Santiago Urrutia

Race 1 results || Race 2 results

MONTEREY, Calif. – “Viva, Santi.” “Viva, Uruguay!”

A compact but vocal crowd welcomed Santiago Urrutia into Victory Lane at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca following Race 1 of the Allied Building Products Pro Mazda Grand Prix of Monterey.

The new Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires champion exited the Team Pelfrey car waving the white and blue Uruguayan flag to kick off the celebration that stretched into his homeland.

Urrutia, who was trending on Twitter in Uruguay, is the country’s first motorsports champion, and the clincher came a day after marking the 16th anniversary of the death of countryman Gonzalo Rodriguez, who died from injuries sustained in a practice crash Sept. 11, 1999, during the CART race weekend at the 2.238-mile, 11-turn road course.

Urrutia, another promising talent, will receive a Mazda scholarship of $590,300 to advance to Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires in 2016.

Santiago UrrutiaUrrutia, who started and finished second to Garrett Grist of Juncos Racing, maintained a 2.5-second advantage over Neil Alberico through the initial 16 laps of the 30-minute timed race, which would have meant all Urrutia would have to do is start Race 2 on Sept. 13 to secure the title.

But Alberico spun at the exit of the racetrack’s signature “Corkscrew” and stopped on the right-hand side of the course. The DNF provided more than the points Urrutia needed.

Urrutia wore a special helmet design as a tribute to Rodriguez.

“It is special to win the championship at this track. I’m sure ‘Gonza’ was here today. He is a hero in Uruguay; he’s my hero, too,” Urrutia said.

“I am grateful for everything he did for the sport in Uruguay. We are only three million people and he worked hard to get to Indy car. I am giving the helmet to his foundation in Uruguay and I hope to one day be the second driver from Uruguay to race in Indy car.”

He’ll take the next step in 2016 on the Mazda Road to Indy development ladder.

“I can’t explain how happy I am. This is not only work this year with Team Pelfrey but last year and the past years. I just have to say thanks to everyone.”

Urrutia tested with Team Pelfrey only a few weeks before the first race on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., in late March. His moved to the top of the standings after a victory in early May on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

“I didn’t think I would be fighting for the championship in my rookie year,” said Urrutia, who competed in the GP3 Series in 2014.

Grist sweeps the weekend

Grist, 20, of Grimsby, Ontario, led Urrutia across the finish line by .7873 of a second in a green/white/checkered finish in Race 2 (14 laps completed in timed race).

Alberico finished 1.6 seconds back in third (his eighth podium of the season) and Will Owen of Team Pelfrey placed fourth.

Grist moved from seventh in the standings to third with the sweep of the doubleheader, which also gave Juncos Racing the team championship.

"Great way to end the season. We had some issues at the beginning of the year and some questionable calls, and I just want to thank everyone," Grist said.

Allied Building Products Pro Mazda Grand Prix of Monterey - Race 1 Podium
1. Garett Grist; 2. Santiago Urrutia; 3. Will Owen
Garett Grist, Santiago Urrutia, and Will Owen

Allied Building Products Pro Mazda Grand Prix of Monterey - Race 2 Podium
1. Garett Grist; 2. Santiago Urrutia; 3. Neil Alberico
Garett Grist, Santiago Urrutia, and Neil Alberico