Archives for Indy Lights Presented By Cooper Tires

Strong Indy Lights Field Set for Freedom 100

Strong Indy Lights Field Set for Freedom 100
Country Music Star Reba McEntire to Give Command for Series’ Premier Event
PALMETTO, Fla. – The top step of the Mazda Road to Indy open-wheel development ladder, Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, will host the crown jewel in its schedule – the Mazda Freedom 100 Presented by Cooper Tires –  in front of an expected bumper crowd at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Carb Day, Friday, May 27, as the precursor to Sunday’s historic 100th Indianapolis 500.
Adding to the excitement, country music star Reba McEntire – the mother of Indy Lights driver Shelby Blackstock – will give the command to fire the field of Mazda engines for the 40-lap, 100-mile race.
The wide-open nature of this year’s Indy Lights season is highlighted by the fact that six different winners, representing five different teams, have emerged from the opening seven races, which have taken place on a variety of race tracks ranging from the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., to the one-mile Phoenix (Ariz.) International Raceway oval, to the natural terrain road course of Barber Motorsports Park (Ala.) and most recently the grand prix road circuit at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Now comes an entirely different challenge on the venerable 2.5-mile oval, where last year the brand-new breed of Dallara IL-15 cars demolished the old Indy Lights track record while reaching speeds in excess of 210 mph.
As the only repeat winner, Carlin’s Ed Jones leads the championship chase – and the quest for a Mazda scholarship valued at $1M which will guarantee entry into three Verizon IndyCar Series races in 2017, including the Indianapolis 500. The Dubai-based Englishman qualified only eighth and failed to finish at Indy last year during his rookie campaign but has high hopes of being able to extend his championship lead.
“Coming into this race last year I had no prior oval experience so it was a huge learning curve,” said Jones. “I feel like we did a really good job, especially in the race as I progressed until a cut tire ended our day. This year we arrive on a roll with a lot more experience and confidence with what we are doing.
“The event is incredible,” he continued. “It’s definitely my favorite of the year and makes me imagine what it would be like to race in the Indy 500. Everything is put together to make a special event for both the drivers and spectators.”
Jones, 21, currently holds a 21-point advantage in the championship standings over both Uruguay’s Santiago Urrutia (Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian), who won last year’s Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, along with a Mazda scholarship to assist in his graduation to Indy Lights, and Californian Kyle Kaiser (Juncos Racing). Each has won one race already this year.
Felix Serralles (Carlin), from Ponce, Puerto Rico, Sweden’s Felix Rosenqvist (Belardi Auto Racing) and, most recently, Englishman Dean Stoneman (Andretti Autosport) also have visited Victory Lane in what is developing into a closely fought championship chase.
Belardi Auto Racing’s Zach Veach and teammate Rosenqvist topped yesterday’s test at the Speedway with Veach, who finished third in the 2014 Freedom 100, clocking an unofficial lap of 201.455 mph. Rounding out the top five were Dalton Kellett (Andretti Autosport), RC Enerson (Schmidt Peterson) and Neil Alberico (Carlin).
An additional three hours of practice is slated for Thursday, May 26, followed by qualifying at 1:15 p.m. EDT. The green flag for the Mazda Freedom 100 Presented by Cooper Tires will fly at 12:30 p.m. on Friday, May 27, soon after the conclusion of Carb Day IndyCar practice, with live coverage on NBCSN. Live timing and streaming video of all sessions will be available at and on the Road To Indy TV App.

Veach Tops 200 mph Unofficially in Freedom 100 Test Day

Veach Tops 200 mph Unofficially in Freedom 100 Test Day Brownsburg, Ind.-Based Belardi Auto Racing Sets the Pace in Both Sessions  INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Zach Veach created a little bit of history this morning during a one-day Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires test in preparation for Friday’sMazda Freedom 100 Presented by Cooper Tires, unofficially recording…

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Stoneman Fends Off Race-Long Pressure for First Indy Lights Win

Stoneman Fends Off Race-Long Pressure for First Indy Lights Win
Englishman Becomes Sixth Different Winner in Seven Races this Season
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Englishman Dean Stoneman made light of bitterly cold, windy conditions today at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course to win another exciting Mazda Grand Prix of Indianapolis Presented by Cooper Tires. The cancer survivor and former FIA Formula 2 champion took the lead soon after an early full-course caution, then held off a variety of challengers to claim a richly deserved victory for Andretti Autosport.
Santiago “Santi” Urrutia, winner of last year’s Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, guided Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian’s distinctive Soul Red Dallara-Mazda to second place ahead of early season points leader Kyle Kaiser (Juncos Racing).
The green flag was delayed a couple of laps after the unseasonably chilly 43-degree weather caught out Schmidt Peterson teammates RC Enerson and Andre Negrao on the parade laps. Enerson recovered from his spin, only to be halted shortly afterward by an electrical gremlin, but Negrao’s race was over even before it had begun following heavy nose-first contact with the retaining wall on the front straightaway.
The run toward Turn One on the first lap of green-flag racing proved predictably eventful, with Serralles making a bold lunge to outside of Carlin teammate and polesitter Ed Jones into the braking zone. The pair turned in virtually side by side, with Serralles perhaps fractionally ahead, only for light contact to send him spearing across the grass on the exit.
Jones narrowly held onto his lead, but only as far as Turn Seven where, despite having wound his brake balance to the rear in response to the cool temperatures, he was unable to slow down enough to make the corner and, momentarily, found himself on the grass too. A little farther behind, Zach Veach inadvertently tipped Belardi Auto Racing teammate Felix Rosenqvist into a spin. Jones resumed in eighth, while Rosenqvist rejoined in 12th.
Stoneman, who had started fifth, took full advantage to nip through into the lead, followed by Urrutia, Scott Anderson (Schmidt Peterson), up from eighth on the grid, a recovering Serralles, then Kaiser and Scott Hargrove (Team Pelfrey).
Stoneman seemed to be in control, edging out a small but appreciable lead within the first few laps, but it wasn’t long before he came under increasing pressure from Urrutia. Serralles soon joined the battle, too, before out-braking Urrutia for second place into Turn One on Lap 14.
The leading threesome quickly distanced themselves from the pursuing pack, although Kaiser, once through into fourth place, began to reduce the margin. The recovering Jones and Rosenqvist also were charging hard.
On Lap 29, Serralles made a move for the lead at Turn 12, only to slide wide and onto the grass, losing three positions. If Stoneman had any thoughts about cruising to the finish, they were quickly dispelled as Urrutia redoubled his challenge for the lead. But the Englishman was up to the task and took the checkered flag just 0.8659 second ahead of Urrutia, with Kaiser closing to within a similar margin at the finish line. Jones just held off teammate Serralles for fourth, with Rosenqvist, who set fastest lap, also right with the leading group in sixth.
The feature event in the 18-race Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires season, the Freedom 100 at the famed 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval is next on Carb Day, Friday 27, the final day of preparations for the historic Indianapolis 500.
Dean Stoneman (#27 Stellrecht-Andretti Autosport): “It’s been a fantastic weekend here at Indianapolis. It was a very challenging day today; you just had to be smart. It was difficult, starting fifth. I’ve never been the most amazing qualifier but I can put it together in the race. I was happy to get the lead on the first lap but you can’t get too excited because it can all go wrong in a hurry at those speeds. As the race continued and the cars separated a bit, I was hoping the safety car didn’t come out. It was a challenging start to the year but we’re getting there. We’re moving things in the right direction. At the end of the day, consistency wins championships and now that we’ve developed the car well, I’m really looking forward to the Freedom 100.”

Kaiser Leads the Way as Indy Lights Heads to Barber Motorsports Park

Kaiser Leads the Way as Indy Lights Heads to Barber Motorsports Park
All Three Levels of the Mazda Road to Indy Support Verizon IndyCar Series in Alabama
PALMETTO, Fla. – Kyle Kaiser will be looking to extend his advantage in Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires when all three open-wheel development series which comprise the Mazda Road to Indy driver development program visit scenic Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala., this weekend in support of the Verizon IndyCar Series. The Legacy Indy Lights 100 will comprise a pair of races, one each on Saturdayand Sunday.
Kaiser, 20, from Santa Clara, Calif., has grasped the early initiative in the chase for a Mazda scholarship to assist in the graduation to the Verizon IndyCar Series in 2017. Kaiser, now in his second season of Indy Lights, has claimed podium finishes in each of the first three races of the season, including a dominant victory earlier this month on the Phoenix International Raceway oval.
The undulating 2.3-mile Barber Motorsports Park road course will offer an entirely different challenge in comparison to the one-mile oval in Arizona, but Kaiser gained good experience one year ago, qualifying fourth for both races. He is driving for the same Juncos Racing team which guided then-teammate Spencer Pigot to a clean sweep of victories at Barber en route to the 2015 championship crown.
Kaiser currently holds an 18-point advantage, 81-63, over Felix Serralles, from Ponce, Puerto Rico, who won the opening race of the season on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., driving for the European open-wheel powerhouse Carlin team. Serralles also won last year on the famed Milwaukee Mile oval.
Swedish rookie Felix Rosenqvist (Belardi Auto Racing), who won last year’s FIA European Formula 3 Championship, holds down third place in the championship standings on 53 points after also tasting the fruits of victory in St. Petersburg.
Other top contenders will include Ed Jones, Scott Hargrove, Zach Veach, Shelby Blackstock, Dean Stoneman, RC Enerson and Santiago Urrutia.
Canadian Hargrove (Team Pelfrey) won the 2013 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda title and was second in the following year’s Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, which included a pair of runner-up finishes at Barber. Veach (Belardi Auto Racing), from Stockdale, Ohio, is returning to Indy Lights following a year’s sabbatical after finishing third in the 2014 title-chase, and already has a podium finish to his credit this year.
Englishman Jones, who won the first three races last year for Carlin, hopes to build on a fastest race lap and a pair of third-place qualifying results one year ago, while Californian teammate Neil Alberico earned a Pro Mazda win at Barber last year and showed well at the venue previously in USF2000.
Andretti Autosport’s challenge will stem from Pro Mazda grads Blackstock, from Nashville, Tenn., and Canada’s Kellett, as well as highly rated Englishman Stoneman, a former FIA Formula 2 champion and runner-up in the GP3 Series. Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian’s hopes of a record-extending eighth Indy Lights drivers’ championship will be headed by Florida teenager Enerson, who won last year at Mid-Ohio, and Uruguay’s Urrutia, who has every intention of following in the footsteps of Pigot by snaring the Indy Lights and Pro Mazda championships – plus respective Mazda scholarships – in consecutive years. Urrutia laid down a marker by posting the fastest lap during the Barber pre-season Spring Training test at 1:12.4479 (114.289 mph), less than a tenth of a second away from Pigot’s track record.
A pair of practice sessions will take place on Friday, April 22, at 10:15 a.m. CDT and 5:25 p.m.  Qualifying is scheduled for 8:00 a.m. on Saturday, followed by Race One at 12:00 p.m. The green flag for Race Two on Sunday will fly at 12.20 p.m., immediately before the Verizon IndyCar Series headline event. Live streaming shows of all sessions will be available at and on the Road To Indy TV App. Sunday’s race will feature same day coverage on NBCSN at 1:00 pm CDT.

Kaiser is Perfect on Indy Lights’ Return to the Phoenix Oval

AVONDALE, Ariz. – Kyle Kaiser and his Juncos Racing team put on a clinic today when the top tier of the Mazda Road to Indy open-wheel development ladder, Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, made its return to the Phoenix International Raceway oval following a 10-year hiatus.
Kyle Kaiser won his first Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tire race at Phoenix International Raceway almost exactly 30 years after the forerunning American Racing Series made it's debut 30 years ago. (Photo courtesy of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography)

Kyle Kaiser won his first Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tire race at Phoenix International Raceway almost exactly 30 years after the forerunning American Racing Series made it’s debut 30 years ago. (Photo courtesy of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography)

Dubai-based Englishman Ed Jones, 21, pushed as hard as he could for the Carlin team but never quite had the pace to challenge for the lead. RC Enerson, 19, from New Port Richey, Fla., completed the podium in this afternoon’s Indy Lights Grand Prix of Phoenix for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian.
After the initial start was waved off due to poor formation among the 16-car field, Kaiser, 20, from Santa Clara, Calif., took full advantage of the second pole of his career by romping into a clear early lead in the 90-lap contest. Jones slotted into second place, while Enerson outfoxed teammate Santiago Urrutia to snatch away third place within the first couple of turns.
Brazilian Andre Negrao, driving another Schmidt Peterson Dallara-Mazda, also made a fine start to vault from sixth on the grid to fourth ahead of Urrutia and fifth-place qualifier Felix Serralles (Carlin).
Also on the move was Indy Lights veteran Zach Veach (Belardi Auto Racing), who made up four positions on the opening lap after having to start at the back of the field following an accident during practice on Friday.
Kaiser set a torrid pace at the front of the field, circulating at an average speed of over 160 mph and quickly edging away to a one-second lead over his pursuers.
Veach continued to move up the order, rising to 10th after 14 laps, while Andretti Autosport’s English rookie Dean Stoneman made an impressive pass on Canadian Zachary Claman de Melo (Juncos Racing) to take over seventh place in Turn One on Lap 30. The resulting loss of momentum saw de Melo also lose places to Neil Alberico (Carlin) and Veach.
Two laps later, Urrutia’s pressure on fellow South American Negrao paid off as the Uruguayan took over fourth place.
The most worrying moment for race leader Kaiser came on Lap 34 when Heamin Choi lost control and spun on the exit of Turn Four just as he was about to go a lap down. The Korean did well to keep his car off the wall, but the incident ensured a full-course caution and instantly erased Kaiser’s 1.3-second lead.
Undeterred, Kaiser took off again at the restart and sped away to as much as a 1.5-second lead before easing off in the final few laps to take the checkered flag 1.0088 seconds ahead of Jones.
Enerson, who earned the Hi-Tide Boat Lifts “Spirit” Award as voted on by Hi-Tide guests from the local area Big Brothers, Big Sisters and Sunshine Acres Children’s Home, fought off a determined late challenge from Urrutia for third, while Stoneman drove an impressive first-ever oval race, passing Negrao in Turn One on Lap 72 to finish a very strong fifth.
Negrao had to settle for sixth ahead of Serralles, Veach, Alberico and Dalton Kellett, who rounded out the top 10 for Andretti Autosport.
Kaiser’s commanding victory, which included a fastest race lap of 22.5541 seconds (163.128 mph), eclipsing the old record of 23.227 seconds set by Greg Moore in 1995, moved him to the lead of the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires points table by 81-63 over Serralles. The series heads next to Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala., for a road course double-header on April 22-24.
Kyle Kaiser (#18 InterVision/NetApp/Juniper Networks-Juncos Racing):  “I felt last year that we were missing just a small piece to really break through and show what we had – and I think it was qualifying. When you start up front, it’s so much easier to stay up front than it is to start mid-pack and try to work your way forward. So I have a different mindset this year; I have confidence going into every race weekend. But I was pretty nervous today, right up until the checkered flag came out because you never know what’s going to happen. The team, along with Mazda and Cooper Tires, really gave me a good car. It was perfect from start to finish. I was in conserve mode early because I knew it was a long race, so all I had to do was to maintain the gap between me and Ed to get the win.”

Kaiser Claims Pole After Tight Phoenix Qualifying

AVONDALE, Ariz. – Kyle Kaiser didn’t turn the fastest lap during this afternoon’s qualifying session on the 1.022-mile Phoenix International Raceway oval – that honor fell to Brazilian Andre Negrao – but a blend of impressive pace and admirable consistency over his two-lap run was enough for the Californian teenager to claim the pole position…

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Cooper Tire, Mazda Extend Hashtag Campaign Into 2016 MRTI Season

Cooper Tire, Mazda Extend Hashtag Campaign Into 2016 MRTI Season
Hashtag program includes all driver and team handles from the USF2000, Pro Mazda and Indy Lights Series
FINDLAY, Ohio (March 22) – Cooper Tire and Mazda are thrilled to announce the extension of their MRTI Hashtag Program that encourages drivers and teams to utilize the #MRTI and #TeamCooperTire hashtags through their social messaging on Twitter and Instagram.
The program originated in 2014 as an initiative by Cooper Tire in cooperation with the Mazda Road To Indy. Participation from drivers such as Spencer Pigot, Gabby Chaves and Matthew Brabham garnered immediate results. The program’s success was boosted in 2015 after receiving full support from Mazda Motorsports.
Casey Ackerman, Cooper Tire’s Activation Director, has spearheaded the program since its inception and sees it as another benefit to joining the Mazda Road To Indy.
“In addition to the unique and incredible scholarship programs awarded by Mazda and the MRTI, drivers also have a chance to be rewarded for their usage of hashtags and creating content throughout the race season,” said Ackerman. “Meanwhile, their content is featured in an easily searchable location, further tying the entire ladder together as one entity.”
Drivers are eligible to win tires for their specific racecars, along with other prizes such as merchandise from Mazda and race/hospitality tickets that they can give away to their fans.
The program reached over seven million unique users on Twitter and Instagram in 2015. At the season opener for the MRTI at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the hashtags reached over one million unique users alone on Twitter.
“The MRTI Hashtag Program has evolved into a great initiative by our tremendous partners at Cooper Tire and Mazda,” said Dan Andersen, Owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions. “The contest periods feature fun challenges for our drivers and teams and rewards them for their efforts on social media. Providing race and hospitality tickets for drivers to give away strengthens and expands their fan base – it’s a win-win program and I have to thank Cooper and Mazda for continuing to think outside the box.”
Fans of the series can follow their drivers’ and teams’ favorite content by searching the hashtags #MRTI and #TeamCooperTire on Twitter and Instagram. All content featuring the #TeamCooperTire hashtag is also featured at
“The Mazda Road to Indy is growing because of a team effort from Cooper Tires, Andersen Promotions and Mazda, and the hashtag promotion is a great example of that,” said John Doonan, Director of Mazda Motorsports in North America. “The awards benefit our racers who participate, but the hashtags also provide the fans with an easy way to follow and get to know the personalities of so many talented drivers.”

Redemption for Belardi as Rosenqvist Dominates Indy Lights Race Two

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – For the second day running, a driver named Felix won on the streets of St. Petersburg. This morning’s Indy Lights Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Presented by Lucas School of Racing was all about Swedish rookie Felix Rosenqvist, who led from flag-to-flag to claim a dominant victory for Belardi Auto Racing….

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Serralles Maintains Carlin’s Indy Lights Stranglehold on St. Pete

Serralles Maintains Carlin’s Indy Lights Stranglehold on St. Pete
Heartbreak for Veach After Dominating the Early Stages of Season Opener
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires season-opening Indy Lights Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Presented by Lucas School of Racing turned out to be a race of two halves. Returning series veteran Zach Veach looked to have the spoils within his grasp until hindered by a mechanical problem, whereupon Felix Serralles, from Ponce, Puerto Rico, took full advantage and sped on to a clear victory.

Serralles’ form and good fortune ensured that the British Carlin team remains undefeated on the streets of St. Petersburg following a remarkable double victory on its debut one year ago. Canadian Scott Hargrove finished a fine second on Team Pelfrey’s Indy Lights debut, while pole-sitter Kyle Kaiser finished third for 2015 championship-winning team Juncos Racing.

Qualifying earlier this morning saw Kaiser spring to the top of the timing charts in the waning moments to claim his first pole position. The young American’s lap of 1:05.8728 edged Swedish newcomer Felix Rosenqvist (Belardi Auto Racing) by a scant 0.0459 second. Veach started third ahead of Shelby Blackstock (Andretti Autosport).
Kaiser made an excellent jump to maintain his advantage at the start, only to leave his braking a fraction too late in Turn One. As Kaiser slid a little wide, Veach, who won at St. Petersburg in 2014 and went on to finish second in the championship, drew alongside on the exit, then braved it out around the outside of Turn Two to grasp the lead.
Some more shuffling of the order during a dramatic opening lap saw Serralles somehow emerge in second place, having started seventh, followed by Hargrove and Kaiser. Santi Urrutia (Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian), the winner of the 2015 Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires – as well as a Mazda Scholarship to graduate into Indy Lights – completed the lap in fifth, having started ninth, with front row starter Rosenqvist already bundled back to sixth after inadvertently selecting the wrong electronic engine map at the start.
Serralles kept the pressure on Veach for the first seven laps before Veach was able to make a break, leaving Serralles to fend off the attentions of Hargrove. By Lap 17, Veach’s advantage had grown to a relatively comfortable two seconds. Cruelly, the leader’s car then abruptly lost power on the exit of Turn Three. Veach managed to continue in fourth place, only for the electrical glitch to return a couple more times, eventually forcing him out of the race.
Serralles took over the lead and immediately began to extend an appreciable margin over Hargrove which grew to just over 5.5 seconds by the checkered flag. The victory was Serralles’ second, following his triumph last year on the Milwaukee oval, and came in front of a large contingent of family and friends from Puerto Rico.
Hargrove, winner of the 2013 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda and runner-up in the 2014 Pro Mazda title-chase, finished a strong second after a race-long battle with Kaiser. Urrutia and teammate RC Enerson also remained in close company throughout.
Brazilian rookie Andre Negrao (Schmidt Peterson) completed the top six, followed by fellow rookies Rosenqvist, Dean Stoneman (Andretti Autosport), veteran Juan Piedrahita (Team Pelfrey) and Dubai-based Englishman Ed Jones (Carlin), who was unable to recapture the speed that earned him a pair of wins in 2015.
Race Two will start tomorrow morning at 9:45 am ET.
Felix Serralles (#4 Carlin): “I went to the outside of Scott in Turn Four and the inside in Turn Five and it paid off. Everything I did was right, but it was a little bit of luck and a good car. I struggled with it last year. I made the right decisions, made the right moves and picked the right lines.”
Scott Hargrove (Gap Guard – Team Pelfrey): “Going into Turn Three, I saw that Zach was slowing down and Felix had an opportunity to go around him. They were two-by-two and I was right there ready to make a move. I got a good run out of Turn Nine and in Turn 10, used the push-to-pass. I was committed to the move and bounced off the curb, which bent the toe which made the rest of the race pretty challenging. Kyle was right on me and I was driving as hard as I could – it was the hardest I’ve ever driven in a race. Team Pelfrey has given me an amazing opportunity to come back out here after a year off and show what I can do, that I have what it takes to run up front. This is a good result and we need to keep it going.”

Strong Indy Lights Field Set for Season-Opener in St. Petersburg

Strong Indy Lights Field Set for Season-Opener in St. Petersburg
Mazda Road to Indy Development Series Kicks Off with Verizon IndyCar Series
PALMETTO, Fla. – A high-quality entry of 16 drivers representing nine different nations are set to battle it out for early honors as the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires season kicks off this weekend with a pair of races at the Indy Lights Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Presented by Lucas School of Racing. Indy Lights will be joined by the other two levels of the Mazda Road to Indy open-wheel development program, the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda and the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, all in support of the opening Verizon IndyCar Series event on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., on March 11-13.
The advent of a new Dallara-Mazda IL-15 technical package last year has resulted in a 25 percent increase in the field for the 2016 season, and indications from recent test sessions suggest a wide-open contest is in store with a variety of formula car champions from around the world on the starting grid.
A long list of potential winners includes Dubai, UAE-based Englishman Ed Jones, who scored a remarkable double victory for British team Carlin on his Indy Lights debut at St. Petersburg last year; local favorite RC Enerson, from New Port Richey, Fla., who won at Mid-Ohio in 2015 for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian; 2014 St. Petersburg Indy Lights race winner Zach Veach (Belardi Auto Racing); and a pair of equally talented rookies, Santiago Urrutia (Schmidt Peterson), who steps up to Indy Lights after winning last year’s Pro Mazda Championship, as well as a Mazda Scholarship valued at over $590,000, and reigning FIA European Formula 3 Champion Felix Rosenqvist (Belardi).
“Qualifying on the pole is 90 percent of the job (at St. Petersburg),” says Jones, who finished his rookie campaign third in the points table. “If you can start on pole, you have a very good chance of winning the race so all our efforts are going into that. Last year we were too inconsistent in the points, so we need to work on that this year. Experience will help with that.”
Experience also will be on the side of 19-year-old Enerson, who has raced at the 1.8-mile street circuit each year since 2013, and two years ago claimed a win and a second-place finish in USF2000.
“You always have pressure at your hometown race but we’re going to push it as hard as we can and I’ll treat it like any other race,” says Enerson. “I have good memories of St. Pete. My USF2000 weekend here two years ago was one of the best weekends I’ve ever had. Hopefully we can do something like that again – or do even better!”
“I’ve looked at YouTube clips of the (St. Petersburg) race and the track looks very challenging, as a street circuit normally is,” adds Rosenqvist, from Sweden, who has won the prestigious Macau Grand Prix F3 street race in each of the past two years. “You have the walls next to you all the time so if you make a mistake, you’ll pay for it. We’ve tried a lot of different things in testing so I’m feeling very confident, especially on the road courses. If we put everything together, we’ll be up front.”
Rosenqvist topped the timing charts at a recent road course test at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Florida and was second only to Urrutia in last weekend’s Mazda Road to Indy Spring Training test session at Barber Motorsports park in Birmingham, Ala.
Other expected front-runners will include Team Pelfrey’s Scott Hargrove, from Vancouver, B.C., Canada, who swept both USF2000 races at St. Petersburg en route to the championship title in 2013; Puerto Rican Felix Serralles, a winner last year in Milwaukee; Carlin teammate Neil Alberico, who won both Pro Mazda races in St. Petersburg last year; Kyle Kaiser (Juncos Racing), from Santa Clara, Calif., who scored a pair of top-five Indy Lights finishes in 2015; and Englishman Dean Stoneman (Andretti Autosport), who finished second on the streets of Monaco in last year’s Formula Renault 3.5 World Series.
The Indy Lights cars will take to the 1.8-mile, 14-turn street circuit on Friday, March 11, for a pair of half-hour practice sessions at 8:50 a.m. and 2.10 p.m. Qualifying will follow on Saturday at 7:55 a.m., followed by Race One at 12:55 p.m. Race Two will start at 9:45 a.m. on Sunday. Live streaming shows of all sessions will be available at and on the Road To Indy TV App. Sunday’s feature race will air on NBCSN on March 24 at 11:00 pm ET.
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