Categories
Mazda Road to Indy Open Wheel

Telitz Bookends Indy Lights Season in Style as Kaiser Clinches Title

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – Aaron Telitz, from Birchwood, Wis., put on a clinic today in treacherous conditions to win the Mazda Indy Lights Watkins Glen Grand Prix Presented by Cooper Tires, while Juncos Racing’s Kyle Kaiser wrapped up the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires championship title with a steady seventh-place finish.
 
Telitz’s Belardi Auto Racing teammate, Santi Urrutia, from Uruguay, finished in second place, well clear of Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing’s polesitter Colton Herta, from Valencia, Calif.
 
Steady rain shortly before the start ensured the entire field was on wet-weather Cooper tires, and following an additional pace lap to permit the drivers an opportunity to assess the track conditions, it was Herta, the youngest driver in the field at age 17, who led on the long downhill run toward Turn One. Telitz, who started third, immediately thrust to the inside under braking to claim the advantage, only for Herta to fight back as they swept into the uphill Esses for the first time.
 
Urrutia, too, was in the mix, ensuring a spectacular first few laps as the three leaders traded positions numerous times before Telitz overtook Herta one more time in opportunistic style at Turn Eight. He then began to edge away as Herta and Urrutia continued to squabble over second place.
 
Urrutia finally made the position his own on Lap Seven, but by then the impressive Telitz was already nearly seven seconds up the road.
Herta couldn’t match their pace but still remained clear of Andretti Autosport teammate Nico Jamin, from Rouen, France, who had overtaken Zachary Claman DeMelo (Carlin), from Montreal, Canada, on Lap Four.
 
Urrutia set sail – almost literally – after Telitz, narrowing the deficit to around four seconds before Telitz responded with a new best lap of the race on Lap 14, just as the yellow flags flew after Andretti Autosport’s Dalton Kellett lost control and crashed at the Inner Loop.
The rain intensified during the clean-up process, leaving officials no choice but to display the red flag in the hope that conditions would improve. Thankfully, they did, and after a 12-minute delay the race was on again for a seven-lap dash to the finish.
 
Telitz was unfazed, despite intense pressure from his more experienced teammate, Urrutia, who, coincidentally, had preceded him as winner of the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires in 2015. The pair romped clear of the field, with Telitz posting three successive fastest laps of the race to seal the victory and ensure that he ended the season as he had begun it on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., in March – with an emphatic victory. He also claimed the Staubli Award.
 
In addition to cementing his unenviable position as championship runner-up for the second successive year, Urrutia’s second-place finish ensured a come-from-behind victory in the Team Championship for Belardi Auto Racing by a slender four-point margin over Andretti Autosport.
 
Herta finished third ahead of Carlin’s Matheus Leist, from Brazil, who earned the Tilton Hard Charger after a fine drive from ninth on the grid.
 
All three series which comprise the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires will celebrate with a traditional end-of-season banquet tomorrow evening, Monday, in Watkins Glen. A total of $2,682,000 in Mazda Scholarships and awards will be distributed, including a prize valued at $1 million which will guarantee Kaiser entry into three Verizon IndyCar Series races in 2018, including the 102nd Indianapolis 500.
 
Aaron Telitz (#9 Mazda/Rice Lake Weighing Systems-Belardi Auto Racing): “I think relief is my primary emotion – the team joked with me that I might not remember how to get to Victory Lane. But it was a great way to end the year. It gives me a lot of confidence going into the off season, thinking that all the hard work was worth it. But it was pretty slippery out there! The start was tricky but I had some rain experience here earlier in the year – we did a Cooper Tire test and it was raining in the afternoon, so I thought I would go out and run in the rain. I did about 10 laps, so I knew where the grip was going to be on the track, whereas everyone else was still figuring it out. But by the end of the race, Santi figured it out. I knew the red flag would be coming but I didn’t want to win it in the pits. The team was telling us that if we finished 1-2 we would win the team championship, so ‘don’t crash’ was definitely coming through on the radio.”
 
Santi Urrutia (#5 Belardi Auto Racing w/SPM): “Aaron and I had different setups and I had problems on the first part of the track. The car was good but I was struggling early to find the lines. I had some chances to pass Aaron, especially on the restart when he made a mistake in Turn One but after that we were running the same speed and I decided to stay in second place. That earned us the team championship and vice championship for me again. I had some issues early in the season but when we got them sorted out everything started going the right way. We had a really strong second half so we have been competitive. My goal was to win the championship but we were 11th after Road America. To finish second is good. It was a good year – I won my first oval, which was great, and I hope I can go to IndyCar next year.”
 
Colton Herta (#98 Deltro Energy Mazda/Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing): “It was hairy for sure, going side-by-side through the Esses on the first lap. It was my first time in the wet with the car so it was a learning experience for the first few laps but I got settled in and started working on getting my lap times in and not making any mistakes. We had an amazing year, just missed tying my dad for poles in a season – thanks, dad! It was a good year. I got a ton of experience in all different kinds of conditions and I loved it! I hope to be back next year.”
 
Kyle Kaiser (#18 Juncos Racing): “I never could have imagined this at age 7, getting into a kart for the first time. It has been an absolute dream. But it’s been a strange feeling today, because it wasn’t the best race. The championship never entered my mind during the race – I was just trying to manage the conditions. I think these were the trickiest conditions we’ve had all year. I tried pushing and that’s why I spun. But I just really wanted to bring the car home. We just won the Indy Lights championship and it’s time to celebrate. When I got to the podium and Dan Andersen, John Doonan and Chris Pantani were there to give me the champion’s trophy, I started to realize that it was real. 
 
“I am so appreciative of my time on the Mazda Road to Indy. The new Indy Lights car has been a perfect transition. The experience I’ve gained these past three years, not rushing it or wanting to move up too soon has been so valuable. All the race experience will translate into IndyCar.”
 
###
 
About Indy Lights: Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires is the third and final step on the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires. Sanctioned by INDYCAR, the series is operated by Andersen Promotions, which oversees all three levels of the ladder system. The Indy Lights champion is awarded a scholarship valued at $1M toward the Verizon IndyCar Series. The series has a rich history as a development platform for many of today’s top drivers. For more information, visit indylights.com and roadtoindy.info.
 
About Mazda, Mazda Motorsports: Mazda Motorsports boasts the most comprehensive auto racing development ladder system of any auto manufacturer in the world. The Mazda Road to 24 program offers a number of scholarships to advance drivers up the sports car racing ladder, beginning with the Global MX-5 Cup series and culminating with the Mazda Prototype team. The Mazda Road to Indy is a similar program that includes Mazda-powered categories of USF2000, Pro Mazda and Indy Lights. In grassroots road racing, more Mazdas race on any given weekend in North America than any other manufacturer. Mazda is also the title sponsor of the renowned Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif. Follow all of the latest news at MazdaMotorsports.com, @MazdaRacing on Twitter, and MazdaMotorsports on Instagram and Facebook. 
 
About Cooper Tire & Rubber Company: Cooper Tire & Rubber Company is the parent company of a global family of companies that specializes in the design, manufacture, marketing and sale of innovative, great-performing tires that you can count on to last for thousands of miles, getting you where you need to go, and back again. Cooper is proud to be the spec tire for all three levels of the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires, a development program within the IndyCar racing series. Cooper tires can also be seen on the track as a sponsor in the short course off-road TORC Series. Headquartered in Findlay, Ohio, Cooper, with its subsidiaries, has manufacturing, sales, distribution, technical and design operations in more than one dozen countries around the world. To connect with Cooper, visit www.coopertire.comwww.facebook.com/coopertire or www.twitter.com/coopertire.
Categories
Mazda Road to Indy Open Wheel

Urrutia Wins a Thriller on Indy Lights Return to Gateway Motorsports Park

Fourth-place Finish Means Kaiser Merely Needs to Start Practice at Finale
 
MADISON, Ill. – Santi Urrutia claimed a last-gasp victory in this evening’s Mazda St. Louis Indy Lights Oval Challenge Presented by Cooper Tires at the 1.25-mile Gateway Motorsports Park oval. The Uruguayan’s second win of the season for Belardi Auto Racing came after a tense battle with fellow South American Juan Piedrahita, who started from the pole position for Team Pelfrey but had to be content with a career-best second place finish.
 
Second-generation Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires racer Colton Herta finished third for Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing, narrowly ahead of fellow Californian Kyle Kaiser (Juncos Racing). The result means Kaiser merely needs to take the green flag for practice at next weekend’s season finale on the Watkins Glen International road circuit in upstate New York to put the coveted championship title beyond the reach of his rivals and secure a Mazda Scholarship valued at $1 million which will guarantee him entry into three Verizon IndyCar Series races in 2018, including the 102nd Indianapolis 500.
 
Indy Lights’ return to Gateway Motorsports Park following a 14-year absence proved to be a huge success as the large and appreciative crowd was treated to a thrilling 75-lap race.
 
Both Urrutia and Herta, who arrived at Gateway tied for second place in the championship, knew they needed to win the two remaining races to have any chance of beating Kaiser to the crown. In short, it was a long shot.
 
Urrutia, who lost out on the 2016 title in heartbreaking style at the season finale, did his level best to secure the additional championship point for pole position, only to be denied by series veteran Piedrahita – by a scant 0.006 of a second. Nevertheless, he knew his dream was still alive when he lined up on the front row of the grid.
 
The opening stages were marred by a succession of incidents. Aaron Telitz, last year’s winner of the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, was particularly unfortunate when his Soul Red Belardi Auto Racing Dallara-Mazda was collected by a couple of spinners on the very first lap.
 
When the race finally got under way, with Piedrahita narrowly maintaining his advantage, Kaiser laid clean his intentions by passing Urrutia for second place around the outside in Turn Two. He didn’t hold it for long as Urrutia repaid the favor on Lap 15 and immediately began to pressure Piedrahita for the lead.
 
Kaiser, meanwhile, soon slipped back into the clutches of a battling Nico Jamin (Andretti Autosport), Herta – who earned the Tilton Hard Charger Award, Kaiser’s teammate Nico Dapero and Matheus Leist (Carlin), who had won the two previous ovals raced this season and quickly fought his way up from a lowly 12th on the grid.
 
Urrutia finally found a chink in Piedrahita’s armor on Lap 42, when he sliced past on the exit of Turn Four, but by then he had already lost any chance of gaining one of the other bonus points – for leading most laps. A little later in the race, on Lap 61, Zachary Claman DeMelo (Carlin) put the final bonus point – for fastest race lap – beyond Urrutia’s reach when he turned a lap in 28.0370 seconds, an average speed of 160.502 mph.
 
Still, Urrutia had eked out a margin of almost 1.5 seconds with 15 laps remaining, so at least the race win seemed to be well within his grasp. Furthermore, by then Kaiser had been overtaken firstly by Jamin and then by Leist and DeMelo.
 
But then the complexion of the race changed again when Carlin teammates Neil Alberico and Garth Rickards, who were battling for the 11th position, tangled with the slower car of debutant Chad Boat (Belardi Auto Racing), who earned the Staubli Award.
 
Officials wisely displayed the red flag while the wreckage was cleared away, leaving enough time for what was expected to be a five-lap shootout to the checkered flag. Piedrahita promptly made an opportunistic move around the outside of Urrutia at the restart, only for the yellows to fly again following an incident involving the third and fourth-placed cars of Jamin and Leist. 
The green flew again with just three laps remaining. Urrutia knew it was now or never. He and Piedrahita battled side by side for almost two full laps before Urrutia completed the pass and sped away to a brilliant victory. Herta emerged in third, while Kaiser, who narrowly escaped becoming embroiled in the drama, crossed the line in fourth to ensure that his own dream was almost accomplished.
Kaiser now holds an unassailable 31-point edge as the series heads to Watkins Glen next weekend, although he will still need to turn up and practice for the race in order to be assured of the championship spoils.
 
The Team Championship remains more finely poised, with Andretti Autosport holding a 11-point lead, 364-353, over Belardi Auto Racing. Last year’s champions Carlin now trail in third on 345 points.
 
Santi Urrutia (#5 Belardi Auto Racing w/SPM): “It was one of the best races of the year – competitive, clean and really exciting. It was good racing against Juan. He was quicker than me on the straight and I was better in Turns One and Two so when he made a small mistake in Turn One, I was able to get past. When the red came out, I was worried because I thought he would be able to pass me on the restart. When that happened, I knew it was my last chance and I had to try to get by. I’m happy – I did what I had to do today; the rest was out of our control. We had a difficult start to the season but the second half we have been really strong, and I hope races like this will help me be in IndyCar next year.”
 
Juan Piedrahita (#2 Petrosur-Team Pelfrey): “There were two perfect cars this weekend: my car and Santi’s car. It just happened that his car was perfect in Turns One and Two and my car was perfect in Turns Three and Four, so we could get a run on each other but not hold it. I gave it my all today. It feels awesome to be up front, but I’m heartbroken not to get the win for the team. But Santi did a great job. I kept hoping the race would end, because it was so difficult mentally. I didn’t know what he was going to do. I had a run on him, then he had a run on me – it was crazy. We both did a great job and I hope I can get the win at Watkins Glen.”
 
Colton Herta (#98 Deltro Energy Mazda-Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing): “It was discombobulating, between the yellows and the red flag, so it was a tough race, but I also think it was one of the best races of the year. We came into the red flag in seventh and made some good moves on the restart. I think if we had a few more laps we could have challenged for the win. The year has gone so quickly, and I’m happy with what we’ve done this year. I didn’t expect to be in the title chase our first year; we planned on a two-year program. So we’re ahead of the game.”
 
###
 
About Indy Lights: Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires is the third and final step on the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires. Sanctioned by INDYCAR, the series is operated by Andersen Promotions, which oversees all three levels of the ladder system. The Indy Lights champion is awarded a scholarship valued at $1M toward the Verizon IndyCar Series. The series has a rich history as a development platform for many of today’s top drivers. For more information, visit indylights.com and roadtoindy.info.
 
About Mazda, Mazda Motorsports: Mazda Motorsports boasts the most comprehensive auto racing development ladder system of any auto manufacturer in the world. The Mazda Road to 24 program offers a number of scholarships to advance drivers up the sports car racing ladder, beginning with the Global MX-5 Cup series and culminating with the Mazda Prototype team. The Mazda Road to Indy is a similar program that includes Mazda-powered categories of USF2000, Pro Mazda and Indy Lights. In grassroots road racing, more Mazdas race on any given weekend in North America than any other manufacturer. Mazda is also the title sponsor of the renowned Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif. Follow all of the latest news at MazdaMotorsports.com, @MazdaRacing on Twitter, and MazdaMotorsports on Instagram and Facebook. 
 
About Cooper Tire & Rubber Company: Cooper Tire & Rubber Company is the parent company of a global family of companies that specializes in the design, manufacture, marketing and sale of innovative, great-performing tires that you can count on to last for thousands of miles, getting you where you need to go, and back again. Cooper is proud to be the spec tire for all three levels of the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires, a development program within the IndyCar racing series. Cooper tires can also be seen on the track as a sponsor in the short course off-road TORC Series. Headquartered in Findlay, Ohio, Cooper, with its subsidiaries, has manufacturing, sales, distribution, technical and design operations in more than one dozen countries around the world. To connect with Cooper, visit www.coopertire.comwww.facebook.com/coopertire or www.twitter.com/coopertire.
Categories
Mazda Road to Indy Open Wheel

MRTI Observations: Cooper Tires Indy Lights Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio

During the course of a season, there are races that you forget, and events that are remembered for how they affected the landscape of the year. The Cooper Tires Indy Lights Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio Powered by Mazda was a memorable one.

With Nico Jamin returning to victory lane, combined with championship contenders experiencing problems, the event had a little something for every single Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires fan. 

Here are some observations from the day.

Back On Top

For the first time since winning two races in the initial five events of the season, Nico Jamin is back on top as he scored the victory on Sunday at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

After a thrilling back and forth battle for the top spot with Colton Herta, he’d take the lead on Lap 2 and leave the field. While Santiago Urrutia was able to close the gap in the closing stages, it was never enough to make a pass, handing the victory to Jamin. 

When the season started, Jamin was strong in the first six races with a pair of victories and four straight top-fives. However, since the Indianapolis Grand Prix in May, he failed to post a top-five in the following six events. This weekend in Mid-Ohio was the perfect turnaround, as he matched the victory with a third on Saturday. 

Championship Struggles

While it was a dreamy weekend for some, the top-two in the standings experienced weekends they’d like to forget.

Points leader Kyle Kaiser finished 12th on Saturday after starting sixth. Then on Sunday, he qualified ninth, putting himself behind the eight-ball early. He was able to make up some ground, moving up to seventh by Lap 12, though a dive inside of Juan Piedrahita resulted in him spinning around and losing valuable track position. He was unable to make it up, finishing 12th once again.

Kaiser’s struggles should have been the perfect opportunity for Colton Herta to gain points, but he had his own problems. After finishing second on Saturday, he battled for the lead early with Nico Jamin before a spin put him behind the field on Lap 3. The incident did not take any speed out of his Mazda, as he caught the back of the field, and drove his way up to sixth by the checkered flag.

Entering the last two rounds of the season, Kaiser leads Herta by 42 points, with Santiago Urrutia just one more marker behind. Although there was some ground gained by Herta, it could have been more if he would’ve equaled the performances he’s been known for this season. If Kaiser puts together two more solid finishes, he will walk away as the champion. But another weekend like this, and the tables could turn at Watkins Glen.

Lap 1 Tangle

Before their race even really got going, it did not start out how Dalton Kellett or Garth Rickards planned, with the pair getting together on Lap 1. Rickards was done for the event, while Kellett carried on to finish 13th, one lap down after a pit stop.

The pair could have done without the incident, as this season has not gone as either would have liked, with both drivers sitting outside of the top-10 in points. Rickards has only four top-10’s in 14 races, while Kellett has eight top-10’s, including two podiums.

With silly season set to be busy through the winter and a bunch of driver changes rumored, both drivers could use a pair of good runs to close out their campaigns.

Returns to Podium

If you are going to struggle through the middle portion of the season, the goal is simply to finish out the year strong. That’s exactly what Shelby Blackstock is doing.

After making the move to Belardi Auto Racing, he began the season with solid finishes, posting five straight top-10’s. However, the summer stretch proved tough, with only two top-10’s in the next seven races. 

This past weekend at Mid-Ohio, Blackstock appears to be finding his groove as he posted a pair of top-fives, placing fourth and third in the two events.

Now moving ahead to closing out the 2017 campaign, after posting a sixth-place finish last year at Watkins Glen, another podium finish – or possibly a win, could make the summer easier to handle.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER:@ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
Mazda Road to Indy Open Wheel

Jamin Claims Dramatic Indy Lights Victory at Mid-Ohio

LEXINGTON, Ohio – Frenchman Nico Jamin claimed a hard-earned victory for Andretti Autosport in today’s Cooper Tires Indy Lights Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio Powered by Mazda. The 21-year-old Frenchman fended off a determined challenge from yesterday’s winner, Santi Urrutia (Belardi Auto Racing), to become the fifth different Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires winner in the last six races.
A delighted Shelby Blackstock, from Nashville, Tenn., finished third – his first podium appearance since the corresponding event at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in 2015.
 
Entering the weekend, Jamin and Urrutia were the “form men” at the undulating 2.258-mile Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Jamin had won all three USF2000 races at the venue in 2015 on his way to the championship – and claimed a double one year ago in Pro Mazda – while Urrutia had won one Pro Mazda race in 2015 en route to the championship, then swept both Indy Lights races from the pole in 2016. So it was perhaps fitting that they should share the spoils this weekend.
 
Colton Herta, from Valencia, Calif., the youngest driver in the field at 17, seemed set to claim a slice of the action when he qualified on pole, then snatched back the advantage for Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing despite being passed in opportunistic style on the opening lap by teammate Jamin, who had started third. But one lap after redressing the balance, Herta lost control at the tricky Turn Nine and spun to the back of the field.
 
Jamin regained the point and was never again headed during the 38-lap race, although he was made to work hard by Urrutia. The Uruguayan trailed by as much as 2.7 seconds at the mid-point of the race, before laying down a series of quick laps to gradually reduce the deficit. By the time he posted the fastest lap of the race on Lap 30, Urrutia had closed to within just a few car lengths, but Jamin upped his pace in response and was able to maintain a slender advantage to the finish line to secure his third win of the season and his first since the Indianapolis Grand Prix road course in May.
 
Blackstock, who started fifth, made a good start to depose Zachary Claman DeMelo (Carlin), then moved up to third following Herta’s uncharacteristic mistake. DeMelo remained hot on his heels throughout, but Blackstock made not the hint of a mistake.
 
Argentinean rookie Nicolas Dapero ran fifth during the early stages for Juncos Racing before making a mistake and falling behind Aaron Telitz (Belardi Auto Racing). Telitz, from Birchwood, Wis., claimed the Tilton Hard Charger Award after starting 12th and looked secure in fifth until the final laps when Herta closed in after a tremendous drive back through the field from 12th following his early error.
 
Ryan Norman (Andretti Autosport), from Aurora, Ohio, fell from sixth on the grid to ninth in the opening laps before righting the ship and then passing Dapero for seventh on the final lap.
 
Garth Rickards (Carlin), from Mechanicsburg, Pa., retired early but gained some consolation in the form of the Staubli Award.
 
Kyle Kaiser (Juncos Racing), from Santa Clara, Calif., lost a golden opportunity to put the championship virtually out of reach of his rivals when an attempt to pass Colombian Juan Piedrahita (Team Pelfrey) at Turn Five went awry on Lap 13. Kaiser eventually finished a lap down in 12th, although he still holds a healthy 42-point advantage over Herta and Urrutia, who are now tied for second. Matheus Leist (Carlin), who finished 10th, DeMelo and Jamin also are within 13 points of second place heading into the final two races at Gateway Motorsports Park (August 26) and Watkins Glen International (September 3).
 
In the Team Championship, Andretti Autosport has slipped into the lead by 343 points to the 335 of defending champion and erstwhile leader Carlin, with Belardi Auto Racing also firmly in contention on 327.
 
Nico Jamin (#27 DuraMAX Powered by RelaDyne Mazda-Andretti Autosport ): “I screamed on the radio (because) I was so happy. The whole 27 team has been struggling so to be first and third this weekend and coming back a bit in the championship feels really good. The track was extremely slippery so my car was all over the place for the first two or three laps, but it was the same for everyone. I knew I had to make it happen at the start so my plan was to be in the lead after Turn Four. I made a great start, right on Colton’s gearbox, and was able to get by. He used his push-to-pass to get back by on the next lap and I thought ‘this is going to be a fun race’ because I thought we’d be going after each other all race long. He made a mistake and I took the lead, but I knew it would be a long race with Santi pushing me like crazy. We raced hard but clean so congrats to them.”
 
Santi Urrutia (#5 Belardi Auto Racing w/SPM): “Starting on the outside is difficult and Nico got around me. My car was pretty loose but got better and better as the race went on. I used my push-to-pass on the last few laps and got around him on the back straight but he defended really well. The Belardi team has been working so hard and this was the first weekend we put everything together with me, Shelby and Aaron doing really well. It was a good weekend in the championship for us, with the win yesterday and second today and Kaiser down in the standings. The championship is difficult but all we can do is win so we’ll go to the next race with that plan. If we win the last two races, then we wait for the result.”
 
Shelby Blackstock (#51 Starstruck-Belardi Auto Racing): “I like this place. It’s a driver’s track – very technical and fast. I’ve always done well here, always been top-five unless we had an ‘uh-oh’ kind of day. We came off the truck in good shape this weekend and it was great for the entire team for Santi and me to be on the podium and with Aaron just behind. I had a good start but was pressured the entire time by Zach, which made for a tough day.”
###
About Indy Lights: Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires is the third and final step on the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires. Sanctioned by INDYCAR, the series is operated by Andersen Promotions, which oversees all three levels of the ladder system. The Indy Lights champion is awarded a scholarship valued at $1M toward the Verizon IndyCar Series. The series has a rich history as a development platform for many of today’s top drivers. For more information, visit indylights.com
 
About Mazda, Mazda Motorsports: Mazda Motorsports boasts the most comprehensive auto racing development ladder system of any auto manufacturer in the world. The Mazda Road to 24 program offers a number of scholarships to advance drivers up the sports car racing ladder, beginning with the Global MX-5 Cup series and culminating with the Mazda Prototype team. The Mazda Road to Indy is a similar program that includes Mazda-powered categories of USF2000, Pro Mazda and Indy Lights. In grassroots road racing, more Mazdas race on any given weekend in North America than any other manufacturer. Mazda is also the title sponsor of the renowned Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif. Follow all of the latest news at MazdaMotorsports.com, @MazdaRacing on Twitter, and MazdaMotorsports on Instagram and Facebook. 
 
About Cooper Tire & Rubber Company: Cooper Tire & Rubber Company is the parent company of a global family of companies that specializes in the design, manufacture, marketing and sale of innovative, great-performing tires that you can count on to last for thousands of miles, getting you where you need to go, and back again. Cooper is proud to be the spec tire for all three levels of the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires, a development program within the IndyCar racing series. Cooper tires can also be seen on the track as a sponsor in the short course off-road TORC Series. Headquartered in Findlay, Ohio, Cooper, with its subsidiaries, has manufacturing, sales, distribution, technical and design operations in more than one dozen countries around the world. To connect with Cooper, visit www.coopertire.comwww.facebook.com/coopertire or www.twitter.com/coopertire.
Categories
Mazda Road to Indy Open Wheel

Urrutia Continues Mid-Ohio Streak to Snare his First Win of the Season

LEXINGTON, Ohio – Santi Urrutia has clearly developed an affinity for the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. The Uruguayan today secured a hard-earned victory in the Cooper Tires Indy Lights Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio Powered by Mazda – his fourth in just five starts at the challenging 2.258-mile road course – and his first of the season for Belardi Auto Racing.
 
Second-generation Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires competitor Colton Herta finished a close second for Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing, with Andretti Autosport teammate Nico Jamin in third.
 
After winning on his debut at Mid-Ohio in 2015 en route to the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires title, then winning both Indy Lights races – from the pole – last year, Urrutia, 20, from Miguelete, Uruguay, maintained his dominance by claiming the pole position during qualifying yesterday afternoon. And following two aborted attempts at a start, he took the green flag at the third time of asking by leaping ahead of Herta, who qualified alongside on the front row of the grid, and Jamin.
 
An intense first lap saw Jamin make a bold maneuver to overtake his teammate around the outside at Turn Two, only for Herta to reclaim the place four laps later with a similarly forceful pass at the end of the back straight heading into Turn Four.
 
The in-fighting allowed Urrutia to stretch out a lead of almost two seconds, but it didn’t last for long. After moving back into second place, Herta posted a series of fastest laps to whittle away the deficit, and by Lap 12 the two leaders were once again in nose-to-tail formation. Furthermore, they were also being tracked closely by Shelby Blackstock, enjoying his strongest race of the season so far for Belardi Auto Racing, and Carlin teammates Zachary Claman DeMelo and Neil Alberico.
 
The top five positions remained unchanged through the remainder of the 35-lap race, with Urrutia winning by less than half a second and all five cars separated by just 3.3116 seconds at the checkered flag. 
 
Blackstock eventually claimed the extra championship point for posting the fastest lap of the race.
 
Alberico slipped back to a relatively lonely sixth but secured both the Staubli Award and the Tilton Hard Charger Award for making up two positions over his grid placing.
 
The two championship protagonists, Kyle Kaiser and Matheus Leist finished a distant 12th and 11th, respectively. Kaiser, from Santa Clara, Calif., who started sixth, slipped gradually backward due to oddly inconsistent handling on his Juncos Racing Dallara-Mazda IL-15, while Leist simply struggled in his Carlin entry on his first-ever visit to Mid-Ohio.
 
Both drivers will have an opportunity to make amends during tomorrow’s 14th round of the 16-race season, which will see the green flag at 1:20 p.m. EDT, directly before the Verizon IndyCar Series headline event. Herta, who secured the additional championship point during qualifying earlier today, has now slipped ahead of Leist in the driver’s standings. He now trails Kaiser by 48 points, 288-240, with Leist just two markers behind on 238.
 
Santi Urrutia (#5 Belardi Auto Racing w/SPM): “It’s good to be back at the top, especially for the Belardi team that has been working so hard. I got the win and Shelby took quickest lap, which shows that we’re doing great work together as a team. We have been struggling this year and the team really deserves this. I really like Mid-Ohio. I won both races here last year and one Pro Mazda race two years ago. This helps in the championship – Kaiser was off today, we just need him to be off for the next couple of races. The series is so competitive, any mistake costs you a lot.”
 
Colton Herta (#98 Deltro Energy Mazda/Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing): “I had a little bit of understeer and that was amplified when I got near Santi. I had one good crack at him (but) he drove a good race. I was out of push-to-pass by lap 12. I wasn’t getting super-close to him and he made a mistake, so I used three on one lap to get alongside him. But it took a couple of laps to lay down Cooper rubber and have the track come to us. Once it did, I was on rails. I caught Nico and went after Santi. I was really close to him at the end. But I’m still learning all the tracks in this car. The tracks are so different in this car than they were in the USF2000 car.”
###
About Indy Lights: Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires is the third and final step on the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires. Sanctioned by INDYCAR, the series is operated by Andersen Promotions, which oversees all three levels of the ladder system. The Indy Lights champion is awarded a scholarship valued at $1M toward the Verizon IndyCar Series. The series has a rich history as a development platform for many of today’s top drivers. For more information, visit indylights.com
 
About Mazda, Mazda Motorsports: Mazda Motorsports boasts the most comprehensive auto racing development ladder system of any auto manufacturer in the world. The Mazda Road to 24 program offers a number of scholarships to advance drivers up the sports car racing ladder, beginning with the Global MX-5 Cup series and culminating with the Mazda Prototype team. The Mazda Road to Indy is a similar program that includes Mazda-powered categories of USF2000, Pro Mazda and Indy Lights. In grassroots road racing, more Mazdas race on any given weekend in North America than any other manufacturer. Mazda is also the title sponsor of the renowned Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif. Follow all of the latest news at MazdaMotorsports.com, @MazdaRacing on Twitter, and MazdaMotorsports on Instagram and Facebook. 
 
About Cooper Tire & Rubber Company: Cooper Tire & Rubber Company is the parent company of a global family of companies that specializes in the design, manufacture, marketing and sale of innovative, great-performing tires that you can count on to last for thousands of miles, getting you where you need to go, and back again. Cooper is proud to be the spec tire for all three levels of the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires, a development program within the IndyCar racing series. Cooper tires can also be seen on the track as a sponsor in the short course off-road TORC Series. Headquartered in Findlay, Ohio, Cooper, with its subsidiaries, has manufacturing, sales, distribution, technical and design operations in more than one dozen countries around the world. To connect with Cooper, visit www.coopertire.comwww.facebook.com/coopertire or www.twitter.com/coopertire.
Categories
Mazda Road to Indy Open Wheel

MRTI OBSERVATIONS: Cooper Tires Indy Lights Grand Prix of Toronto

TORONTO, Ontario — In the tight confines of the streets of Toronto, Kyle Kaiser showcased why he is the current series points leader, as he won both Cooper Tires Indy Lights Grand Prix’s of Toronto. As for his competitors, some of them left with smiles while others were frustrated.

Here are some observations from the weekend.

Kool Kaiser

Entering his third season of Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires competition, Kyle Kaiser is coming into his own as a racecar driver. He has been solid on a weekly basis, scoring only one finish outside of the top-six in the first 10 races heading into Toronto.

This past weekend at Exhibition Place, he accomplished something he has not done in his career to date – sweeping a weekend.

In the first race, he led all 35 laps after starting from the pole, followed by running second throughout the second event after a daring three-wide move on Lap 1. until Colton Herta experienced a mechanical problem on Lap 25, handing the lead over to Kaiser. From there on, he drove away from the field en route to the checkered flag.

“This has been a dream weekend,” he said. “I’ve never had a double win weekend before, so I didn’t come into the (second) race – obviously I always try to win, but I was accepting the realistic facts. We were starting third, two really good guys ahead of us, so I was coming in just set to finish the race, and keep it clean.”

The success for Kaiser is no surprise, though, as he entered the weekend with three third-place finishes and a ninth in four previous races.

“We’ve always had a good set-up here,” he said. “Spencer (Pigot) won here two times in 2015 and last year, we had good pace but got caught out in the first qualifier towards the back but raced up to third. I think we’ve always had a good street course set-up, besides St. Pete. We did what we had to do. We attacked and gave everything that we had, and it paid off.”

Now with his third victory of the year, he currently leads the standings, 51 markers ahead of Matheus Leist. If he can remain solid throughout the rest of the season, he could walk away with the championship, and an opportunity to race in the Verizon IndyCar Series.

“I think there are places that I could have done better,” he told POPULAR SPEED on Saturday. “I mean, there’s always room to improve every season. But, we’re leading the championship, and this was a really good day for the points, so I’m very happy. I can’t get too critical of myself.”

Hometown Struggles for Kellett

After scoring a third at Iowa Speedway, Dalton Kellet entered the Honda Indy Toronto weekend hopeful for a successful showing in front of the hometown fans. However, the event did not go as the Stouffville, Ontario native planned.

Going into the event, he was aware of the challenge at hand, telling POPULAR SPEED on Friday that the bumpy track conditions were going to present “a challenge for us to set the car up so we can be competitive.”

On Saturday, he would go off the track on three different occasions, before parking the No. 28 Andretti Autosport entry for a 12th-place finish. Then on Sunday, he ran up in the top-five for the first half of the race, before getting into the tire barrier on Lap 30. He was able to keep going, though crossed the finish line in ninth.

The finishes go along with the way his season has played out so far, running up front but not posting the warranted results with two top-fives and eight top-10’s in 12 races.

“We’ve been really strong on the ovals, and we’ve been quick on the road and street courses, but have not been able to put the results together,” he said.

Kellett will hope to turn things around at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, where he posted a ninth-place finish in 2016.

One Happy Canadian

Although Dalton Kellett was left frustrated, another Canadian driver gave the fans a reason to smile. Montreal’s Zachary Claman DeMelo ran up front in both events, posting a runner-up and third place finish.

“It’s a really good feeling to get two podiums in a row in Toronto,” he said. “It’s almost like my second home; I’ve kart raced here since I was eight years old, so it’s a nice city. It’s a shame that we didn’t have the car to win, but I’m really happy with the amount of points we gained.”

Claman DeMelo ran solidly in the runner-up spot in both events, though faded after the Lap 12 restart in the second race to third.

“The track was a bit slick,” he said. “We made some changes to the car, and it felt good at the beginning to challenge Kyle for quite awhile. After the restart, I just didn’t have the pace that he had. I just didn’t get a good restart so Aaron got by me and I tried to pressure him, but couldn’t so I had to settle for third today.”

While his season did not start out as warranted with two finishes outside of the top-10 in the first six races, he has turned it around with a top-10 in each of those that have followed, including a victory at Road America.

“I started off rough, but made a big push through the middle of the season,” he told POPULAR SPEED. “I went to the gym a lot, went and worked with the team a lot, and it’s starting to show as the last two races have been really strong for me. Qualified on the front row at Iowa – the race didn’t go quite how I wanted, and then the win at Road America. So things are going well, and hopefully, we can carry this strong momentum.”

Currently sitting fourth in points, he is only 21 markers behind Matheus Leist for second heading to Mid-Ohio, where he placed seventh in both events last year.

“We just need to stay consistent every race and try to get as many points as we can,” he said. “I think we can challenge for a win at Mid-Ohio there, as well.”

Rough Start to Race 2

Although the first event of the weekend went cleanly, the second race did not start off smoothly with a big wreck on the opening lap, taking out several key contenders.

Going into the first corner, Kyle Kaiser dived left underneath Santiago Urrutia for the second position, while Nico Jamin went to the right. Now three-wide in one of the tightest corners of the circuit, Jamin made slight contact with the outside wall, bottling up the field behind them. As a result, Shelby Blackstock was left nowhere to go as he drove over Jamin’s rear tire, followed by Neil Alberico catching a good piece of the action.

“That was pretty wild,” eventual race runner-up Aaron Telitz said. “Three cars tried to go three-wide all the way around the corner, which obviously didn’t end up going well for them. It bottled up and my teammate Shelby (Blackstock) went up and over Nico (Jamin), and I could see the bottom of Shelby’s car, so I thought it’d be a full course yellow, and sure enough it came out.”

Kaiser would go on to win the race, but Jamin, Blackstock, and Alberico all were done for the event. Urrutia was also able to continue but eventually came to a stop on the front stretch on Lap 12 en route to finishing 11th.

The incident just added to the frustrations of the weekend for Jamin and Blackstock, who both failed to post a top-10 finish in the first race of the weekend. Jamin was running up in the top-five but got front end damage when he ran into Matheus Leist after he spun on Lap 5. Meanwhile, Blackstock began the race with a mechanical issue, going seven laps down before joining the action.

While both drivers were expected to be part of the championship conversation, they have now fallen outside of the top-five in points with Jamin seventh and Blackstock 12th. The pair could use a good run at Mid-Ohio as Jamin has only one top-10 in the last four races, while Blackstock has failed to post a top-10 in the last three.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
Mazda Road to Indy Open Wheel

Kaiser Claims Weekend Sweep in Toronto to Extend Series Lead

TORONTO, Ont., Canada – Kyle Kaiser drove another exemplary race today on the streets around Exhibition Place to claim the second leg of this weekend’s Cooper Tires Indy Lights Grand Prix of Toronto Presented by Allied Building Products. 
 
The Californian took advantage of some misfortune for polesitter Colton Herta (Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing), then posted a series of fastest race laps to claim his second victory in as many days and his third of the season to take a commanding lead of 52 points into the final four races of the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires season.
 
Aaron Telitz, the winner of last year’s Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, the middle step on the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires open-wheel development ladder, finished second for Belardi Auto Racing, while Carlin’s Zachary Claman DeMelo rounded out the podium.
 
Herta, 17, from Valencia, Calif., took advantage of perfect track conditions this morning to post a new lap record of 1:05.0049 (98.849 mph) in qualifying for today’s 12th round of the season. Then, after a first-corner incident eliminated the cars of Frenchman Nico Jamin (Andretti Autosport), Tennessean Shelby Blackstock (Belardi Auto Racing) and Californian Neil Alberico (Carlin), Herta quickly began to pull away from Kaiser, who started third but had made a bold move to displace front row starter Santi Urrutia (Belardi Auto Racing) at Turn One.
 
Herta stretched his advantage after the restart to almost four seconds over the course of the next five laps, only for that margin to be erased by another full-course caution after Urrutia ground to halt with a mechanical problem.
 
Herta continued to lead at the restart, only this time Indy Lights veteran Kaiser, 21, from Santa Clara, Calif., was able to stay with him and keep the youngster within his sights. The pair set a fast pace as they stretched clear of Telitz, who had overtaken DeMelo at Turn Three  shortly after the restart. Herta, though, had lightly glanced one of the omni-present and unforgiving concrete walls with his car’s left-rear wheel. That minimal impact proved to be the difference between success and disappointment as, on Lap 26, the rear suspension abruptly broke at Turn Six. The unfortunate Herta did well to maintain control but his race was over.
 
Kaiser was gifted a clear advantage over Telitz, which he extended to almost nine seconds before easing off to ensure victory by a comfortable margin of 5.8649 seconds.
 
Telitz, from Birchwood, Wis., soaked up the pressure from Montreal’s DeMelo to secure the third podium finish of his rookie campaign, while Colombian Juan Piedrahita snagged his best result of the season, fifth, for Team Pelfrey.
 
Kaiser’s closest challenger for the championship, Matheus Leist, endured another tough day with the Carlin team. After qualifying a disappointing 11th, the Brazilian rookie made a mistake at Turn Three while challenging for seventh, although he did show some more competitive pace as he fought back to fifth at the finish after passing Tilton Hard Charger Ryan Norman (Andretti Autosport), who rose to sixth after starting 14th. Nicolas Dapero finished seventh for Juncos Racing to claim the Staubli Award.
 
Kaiser now leads Leist by 280 points to 228 as the series heads next to the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio, in two weeks’ time for another double-header event held once again in conjunction with the Verizon IndyCar Series.
Today’s race will air tomorrow on NBCSN at 7:00 pm EDT.
 
Kyle Kaiser (#18 Juncos Racing): “I knew this would be a good weekend for us because the team has always had a good setup here – Spencer won both races two years ago. But it’s really been a dream weekend – I’ve never had a double win weekend before. Actually, I can’t believe it. My goal in the race, with two really good, really aggressive drivers ahead of us, was just to keep it clean and finish the race. Going into Turn One I made a good start and when I realized we were three-wide, I hugged the inside as tight as I could. I know it sounds weird, but I was OK with the points for second. But I saw Colton getting close to the wall a couple times and I thought if he made a mistake, I would be ready. I’m usually on the bad end of luck but this year I was rewarded. I am definitely more confident and more relaxed heading into Mid-Ohio, having a little bit of a cushion in the championship. It’s unrealistic to say that the pressure won’t affect me, but it is a little bit less now.”
 
Aaron Telitz (#9 Mazda/Rice Lake Weighing Systems – Belardi Auto Racing): “I’ve been driving my butt off since St. Pete, where we had that awesome opener. We have been in a bit of a slump lately, pace-wise, so to come off the truck here fast and to finish on the podium today is great. I had a fast car, made good passes and stayed out of the crashes – people were all over the place. I battled hard with Zach and Santi. Guys were racing as clean as they could but it’s a tight street course – a bit too tight for some of the moves guys were making. This ups the confidence going into Mid-Ohio so hopefully we’ll keep it going.”
 
Zachary Claman DeMelo (#13 ZCD Montreal/Zoological Wildlife Foundation – Carlin): “It’s great to get two podiums here in Toronto. I’ve raced karts here since I was 8 years old and it’s like my second home. I’ve hit my rhythm, so things are starting to really come together for us now. The speed has always been there but we’re qualifying toward the front now, which makes the racing a lot easier. The track was really slick and I was able to challenge Kyle early but I didn’t have the pace after the restart. I stayed out of trouble and was quick today, so though I’m disappointed not to get second, we’re on a high and I just want to keep it going at Mid-Ohio.”
###
About Indy Lights: Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires is the third and final step on the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires. Sanctioned by INDYCAR, the series is operated by Andersen Promotions, which oversees all three levels of the ladder system. The Indy Lights champion is awarded a scholarship valued at $1M toward the Verizon IndyCar Series. The series has a rich history as a development platform for many of today’s top drivers. For more information, visit indylights.com
 
About Mazda, Mazda Motorsports: Mazda Motorsports boasts the most comprehensive auto racing development ladder system of any auto manufacturer in the world. The Mazda Road to 24 program offers a number of scholarships to advance drivers up the sports car racing ladder, beginning with the Global MX-5 Cup series and culminating with the Mazda Prototype team. The Mazda Road to Indy is a similar program that includes Mazda-powered categories of USF2000, Pro Mazda and Indy Lights. In grassroots road racing, more Mazdas race on any given weekend in North America than any other manufacturer. Mazda is also the title sponsor of the renowned Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif. Follow all of the latest news at MazdaMotorsports.com, @MazdaRacing on Twitter, and MazdaMotorsports on Instagram and Facebook. 
 
About Cooper Tire & Rubber Company: Cooper Tire & Rubber Company is the parent company of a global family of companies that specializes in the design, manufacture, marketing and sale of innovative, great-performing tires that you can count on to last for thousands of miles, getting you where you need to go, and back again. Cooper is proud to be the spec tire for all three levels of the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires, a development program within the IndyCar racing series. Cooper tires can also be seen on the track as a sponsor in the short course off-road TORC Series. Headquartered in Findlay, Ohio, Cooper, with its subsidiaries, has manufacturing, sales, distribution, technical and design operations in more than one dozen countries around the world. To connect with Cooper, visit www.coopertire.comwww.facebook.com/coopertire or www.twitter.com/coopertire.
Categories
Mazda Road to Indy Open Wheel

Indy Lights Points Leader Kaiser Scores Comfortable Win in Toronto

TORONTO, Ont., Canada – Kyle Kaiser’s Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires points lead had been gradually eroded in recent weeks, but the 21-year-old Californian stemmed the tide with an accomplished victory this afternoon for Juncos Racing in the Cooper Tires Indy Lights Grand Prix Presented by Allied Building Products on the streets of Toronto.
 
Kaiser’s second win of the season, combined with a mistake by series rival Matheus Leist (Carlin), allowed him to extend his margin to 38 points with only five races remaining. The champion will claim a Mazda Scholarship valued at $1 million to ensure entry into three Verizon IndyCar Series races in 2018, including the 102nd Indianapolis 500.
 
Carlin’s Zachary Claman DeMelo, from Montreal, Que., Canada, finished second after a race-long battle with Uruguay’s Santi Urrutia (Belardi Auto Racing) and Colton Herta (Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing).
 
Just a few hours after securing his third pole of the season with a new qualifying lap record of 1:05.3511, an average speed of 98.385 mph, Kaiser made the jump from pole position and headed into Turn One with a clear advantage over his pursuers. Leist, who qualified second, immediately lost a position to Claman DeMelo, which allowed Kaiser even more leeway to make a break at the front. He needed no second bidding. 
 
With two laps of the 1.786-mile temporary circuit in the books, Kaiser was already more than 2.4 seconds to the good.
 
Leist, meanwhile, was clearly struggling to hold off a gaggle of cars headed by Urrutia, local Toronto favorite Dalton Kellett (Andretti Autosport) and Californian Neil Alberico (Carlin). Then, on Lap 4, he left his braking a tad too late at Turn Eight, missed his apex and clattered into the tire barrier on the exit of the corner. Farther back in the pack, Frenchman Nico Jamin (Andretti Autosport) was unable to avoid contact with the stricken Carlin car. He, too, was out of the race with broken suspension.
 
After a full-course caution to clear away the debris, Kaiser took off again in the lead and was never seriously challenged. The third-year Indy Lights veteran extended his lead to over 6.5 seconds before easing off in the closing stages to take the checkered flag 3.6118 seconds to the good.
 
Urrutia and Claman DeMelo enjoyed an exciting tussle for second place following the restart before the Canadian reasserted himself and maintained position until the finish. Herta, meanwhile, after slipping from eighth on the grid to 10th in the early stages, made remarkable progress at the restart, rising quickly to fourth place. Herta, the youngest driver in the field at age 17, then put the pressure on Urrutia, posting the fastest lap of the race en route to his third consecutive top-four finish.
 
Aaron Telitz, last year’s champion in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, finished a lonely fifth for Belardi Auto Racing – and earned the Tilton Hard Charger Award in the process – well clear of Colombian Juan Piedrahita (Team Pelfrey), who narrowly held off Nicolas Dapero (Juncos Racing) following a race-long battle. Piedrahita claimed the Staubli Award.
 
The grid for tomorrow’s 12th round of the 16-race Indy Lights season will be set during a separate qualifying session at 9:00 a.m., with the green flag slated for 12:25 p.m. EDT. Live timing and live streaming will be available on the RoadToIndy.TV App, RoadToIndy.TVindylights.com and indycar.com. The race will be broadcast on NBCSN at 7:00 pm EDT on Monday.
 
Kyle Kaiser (#18 Juncos Racing): “It’s amazing – this is my first win on a street course. So now I can say I’ve won on an oval, a road course and a street course and this means a lot. Toronto is one of the better street courses to pass on but if you get a gap, it is really hard to get around someone. The team was telling me the gap every lap, so I knew who was behind me and how far back they were and I was using that to gauge how hard to push. It was a very conscious race, focusing on what I had to do but also being aware of what was going on behind me. But I try not to over think it and go into every race weekend to win. Some weekends, you don’t have the setup so you focus on not getting frustrated and running with what you have. This weekend, we had the fastest car so we maximized what we had. All the stars are aligning.”
 
Zachary Claman DeMelo (#13 ZCD Montreal/Zoological Wildlife Foundation – Carlin): “I tried to look forward as much as I could, hitting my marks and not making any mistakes. I didn’t want to fight with Santi because I know he’s a tough driver to fight against. We had good pace early on but fell off a bit toward the end, so we’ll fix that and go for the win tomorrow. Since Indianapolis, I’ve worked really hard with the team, done a few sim days and looked at a lot of data – it’s been a big push mid-season. I’m really happy with the car and really happy with the team. We’ve learned so much together and they’ve taught me a lot. If it had been like this at the beginning of the year, we could have been championship contenders but it’s not over yet.”
 
Santi Urrutia (#5 Belardi Auto Racing w/SPM: “The car was good in free practice yesterday but something changed on the car for qualifying that didn’t work. I got hit on the restart and the car wasn’t the same after that. I pushed hard. The team has worked very hard since Iowa where we had a good result. We’re getting better and better but we just can’t find that last little bit of speed that will give us the win. But tomorrow is another day so we’ll work on the car, hopefully have a good qualifying in the morning and go for the race win.”
 
###
 
About Indy Lights: Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires is the third and final step on the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires. Sanctioned by INDYCAR, the series is operated by Andersen Promotions, which oversees all three levels of the ladder system. The Indy Lights champion is awarded a scholarship valued at $1M toward the Verizon IndyCar Series. The series has a rich history as a development platform for many of today’s top drivers. For more information, visit indylights.com
 
About Mazda, Mazda Motorsports: Mazda Motorsports boasts the most comprehensive auto racing development ladder system of any auto manufacturer in the world. The Mazda Road to 24 program offers a number of scholarships to advance drivers up the sports car racing ladder, beginning with the Global MX-5 Cup series and culminating with the Mazda Prototype team. The Mazda Road to Indy is a similar program that includes Mazda-powered categories of USF2000, Pro Mazda and Indy Lights. In grassroots road racing, more Mazdas race on any given weekend in North America than any other manufacturer. Mazda is also the title sponsor of the renowned Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif. Follow all of the latest news at MazdaMotorsports.com, @MazdaRacing on Twitter, and MazdaMotorsports on Instagram and Facebook. 
 
About Cooper Tire & Rubber Company: Cooper Tire & Rubber Company is the parent company of a global family of companies that specializes in the design, manufacture, marketing and sale of innovative, great-performing tires that you can count on to last for thousands of miles, getting you where you need to go, and back again. Cooper is proud to be the spec tire for all three levels of the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires, a development program within the IndyCar racing series. Cooper tires can also be seen on the track as a sponsor in the short course off-road TORC Series. Headquartered in Findlay, Ohio, Cooper, with its subsidiaries, has manufacturing, sales, distribution, technical and design operations in more than one dozen countries around the world. To connect with Cooper, visit www.coopertire.comwww.facebook.com/coopertire or www.twitter.com/coopertire.
Categories
Mazda Road to Indy Open Wheel

MRTI Observations: Mazda Iowa 100 Presented by Cooper Tires

On Sunday afternoon at Iowa Speedway, there was no catching Matheus Leist as after taking the top spot on Lap 32, he drove away from the field en route to scoring the Mazda Iowa 100 Presented by Cooper Tires victory.

Here are some observations from the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires event.

Matheus Dominates

With three victories in the last four races, Matheus Leist is finding his groove in Indy Lights after a rough start to the season with two finishes outside of the top-10. Now with eight straight top-seven finishes, the Carlin Racing driver has moved up to second in points, 13 markers ahead of Kyle Kaiser.

While Leist’s wins at Indianapolis and Road America were impressive, the victory on Sunday goes beyond those. He did not have the best starting position, qualifying 10th, and managed to build a gap of 2.93 seconds ahead of Santiago Urrutia by the time the checkered flag flew. The gap could have been larger, but Leist elected to back his lap times down once he got the lead to conserve the tires.

Being almost three seconds ahead was enough to cause some confusion, though, as Urrutia thought he won the event, performing a series of donuts on the frontstretch post-race.

“When I went by (Dalton) Kellett, I thought that I had gotten the lead, so I thought, ‘alright’ because I had never seen Leist,” Urrutia said post-race. “So when I get by Kellett, I tried to save a little and then thought we won at the end. But it’s alright, we struggled today so to get back through there and a good solid finish, is a great result, and hopefully, we can run well in Toronto, too.”

Rough Day for Rickards

Out of the 14 drivers that started, only one failed to finish the event, which was Garth Rickards. He went around for a quick spin on the backstretch at Lap 23, before pulling off shortly after the restart and retiring from the event.

“Right off the start it didn’t feel right,” he said. “It was loose. I tried to use the bars to improve the handling, but it just didn’t work. It felt good in practice, but it was just undrivable there.”

The 14th-place finish adds to the struggles this year for Rickards, who has posted only two top-10’s in his rookie campaign.

Colton Leads Early

Before Leist making his way through the field, Colton Herta led the first 32 circuits from the pole and looked set to score his third victory of 2017 possibly. However, he would fade through the second half of the 100 lap event to a fourth-place finish.

“They had it figured out today,” he said. “The car went loose on us, and there’s not much that you can do on a short oval when that happens.”

Herta started off his season well with two wins and a runner-up in the first four races but struggled with only one top-10 in the following four events. Now with back-to-back top-fives, it seems momentum is back on the young driver’s side as he heads to the streets of Toronto for the first time in his career. The street circuit could be the right ticket to getting back in victory lane; his first career win came on the streets of St. Petersburg.

Debut Put on Hold

Chad Boat was supposed to make his series debut, but that was delayed till Gateway Motorsports Park.

The 25-year-old was not medically cleared by INDYCAR officials to drive due to injuries sustained during a National USAC midget race on Sunday, July 2.

“To say I’m disappointed doesn’t begin to describe how I’m feeling right now, but I trust the doctors and medical staff at INDYCAR and know they have my best interest in mind,” said Boat. “I’ll continue to follow the instructions I’m receiving for recovery and look forward to being back soon. Thanks to Pristine Auction and Belardi Auto Racing for the opportunity.”

Belardi Auto Racing team owner Brian Belardi added that he was “extremely disheartened” by the news, but “remains excited and positive about the future based on his pace in last week’s test.”

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER:@ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
Mazda Road to Indy Open Wheel

Leist Wins Iowa Speedway Thriller

Urrutia’s Impressive Charge Through Field Nets Well-Deserved Second
 
NEWTON, Iowa – Rookie Matheus Leist is quickly becoming an oval master, following up his Freedom 100 victory in May with his second oval win of the season – and third victory overall – in an action-packed Mazda Iowa 100 Presented by Cooper Tires race this afternoon. His victory marks the third consecutive run to the checkers for Carlin, who won at the super-fast speedway in 2015 with Max Chilton and Felix Serralles last year in Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires.
 
Qualifying was held earlier in the day with Colton Herta of Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing claiming his fourth pole to date and setting a new track record in the process with a two-lap average of 39.3279 seconds (163.670 mph). Carlin’s Zachary Claman DeMelo – who claimed his maiden win the last round at Road America – points leader Kyle Kaiser of Juncos Racing and Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Norman comprised the first two rows. Six drivers in total bested the existing track record.
 
Herta led through the opening laps but a brief four-lap caution on Lap 23, when Garth Rickards (Carlin) spun in Turn Two, set the stage for a complete shuffle at the front of the field. Leist, who qualified 10th and had moved into fourth at that stage, took advantage of a bunched up field and made quick work to pass Claman DeMelo for third, Kaiser for second and Herta for the lead.
 
The side-by-side action continued with Dalton Kellett (Andretti Autosport), who qualified fifth, moving into contention and a hard-charging Urrutia. With Leist comfortably out front, Urrutia and Kellett became the stars of the show. Urrutia, last year’s Indy Lights vice-champion, sliced through the field from an 11th place grid position and became embroiled in a great dual with Kellett for the second step on the podium which he solidified with 18 laps to go. Kellett, who set the fastest lap of the race and also earned the Staubli Award, crossed the line in third followed by Herta and Kaiser.
 
Although tied on positions gained, Leist claimed the Tilton Hard Charger Award as the highest finisher over Urrutia.
 
Kaiser’s point lead has been cut in half and he now maintains a 13-point advantage over Leist with Herta a further 35 points in arrears in third. In the Team Championship, Andretti Autosport and Carlin are tied, with the tie-breaker going to Andretti on more third-place finishes (four to three).
 
Indy Lights will return to action this week for a doubleheader Cooper Tires Indy Lights Grand Prix of Toronto Presented by Allied Building Products on July 15/16 at the challenging Toronto street circuit.
Matheus Leist (#26 TMA – Carlin): “I’m so happy. I think this was my best race this year. Of course, the Freedom 100 was great but I led the whole race. Here, I needed to move forward and I did. I’m so happy for the team – we needed to make some points today. It was a little tricky in the beginning, on new tires. When I managed to overtake Neil just before the yellow, I found out that the high line was perfect for me. When the race restarted, I ran the high line and everyone else was low so I think I passed three drivers in Turn One. I couldn’t believe everyone stayed on the inside. The car was just so good so I was able to open a gap, save my tires and get the win. It is a very difficult championship since everything here is new to me so I am being realistic. We’re in a good position now so if we can keep winning, we can keep fighting.”
Santi Urrutia (#5 Belardi Auto Racing w/SPM): “We have been struggling, especially in qualifying, so starting in the back is difficult. But we found the speed for the race. I had a really good car today – I was able to pass on the inside early but then I realized the high line was better and found a good groove out there. It’s good points for the championship. But at the end of the race I did donuts because I thought I won! When I passed Dalton I thought I was leading because I never saw Matheus. I came into Victory Lane and my mechanics were happy, but not super happy and I didn’t understand why they didn’t park me inside the podium. Then they told me ‘Santi, you finished second.’ Now we’ll head to Toronto and try to figure things out and have a strong weekend. The championship is still alive – I am far back but it’s not over yet.”
 
Dalton Kellett (#28 K-Line Insulators USA, Inc. Mazda – Andretti Autosport): “It just shows all the work the Andretti team has done this weekend. We have been fast all weekend, and in qualifying and the race we had a very consistent car. Santi, Kyle, Colton and I were able to run side-by-side at different moments, running two-wide around the whole track. We really focused on having a good race car and keeping the Cooper tires under us the whole race. There were some great battles all race long out there!”
###
About Indy Lights: Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires is the third and final step on the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires. Sanctioned by INDYCAR, the series is operated by Andersen Promotions, which oversees all three levels of the ladder system. The Indy Lights champion is awarded a scholarship valued at $1M toward the Verizon IndyCar Series. The series has a rich history as a development platform for many of today’s top drivers. For more information, visit indylights.com
 
About Mazda, Mazda Motorsports: Mazda Motorsports boasts the most comprehensive auto racing development ladder system of any auto manufacturer in the world. The Mazda Road to 24 program offers a number of scholarships to advance drivers up the sports car racing ladder, beginning with the Global MX-5 Cup series and culminating with the Mazda Prototype team. The Mazda Road to Indy is a similar program that includes Mazda-powered categories of USF2000, Pro Mazda and Indy Lights. In grassroots road racing, more Mazdas race on any given weekend in North America than any other manufacturer. Mazda is also the title sponsor of the renowned Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif. Follow all of the latest news at MazdaMotorsports.com, @MazdaRacing on Twitter, and MazdaMotorsports on Instagram and Facebook. 
 
About Cooper Tire & Rubber Company: Cooper Tire & Rubber Company is the parent company of a global family of companies that specializes in the design, manufacture, marketing and sale of innovative, great-performing tires that you can count on to last for thousands of miles, getting you where you need to go, and back again. Cooper is proud to be the spec tire for all three levels of the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires, a development program within the IndyCar racing series. Cooper tires can also be seen on the track as a sponsor in the short course off-road TORC Series. Headquartered in Findlay, Ohio, Cooper, with its subsidiaries, has manufacturing, sales, distribution, technical and design operations in more than one dozen countries around the world. To connect with Cooper, visit www.coopertire.comwww.facebook.com/coopertire or www.twitter.com/coopertire.