NEWTON, Iowa – Iowa Speedway, billed as the fastest short track on the planet, provided an exciting stage for the final oval race of the calendar for Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires this afternoon. The 100-lap all-green Indy Lights Iowa Challenge Presented by Cooper Tires came down to a battle at the end with Felix Serralles of Carlin scoring the win in the closing minute on the .686-mile oval.
This is the second win and fourth podium of the season for Serralles, 24, of Ponce, Puerto Rico, who won the season-opener on the streets of St. Petersburg. Serralles also claimed victory at The Milwaukee Mile oval last year.
Rain forced the cancellation of qualifying with the grid set on championship points, giving Carlin’s Ed Jones his seventh pole in the last eight races. Championship rivals Dean Stoneman, Santi Urrutia and Kyle Kaiser lined up second, third and fourth respectively with Serralles in fifth.
Jones held the lead until Lap 57 when Serralles, who had charged into third on the opening lap and maneuvered past Andretti Autosport’s Stoneman on Lap 26, made his move. He appeared poised to take the checkered flag with only 20 laps remaining until a hard-charging Zach Veach of Belardi Auto Racing took the point.
Veach had started sixth and clearly had a car that was capable of winning, proven by setting the fastest lap of the race. The 21-year-old from Stockdale, Ohio, appeared to have his second win of the season in hand until the closing moments as he and Serralles fought their way through lapped traffic. Serralles emerged the victor by 0.6681 seconds with Jones, Stoneman and Urrutia rounding out the top five.
Jones slightly extended his lead in the point standings over Stoneman, 236-213, with Urrutia holding third at 206 points. Serralles’ win has vaulted him to fourth in the standings at 199 with Veach in fifth at 194.
Today’s Indy Lights Iowa Challenge Presented by Cooper Tires will air on NBCSN at 7:00 pm EDT on Tuesday, July 12.
Indy Lights will head to Toronto next week for the Cooper Tires USF2000 Grand Prix of Toronto – Rounds 12 and 13 of the championship.
Felix Serralles, #4 SS Tire – Carlin: “It feels great to finally be on the podium again and to win a race! I was really confident today – I had the memory of how confident I was when I won at Milwaukee last year and I felt that way again today. I knew we could get to the front but the Carlin team gave me a car that could help me pull away. You just really can’t give up. One of the biggest parts of ovals is dealing with the lapped traffic and today, that was really difficult. Once I was able to catch Zach, he caught traffic. Some of the drivers were kind enough to let us by but a few others didn’t. But I really have to say the Cooper Tires lasted really well, I pushed all the way through the race and the tires did a great job.”
Zach Veach, #5 – Belardi Auto Racing: “I always like to say that I do better on ovals but what I’ve had this year, I left ‘backing out of it’ off the list of things to do because we had to get to the front. The battle with Dean was one of the most intense battles I’ve ever had on a short oval and I learned a lot. He worked hard to keep me behind him and in trying to get around him, I discovered that my car really liked the high line. That’s what gave me the exit speed and helped me save my Cooper Tires. The tires were amazing; I was worried about how hard I had pushed but the harder I pushed, the more they stayed with me.
“My day changed completely when I came up on lapped traffic. In my view, if you’re a lap down and it’s coming down to the end of the race, you need to make way for the leaders coming through. But I have to be happy with a podium. Things changed for us at Road America, with a win and a third. We could have had a win here, but I’m happy to get the points.”
Ed Jones, #11 Jebel Ali Resorts and Hotels – Carlin: “The turning point of the race for me was getting stuck behind another car. I struggled to get past him and that let Felix by me. That was the momentum changer. From then on, we struggled in traffic. But it was a good result and I’ve extended my lead in the championship and if I keep doing that, it’s all good. The balance changed with the different conditions through the race; I had a lot of understeer. I maxed out my bias early in the race. You want the car to be slightly pointy, with more front end so the car can work in traffic. So every time I got behind someone, that exaggerated the problem and I would lose the exit. It was difficult to get a good run and keep it and that was the difference in the race for me.”