Newton, Iowa – Max Chilton broke through to claim his first Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires victory this evening at Iowa Speedway following a thrilling duel with Carlin teammate and fellow Englishman Ed Jones. Chilton dedicated the victory to his friend and ex-Marussia/Manor Formula 1 teammate Jules Bianchi who passed away yesterday as a result of injuries sustained during last year’s Japanese Grand Prix.
Florida teenager RC Enerson continued to impress with a third-place finish in the Indy Lights Iowa 100 for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian.
Prior commitments prevented Chilton from attending an earlier test session at Iowa Speedway in June, but he professed a liking for the tricky, 0.894-mile oval immediately after stepping from the car after his initial experience during Thursday’s test day. The Carlin team also proved to be fast learners on the oval, using the experience of veteran engineer Geoff Fickling to excellent effect as both drivers picked up pace throughout the weekend before Chilton sped to the pole earlier this afternoon, breaking J.R. Hildebrand’s existing two-lap qualifying record (161.183 mph) with an average speed of 162.293 mph.
Jones qualified just 0.0601 second slower in second, and the two blue-and-white Carlin Dallara-Mazda IL-15s immediately established themselves in the lead at the green flag. An impressive early charge saw Enerson leap from sixth on the grid to third, earning himself the RePlay XD Move of the Race Award, while teammate and championship leader Jack Harvey slotted into fourth.
The two leaders remained around one second apart as they gradually inched away from Enerson and Harvey. Ethan Ringel (Schmidt Peterson) ran in fifth until being passed by Kyle Kaiser (Juncos Racing) on Lap 35. Ringel then slipped back into the clutches of teammate Scott Anderson, Spencer Pigot (Juncos Racing) and the Belardi Auto Racing pair of Juan Piedrahita and Felix Serralles.
The leaders came up behind some slower traffic as the 100-lap race reached toward its halfway point, and Jones grasped an opportunity on Lap 51 to slip past Chilton for the lead. Just 13 laps later, as the leaders continued to negotiate traffic, Chilton dived for the inside in Turn Three to reclaim the lead, then was offered a little respite when Ringel suffered a mechanical problem which brought his car to a halt on the race track and ensured the race’s only full-course caution.
Chilton took advantage of the clear track ahead of him at the restart to cement his authority on the proceedings, taking the checkered flag a comfortable 6.1172 seconds clear of Jones who was content to cruise home to the finish.
Enerson, 18, from New Port Richey, Fla., secured his fourth podium finish of the season, while Kaiser found a way past Harvey for fourth with a dozen laps remaining. Harvey still managed to extend his championship lead to 18 points over Spencer Pigot (Juncos Racing), who finished a lapped eighth. Jones is now just two points further behind as the series heads next to the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for two road course events on August 1-2.
Today’s race will air tomorrow, July 19, on NBCSN at 11:00 pm EDT.
Max Chilton (#14 BlippAR-Carlin): “You put it on pole and you think you like the track, but I guarantee you, you don’t pass judgment until the race is over! So now that I’ve finished the race, yes, I really do love this track. I’m new to the ovals, especially short ovals. This one suited me. I missed the testing but I felt comfortable from the word go and the team gave me a great car. I wasn’t happy when I lost the lead. I haven’t been leading a race for three years, because of where I’ve been, and I really, really wanted to win this race. I did this one for Jules – I followed him a lot the last couple of years and learned a lot from him, including things I used today.”