By Steve Wittich
The 2017 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tire season ended the same way it began, with Aaron Telitz standing on the top step of the podium.
Telitz, from Rice Lake, Wisc., tamed a wet 3.37-mile, 11-Turn road course, held off his hard-charging teammate, survived a red flag and restart, and came home with his second win of the year.
Telitz gave some credit to being the only driver that took to a wet Watkins Glen International during a
Urrutia, who finished second for the sixth time this season, and on the podium for the sixth time in last seven races, will end up as Indy Lights vice-champion for the second year in a row.
Second generation driver Colton Herta ended on the podium for the seventh time during his rookie season and will end up with the third best point total in the championship.
Kyle Kaiser, who was guaranteed the championship started the race, and after an early spin, was able to recover to finish seventh to win the $1 million Mazda Motorsports Advancement Scholarship with a 20 point gap.
The green flag came out on one of the more entertaining MRTI races of the season the second time the 13 turbo-charged Mazda 2.0L powered cars came across the start/finish line. The 60 minute clock started as the field completed their first warm-up laps for the final Indy Lights race that was scheduled for 25 laps or 60 minutes.
Just as front row starters crossed the start/finish line, they were joined by inside second row starter Telitz to make it three-wide heading down the hill towards Turn 1. The trio was able to get cleanly through the first corner, with the second generation Herta leading Telitz up the hill towards the Bus Stop.
The running order at the end of the first lap was: Herta, Telitz, Urrutia, Claman De Melo, Jamin, Norman, Blackstock, Kellett, Leist, Alberico, Dapero, Kaiser, and Piedrahita.
Telitz hounded Herta for the first two laps, before making a pass into Turn 1. The two rookies traded the top spot a total of three times on Lap 3, before Telitz finally got the pass finished in Turn 9.
Urrutia was watching the battle for the lead closely from third, and on Lap 5, the Uruguayn took advantage of a mistake by Herta, who got tail happy at the exit of Turn 8, and was able to grab second spot.
Further behind the front three, Ryan Norman spun in Turn 9 and made light contact with the ARMCO barrier. The 19 year-old was able to get the No. 48 Journey sponsored Andretti Autosport entry restarted and going in the right direction.
On the next lap, Urrutia blew through the bus stop, giving back the second step of the podium to Herta.
At the start of Lap 7, the Soul Red No. 9 Belardi Auto Racing machine of Telitz, had built a 4.4 second lead over Herta, who was facing immense pressure from Urrutia. Urrutia was able to complete the pass later that lap. Championship leader Kasier spun at the exit of the “Bus Stop,” but kept the distinctive liveried off the barriers.
Telitz’s lead at the start of Lap 9 was an impressive 6.7 second lead over Urrutia. Further back in the field Leist was able to get
At just past the half-way point of the race, Urrutia had eaten into his teammates lead, beginning Lap 13 4.3 seconds behind Telitz. Urrutia had gapped Herta by 21 seconds. Leist, in
On Lap 14, the first yellow flag of the day came out when Dalton Kellett lost control of the No. 28 Andretti Autosport machine at the exit of the “Bus Stop,” and making hard contact with the tire barrier on the outside of the track. The Canadian immediately lifted his visor, and exit the car without the aid of the Holmatro Safety Team.
Kellett told IndyCar Radio that he just lost grip, but that he was not injured.
As the green flag was about to come out, the No. 51 of Shelby Blackstock came to a stop on track, and it took a lap to get him off the race track.
IndyCar radio reported that team thinks that he suffered from a broken drive-shaft.
Just as the track was about to go green, the rain intensified, and the red flag came out. The running order when the cars came to a stop on pit road the running order was: Telitz, Urrutia, Herta, Leist, Jamin, De Melo, Alberico, Kaiser, Norman, Blackstock (out), and Kellett (out).
The race restarted on Lap 18, and Urrutia took a look under his teammate in The Esses, but remembered that if the Belardi Auto Racing drivers finished first and second, the Brownsburg, Ind. based team would take home the team title.
On Lap 21, Urrutia once again put heavy pressure on Teltiz in the Boot, but could not make the pass. Urrutia began Lap 22 only six-tenths of second behind Telitz.
The Uruguayan explained that Telitz was quicker from Turn 1 through Turn 5, because the 2016 Pro Mazda champion was using a dry weather map, and he was quicker through the boot because he had a wet weather map.
With three laps left, Telitz had just turned the quickest lap of the race, and was able to grow his lead to one second. Herta was holding onto the last spot on the podium, but facing enormous pressure from Brazilian Leist.
Kaiser, who started the race in 10th was able to pass his teammate Dapero for seventh.
Telitz’s crossed the start finish line on the second last lap with a slightly more comfortable 1.4 second lead.
The gap when the front duo came under the white flag was 2.4 seconds.
|1||9||Aaron Telitz||25 LAPS|
|6||13||Zachary Claman De Melo||24.8705|
|12||51||Shelby Blackstock||-10 LAPS|
|13||28||Dalton Kellett||-12 LAPS|
|14||11||Garth Rickards||1 LAPS|
We’ll be back with more over the next couple of days.