By Patrick Stephan (@TSO_Patrick)

IndyLights presented by Cooper Tires qualifying got underway with the sun still shining brightly and with a nice crowd here enjoying the festivities along the Tampa bay.  The temperature during the session was 81 degrees with the track at 115. Of course that track temp will vary depending on where it’s measured (I believe this is taken on the front straight).  We’ve got a variety of surfaces and some are in the shade, so track temp and grip varies a lot around here.

The Nico Jamin found the run-off area early in the session, and then a bit later we saw Ryan Norman hit the wall at the exit of Turn 10. The impact bent up the right front corner. Initial attempts to just pull the car back to the run-off failed and the car had to be put on the hook to bring it back in for repairs.  Norman had turned 7 laps before his incident.

Up front, we had Pato O’Ward take P1 with 3 minutes to run, but that didn’t last, as Aaron Telitz jumped to P1 with a lap of 1:07.5844 seconds.

A minute later O’Ward found the tires/wall at the exit of Turn 8, and that brought out the red flag. That’ll cost him his fastest lap, dropping him down the order to 9th.  Colton Herta had found the Turn 10 run-off just before that, but he didn’t bring out a caution.

With that red, the session would run out of time, and we’d have another scholarship winner grabbing another pole position here in the Mazda Road to Indy.  (Martin also did it in ProMazda).

Telitz, from Rice Lake, Wisconsin, won the title by 28 points last year over O’Ward.

Today, he takes the pole by 0.3877 over Kyle Kaiser, with Juan Piedrahita, Matheus Leist, and Colton Herta rounding out the unofficial Top 5.

Telitz and Kaiser came in to the media center to chat.

Kaiser said the whole session was pretty hectic. Once they had the first red, their plan for the session was gone. He wasn’t able to get in a good lap prior to the second (for Norman), so he knew going out that third stint, he needed to get in a quick lap immediately in order to have one on the board.

He talked about how different the track is from back when he ran the ProMazda (some corners are not flat like they were with the ProMazda.

Kaiser noted that most of his previous experience doesn’t count now with all the new pavement. That has totally changed all of the braking points and some entry lines here at St. Pete.

Aaron Telitz said that he hit the wall early in his first run, making left rear contact at the exit of Turn 9 – the right hander that leads on to the backstretch. The team had to straighten the suspension (via the time honored method of having a crew member jumping up and down on the offending part). Telitz laughed about the irony that the team spends so much time trying to get everything perfect, then he banged it off the wall at the exit of Turn 10 – and it was fixed via “jumping up and down” on the suspension.

Telitz was hearing early in the session that he was battling O’Ward for the pole – a very familiar prospect as they had the same battles all last season in ProMazda.

Kaiser was asked about using the Push to Pass. He said its hard to try in practice because you have to be within a second of the car in front of you. If you are within that second, they are notified on their dash that it is available. NOTE: that “second” is measured off of the various timing lines around the track.

P No Name FTime Diff Laps FL Team
1 9 Aaron Telitz 1:07.584 0.000 13 12 Belardi Auto Racing
2 18 Kyle Kaiser 1:07.972 0.3877 14 13 Juncos Racing
3 2 Juan Piedrahita 1:08.002 0.4172 14 12 Team Pelfrey
4 26 Matheus Leist 1:08.005 0.4206 15 14 Carlin
5 98 Colton Herta 1:08.070 0.4860 14 12 Andretti Steinbrenner Racing
6 5 Santi Urrutia 1:08.112 0.5280 15 14 Belardi Auto Racing
7 22 Neil Alberico 1:08.221 0.6368 15 14 Carlin
8 51 Shelby Blackstock 1:08.239 0.6541 14 13 Belardi Auto Racing
9 3 Pato O’Ward 1:08.274 0.6899 12 7 Team Pelfrey
10 13 Zachary Claman De Melo 1:08.425 0.8403 16 14 Carlin
11 27 Nico Jamin 1:08.465 0.8806 13 12 Andretti Autosport
12 28 Dalton Kellett 1:08.664 1.0795 14 13 Andretti Autosport
13 31 Nicolas Dapero 1:09.062 1.4775 14 13 Juncos Racing
14 11 Garth Rickards 1:09.556 1.9716 14 13 Carlin
15 48 Ryan Norman 1:10.035 2.4511 7 6 Andretti Autosport