By Patrick Stephan of TrackSideOnline.com presented by Honda Racing/HPD
Ed Jones started on the pole and was hoping to duplicate Saturday’s victory where he started on the pole and led every lap. Max Chilton started on the outside of Row 1 with Jack Harvey and Scott Hargrove in the second row of the 13-car field.
At the start Jones and Chilton head into Turn 1 as the field fans out four-wide near the front. A lot of swerving and defending, but it was a clean start as Jones maintained the lead. Kyle Kaiser bangs wheels in Turn 3 but is able to continue.
Hearing that the Cooper Tires are very slippery on the first couple of laps but once they are heated up the grip level improves dramatically. That allowed Jones to pull away to a 1-second lead as Pigot and Chilton began to pressure Harvey for second place.
After five laps, Jones lead was under one-second but RC Enerson drove off the track to bring out the first yellow flag of the race on Lap 5. Enerson was out of the race with a mechanical issue.
Jones, Harvey, Pigot, Chilton and Kaiser were the top five and Scott Hargrove, Felix Serralles, Matthew Brabham, Juan Piedrahita and Scott Anderson rounded out the top 10 in the 13-driver field.
One lap later it was a single-file restart with Jones leading the way. The front four were able to stretch out the lead ahead of fifth-place driver Kaiser.
At the 10-lap mark, Jones led Harvey by 0.6780 seconds. Pigot was third followed by Chilton and Kaiser. The gap from first to fifth was 4.833-seconds.
Jones continued to maintain a near one-second lead a lap 15.
Further back in the field, however, Brabham and Hargrove were involved in a fierce battle for sixth place.
At Lap 20 Jones was in front by 1.1316 seconds as it was a two-driver battle with Jones and Harvey. Third-place Pigot was way back 7.0300 seconds.
At the halfway point on Lap 22, the only battles were the continuing fight for sixth place between Hargrove, Brabham and Serralles. But, the best battle on the track was between Chilton and Pigot in the battle for third place. Chilton put some serious pressure on Pigot for the position.
With 13 laps to go Jones’ lead was up to 2.3116-seconds over Harvey and a whopping 11.4210 over third-place Pigot.
At the 10-to-go mark Jones was safely in control of the front but Hargrove’s car was sliding in his battle to maintain sixth place in the fight with Brabham.
Jones was up by 5.5556-seconds lead over Harvey with just five laps to go. Brabham pulled to the inside of Hargrove in an attempt to pass as he did all he could do to keep sixth place. Chilton and Pigot were also still in a good fight for third place.
Brabham passed Hargrove going into Turn 1 but got too deep into the corner and that allowed Hargrove to grab back the spot.
Jones was well in front of the field at the white flag with a 9.0882-second lead over Harvey.
Jones crossed the finish line a final time up by 9.0708 seconds over Harvey. That completed his weekend sweep, leading every lap of both Cooper Tires Indy Lights Series races over the weekend.
Pigot was third, 14.7997 second back with Chilton fourth 15.4050. Fifth place was Kaiser, 22.3426 back. Hargrove was able to win the battle for sixth place over Brabham.
Hmm, the races seemed a little more interesting than the stats show, but maybe I’m just a little racing starved. Of the six MRTI races this weekend, we had precisely zero passes for the lead, and just three winners in six races. Heck, I believe the winners in each series all had perfect weekends. The only slight exception I think is Aaron Telitz set fast lap in today’s USF2000 race and Matthew Brabham did the same in yesterday’s Indy Lights debut, but I’ll double check that.
Jones noted after the race that his car has just been very well balanced all weekend and he has mostly concentrated on not spinning the rear tires – allowing his to last longer than other. He likes that the Cooper Tires have a big peak which creates a great challenge to get really good qualifying lap and then the challenge becomes managing the drop off for the rest of a session/race.
This is the longest race that Jones has ever done at 45 laps, but he said he car was so good it felt quite short.
Harvey said he is very confident that his SPM team will catch up and do it quickly. Staying with SPM is one of the main reasons he decided to stay in the US, despite having some opportunities to go back to racing in Europe.