In 2013, Indy Lights staged one of the most dramatic finishes in racing history at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with a four-wide photo finish to the Freedom 100, won by Peter Dempsey.
In 2016, the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires made a Kodak moment on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course with arguably one of the most dramatic restarts in recent memory in the closing laps of the Mazda Indy Lights Grand Prix of Indianapolis, won by Ed Jones.
Though polesitter Jones, of Carlin, delivered in a flag-to-flag triumph for his second win of the year, saying it was just a straightforward pole-to-flag victory would not do this restart – and the finish of this race – justice.
Jones took his No. 11 Jebel Ali Resorts and Hotels Dallara IL-15 Mazda to the win over the Soul Red No. 55 Mazda of Santiago Urrutia and the No. 27 Stellrecht Andretti Autosport entry of Dean Stoneman, and how they got there came courtesy of Stoneman’s lap number – 27 – being the deciding lap.
At the start of the 30-lap race, Jones held the lead from Urrutia in second, with RC Enerson making a run in his No. 7 Schmidt Peterson car up to third. Slight contact occurred between the SPM teammates and Enerson, who was on the outside with Urrutia in the middle and Jones on the inside, was forced off course into the runoff area of oval Turn 4 on the 2.439-mile road course.
Behind them, Kyle Kaiser was forced to take evasive action and there was a separate incident where Zachary Claman De Melo, Neil Alberico and Shelby Blackstock all lost time in the melee. De Melo was spun around and the three of them fell to the rear of the 16-car field.
After the first lap, Jones led Stoneman, second-starting Felix Rosenqvist, Urrutia, Zach Veach and Scott Anderson. Enerson and Kaiser fell to 11th and 12th.
A further incident occurred on Lap 2 when Dalton Kellett hit Juan Piedrahita entering Turn 1, with both cars sustaining too much damage to contine. A less than pleased Piedrahita told IndyCar Radio he thought Kellett had no idea what he was doing, following a rare mistake from the Canadian.
On Lap 6, Urrutia passed Rosenqvist for third on the inside of Turn 12.
On Lap 10, Jones led Stoneman by 0.8321 of a second with Urrutia, Rosenqvist, Veach and Felix Serralles the top six.
By Lap 15, the only change at the top of the order was Serralles by Veach for fifth place.
Enerson, who’d been trying to recover from the first lap, then closed on Anderson for seventh. He tried a move at Turn 7 on Lap 20 but overcooked his entry and locked the brakes.
Things escalated two laps later once Enerson was already past. Anderson and Scott Hargrove in the No. 3 Team Pelfrey entry collided entering Turn 12 and the damage, with Hargrove’s car high-sided, brought out a full course caution.
And that was what led to the dramatic finish.
The restart was initially planned for Lap 26 but was waved off after the formation was out of order. Jones led Stoneman, Urrutia, Rosenqvist, Serralles and Veach.
Then Lap 27 happened.
To start it off, Jones had to defend against both Stoneman and Urrutia. Jones held his lane in the middle of the track going into Turn 1 before Stoneman went to the inside and made it past for the lead. Jones locked up on corner entry but was able to sustain enough momentum to carry through the corner; problem was, Urrutia then made it through on the inside into second.
Rosenqvist tried to get a run on the ailing Jones but when he caught him, he got caught in dirty air. Serralles then tried to get a run on Rosenqvist but was unable to pass.
Stoneman led Urrutia into Turn 7, but gradually, then more increasingly, moved to driver’s left heading into the 90-degree left-hander. Urrutia made it past Stoneman into the corner but both drivers ran wide on corner exit, and so Jones had a path through on the inside to retake the lead after Stoneman and Urrutia had both held it.
The Stoneman/Urrutia lead battle then hurt both of them exiting the corner and they fell into the Felix battle of Serralles and Rosenqvist.
Serralles then proceeded to pull off a double move, briefly getting into third in the No. 4 Carlin car after passing to Rosenqvist’s inside for a right-hander and then to Stoneman’s outside for a left-hander. But then he ran wide exiting Turn 10 and the would-be third place fell away from him; Stoneman and Rosenqvist got back by immediately and Veach tried a corner later for fifth. There were several other cars – Kaiser, Andre Negrao and even Blackstock – who tried to make headway in the closing laps.
The crescendo of activity started and peaked at Lap 27 and following that, the race ran to a less dramatic conclusion, but still with Jones up front and winning by 0.9501 from Urrutia and 1.8290 from Stoneman.
It was the same podium as at Barber last race, albeit in a different order – Urrutia and Jones swapped spots following Urrutia’s Turn 5 pass there. Carlin now joins the list of recent winners at IMS after Schmidt Peterson and 8Star won here last year.
Rosenqvist and Veach made it two Belardi cars in the top five, with Kaiser recovering nicely to sixth ahead of Serralles, Enerson, Blackstock and Negrao in the top 10.
Unofficially Jones has 140 points having extended his championship lead, with Kaiser on 117 and Urrutia on 114. Serralles is fourth with 109.
After the race Jones said he was probably a little more cautious this year than he might have been last year. He worked to avoid collisions and then capitalized on his opportunity.
Urrutia had a loose race car for most of the race, but said the balance wasn’t off too bad following his hectic first lap. When he tried to move on Stoneman, he said Stoneman was working hard to close the door, and that opened the door for Jones.
Stoneman said he felt he had a lot left to use, with the Safety Car proving a valuable assist. He said the team is using the first day of a weekend as a test day to get better; he expects to start fifth and said he knows what he needs to go quicker.
Unofficial results are below and the second race of the weekend occurs tomorrow at 1:25 p.m.
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