If the first Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires qualifying session of 2019 is any indication, Road To Indy fans could be in for a fantastic season with close competition throughout the field.

Zachary Claman led a group of eight drivers within a half-second of Claman’s lap of 65.808 seconds to capture his first career Indy Lights pole. A quintet of talented rookies were led by Toby Sowery (BN Racing/Team Pelfrey) and followed by Oliver Askew (Andretti Autosport), David Malukas (BN Racing), Robert Megennis (Andretti Autosport) and Juncos Racing’s Rinus van Kalmthout (Rinus VeeKay).

Zachary Claman captured his first career Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires pole in qualifying for the first of two Indy Lights Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Presented by Cooper Tires on the Streets Of St. Petersburg, Fla. (Photo Courtesy Of Andersen Promotions)

TSO Ladder had the opportunity to catch up with the first-time poles sitter after the session, and he described his car on his pole-winning lap as “comfortably” loose. The Montreal, Quebec native is working with championship winning engineer Tim Neff who gave his driver full credit for the pole lap, saying Claman was “wheeling it.”

The fourth was made up of veteran Ryan Norman (Andretti Autosport), and Belardi Auto Racing rookie Julien Falchero were the final two drivers within that half-second.

“I’m pretty disappointed with qualifying,” said veteran Norman, who led the first practice session. “The car was a little loose going through the corners, so it was really hard for me to roll speed. I hit the wall two times because we rolled in then it would break free. We just need to make a couple changes to the car and come back stronger tomorrow. Everything is there, we just have to dial it in right.”

The final row will consist of Dalton Kellett (Juncos Racing) and Lucas Kohl (Belardi Auto Racing)

The pole is the fourth in the last six Indy Lights qualifying sessions on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn street circuit for the Brownsburg, Ind. based Belardi Auto Racing, and the fifth overall. Claman joins Gabby Chaves (2014), Felix Rosenqvist (2016) and Aaron Telitz (2107 & 2018) as pole sitters piloting Belardi Red Cars.

The first Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires qualifying session of the 2019 season got underway at 1:35 pm with bright sunshine and the air temperature at 74F.

There were no red flags during the session, but a few drivers visited the run-off in Turn 4, and Kohl nosed his red IL-15 into the tires in Turn 4.

At the halfway point of the 30 minutes, session veteran Zachary Claman with a lap of 66.1955 seconds was on provisional pole but was chased closely by a quartet of drivers. Askew, VeeKay, Malukas, and Sowery were all within four-tenths of a second of Claman.

Just before that 15 minute part of the session, the field came to pit lane for adjustments and fresh Cooper Tire Rubber.

The first driver to get their tires up to the proper operating temperature and improve on their scuffed tire lap was Megennis.

Not long after, Askew turned his quickest lap to that point and knocked Claman from the provisional pole.

Askew’s time on the provisional pole was short lived as a minute later Claman was to retake the top spot on his 15th lap of the session with a lap timed at 65.808 seconds.

Megennis, Malukas, and Askew all made a run the Belardi Auto Racing driver in his third Indy Lights season, but it was newcomer Sowery, who came the closest ending the session just over a tenth-of-a-second behind Claman.

Indy Lights Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Presented by Cooper Tires Qualifying #1 Timesheet

1 13 Zachary Claman Belardi Auto Racing 1:05.808 –.—- 19
2 2 Toby Sowery BN Racing/Team Pelfrey 1:05.923 0.1148 22
3 28 Oliver Askew Andretti Autosport 1:05.988 0.1795 21
4 79 David Malukas BN Racing 1:06.046 0.2375 22
5 27 Robert Megennis Andretti Autosport 1:06.069 0.2610 23
6 21 Rinus VeeKay Juncos Racing 1:06.178 0.3696 23
7 48 Ryan Norman Andretti Autosport 1:06.262 0.4537 21
8 4 Julien Falchero Belardi Auto Racing 1:06.299 0.4908 22
9 67 Dalton Kellett Juncos Racing 1:07.074 1.2659 23
10 5 Lucas Kohl Belardi Auto Racing 1:07.169 1.3610 19

Indy Lights is back on track at 8:30 am for their second qualifying session of the weekend, and the green flag flies for Race #1 at 1:15 pm on Saturday.