Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires had its first practice session of the year as the third Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires series on track this morning at St. Petersburg. Quick reports from the Pro Mazda Presented by Cooper Tires and Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda first practices are linked here.
While the field dropped to nine cars – as TSO reported earlier this week, Alfonso Celis Jr.’s planned debut with Juncos Racing is on a temporary hold – it was still close at the top between the remaining cars in the 45-minute session.
A couple red flags interrupted the session, with the second and longer one coming with just over 25 minutes remaining. Santi Urrutia lost the back-end of his No. 5 Belardi Auto Racing Dallara IL-15 Mazda and tagged the wall. TSO spoke to Urrutia and while the Uruguayan driver was fine, he noted he bottomed out over the bump in Turn 3 (the track is back to its prior configuration after a last-minute change last year), and the car has extensive left side damage.
The AMR INDYCAR Safety Team came to inspect Turns 3 and 4 after the incident, and a healthy amount of the session was lost under this red flag. Practice resumed with just over 15 minutes remaining.
Practice resumed with former Team Pelfrey teammates and Pro Mazda title rivals Pato O’Ward and Aaron Telitz exchanging the top times. Telitz, in his No. 9 Belardi car and O’Ward, in his No. 27 Andretti Autosport entry, swapped the top spot nearly half a dozen times before both drivers dipped into the 1:05 bracket.
O’Ward was first into that range at 1:05.9767, while Telitz supplanted it later at 1:05.9100. The latter time stood as the session’s best, with O’Ward second.
Colton Herta completed the top three in the No. 98 Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing entry, at 1:06.2633. Juncos rookie and Pro Mazda champion Victor Franzoni was fourth with Ryan Norman in the third of four Andretti Autosport entered cars completing the top five. Just 0.6927 of a second covered the top five.
Telitz and Herta split the two races last year and O’Ward scored his first and only Indy Lights podium here in race two.
Indy Lights qualifies for the first of the Mazda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Presented by Cooper Tires races later today, from 1:40 to 2:10 p.m. ET and local time.
Mazda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Presented by Cooper Tires Practice Session #1 timesheet
|1||9||Aaron Telitz||Belardi Auto Racing||1:05.910||–.—-||27|
|2||27||Pato O’Ward||Andretti Autosport||1:05.977||0.0667||17|
|3||98||Colton Herta||Andretti Steinbrenner Racing||1:06.263||0.3533||27|
|4||23||Victor Franzoni||Juncos Racing||1:06.271||0.3611||23|
|5||48||Ryan Norman||Andretti Autosport||1:06.603||0.6927||26|
|6||2||Neil Alberico||Team Pelfrey||1:07.068||1.1581||23|
|7||3||Shelby Blackstock||Team Pelfrey||1:07.141||1.2308||26|
|8||5||Santi Urrutia||Belardi Auto Racing||1:07.313||1.4031||12|
|9||28||Dalton Kellett||Andretti Autosport||1:12.552||6.6424||18|
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