By Patrick Stephan
The Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires series held their qualifying session this afternoon with Kyle Kaiser continuing his strong performance by taking his first career oval pole here on the 1-mile oval outside Phoenix. This follows up on his first career Indy Lights pole (of any kind) that came a couple weeks back in St. Petersburg.
Kaiser came in to the weekend a point behind Felix Serralles in the championship, but by virtue of taking the pole, he is now tied as they enter tomorrow’s 90 lap race.
Ed Jones timed in 2nd, followed by strong runs from Santiago Urrutia (top rookie), RC Enerson and Serralles.
Zach Veach did not make a qualifying attempt after his contact earlier in the day. Veach said that he had a left rear tire problem, sending him in to the wall. This explanation makes sense as the result of his crash seemed a bit odd. He knocked the right front corner off, early in the turn. Normally, you’d spin here, or perhaps push up at exit and catch the wall. Guessing the tire was losing pressure, which unloaded the right front corner. That in turn meant the right front wasn’t helping turn the car – so he went straight in to the wall.
Kaiser circled the track at an Average Speed of 167.872mph, about .37mph faster than Jones.
After the session, Kaiser came to the media center where he gave some pretty honest comments. He said that initially ovals were scary and intimidating to him. But, now that he’s had some time on them and this is his second season in Lights, he has built up the confidence needed to be successful on an oval.
Kaiser really seems to maturing at just the right time. Going to make for an interesting race tomorrow afternoon. He believes the car will be pretty good early, but the concern will be managing rear tire wear and then navigating traffic as the tires go away.
Jones of course was pretty please with his performance, but we mostly wanted more info on that non-wing sprint car experience. Ed said that running at the Cory Kruseman sprint car school was all set up by Chris Dyson (sports car racer and owner of AER – the engine builder for the Indy Lights series). As you’ll recall from one of the very first TSOLadder.com posts, Dyson ventured out to dirt track racing this winter – racing in the Chili Bowl Midget Nationals in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Jones said he is seriously considering running some real dirt track races in the future. At first, he found the seating position, driving position, etc., very unusual. But, he adapted pretty quickly and then started to find similarities. He was really excited when talking about the experience, and clearly had a lot of fun. And every time he talks about driving that car, he remarks on how he now understands why some of IndyCar’s greats came from that type of racing. That tells me he is either super interested in racing history or well coached from a PR perspective – though the most likely answer is BOTH and we can truly appreciate that. Ed is one of the “good guys” for sure. He honestly loves the racing and frankly seems like he is always having fun.
Though he also noted that he told me he is searching now for that overwhelming sensation of speed. As part of the sprint car discussion he noted he has gotten used to how fast he’s going in a Lights car (and a sprint car), with things having “slowed down” for him these days. Great trait to have in a race car driver!
Rank Car Driver AvgSpeed
1 18 Kyle Kaiser 167.872
2 11 Ed Jones 167.507
3 55 Santiago Urrutia (R) 167.365
4 7 RC Enerson 167.306
5 4 Felix Serralles 167.244
6 17 Andre Negrao (R) 167.117
7 13 Zachary Claman De Melo (R) 167.037
8 28 Dalton Kellett (R) 166.390
9 27 Dean Stoneman (R) 166.328
10 22 Neil Alberico (R) 166.292
11 3 Scott Hargrove (R) 165.849
12 51 Shelby Blackstock 165.733
13 14 Felix Rosenqvist (R) 165.656
14 2 Juan Piedrahita 165.274
15 77 Heamin Choi (R) 164.876
16 5 Zach Veach