By Steve Wittich

For the fourth straight Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires race, Colton Herta visited victory lane. After seven poles last year, it’s a little surprising that none of those wins have come from an inside front row start.

Herta acknowledges that when he got out of the car, tell the ADVANCE Auto Parts Radio Network: “That seems to be our thing – not qualify that well but finish up front. Fourth win in a row. We obviously have the package working.”

Herta is the first Indy Lights driver since Alex Lloyd in 2007 to win four races in a row. Lloyd won the first five races that season and he will have a chance to tie him tomorrow.

The win is Herta’s six Indy Lights win and 14th podium.

For the first time since 2007, an Indy Lights driver has won four race in a row.

After one pace lap, Victor Franzoni and Santi Urrutia led the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires field uphill to the green flag.

The Soul Red No. 23 of Franzoni got the jump on the field and led a side-by-side sextet behind him.

Telitz was able to get around O’Ward for fourth in Turn 3, but the Mexican flag colored. No. 27 took to the grass on the Moraine Sweep and took the spot back in Turn 5.

Just ahead of that battle, Urrutia went wide exiting Turn 5, allowing Herta to grab the inside like headed up to Turn 6 and the championship leader was able to make the pass.

At the end of the first lap, the running order was: Victor Franzoni, Colton Herta, Santi Urrutia, Patricio O’Ward, Aaron Telitz, Ryan Norman and Dalton Kellett.

As the second lap began, O’Ward was right on the tail of Urrutia, and the two made slight contact while going through the fast right-hand Turn 1. O’Ward gathered it back in and tried to go around the outside of Urrutia in Turn 5, but the Uruguayan was able to get to the brakes just a little later and held onto the spot.

O’Ward was able to make the same move work on the next lap to move up to the final podium spot.

Up front, Herta was starting to pressure Franzoni, trying the over-under move in Turn 5

Lap 4 98 goes to outside at Turn 5, but cant’ make the over-under move work. At the start of the fifth lap, the pole-sitter had a half-second lead. Herta tried the same move in Turn 5 and once again, Franzoni was able to hold off the Andretti Steinbrenner Racing driver.

Herta made the same move for the third consecutive lap, and this time was able to get by Franzoni in the braking zone.

On the next lap, Franzoni got wide and went through the grass at the exit of Turn 7, allowing O’Ward to go by him. O’Ward locked up into the next corner enabling Franzoni to get beside him. The pair of talented drivers managed to go side-by-side through The Carousel. When they got The Kink, Franzoni smartly backed out of it, allowing O’Ward to chase after his teammate.

Over the next four laps, Herta’s gap to O’Ward fell from 1.2 seconds to 0.4 seconds.

At the halfway point of the 20 lap race, O’Ward under Herta’s rear wing going into Turn 6 and on the next lap O’Ward tried an outside move going into Turn 5.

O’Ward locked up, going wide and getting a rough ride over the gator curbs at corner exit. That was O’Ward’s lone attempt for the win as Herta was able to grow the gap to 1.7 seconds with five laps remaining and ended up crossing the line 3.7 seconds ahead of O’Ward.

On his pass attempt, O’Ward said: “I got alongside Colton but went off. For some reason the car started acted funky after I went over the rumble strips. I just wanted to get the car home! We’re on pole tomorrow. We’ll try to catch back up in the championship.”

Provisional Indy Lights Race #1 Results

1 98 Colton Herta Andretti Steinbrenner Racing
2 27 Pato O’Ward Andretti Autosport 3.7061
3 23 Victor Franzoni Juncos Racing 5.5703
4 5 Santi Urrutia Belardi Auto Racing 8.4695
5 9 Aaron Telitz Belardi Auto Racing 9.0704
6 48 Ryan Norman Andretti Autosport 15.6618
7 28 Dalton Kellett Andretti Autosport -1 LAPS

The second Mazda Indy Lights Grand Prix of Road America Presented by Cooper Tires gets the green flag Sunday at 9:50 AM.