There's an old adage in auto racing that says “I'd rather be lucky than good.” Well, both terms apply to Matthew Brabham.
He appeared to be headed for a second-place finish behind Venezuelan Diego Ferreira in this morning's 12th round of the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, the second leg of the Allied Building Products Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio, but moments after the caution flags flew as a result of an oil spillage in Turn Four due to contact between two cars farther down the field, Ferreira and Brabham encountered the oil slick and both leaders fought to maintain control of their cars.
Ferreira (Juncos Racing), who had taken the lead with an opportunistic maneuver on the first lap, slid off the road and through a gravel trap, narrowly missing the stranded car of Jay Horak. By the time Ferreira rejoined the track, Brabham, who had somehow managed to keep his Andretti Autosport Pro Mazda on the blacktop, was through and into the lead. The cleanup process could not be completed before the time-certain schedule had run its course, so the cars remained in that order as the race finished behind the pace car.
Ferreira, from Maracay, Venezuela, claimed that the pass had been made under caution, which indeed it had, but race officials ruled that since Brabham had managed to remain on the race track and Ferreira had not, the change in positions was legitimate. Brabham was duly credited with his record-breaking ninth win of the season, eclipsing the mark set by 2012 champion Jack Hawksworth.
“It was definitely an interesting race for us. I had a good start but Diego had a better start and managed to get me on the outside going into Turn Four," related Brabham. "At the start of the race, I was mainly focused on keeping Spencer [Pigot] behind me than trying to keep up with Diego. I managed to get a little gap and really put my head down to try to catch Diego. I had a really quick car in the middle of the race and I pulled up and Diego and I had a little fight for the lead for a couple of laps.
"I dropped back a bit and as soon as that happened the yellow flags came out for an incident in Turn Four. I came into that corner and thought I lost the whole rear wing because the whole thing was sliding around and I almost spun out. There was oil and I just managed to gather it up and get around the corner, but I saw Diego go shooting off into the gravel. We were under yellow and then, I am not sure what the rules are, but I was given the honors of crossing the line in first. I feel bad for Diego. I don't like to win like that. It is never sweet. In a way, it is a victory by default. Diego was flawless all race and driving really well out front.”
Spencer Pigot made a spectacular start to jump from fifth to third for Team Pelfrey. He placed Brabham under intense pressure in the opening stages before gradually slipping back into the clutches of teammate Nicolas Costa, who had made a poor start from fourth but quickly recovered some ground by passing Shelby Blackstock (Andretti Autosport).
By lap 11, Pigot, Costa and Blackstock were running in nose-to-tail formation in their battle for third. Pigot, who was struggling with his car's handling, then lost two places in quick succession when Costa fought his way through in Turn Five and Blackstock took advantage of Pigot being forced off line to sneak past in Turn Six.
The caution flags flew a short while later following an incident between Kyle Connery (M1 Racing) and Juan Piedrahita (JDC MotorSports) which resulted in the oil spillage and the race being concluded under yellow-flag conditions.
Expert Class leaders Horak (AutoEnginuity/M1 Racing) and Bobby Eberle (World Speed Motorsports) both spun in unison on the oil, gifting the Expert honors to Walt Bowlin (M1 Racing), who had survived a spin of his own earlier in the race.
Contingency awards included the Quarter Master Hard Charger Award to Scott Anderson of Juncos Racing for a gain of six positions from 12th to sixth, the Staubli Award to Lloyd Read of JDC MotorSports and the PFC Award to the winning team of Andretti Autosport.