Last year, it seemed Team Pelfrey was unbeatable in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, with their drivers finishing one-two in points. The team is back again in hopes of repeating the success with TJ Fischer driving one of their entries.
“The overall goal is to come away with the title and really, it’s maximizing myself, my understanding of the car, balance and really on a technical level the track,” he told POPULAR SPEED. “If I can do that and get ahead of it, understand it quicker than the others, then the rest of the season will take care of itself. I mean, it’s racing so there’s a certain amount of things you can’t predict but overall, if we do our best and do some of what we’ve been doing consistently and small little gains here and there.”
Fischer kicked off the season well at St. Petersburg, scoring a pair of third place finishes.
“St. Pete was all around a really good weekend,” he said. “For myself, we knew over winter testing that we had the speed and everything and got dialed in over the off-season. So St. Pete was really there to finally bring to light all the work we’d put into it. I think we did just that. Getting on the podium was a good effort, but there’s still much more to work on, two more spots to get up to the top step. So still going to take a little bit more effort and tweaking minor things now.”
“Overall, it’s really a big testament to the Team Pelfrey guys. They helped me out a ton and then my coach Chuck West. He’s been kind of in my camp over the off-season getting me prepared. So it’s all been good.”
Now Fischer will hope to continue the success at Indianapolis Motor Speedway next month when Pro Mazda returns to the track.
“It’s going to be a great event, and personally, I like the track a lot,” he said. “It offers a lot of different passing opportunities like turn one and seven, and then turn 10 as well. There’s unique places to pass, and I think overall it’s a great event, too. You get a lot of different people coming out to the event, and obviously, in Indy, you get a good fan base. It’ll be cool for that.”
For this season, the series has released a schedule that’s quite spread out, as a result of being in a transition year with a lack of teams and a new car on deck for 2018.
“It’s definitely a different mindset,” he said. “The biggest thing for me is trying to keep my mental component of it in my routine every day because it’s very easy when you’re outside of the track to get away from it. You want to try and be involved in racing all the time. So that’s what we’ve been trying to do.”
Once Indy gets here, though, excitement will be high as an important weekend for Fischer’s Project 02 Initiative, which is about spreading awareness about asthma based on his own experience.
“Through the GP of Indy, we’re debuting a #Race2TheRescue booth at the event, which is an initiative from Project O2,” he said. “So that’s really exciting because we’ve been planning on doing this for awhile now and it finally the opportunity arose. So you have a lot going on and potentially have some potential sponsors that will be out there, as well.”
Outside of Indy, Fischer admits he’s looking forward to Road America later this season, where he made his Pro Mazda debut in 2016 with two top-six finishes.
“That was a cool event, and the track is awesome,” he said. “Just seems like that is one of the classic American iconic road courses. There’s something about it. It’s very high speed and technical. Every corner matters because you have a big long straight after it, so there’s always the compromise between how much downforce you want to run, so it’s got that technical element which is great, and there’s passing there, big time. That was my debut weekend in Pro Mazda last year when we hopped up to Pro Mazda, and right away we were like in the thick of things, passing and everything, and even getting a toe down the straights which isn’t that common in Pro Mazda. That was fun.”
He adds Watkins Glen is also on his radar, with this year being the first time Pro Mazda has raced there in a long time.
Set to enter these events with the defending champions, Fischer doesn’t see it as extra pressure on his shoulders, but rather looks at the benefit of knowledge around him.
“They have a very good understanding of this car and the series in general, so it’s really not so much about pressure, but being able to capitalize the knowledge they have and applying it,” he said. “Every season is different. There’s always a different aspect to it. The year before that when Santi won the championship, it’s not like he led the championship the whole year. There were times he was fifth, sixth, seventh and then times he was getting a win; it was never like he dominated. You can also go back years past.
“Like anything, there will be a fight, and it’s not going to be straight forward 1-2s. We would love for that happen; I think it’s totally possible, and now for me, it’s getting that next little bit.”
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