Categories
IndyCar Open Wheel

EMBURY: 2018 Driver Change Analysis

Since the posting of my latest Ultimate Silly Season update last week, several suggested moves have turned heads.

If beliefs about other deals being inked are indeed on target, there could be as many as four new pilots joining the full-time Verizon IndyCar Series fleet in 2018. Interestingly, however, is the chance of two of the circuit’s most dominant teams being destinations.

The addition of Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires veteran Zach Veach at Andretti Autosport was a move that was a long time coming, for perhaps the most patient prospect in recent memory. Since the 2016 silly season, the Ohioan has been a realistic target for multiple rides, but was minus the funding and the experience desired to be able to sign on the dotted line.

While the inclusion at an organization that has won the last two Indianapolis 500s will provide a fair deal of expectations in the long term, the pressure to succeed will be a reduced rate next season. With Michael Andretti’s quartet featuring a pair of championship contenders in Alexander Rossi and Ryan Hunter-Reay, the goal for year one may be to at worst match the outputs from Marco Andretti, who has endured a difficult 2017 campaign.

Veach had two chances to gain IndyCar familiarity in 2017, and he fared well on short notice at Barber Motorsports Park, one of the series’ most demanding layouts. He also made his Indy 500 debut for A.J. Foyt, and while he suffered a crash before qualifying, he mostly kept his nose clean on race day, when mechanical failure sidelined him at the three-quarter mark.

Spencer Pigot’s promotion to full-time service at Ed Carpenter Racing in 2018 was based on the potential shown, if not by the results sheet. While the 23-year old showed solid pace in several road races in 2017, he was often plagued by car trouble or being in the wrong place at an inopportune moment. Still, if the former Indy Lights champion did not get the bump up at ECR, other suitors may have snapped up the Pasadena, California resident.

The move gives the Speedway, Indiana squad its most strong driving cast for non-oval track competition since when Mike Conway was at the controls in 2014. With several potent road racing prospects on the free agent market, pairing another talented shoe with Pigot will show a desire from Ed Carpenter to improve his product in all events, rather than banking on solely the high speed runs.

With the 2017 Indy Lights championship now in the bank, expect Kyle Kaiser to use the advancement scholarship money earned to compete in at least three events, if not a full-run for Juncos Racing. The title promotes not only the number one driver, but also the best Mazda Road to Indy entrant into the IndyCar Series. Ricardo Juncos made his top tier debut at this year’s Indy 500, fielding two Chevrolet-powered entries for Pigot and Sebastian Saavedra.

Kaiser was initially pointed toward taking one of the Indy rides this past May; however, Juncos elected to hold off on moving the 21-year old forward in favor of gaining further experience. The decision has returned positively as the Californian has won three times and placed in the top-three in six of 16 Indy Lights races this year.

The final newcomer is still in the yet to be confirmed at the time POPULAR SPEED went to press, however if reports are accurate, the addition of Brendon Hartley as a teammate to fellow New Zealander Scott Dixon at Chip Ganassi is the ultimate boom or bust scenario. The former Formula One test driver and Porsche LMP-1 Hybrid competitor has a boat load of experience and a ton of speed, but the 27-year old does come with a “buyer beware” message. Hartley also has shown a case of over-aggressiveness during his time in the FIA World Endurance Championship, and while he may show incredible pace in IndyCar, he also could run up a substantial accident bill for Ganassi if confirmed for next season.

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @MattEmbury

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

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

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

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

Kyle Kaiser Looks to Extend Points Lead at Road America

Seven events into his third season of Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires competition, Kyle Kaiser sits atop the series standings with a 14-point lead over Nico Jamin.

“We’re just around the halfway point of the season right now, and this year has shown that it is another highly competitive field of drivers,” he told POPULAR SPEED. “We’re in a good position right now leading the points, but I’m not going to take that lead for granted. I know it’ll be important to remain consistent and continue to finish races and fight for wins.”

Being in the championship fight is nothing new for Kaiser as he was one of the five drivers with a shot at the title heading into the season finale at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca last year.

“This season has been just as competitive, if not more competitive, than the 2016 season,” he said. “There are a lot of rookies in the series who have come up to speed very quickly and have shown they’re not to be underestimated. There have already been five winners from four different teams less than halfway through the season, so I think that speaks for itself.”

The latest event on the schedule did not go as planned, though, placing ninth in the Freedom 100 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for his worst finish of 2017 so far.

“The Freedom 100 is the biggest race on our schedule, but at the end of the day its only one race out of the 16 for the season,” he said. “So while the results weren’t what I was hoping for, we came out with a greater points lead than we left with. So I’ll have no problem moving on from an exciting month of May and be ready for Road America.”

Now heading into this weekend in Wisconsin, the Juncos Racing driver will look to return to the top-five after finishing sixth in both events at Road America last season.

“I’m excited to go to Road America since it’s one of my favorite race tracks,” he said. “We had a really strong test day at the beginning of the month, and I feel like we’re going to come into the weekend very strong. This will be an important weekend to try to extend the championship lead as the season reaches the halfway point.”

Kaiser notes the biggest challenge of Road America is putting together a perfect lap.

“The track is over 4 miles long, so this track requires, even more, focus and puts more emphasis on minimizing mistakes,” he said.

A solid performance this weekend would put him one step closer towards picking up the championship at season’s end, which would give him a scholarship to run three Verizon IndyCar Series events next year, including the Indianapolis 500.

“With this being my third season in Indy Lights and my fifth year in the Road to Indy, it would mean everything to be able to secure the Indy Lights Championship and know that I’ll be in an Indy Car in 2018,” he said. “My entire goal since joining the Mazda Road to Indy was to learn and improve as a driver so that I could compete successfully in the Verizon IndyCar Series, and winning this championship would be a huge step towards achieving my end goal.”

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

EMBURY: Indianapolis 500 Advancement On The Line?

Remember the original edition of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? Now recall when meek Charlie Bucket realizes he has found the last golden ticket.

Yours truly is not going to sing and dance a-la Charlie and Grandpa Joe, yet a lot is on the table for whoever takes the checkered flag first in Friday’s Freedom 100. The pinnacle event on the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires championship has often opened the window of opportunity to a future shot at the Indianapolis 500.

Nowhere was this proven more so than in the inaugural running of the support race in 2003. Starting from pole position, Indianapolis’s own Ed Carpenter led all but one of the event’s forty laps to take the historic triumph. Duesenberg Brothers Racing’s Jeff Simmons charged late to finish second, while Panther Racing’s Mark Taylor came home in third

Although no one could have predicted it at the time, but all three podium drivers would take three of the 33 spots in the 2004 Indy 500. A collision between Carpenter and Taylor at the 200-mile mark ultimately allowed Simmons to earn the best result of the trio in that edition, placing 11th.

In fact, each of the first five winners of the sprint race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway eventually qualified for the big dance, with the most notable being Wade Cunningham, the only competitor to date to win the Freedom 100 more than once.

Including Carpenter, three other P1 catchers will be on the main straightaway waiting for Mari Hulman George’s command to start engines. Josef Newgarden comes into Sunday’s race after earning third-place in 2016. Gabby Chaves used his 2014 100-mile race success, to snag Rookie of the Race honors in the Indy 500 two years ago. And after winning the Indy Lights’ big race in 2015, Jack Harvey makes his debut in the Memorial Day battle on May 28th.

So who could join these graduates in 2017? While defending champion Dean Stoneman was unsuccessful in taking a ride for the Indy 500 this month, there is another driver who was also in the running for a spot that could be the favorite to win the 2017 Freedom 100.

Following the announcement of Juncos Racing’s participation in this year’s race, it was believed that their Indy Lights regular Kyle Kaiser would be one of the chauffeurs. The 21-year old from California placed third on last year’s points table with two wins. 2017 has continued the wave of momentum for the prospect; he enters Friday’s event as the championship leader and is the most recent winner taking the second leg of the Liberty Challenge on the  Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. With Ricardo Juncos attempting to promote his team to the Verizon IndyCar Series full-time in 2018, the Freedom 100 could be the boost required to earn the title and the bump up funding a ride next season.

Nico Jamin and Colton Herta are also possibilities from the Andretti Autosport junior squad. Both enter Friday on the heels of Kaiser with each taking a pair of victories in 2017. The French-based Jamin  has been a winning machine, earning successes in IMSA Prototype Challenge and Pirelli World Challenge action this year as well. Herta would join a long line of sons following their fathers into the Indy 500. Colton’s dad Bryan scored two top-fives at the Brickyard, and has won the big one twice as an owner.

Regardless of who joins the victory list on Friday, the chances are good that someone could fire it up against the big guys in the future.

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @MattEmbury

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

MRTI Observations: Saturday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

After a Friday filled with action for each level of the Mazda Road to Indy, Saturday also delivered with close competition across the board.

Here are some observations from all the on-track action.

Rebound for Thompson

After experiencing mechanical issues in race one, Parker Thompson rebounded in the second race for the Cooper Tires USF2000 Presented by Mazda with a fourth-place finish for his fifth top-five in six events.

The Canadian came just short of winning the championship in his second season of competition last season, winning four races over the season. Now ranked fourth in points, 88 makers behind Oliver Askew, he will need the 16-year-old to have a rough weekend if he hopes to make up ground.

Double for Davis

Kevin Davis is going to leave Indianapolis possibly singing ‘Ring around the Rosey’ after incidents in both Pro Mazda Presented by Cooper Tires events. In the first race, he went spun on Lap 2 with Charles Finelli, followed by getting turned the wrong way in the second round, due to contact from Jeff Green.

The Illinois-driver fought back to finish 10th for his first top-10 finish of the season after placing 11th in the pair of rounds in St. Petersburg and 12th on Friday. He currently leads the National Class standings.

New Points Leader

After feeling he left something on the table on Friday, Kyle Kaiser put together an impressive show on Saturday, capturing his first Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires victory of 2017. It marked his fourth straight podium finish, giving him the series points lead, 13 markers ahead of Nico Jamin. Jamin won round one for the weekend, followed by a fourth in the second race.

Herta entered the weekend with a 16-point lead ahead of Jamin, but experienced trouble in both races. He had a right rear puncture in round one, followed by going off-track en route to 10th on day two.

First Career Top-Five

After crashing out in the first race of the weekend on Lap 1, Kory Enders rebounded in the second event for a fifth-place finish.

Before Saturday, his season has been up and down so far, with a pair of top-10s matching three finishes outside of the top-14.

Much Needed Podium

After coming just a mere couple points shy of last year’s Indy Lights title, Santiago Urrutia has not performed as expected. Although the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports pilot scored a runner-up at St. Petersburg, it marked his only top-10 of 2017 entering Indianapolis after four events.

This weekend, he put together a pair of solid races with a seventh in round one, followed by a runner-up on Saturday.

“It has been tough to get the car quick and get into the top five,” he admitted post-race. “We tried to get the lead but second place is really good for us. We’re working as a team to figure out where we’re losing time and when we find that, we’re going to be okay. There is still a long way to go in this championship, so we have to get podiums and points, points, points.”

Ran Off-Road

Besides some trouble on the opening lap, the USF2000 put together a clean event – but that doesn’t mean the last lap ran smoothly. The battle for third saw contact, with Robert Megennis hitting Dakota Dickerson and both drivers going off the track. They both fell back several spots, with Megennis finishing seventh and Dickerson in 10th.

The incident just adds to a rough weekend for Megennis who failed technical inspection following Friday’s event, along with his Team Pelfrey teammate Kaylen Frederick. He started off this season well by winning the opening round of the season but now has two finishes outside of the top-10 to his credit.

Dickerson, meanwhile, entered Saturday’s race with momentum after scoring his first top-five 0f 2017 on Friday. He now has three sixth-place finishes, a pair of 10ths, and a fourth to his credit this season.

Last Place for Blackstock

During the second event of the weekend for Indy Lights, Shelby Blackstock was the only driver to experience a significant problem with an off-track excursion in turn one. As a result, he would finish last on the grid – 14th.

Ever since he posted a fourth-place finish in the season opener, Blackstock’s finishes have continued to get worse each passing week, with this being the first outside of the top-10.

The next event for the series is the Freedom 100 on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval, which saw him finish fourth last season.

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

Consistency Pays for Kaiser with Win and Indy Lights Points Lead

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Kyle Kaiser has been a model of consistency in this year’s Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires title-chase. He has been fast too. In today’s Mazda Road to Indy Grand Prix Presented by Royal Purple Supporting Lupus Foundation of America at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Grand Prix road course, the talented Californian used both attributes to excellent effect as he translated his second pole position into his first victory of the season for Juncos Racing. It was enough to vault him into the championship lead after six of 16 races.
 
Uruguayan Santi Urrutia bounced back from a series of disappointing results to claim a strong second-place finish for Belardi Auto Racing. Brazilian rookie Matheus Leist completed the podium for the Carlin team.
 
A warm and sunny day with low humidity provided perfect conditions for an enthusiastic crowd, and the 14 Indy Lights campaigners provided an entertaining 35-lap race with battles throughout the closely matched field.
 
Kaiser took full advantage of his pole position to hold the lead into the heavy braking area at Turn One, narrowly ahead of a fast-starting Urrutia, who jumped from fourth to second at the first corner. Urrutia used the draft to draw alongside Kaiser on the long front straightaway at the end of Lap 2, but once again Kaiser kept his cool, and his position. Urrutia tried again next time around and actually managed to nose ahead into the braking area, only to run a little too deep which enabled Kaiser to maintain his lead.
 
Urrutia instead soon lost a place to Leist, who has arrived in the United States this year on the crest of a wave after wining last year’s BRDC British Formula 3 Championship. The two South Americans’ in-fighting allowed Kaiser just a little breathing space, whereupon the 21-year-old from Santa Clara, Calif., put his head down and turned a series of consistently quick laps to extend his lead.
 
The gap grew to more than 3.5 seconds on Lap 11, after Urrutia found a way back past Leist in Turn Seven, and that was to prove the decisive break. As Urrutia consolidated his advantage over Leist, who instead came under attack from Carlin teammate Neil Alberico, Kaiser motored away to take the checkered flag 6.4768 seconds to the good.
 
Urrutia was relatively content with second and the Staubli Award, but the battle for third wasn’t resolved until the final couple of laps when Leist robustly rebuffed Alberico’s overtaking maneuver at Turn One. Alberico was unable to avoid contact, which broke his Dallara-Mazda’s front wing and left him struggling to bring his car home to the finish.
 
Yesterday’s winner, Frenchman Nico Jamin (Andretti Autosport), snuck past for fourth, while Colombian Juan Piedrahita (Team Pelfrey) celebrated his 100th Mazda Road to Indy start with a solid run to fifth, overtaking Alberico on the run to the finish line. Piedrahita’s drive was particularly noteworthy since he had been unable to start yesterday’s race due to a heavy accident during practice.
 
Rookie Ryan Norman, from Aurora, Ohio, last year’s Formula Atlantic champion, showed his best form of the season to date by finishing close behind Alberico in seventh. Norman also earned the Tilton Hard Charger Award after starting 12th.
 
Kaiser’s fourth consecutive podium finish vaulted him from third to first place in the points table. He leads Jamin by 139-126, with previous points leader Colton Herta (Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing) now third on 121. Herta, 17, from Valencia, Calif., suffered another disappointing day, falling to 10th after a grassy excursion while trying to fend off Alberico.
 
The teams will remain in Indianapolis for the next round, the season highlight Freedom 100 on the hallowed 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval, on Carb Day, Friday, May 26.
 
Kyle Kaiser (#18 Juncos Racing): “It was unreal. I started getting emotional when the team told me there were five laps to go, thinking about the podium. I had to really keep myself in check until the checkered flag, and then I was just euphoric. It was a tough race. It is super hard to start from the pole here. I had to get a good jump and try to keep Colton behind me going into Turn One – especially because we were so close in the points. From then on, it was a matter of keeping Santi behind me, which was hard because he had a really good car. He almost had me in Turn One but after that, I was able to get a gap. Every time I came onto the front straight I could see the gap behind so I was watching that each lap. I settled in and just did laps. I try to think of it as a practice, pushing the car but not overly pushing which is what I did yesterday. And now, I get to watch the Juncos Indy 500 team. I’m so excited for them.”
 
Santiago “Santi” Urrutia (#5 Belardi Auto Racing w/ SPM):  “It has been tough to get the car quick and get into the top five. We tried to get the lead but second place is really good for us. We’re working as a team to figure out where we’re losing time and when we find that, we’re going to be okay. There is still a long way to go in this championship so we have to get podiums and points, points, points. I had to push 100 percent each lap trying to get to the lead early, then trying to get back into second when I fell to third. There are no emotions right now because no matter where you are, you want to win. Finishing second is good motivation for everyone as we go into the Freedom 100.”
 
Matheus Leist (#26 TMA – Carlin): “It’s amazing – I think my first series podium shouldn’t be anywhere else but Indianapolis. This is the best place for that. We didn’t have great pace today but I’m happy with third. It was a great battle with my teammate. Neil was faster than me but it was still hard to overtake so I was able to stay in front under braking in Turn One. It is still a learning process. Everything is new for me this year – the tracks, the team, the series, the car, the tires, the engine. If I keep progressing like this, I know we can get more podiums.”
 
###
 
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.com, www.facebook.com/coopertire or www.twitter.com/coopertire.