There’s no shortage of talent in the 2016 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires series and another of those drivers who seemed on the verge of a victory, Andretti Autosport’s Dean Stoneman, broke through Saturday to become the sixth winner in seven races to start the year.
The driver of the No. 27 Stellrecht supported Dallara IL-15 Mazda started fifth but was in the lead at the end of the first green flag lap on Lap 3.
Why Lap 3, you ask? Because the craziness on a cold day at the 2.439-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course began before the green flag even flew.
Here was the starting grid, and then here’s how the race evolved from there.
|15||13||Zachary Claman De Melo||01:15.9174|
RC Enerson spun out of sixth on the grid exiting the final turn, Turn 14, but resumed without damage. Not as fortunate was his teammate at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, rookie Andre Negrao, who made a notable error by losing control of his car on the front straight when warming up his tires. He crashed into the outside retaining wall, knocking off his front wing and damaging both his left front suspension and left front Cooper tire in the process. Negrao limped back to pit lane and apologized to his team afterwards, while Enerson made it to Lap 3 before retiring with mechanical issues.
The first green flag lap, Lap 3, was equally as chaotic as the infamous – or perhaps legendary – Lap 27 in Friday’s first of two races where the lead changed hands three times following a restart.
Polesitter Ed Jones led away from Carlin teammate Felix Serralles and Stoneman, who started fifth, made it up to third. Serralles locked his brakes going in too deep into Turn 1, then proceeded to run through the grass, and claimed he got punted into the corner.
Jones and Stoneman looked set to advance into first and second but Stoneman lost the second position to Belardi Auto Racing’s Felix Rosenqvist, who’d started fourth but made it up to second by corner exit.
Serralles, meanwhile, re-entered the course at driver’s left exiting Turn 2, and the field did well to stay right and avoid the stricken Carlin driver as he resumed back to speed.
Jones led Rosenqvist before Stoneman made a move of Rosenqvist on the outside for second on the run to Turn 7.
Then it all went haywire there at the second of two notable 90-degree turns, like Turn 1. Jones ran wide on corner exit and fell to eighth; behind them, Zach Veach clipped his teammate Rosenqvist into a spin to knock the Swede back in the field.
We had two cars that could win the race today and I took that away from us. Gutted I made contact with @FRosenqvist. I'm sorry man.
— Zach Veach (@ZachVeach) May 14, 2016
In the chaos, Stoneman led with Santiago Urrutia, who’d fallen back to fourth off his initial second starting position, back into second with Scott Anderson having survived all the madness and running third in the No. 77 Schmidt Peterson entry – easily his best lap of the season.
The order was Stoneman, Urrutia, Anderson, Serralles and Scott Hargrove the top five with Kyle Kaiser, Shelby Blackstock, Jones, Juan Piedrahita and Zachary Claman De Melo the top 10.
Serralles quickly got around Anderson, who didn’t have the pace to remain as high up.
On Lap 7 Anderson ran wide ahead of Jones and De Melo and continued to drop.
Urrutia started closing a bit on Stoneman as the race progressed. The gap was 0.6375 of a second on Lap 8 and 0.3120 a lap later. The tightening at the top also allowed Serralles, who was often two to three tenths of a second quicker per lap, to close on Urrutia.
On Lap 12 Jones set what had been the fastest lap of the race to date as he tried to recover.
Serralles made it by Urrutia for second on Lap 14 around the outside into Turn 1.
The order on Lap 15 was Stoneman up by 0.7806 of a second over Serralles with Urrutia, Kaiser and now Jones in the top five. Rosenqvist, Hargrove and Anderson completed the top half of the field.
Hargrove, Anderson and De Melo ran seventh through ninth and got a bit too racey from there. Going into Turn 4 on Lap 18 De Melo tried a three-wide passing attempt and speared Hargrove, with Anderson stuck on the outside with nowhere to go. All three went into the gravel but the only driver to retire from the accident was De Melo. The race stayed green.
On Lap 22, Veach pitted for a new front wing, his primary wing having taken a battering from hitting Rosenqvist on the opening lap.
Up front Stoneman held the gap from Serralles and Urrutia.
The final dramatic moment of the race came on Lap 29. Serralles closed to within 0.4477 of a second on Lap 28, but a lap later went in too deep at Turn 12 and ran off course. That gave Stoneman more than a one-second buffer over Urrutia and promoted Kaiser to third with Serralles back to fourth.
Jones got Serralles for fourth a lap later, on Lap 30. Dalton Kellett and Neil Alberico also had off course excursions in the same time frame, with Alberico also sustaining front wing damage.
Urrutia closed to within half a second of Stoneman but got no closer.
Hargrove was on the tail end of the lead lap but did not come into play ahead of the leaders.
Stoneman came through 0.8659 of a second clear of Urrutia to claim the win over Kaiser in third, with Jones and Serralles completing the top five.
Post-race Stoneman was more relieved than anything, noting how much better the team has gotten despite no testing in preseason prior to Phoenix. He said he learned from his dramatic battle with Urrutia on Friday and defended expertly throughout the day.
Urrutia said he let Serralles by because he thought Serralles was faster, but he otherwise drove a smart race free of drama.
For Kaiser, the difference was using an extra set of sticker Cooper tires, noting many in the field hadn’t gone for that strategy throughout the weekend. Considering he said the Juncos Racing team didn’t have the outright fastest car this weekend, he was very pleased to come away with a podium. Having three years of track experience also meant he knew where the trouble spots were, and he was smart to avoid trouble throughout the weekend.
Jones maintained his points gap and unofficially leads Kaiser and Urrutia by 21 (160-139, with the latter two tied), while Stoneman moves into a tie with Serralles for fourth on 125 points. Rosenqvist (108), Veach (103) and Enerson (101) are also over the century mark in points before the series races the Freedom 100 on May 27.
Unofficial results are below.
P No Name Laps
1 27 Dean Stoneman 35
2 55 Santiago Urrutia 35
3 18 Kyle Kaiser 35
4 11 Ed Jones 35
5 4 Felix Serralles 35
6 14 Felix Rosenqvist 35
7 51 Shelby Blackstock 35
8 77 Scott Anderson 35
9 3 Scott Hargrove 35
10 5 Zach Veach 34
11 2 Juan Piedrahita 34
12 28 Dalton Kellett 34
13 22 Neil Alberico 29
14 13 Zachary Claman De Melo 18
15 7 RC Enerson 3
16 17 Andre Negrao —
Don’t miss any of the action
- live timing – Indy Lights, Pro Mazda, & USF2000
- on twitter –Indy Lights, Pro Mazda, USF2000, Cooper Tire, Mazda Racing and TSO Ladder
- via the Road To Indy TV app – Android or Apple iOS
- on all social media channels via the #TeamCooperTire and #MRTI hashtags
You can also catch all the action on IndyCar’s YouTube channel: