By Patrick Stephan
The Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires race #2 got started with the track temp at 101, the air temp at 75 and 60% humidity. We were seeing mostly cloudy skies for this event, though the sun had been out until just before the green flag flew.
The seven-car field came down to the start/finish line, and Pato O’Ward quickly got the jump on fellow front row starter Aaron Telitz. Unfortunately, Telitz wasn’t able to match Ward on the first lap, and he would soon be in the sights of third place starting Colton Herta.
Further back we had a tight battle for fifth as Dalton Kellett tried to pick up the spot from Victor Franzoni. They would battle side by side through Turns 4, 5, 6, but Franzoni would eventually get that spot.
Up front, Aaron Telitz would lose both the 2nd and 3rd spots on the Lap 2. Colton Herta went around the outside of Telitz in Turn 2 (the keyhole), and he would bring 5th starting Santi Urrutia along with him later in the lap.
Kellett would lose the 6th spot to Ryan Norman on Lap 3.
O’Ward was at the point stretching his lead to over 2 seconds by the end of the first lap, and it was up to 2.8 seconds on Lap 10.
We would then get a yellow as Telitz, and Franzoni get together through the esses (Turns 4 and 5). Franzoni was on the outside of Turn 4, giving him the inside line to Turn 5. But, Franzoni would drop a wheel into the dirt on that short “straight” connecting the turns. When they got to the left-handed Turn 5, Franzoni slid just a little, and with Telitz on the outside, they make contact.
Franzoni’s right front just clipped Telitz left rear and sent the Wisconsin driver spinning and then stalling at Turn 5.
The AMR INDYCAR Safety Team got Telitz pointed the right direction, and he would rejoin the field, and we would go back to green at the end of Lap 12.
Lap 13 and we would see Franzoni coming to the pits to serve a drive-through penalty for avoidable contact, dropping him to 7th.
Herta wasn’t able to quickly jump on O’Ward after the restart, but on Lap 15, the lead just 0.6111. O’Ward wasn’t able to put a big gap on Herta at this stage of the race.
The order on Lap 17 is O’Ward by 0.6020, then Herta, Urrutia, Norman, Kellett, Franzoni, and Telitz.
On Lap 18, Herta takes the fight to O’Ward, and he tries the outside and inside as he uses the push to pass to take the lead going down to Turn 4. O’Ward won’t give away the spot though and fights back, keeping the lead.
Further back, we have Norman all over Urrutia as he tries to make a move for the third spot, but can’t quite get it done. He would finally get the final podium position on Lap 20.
The battle for the lead has only slightly subsided as Herta can at times close to a couple of car lengths into Turn 4, but can’t yet take the top spot.
Lap 23 and O’Ward leads by 0.6961, but Herta is down to just three push to pass activations remaining.
O’Ward stretches his lead on lap 24 to 1.1197, but Herta hits the button again and closes the gap down to 0.8961 on Lap 25, and then to 0.6652 on Lap 26.
Herta would then use his last push to pass on Lap 27, but can’t make a move to the lead, and he drops back to 1.4489 seconds behind O’Ward when they get back to the timing line. The next time by, O’Ward starts increasing the gap over 2.0 seconds. Lap 29 and the lead is 2.7361.
Pato O’Ward will take the checkered flag 4.3680 seconds ahead of Herta, with Ryan Norman getting the final podium spot a further 6..4 seconds back.
O’Wards fourth win in the last five races is his sixth victory of the 2018 season and jumps him out to a 32 point lead over Herta with three laps remaining (Gateway, and a doubleheader at Portland).
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