ELKHART LAKE, Wis., June 23, 2017 — Kris Wright of Wexford, Pa., is making his series debut in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires this weekend at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis. On Thursday afternoon he qualified an amazing fifth for his first Pro Mazda race ever, which is scheduled to get the green flag at 2:35 p.m. Eastern time (1:35 p.m. local) on Friday.
Wright, who will turn 23 on July 17, is one of 11 rookies in a field of 15 competing in the doubleheader featuring the second step on the Mazda Road to Indy development ladder.
Wright is driving the No. 12 Tatuus sponsored by Esmark Steel Group and PPG. Esmark Steel Group is a Chicago-based steel company, and it will entertain some of its clients at the races this weekend as part of its marketing partnership with Kris Wright Motorsports. Esmark Steel Group, a wholly owned subsidiary of Esmark, Inc., is one of the United States’ leading processors and distributors of value-added flat-rolled steel and the third-largest U.S. producer of tin plate steel.
Wright's Pro Mazda car is fielded by one of the top teams in formula car racing, JDC MotorSports of Savage, Minn., which has won this series' championship three times (with Tristan Vautier in 2011, Adam Christodoulou in 2009, and Dane Cameron in 2007). Wright also competes in the IMSA Prototype Challenge series in a car fielded by JDC MotorSports, and he'll race that car next weekend at Watkins Glen, N.Y.
Wright had also been doing the first step on the Mazda Road to Indy program, the USF2000 series, this year. However, when his driver coach, sports car veteran Nic Jonsson, learned of the opportunity for Wright to advance to the higher series with JDC, they took it. Wright will now finish out the Pro Mazda season with JDC as well as continue to race with that team in Prototype Challenge.
"I'm working with a lot of the same people that I'm already working with in Prototype Challenge, including the team's engineer, Walter Preston, so we thought it would be a good fit," Wright said. "I have a lot to learn, but we're definitely starting off well. JDC has been unbelievable this week so far. They really know this series and this track."
Wright added that he's still learning the intricacies of driving a Pro Mazda car. "I tested a Pro Mazda car once for only about 20 minutes at another track about three weeks ago, but that was it before today," he said Thursday evening.
Wright only did four laps in Thursday's solitary practice session, and was 11th overall. "It was wet in the practice and we were waiting to go out on slick tires," he explained. "We waited to see if there would be a dry line that would come up as more cars were on the track."
During the first qualifying session later on Thursday he was able to knock 20 seconds off his best time in practice when he turned a 2:12.168 (109.334 miles per hour) on the third of eight laps he completed in that session. That was good for seventh place, but he advanced two more positions when two other drivers were penalized after the session.
"It was a dry track for the first qualifying session, but there were some damp spots," Wright reported. "We're really excited that I could come away with a top-10 time in qualifying, and to move up to fifth was even better."
Another qualifying session will be held Friday morning.
The twin 40-minute races are scheduled to start at 2:35 p.m. Eastern time (1:35 p.m. local) on Friday and 3:05 p.m. Eastern (2:05 p.m. local) on Saturday. They both support Sunday's Verizon IndyCar Series headliner.
At 4.048 miles, the 14-turn Road America road course is one of the longest tracks an American driver will face during his career. Although this is Wright's first time driving a Pro Mazda car here, he's competed here a handful of other times in other series such as Pirelli World Challenge and the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge series.
The Pro Mazda series' website, which offers live timing and scoring, is at promazda.com.
The races will be shown on Road to Indy TV, the Road to Indy TV app, and dedicated broadcast channels on demand via Apple TV, Amazon Fire, Roku and the Xbox One official app.