It’s a good thing the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires had three hours of test time on Monday, under much sunnier and clearer skies, to prep in advance for Friday’s Freedom 100.
Because the planned three-hour practice was cut in half on Thursday morning as INDYCAR officials entered into hurry-up mode to beat the weather with rain descending on the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway. And then things got worse once qualifying got bumped up to a planned 11:15 a.m. start time after the practice was cut short at 10:30 a.m.
In the truncated 90-minute session, the propensity for surprise pacesetters continued with Team Pelfrey’s Juan Piedrahita leading the speed charts at a best speed of 197.957 mph. Piedrahita had one podium finish last year on an oval, third place at the Milwaukee Mile, and looks for his first this year if he can qualify the No. 2 Dallara IL-15 Mazda strongly.
Testing leader Zach Veach was second in the No. 5 Belardi Auto Racing car at 197.936 mph, and RC Enerson was third in the No. 7 Lucas Oil/Curb Records car for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports at 197.672 mph.
The top 11 of 16 drivers were separated by 0.2977 of a second only, with Shelby Blackstock in 11th at 196.669 mph.
In the no-tow speed charts, speeds were in the 193 to 196 mph range. Piedrahita led that as well, at 196.852 mph, with Ed Jones second in the No. 11 Jebel Ali Resorts and Hotels car for Carlin at 196.622 mph.
There was one yellow flag for, and this is true, a dog on track. Here’s a quick video from Turn 1 about it.
Practice speeds are below.
|15||13||Zachary Claman De Melo||46.403||0.9382||41||193.954|
Qualifying, meanwhile, was a damp squib – literally.
Half of the 16 cars got a qualifying attempt in before persistent rain decided to wreak havoc on the proceedings, and with the length of time it would take to dry the track, the decision was made to halt qualifying by Race Director Tony Cotman.
It means the grid for tomorrow’s race will be set according to current championship positions per the rulebook. That leaves Ed Jones on pole, ahead of Santiago Urrutia, Kyle Kaiser, Felix Serralles and Dean Stoneman.
Jones was leading the times when the session was halted, with a best speed of 197.125 over two laps.
“The Cooper tires really came in quickly and my Mazda engine performed perfectly,” Jones said. “It’s unfortunate that everyone else didn’t get a run in, but I think we would have been on the front row anyway. We did two pretty good laps and were sitting on pole when the weather came in. But it’s very different for me this year; I know what to expect. Everything I did last year was a guess, whereas this year, I was more confident.
Meanwhile there was a heavy accident for Canadian rookie Zachary Claman De Melo at Turn 1. The driver of the No. 13 Ugg/Seven for All Mankind/Vince/Vilebrequin Dallara IL-15 Mazda for Juncos Racing was checked and released.
The starting lineup, by points, is below.
|2||55||Santiago Urrutia (R)||139|
|5||27||Dean Stoneman (R)||125|
|6||14||Felix Rosenqvist (R)||108|
|9||17||Andre Negrao (R)||87|
|11||3||Scott Hargrove (R)||76|
|12||13||Zachary Claman De Melo (R)||72|
|14||28||Dalton Kellett (R)||66|
|15||22||Neil Alberico (R)||61|
|16||77||Heamin Choi (R)||5|
Meanwhile here’s how the speeds were before De Melo’s accident and the rains came.
|5||13||Zachary Claman De Melo||195.099|