No team supports the Mazda Road to Indy like Andretti Autosport. Not content to seek glory in the IZOD IndyCar Series, they are also involved in each rung of the open wheel ladder, from USF2000 through Firestone Indy Lights.
With that in mind, we asked some of Andretti’s up-and-coming drivers from each level of the ladder to give their thoughts on the IndyCar title hunt, the season finale, and their favorite memory of the year so far. We were joined by Zach Veach (Firestone Indy Lights), Matthew Brabham and Shelby Blackstock (Pro Mazda Championship), and Garett Grist (Cooper Tires USF2000) for a quick Q&A on these topics:
Question 1: Which driver do you predict will win this year’s IZOD IndyCar Series championship?
Zach Veach, Firestone Indy Lights: Personally I would like to see Marco Andretti be able to take home his first IndyCar Championship. He's worked extremely hard this year, and I feel like he deserves to definitely be in the fight for it!
Matthew Brabham, Pro Mazda: I predict that Helio Castroneves will win the championship. He has a great advantage in the points over everyone at the moment, and I think he can pretty much taste being the IndyCar champion. So I think he is extremely motivated to push hard in the next three races and clinch his first title.
Shelby Blackstock, Pro Mazda: I think Helio Castroneves will win this year's IZOD IndyCar Series Championship.
Garett Grist, USF2000: I think Helio Castroneves will win the championship, but I wish it was Scott Dixon or one of the Andretti Autosport drivers.
Question #2: Which driver do you think will triumph at Fontana?
Veach: I think we'll see all of the Andretti cars towards the front, but I have to say I think Ryan Hunter-Reay will be one of the strongest at Fontana. Andretti has fast cars on the super speedway, and Ryan showed his pace well last year being able to fight until the end to win the championship.
Brabham: Ryan Hunter-Reay is my pick to win at Fontana. I feel like he’s just out of range of the championship at the moment but has something to prove to everyone being the defending IndyCar champion. I believe at Fontana he will be the one to put it all out on the line and leave nothing on the table. He will be able to take advantage of those thinking too much about their championship; it’s all or nothing for him at the moment.
Blackstock: I think Ryan Hunter-Reay will do very well at Fontana
Grist: I think it’s RHR with the triumph in Fontana.
Question #3: What was your favorite moment in INDYCAR so far this season?
Veach: My favorite memory of this season in IndyCar so far would have to be Carlos Munoz and his second-place finish in the Indianapolis 500. It was a huge inspiration for all of the young drivers, and proof that the Mazda Road To Indy is helping prepare the next generation of IndyCar drivers.
Brabham: There have been many great battles and lots of exciting racing all year. IndyCar has been so fantastic to watch this season so it’s hard for me to see one particular moment that stands out, although my favorite moment would probably be the race in Sao Paulo. It has been a while since I have seen a last lap battle quite like that. It’s not often you can win on the last corner of the race, but when it happens there is no victory sweeter than that, so I was very envious of James Hinchcliffe getting the move done on Sato in that last corner.
Blackstock: The last 10 laps of the Brazil race. Especially on the last lap in last corner when James Hinchcliffe passed Takuma Sato to take the win.
Grist: My favourite moment was James winning the Brazil IndyCar race on the last lap. It was the best race I have seen.
Zachary Houghton runs www.indycaradvocate.com, which features regularly-updated INDYCAR, IZOD IndyCar Series, and Mazda Road to Indy interviews, commentary, and more. You can find him on Twitter at @indycaradvocate, or drop him a line at mail.rpgblog(at)gmail.com.