Felix Rosenqvist explained that he was nervous coming back to the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tire series on such a difficult track. Well, it certainly didn’t look like it as the Swedish driver won his second race of the series after missing the last two events.
However, the biggest winner of the day was second place finisher Felix Serralles. The 24 year-old, who gained 10 points on championship leading teammate Jones, will begin Sunday’s race only 26 points out of the championship lead.
The Ponce, Puerto Rico native told us after the race that settling for second place isn’t in his nature, but he did understand that because Rosenqvist isn’t in the battle for the $1million Mazda Motorsports Advancement Scholarship and finishing behind him would not hurt him.
After three podiums in the first three races of the year, Juncos Racing sophomore Kyle Kaiser was only able to finish in the top three once in the last eight races. The 20 year-old thought that they would have qualified on the front-row without the red flag, but was very happy that he was able to end up on the podium from his seventh place starting spot.
Saturday’s 35 lap Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tire race began at 12:25 pm under perfect Canadian blue skies.
Pole sitter Rosenqvist got a great start and was able to get to Turn 1 ahead of an angry pack of 13 2.0L Mazda turbo-charged Dallara’s that spread out two and three wide.
Serralles, who started second lost two spots after he was pushed by Santiago Urrutia at the exit of Turn 1.
Zach Veach who started fourth was able to take advantage of the contact between Serralles and Urrutia and make it a Belardi Auto Racing one-two exiting the first corner of the first lap.
On Lap 2, Andre Negrao who started fifth suffered a flat rear Cooper tire and was forced to pit to replace the tire.
After being passed by Urrutia in the first turn of the race, Serralles hounded the reigning Pro Mazda Champion for the next seven laps before getting around him on Turn 1.
On Lap 10, Kyle Kaiser, Zachary Claman de Melo, Dean Stoneman, and Juan Piedrahita, were involved in tight fight for sixth through ninth.
While taking a look on the inside of Stoneman for the eighth spot on the run down to Turn 3, Piedrahita misjudged the distance between his No. 2 and Stoneman’s No. 27 and the Piedrahita’s left front rode over the right rear of Stoneman, launching the Colombian up and over the Englishman.
The bright yellow Juncos Racing No. 2 then continued straight towards the Turn 3 run-off and collected the No. 13 Juncos Racing machine of Zachary Claman de Melo, who was an unfortunate innocent bystander.
Piedrahita and Claman de Melo both suffered significant damage and were unable to continue. Piedrahita was taking to the infield care center and was checked, released and cleared to drive.
Somewhat surprisingly, the Stellrecht sponsored white and blue No. 27 of Stoneman was able to continue, although with a broken right rear wishbone, and finish in fifth place. The 25 year-old, who entered the race in second place in the championship, 23 points behind leader Jones, starts Sunday’s race 21 points out of the championship lead.
The running order under caution was: Rosenqvist, Veach, Serralles, Urrutia, Kaiser, Jones, Stoneman, Grist, Kellett, Alberico, Blackstock, Claman de Melo, Piedrahita and Negrao.
The race went back to green on Lap 13 with the rear-end of leader Rosenqvist stepping out. The reigning FIA Formula 3 champion was able to gather it back up and got through Turn 1 ahead of teammate Veach.
Further back in the field, Stoneman was able to get under Jones in Turn 1 for sixth place.
Even further back, Neil Alberico and Dalton Kellett got together and it was the Rising Star Racing sponsored No. 22 of Alberico that ended up in the Turn 2 wall with heavy damage on the right hand side of the Carlin machine. The contact meant the yellow flag reappeared.
The race went back to green on Lap 17 and Serralles was able to get around the outside of Veach in Turn 3, and set off after former Formula 3 rival Rosenqvist.
With 15 minutes (13 laps) remaining in the race, the top five were: Rosenqvist, Serralles, Veach, Urrutia, and Kaiser.
Not long after, Kaiser was able to get by Urrutia for fourth and Stoneman immediately began to hound Urrutia for fifth.
Behind those battles, local driver Garett Grist was pressuring championship leader Jones for the seventh spot. That tussle remained close throughout the final third of the race, but Grist was not able to get by Jones. Grist, from nearby Grimsby, Ontario ended up in seventh after the last lap mistake by Veach and was the highest place Canadian in the field.
With six laps left in the race the battle for final spot on the podium became the one to watch when Kasier caught up to Veach. Kaiser, the Santa Clara, California native was able to put a lot of pressure on Veach, and was able to finally get by him by out-braking Veach into Turn 3.
Kaiser told IndyCar Radio that he had saved one push-to-pass and that Veach defended well, but left him just enough room to get beside him and Kasier broke at deep as he could.
Veach continued to push, and made a mistake in the Turn 9 clobbering the wall and dropping to the ninth spot.
Rosenqvist was able to gap Serralles after the final restart and pulled away to a 7.3 second victory.
The victory for Rosenqvist was his second of the year and his second on a street circuit.
Indy Lights race #1 results
|1||Felix Rosenqvist||35 laps|
|9||Zach Veach||-1 laps|
|10||Shelby Blackstock||-1 laps|
|11||Andre Negrao||-4 laps|
|12||Neil Alberico||-22 laps|
|13||Zachary Claman De Melo||-26 laps|
|14||Juan Piedrahita||-26 laps|