Derani Leads Team Pelfrey Challenge with Fourth in Alabama
 April 28, 2014| 
  • Team News

LEEDS, ALA. – The third and fourth rounds of an extremely competitive Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires at Barber Motorsports Park proved especially challenging for Team Pelfrey’s trio of drivers, although Brazilian Pipo Derani dug deep to produce a fine drive to fourth place in Race Two to maintain his title challenge.

Teammates Dalton Kellett and Brandon Newey were embroiled in battles throughout both 20-lap races, and both were pleased with their progress.

After struggling to match a competitive pace during the test day on Thursday, all three drivers made steady improvements as the weekend unfolded.

Race One on Saturday morning, held in radiant sunshine, saw Derani make of his trademark fast starts, vaulting from seventh on the grid to fourth as Kellett and Newey maintained their starting positions of ninth and 13th. Derani lost one place to Neil Alberico following a full-course caution, then was passed also by Shelby Blackstock before holding onto sixth at the finish. Kellett moved up to eighth in the early going, only to lose a couple of positions before the finish, while Newey ran well until a late-race spin dropped him to 16th.

Weather conditions were completely different for Sunday morning’s race – much cooler and with a heavy overcast. Derani once again charged hard from the start, making up three positions on the opening lap and then maintaining the pressure on Blackstock throughout all 20 laps. His feat was emulated by Newey, who scorched from 16th to11th inside the first two laps, just ahead of teammate Kellett. Unfortunately, fluctuating fuel pressure hindered Newey’s progress from around half-distance and he did well to lose only one position – to Kellett.

Derani currently stands fourth in the championship table, only 14 points behind the second-placed driver. Kellett lies eighth and Newey 17th.
Team Pelfrey will return to action for Rounds 5 and 6 when the entire Mazda Road to Indy development ladder once again runs in conjunction with the Verizon IndyCar Series at the newly reconfigured Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course for the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis on May 9/10.

Dalton Kellett (#80 Team Pelfrey/K-Line Insulators USA, Inc./Gap Guard) - Race 1, started 13th, finished ninth; Race 2, started 12th, finished 11th:
“In terms of the weekend in general, we definitely learned a lot, setup-wise on the car. We didn’t exactly start out where we wanted to but we made a few setup changes and looking at the data with the engineers and working with the driver coaches – and also changing some things with my driving – we were able to get the car closer to where it needed to be and improve our lap times. In terms of the results we’re obviously not entirely satisfied but our overall race pace wasn’t bad. For myself I just need to be a little more aggressive at the start so I can at least move up spots and stay with the pack.”

Pipo Derani (#81 Team Pelfrey/Alan Lewis Consulting/Gap Guard) - Race 1, started seventh, finished sixth; Race 2, started seventh, finished fourth: “It was a difficult weekend because the car wasn’t fast when we rolled out of the truck, but we made a lot of progress and scored some good points, so from that perspective it was good. The second race was much better because we were right there with (Shelby) Blackstock. It’s a difficult track to make passes and he made one mistake and we almost got him but it wasn’t quite enough. We need to continue to work hard and raise our game so we can try to qualify in the top three at the next race. If I am able to start farther up the grid and have a good first lap like I’m doing now, I’ll be able to fight for the lead. That’s certainly what we’ll be trying to do.”

Brandon Newey (#82 Team Pelfrey/Mygale Race Cars/Gap Guard) - Race 1, started 13th, finished 16th; Race 2, started 16th, finished 12th: “We started out off the pace but we’ve been improving the car every session and by the final race we were pretty close and had really good race pace. Unfortunately, we had a fuel pickup issue right before halfway, so I wasn’t able to maintain my position or move up in the race, but overall it was a good learning weekend and just a really fun experience overall.”

Dale Pelfrey’s race team, based in Palmetto, Fla., is built upon the same principles he used 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.

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