By Tony DiZinno
The seven races for the Mazda Road to Indy at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for 2015 are in the books. Nico Jamin (Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda), Santiago Urrutia (Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires) and Sean Rayhall (Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires) scored the wins in Saturday’s races.
Cooper Tires USF2000 Powered by Mazda Race #2
The grid for the second Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda race of the weekend, the 30-minute Round 8, featured a similar, if not completely identical, grid compared to Friday’s Round 7.
What it didn’t feature was identical weather conditions, with Friday’s sun ceding to cloudy, overcast skies and a muggy feel.
The full starting grid is below:
|9||5||Keyvan Andres Soori||01:27.6839||Quals|
|11||80||Parker Thompson||01:28.0218||Race 1|
|13||6||Max Hanratty||01:28.5675||Race 1|
|15||12||Augie Lerch||01:29.1438||Race 1|
|17||51||Bill Abel||01:29.8992||Race 1|
The start was waved off but the second attempt worked out cleanly, with polesitter Nico Jamin ahead of his Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing teammate Aaron Telitz.
However there was drama just behind them. Jake Eidson, who started third, didn’t make it out of the first two-turn complex with his front wing, after inadvertently contacting the back of Telitz.
Eidson needed a quick pit stop for a wing change, but his Pabst Racing crew did a great job to change the wing and get him back out without losing a lap, a move that would be even more important later in the race.
Jamin and Telitz pulled away from the remainder of the field, to the tune of 10-plus seconds over third by Lap 10. Anthony Martin made it up to third after starting sixth.
By Lap 8, Garth Rickards, who was running seventh, pulled into the pits and retired with mechanical issues.
On Lap 11, one of Rickards’ Team Pelfrey teammates, Luke Gabin, passed Eidson’s teammate Yufeng Luo for fourth place.
By Lap 16, Jamin’s lead to Telitz was 3.5 seconds and the pair had 17 seconds clear on the pair of Australians, Martin and Gabin, in third and fourth.
There was drama further down the pack with Ayla Agren and James Dayson both making unscheduled pit stops on Lap 20. Crucially, Eidson gained three spots in the final two laps, passing both of those two and Bill Abel; that netted Eidson three more points and at least salvaged something of the day, with a 12th place finish.
Jamin took the checkered flag on Lap 21 with a final margin of 4.8666 seconds over Telitz.
It completes a weekend sweep for the Frenchman, is his third win in a row and fourth in eight races this season.
Telitz was second, his fourth runner-up finish of the year and sixth podium of the year. Martin finished third, some 20.8281 seconds back, to cap off a challenging weekend on a high note and score his second podium of the year (second at Round 6 at Barber).
Gabin in fourth and Luo in fifth either set or equaled their best finishes of the year.
After the race, Jamin said it was a dream weekend to win both poles and both races in Indianapolis. He enjoyed the fact he had a comfortable gap to Telitz all race. He called Friday’s race “funny” with how much he was moving up and down, but enjoyed the race.
Telitz said he didn’t know Eidson was there in the midst of an over-under crossover move exiting Turn 2, and felt the nudge from another car at corner exit. That affected his car’s balance and while it wasn’t significant, it was enough to keep him stationed in second without really threatening his teammate.
Martin was relieved to end on the podium after a weekend where he barely got many laps in comparison to the rest of the field. He estimated he’d only got 30 laps of track time compared to 80 for the rest of the field heading into the race. He also noted that as a single-car team, the John Cummiskey Racing crew would be gambling on any major setup changes without a second set of data to utilize. Fortunately, the changes they made improved the car’s balance and handling for today’s race. Heading into Lucas Oil Raceway in two weeks, the young Australian has never been on an oval before, and couldn’t contain his excitement about his first running there.
The full race #2 results are as follows:
|10||5||Keyvan Andres Soori||21|
It puts a wrap on the weekend from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course for USF2000.
Unofficially, Jamin now leads the points by 18 over Eidson and 24 over Telitz (204-186-180), heading to Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis on May 23, the Saturday afternoon before the Indianapolis 500. It marks USF2000’s only oval race of the season.
Pro Mazda presented by Cooper Tires Race #3
After two relatively eventful races to kick off the weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the third Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires race on Saturday was fairly calm and clean by comparison. Santiago Urrutia took the victory, following on from Weiron Tan and Timothe Buret earlier in the weekend.
The full starting grid is below:
|17||14||Alessandro Latif||1:25.8305||Race 1|
After a single wave off, Urrutia got the jump on Will Owen and Pato O’Ward, with Buret and Jose Gutierrez completing the top five.
Victor Franzoni headed to the pits following a slow start, and Weiron Tan was the race’s first retirement. Tan relayed to his team that he was hit from behind and broke his upright, thus unable to continue.
The gap between Urrutia and Owen stayed in the six to seven-tenth of a second ballpark through to Lap 10, with most of the top 10 order remaining unchanged.
On Lap 14, both Buret and Gutierrez got by O’Ward to move into third and fourth, and move the second Team Pelfrey driver down the order. Franzoni, who had since returned to the track, set what was then the fastest race lap of 1:24.5136.
Urrutia maintained the gap to Owen of 1.2 seconds after the completion of Lap 20, and took the checkered flag a lap later at the end of Lap 21 with a final gap of 1.0238 seconds. This is Urrutia’s second win and sixth podium finish this year.
With second, Owen posted his first podium finish of the year and his Pro Mazda career at a track where he won in USF2000 last year. In third, Buret scored his third podium of the weekend, coming after a second on Thursday and a win on Friday.
Gutierrez and O’Ward completed the top five. Neil Alberico ended in seventh after starting 10th.
After the race, Urrutia said it was actually a hard race, because Owen was pushing him throughout. When you’re fast, Urrutia said, it’s easier to do a mistake, but you have to maintain focus. Winning at Indianapolis, Urrutia said, was a dream.
Owen said he was very excited with the result. He approached the event weekend with a different mentality, and said he came in better prepared.
Buret said it was difficult to start on the outside line, but he remained focused. He said once he and Gutierrez could put pressure on O’Ward, he’d be able to overtake him.
The full race #2 results are as follows:
Unofficially, Urrutia will take a 25-point lead on Alberico heading into Lucas Oil Raceway in two weeks (195-170). Buret’s three-for-three podium weekend vaults him to third, with 153 points.
Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tire Race #2
One of the more eventful Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires races of the year took place on Saturday to conclude the Mazda Road to Indy seven-pack of races on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and ended with a first-time winner in Sean Rayhall.
There were two key notes going into the Mazda Grand Prix of Indianapolis presented by Cooper Tires. First up, the series removed push-to-pass for all cars, after Carlin’s pair of Ed Jones and Max Chilton did not have it on Friday. Second, Jack Harvey’s team was penalized a set of fresh tires, although with Harvey due to use a new set for Saturday anyway having saved an extra set earlier in the weekend, he wasn’t entirely compromised.
Here was the starting grid. Note Spencer Pigot started 12th after a pre-race engine change, but we were not able to confirm when the actual change occurred.
On the start, Rayhall moved to the outside and got around polesitter Jones.
Jones’ race quickly took a turn for the worse when he and Harvey made contact through Turns 1 and 2. It left Jones spun around, facing the wrong way and 12th and last in the 12-car field.
After the first lap, Rayhall led Harvey, Felix Serralles who had made a dynamic start up to third, Kyle Kaiser and Juan Piedrahita.
By Lap 3, Ethan Ringel also passed both Shelby Blackstock and Scott Anderson to get up to eighth.
Pigot’s race came to an end after contact between he and Ringel on Lap 4. Ringel was spun in Turns 1 and 2 but continued, while Pigot continued only for one further corner before pulling into the gravel with left front suspension damage.
That caused the first full course yellow and wiped out Rayhall’s nearly one-second lead over Harvey.
Under yellow on Lap 5, the order was Rayhall, Harvey, Serralles, Kaiser and RC Enerson. Notable here was Kaiser finally making it through the first lap after a series of incidents on the first lap, and Enerson gaining three positions in two laps after falling from fifth to eighth on the first lap.
Rayhall needed to make a good restart to avoid a lead change, and did just that on Lap 7. The action occurred behind him with Serralles around Harvey on the outside of Turn 2 for second place.
A lap later on Lap 8, Enerson passed Kaiser into Turn 1 for fourth place.
On Lap 11, Serralles and Harvey made slight contact at Turn 1 in the battle for second, and Enerson got ahead of Serralles by Turn 4.
Also by Lap 11, the drivers to watch were the Carlin twins of Max Chilton and Jones, the latter of whom was recovering from his first lap spin. The pair were running in the 1:16 range, anywhere from four to six tenths per lap quicker than the rest of the field.
On Lap 11, Chilton and Jones were sixth and eighth.
By Lap 13, the order was Rayhall, Harvey (2.8 seconds back), Enerson, Serralles, Kaiser and Chilton.
On Lap 14, Jones passed Shelby Blackstock for seventh, and a lap later, he passed Piedrahita for sixth.
By Lap 22, Chilton made a pass of Kaiser for fourth, and shortly thereafter, Jones made it past the young American.
On Lap 25, Rayhall, who had to that point maintained the gap to Harvey, led him by 1.4 seconds with Enerson third, Chilton fourth and Jones up to fifth.
On Lap 30, Serralles’ day came to a close when he pulled off at pit in at the exit of Turn 12. The race remained green.
It looked as though the race would finish in the same order, but Harvey fell from second to fifth in the final lap. The Englishman told TSO after the race that his car went into “limp mode,” with the possibility he might have been low on fuel.
Up front, Rayhall held on for his and 8Star Motorsports’ first career victory, with Enerson a career-best second 3.948 seconds behind.
Chilton and Jones finished third and fourth, with Harvey fifth. Both Carlin drivers set fastest race laps of the race in the 1:16.4 range, while the rest of the field was in the 1:16.8 or higher range.
After the race, Rayhall was visibly emotional, and justifiably so. As recently as Sunday, he didn’t know if he’d be racing at Indianapolis this weekend. He made sure to give credit to his entire crew – he told us he was wishing his whole crew could come in the post-race press conference. But he also made sure to conserve his tires enough to have some for the finish. He said the restart was important, and he used his old stock car experience to know when to launch.
Enerson said the result was a big confidence boost, although he wished Harvey would have been able to hold onto second for points and for a Schmidt Peterson 1-2. He credited Harvey with his rapid development.
Chilton said of the start that he didn’t remember much, other than getting “hit up the backside” – he changed the last word today after an inadvertent slip-up in the Barber press conference. He said he thought Harvey hit Jones, but he said he was “very motivated” to recover after both he and Jones fell so far back on the opening lap. From there, running near qualifying laps, he fought his way back en route to his second podium of the season.
TSO spoke to both Jones and Harvey after the race about the contact. Jones alleged Harvey hit him, while Harvey unsurprisingly said the opposite. It will be interesting to monitor the rivalry and championship battle between these two, and Pigot, for the rest of the month and the rest of the season.
Jones should still lead the points over Harvey, with Pigot falling further back as a result of his tough weekend.
The full race #2 results are as follows:
That’s a wrap for our Mazda Road to Indy coverage from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. We thank you for reading.