Good morning from a foggy Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. After being unseasonably warm the last two days, it appears that the weather “broke” overnight and it will cooler today. It was “only” 57F when I arrived at the track at 7:15am and the high is supposed to top out at 74F.

I lied when I said I would be heading down to Fisherman’s Wharf for dinner last night. My dining partner and I ended up joining a larger group of Mazda Road To Indy people at the Esteban Restaurant at the Casa Munras Garden Hotel and Spa.

Our group had a unanimous opinion on dinner. The food was terrific, the company was great, but the service was extremely lacking.

I started out with a glass of tradition Spanish red wine sangria, made with red wine, apples, lemons, limes and oranges. I had Medjool Dates (dates wrapped in blue cheese and bacon) as my starter, and Paella del Mar as my main dish. The sweetness of the dates combined with the saltiness of the blue cheese and bacon was perfect.
The Paella was terrific, it featured chorizo, prawns, mussels and clams on a bed of rice.

==========

Pro Mazda presented by Cooper Tire qualifying

For the third straight Pro Mazda race, Garett Grist will start on pole. The 20 year-old Canadian used a last lap flyer to steal the one championship point for winning the pole from Santiago Urrutia.

The sun broke through the fog just in time for Pro Mazda presented by Cooper Tire qualifying to begin just a little late at 8:05am.

Sixteen of the nineteen entries took to the 2.238-mile, 11-turn natural terrain road course when the green flag flew for qualifying. The lone holdouts were Santiago Urrutia, Pato O’Ward and Raoul Owens. The Team Pelfrey trio waited five minutes before heading out together.

Ten minutes into the session and the top five spots were held by: Timothe Buret, Weiron Tan, Florian Latorre, Neil Alberico, and Will Owen.

With eighteen minutes left in the session Weiron Tan hit the tire barrier and rolled his car at the exit of Turn 8 (The Corksrew). Thankfully, the Malaysian driver was able to get out of the car under his own power and was immediately checked and cleared to drive, but the Andretti Autosport crew will have a lot work to do to get ready for the first Pro Mazda race at 2:45pm.

The track was red for ten minutes while the track crews repaired the tires and cleaned up the mess from Tan’s incident.

The track went green with only eight minutes left in the session and got extremely busy as drivers tried to get their tires back up to temperature.

With three minutes left in the session the top five were: Will Owen, Timothe Buret, Santiago Urrutia, Florian Latorre and Garett Grist, but the times were changing very quickly as each driver crossed the time line.

With just under a minute left in the session, championship leader Urrutia jumped to the top of the charts, but it was Grist who was able to cross the timing line behind

This is Grist’s fourth pole this season and the sixth in his Mazda Road To Indy career.

This is fourth race that Urrutia will start outside the front row.

Here is the final results of Pro Mazda qualifying:

RANK — DRIVER — QUICKEST LAP
1 Garett Grist 1:22.879
2 Santiago Urrutia 1:22.950
3 Will Owen 1:23.251
4 Neil Alberico 1:23.315
5 Timothe Buret 1:23.373
6 Florian Latorre 1:23.441
7 Jose Gutierrez 1:23.563
8 Pato O’Ward 1:23.738
9 Dalton Kellett 1:23.753
10 Weiron Tan 1:23.863
11 Victor Franzoni 1:23.946
12 Raoul Owens 1:24.032
13 Kyle Connery 1:24.099
14 Daniel Burkett 1:24.300
15 Parker Nicklin 1:25.248
16 Alessandro Latif 1:25.540
17 Michael Johnson 1:26.036
18 Bobby Eberle(E) 1:27.006
19 Jay Horak(E) 1:28.562

The first Pro Mazda presented by Cooper Tire race of the weekend will take place at 2:45pm.

==========

Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tire qualifying

The four drivers who are eligible to win the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tire championship will have some work to do doing this afternoon’s race after Max Chilton and Kyle Kaiser waged a back and forth battle for pole, but it was the Formula 1 veteran Chilton who came out on top.

Spencer Pigot, who qualified third, is followed closely by Jones in fourth and Harvey in fifth.  “Game On” for the championship.  RC Enerson, the fourth driver eligible for the championship will have even more work to to do after he qualified eighth.

Chilton was very surprised that they were able to go 1.5 seconds quicker during qualifying than in practice yesterday.  The 24 year old thinks that his pole lap was his best lap of the year.   The Redgate, England native, who has a win and two seconds in the last three races is looking to keep the momentum going and score a double win this weekend.

Kaiser, who is from nearby Santa Clara, has turned a lot of laps at Mazda Raceway in Skip Barber, Pro Mazda and the SCCA run-offs, and would like to end his year with at least one win.

Both drivers have teammates in the championship hunt, but both drivers expressed that personal goals are more important and they will be trying to win both races.

The most important thirty minutes of the year in the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tire session started a few minutes late as the track crews cleaned up for a hectic Pro Mazda qualifying session.

As TSO pointed out, with the last 13 Indy Lights winners coming from the front row, qualifying at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca is VERY important.

One third of the way through the half-hour session and the top five were: Spencer Pigot, Kyle Kaiser, RC Enerson, Felix Serralles and Max Chilton.    The other championship contenders sat sixth (Jack Harvey) and eighth (Ed Jones).

Times continued to creep towards the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca Indy Lights track record of 1:15.090 that was set by Tony Kanaan in 1997.

The 18 year-old track record fell with just over ten minutes remaining when Max Chilton turned a hot lap at 1:14.828.

The final time sheet saw the top six drivers under Kanaan’s old track record.

With ten minutes left in the session the top five were: Max Chilton, Ed Jones, Kyle Kaiser, Spencer Pigot, and  Sean Rayhall.

Things started to get interesting with five minutes left in qualifying when championship contenders made their moves.  Spencer Pigot jumped to the top of the chards and Jack Harvey and Ed Jones moved into the top five.

Kaiser immediately took the top spot from his teammate, but only held it for a half a lap as Chilton jumped back to the top of the timing sheet.

That is Chilton’s second pole of the season, with the first one coming at Iowa Speedway.

This will be Kaiser’s first front row start in Indy Lights.

RANK — DRIVER — QUICK LAP

1 Max Chilton 1:14.233

2 Kyle Kaiser 1:14.359

3 Spencer Pigot 1:14.393

4 Ed Jones 1:14.630

5 Jack Harvey 1:14.958

6 Sean Rayhall 1:15.025

7 Felix Serralles 1:15.204

8 RC Enerson 1:15.311

9 Shelby Blackstock 1:15.448

10 Juan Piedrahita 1:15.818

11 Scott Anderson 1:16.193

12 Ethan Ringel 1:16.289

13 Heamin Choi 1:16.926

The first Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tire race will take place at 3:45pm

==========

Don’t forget that RoadToIndy.TV is live streaming all of the race action on Saturday and Sunday. Catch it here:

<iframe src=”http://livestream.com/accounts/14767548/events/4331887/player?width=640&amp;height=360&amp;autoPlay=true&amp;mute=false” width=”640″ height=”360″ frameborder=”0″ scrolling=”no”> </iframe>

… or you can watch on the RoadToIndy.TV app – available via Android  or Apple iOS.