirrors as O’Ward, Herta and Aaron Telitz mounted a chase that proved useless as Franzoni held serve and won by 4.5 seconds.

“His (Franzoni’s) car was better today than yesterday. We were about the same, but he took advantage and held us off,” noted a somewhat disappointed Herta. “We’ll win again soon but we had a solid second and got some points today.”

“I was disappointed not to win again,” said a smiling Herta. “My car was the same as yesterday, but his was better. Saturday, he used a lot of wing that slowed him, but I think he ran it flatter today. If I finish on the podium every race and can win every other, you’ll win the championship.”

“I don’t know what’s going to happen next season,” said the winner Franzoni, who has his sights set on an Indy Car ride sooner rather than later. “Winning the race can open the doors for more.”

And perhaps a door to a seat in Indy Car.

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Paul Gohde heard the sound of race cars early in his life.

Growing up in suburban Milwaukee, just north of Wisconsin State Fair Park in the 1950’s, Paul had no idea what “that noise” was all about that he heard several times a year. Finally, through prodding by friends of his parents, he was taken to several Thursday night modified stock car races on the old quarter-mile dirt track that was in the infield of the one-mile oval -and he was hooked.

The first Milwaukee Mile event that he attended was the 1959 Rex Mays Classic won by Johnny Thomson in the pink Racing Associates lay-down Offy built by the legendary Lujie Lesovsky. After the 100-miler Gohde got the winner’s autograph in the pits, something he couldn’t do when he saw Hank Aaron hit a home run at County Stadium, and, again, he was hooked.

Paul began attending the Indianapolis 500 in 1961, and saw A. J. Foyt’s first Indy win. He began covering races in 1965 for Racing Wheels newspaper in Vancouver, WA as a reporter/photographer and his first credentialed race was Jim Clark’s historic Indy win.Paul has also done reporting, columns and photography for Midwest Racing News since the mid-sixties, with the 1967 Hoosier 100 being his first big race to report for them.

He is a retired middle-grade teacher, an avid collector of vintage racing memorabilia, and a tour guide at Miller Park. Paul loves to explore abandoned race tracks both here and in Europe, with the Brooklands track in Weybridge England being his favorite. Married to Paula, they have three adult children and two cats.

Paul loves the diversity of all types of racing, “a factor that got me hooked in the first place.”