Harvey Holds Slim Lead Prior to Final Mazda Road to Indy Oval Race
PALMETTO, Fla. – The highly acclaimed Iowa Speedway will host the third and final oval event of the 2015 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires season this Saturday, July 18. Jack Harvey, Spencer Pigot and Ed Jones are separated by just 29 points as they chase a top prize of a guaranteed entry in three rounds of the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series – including the historic 100th Indianapolis 500 – but as anyone who saw last Sunday’s race at the historic Milwaukee Mile will attest, there are plenty of other talented youngsters likely to be challenging for the top step of the podium in this weekend’s 12th round of the 16-race season.
Englishman Harvey, driving for seven-time championship-winning team Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian, extended his points lead at Milwaukee by three despite finishing outside the top three for only the third time this season. Harvey, 22, finished second in the championship during his rookie campaign in 2014 and already has an oval race victory to his credit this season, winning the Freedom 100 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May.
Pigot, 21, from Orlando, Fla., has won more races than anyone else this year (four) for Juncos Racing. He was also the class of the field at Milwaukee, qualifying on the pole with a new two-lap record average in excess of 150 mph. Pigot posted the fastest race lap too, only to be restricted to an unrepresentative seventh-place finish due to a broken fifth gear.
The third championship protagonist, Jones, 20, an Englishman based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, hasn’t won since sweeping the first three races of the season – two on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., and then again on the streets of Long Beach, Calif. The feat was all the more remarkable for the fact his team, Carlin, also was making its debut in North America. Jones has struggled in the two previous oval races but will have been buoyed by the performance of teammate and fellow rookie Max Chilton at Milwaukee. The ex-F1 racer made strong progress, climbing from 10th on the grid to sixth, just over one second behind the final podium finisher.
Former European Formula 3 contender Felix Serralles, from Ponce, Puerto Rico, broke through at Milwaukee, scoring his first win and the first of this season for the defending champion team, Belardi Auto Racing. Teammate Juan Piedrahita, from Bogota, Colombia, also claimed a season-best finish of third on the one-mile oval.
Serralles, who had qualified only sixth, charged through the field to pass the youngest driver on the grid, 18-year-old RC Enerson, from New Port Richey, Fla., who led no fewer than 88 of the 100 laps for the Schmidt Peterson team but ultimately had to settle for second. The result represented Enerson’s third podium finish of his rookie season.
Other challengers will include Scott Anderson (Schmidt Peterson), from Fort Collins, Colo., who scored a career-best third place finish at Indianapolis in May, and rapid Californian Kyle Kaiser (Juncos Racing).
The high-banked 0.894-mile oval in Newton, Iowa, always provides intense action, and the existing qualifying track record for Indy Lights, 161.306 mph set back in 2007 by New Zealander Wade Cunningham, is likely to come under threat from the impressive new Dallara IL-15 chassis, mated to a 2.0-liter turbocharged Mazda MZR-R engine and the latest Cooper tires.
The weekend will begin with a 90-minute test on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. CDT, followed by two more practice sessions on Friday, from 10:15-11:00 a.m. and 2:00-2:45 p.m. After qualifying between 2:00 and 2:45 p.m. on Saturday, the Indy Lights drivers will attend an autograph session in the INDYCAR Fan Village at 3:30 p.m., then assemble for their 115-lap race at 5:20 p.m.
Live streaming of all sessions will be available at racecontrol.indycar.com with timing and commentary available on the new Mazda Road to Indy App and at indylights.com in addition to full coverage on the IMS Radio Network to Sirius XM Satellite Radio, indycar.com, indycarradio.com and the INDYCAR App from Verizon. The race will air on NBCSN at 11:00 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, July 21.
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About Indy Lights: The third and final step on the unparalleled Mazda Road to Indy debuted as Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires in 2014. Sanctioned by INDYCAR, the series is operated by Andersen Promotions, which oversees all three levels of the ladder system. Indy Lights has a rich history as a development step for many of today’s top drivers. Its series’ champion is awarded a three-race scholarship in the Verizon IndyCar Series including the Indianapolis 500. For more information, visit www. indylights.com.
About Mazda, Mazda Motorsports, and MAZDASPEED: Mazda is a leading player in all aspects of sports car racing with an emphasis on endurance road racing. Mazda is the number-one brand for road-racers across North America among both club racers and professionals. Thousands of Mazda-powered grassroots racers compete in various classes with the SCCA and NASA highlighted by Spec Miata, the world’s largest spec class with over 2,500 cars built. Via the Mazda SportsCar Racing Academy and the Mazda Road to Indy, Mazda supports racers at all levels of the sport from club racing up to the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship where it races with production SKYACTIV Technology.
Mazda remains the only Asian car company to score an overall win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans (1991).  Mazda has had a naming rights agreement at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca since 2000.
Mazda Motorsports is managed by Mazda North American Operations (MNAO).  MNAO is headquartered in Irvine, Calif., and oversees the sales, marketing, parts and customer service support of Mazda vehicles in the United States and Mexico through nearly 700 dealers. Operations in Mexico are managed by Mazda Motor de Mexico in Mexico City.