Not very often does a race have two winners, but that was certainly the case in the first of two Mazda Indy Lights Grand Prix of Monterey Presented by Cooper Tires races this weekend.
After being disappointed he didn’t win in last year’s finale at his home track, Santa Clara, California native Kyle Kaiser took home a dominant victory at the 2.238-mile, 11-turn Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca road course. The 20 year-old scored pole, led the most laps, and turned the quickest race lap to score 33 of 33 points.
Kaiser explained that with his experience at the circuit and having so much family this weekend has been perfect… so far, intimating that a win in the final race of the season would be what really makes the weekend complete.
After being knocked out (figuratively and literally) of the second race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Ed Jones found himself without the championship lead for the first time since April, and even though he hasn’t won either of the last two races, he has outscored Urrutia by a margin of 50-27.
The Carlin sophomore now officially has a seven post lead (eight if you count the point he’ll receive for starting on pole tomorrow) heading to the final race of the season.
Jones, who starts from pole tomorrow said his goal is to get through the start and hopefully have a lead that he can hold through the race.
Jones explained that this is the second race in row (Watkins Glen International being the other) that the Indy Lights drivers have faced tire degradation and that he quite likes the challenge of it. He thinks the Carlin crew will need to do some tuning of the car for the tire degradation and the longer race tomorrow.
The second place finish by Jones, means that Stoneman, Veach, Serrales and Kaiser are all eliminated from contention, leaving Jones and Urrutia as the only two drivers capable of winning $1 million Mazda Motorsports Advancement Scholarship.
The original start for the 30 lap/40 minute Saturday sprint race was waved off as Garett Grist jumped out of line from his seventh starting spot.
The second effort to go green was successful as Kaiser and Jones held a side-by-side drag race into Turn 2. Kaiser was able to hold onto the top spot over Jones, but behind the front two their was some jumbling of the order.
Veach was able to get by Urrutia at the exit of Turn 2, which left the door open for Rayhall, who moved into fourth from his sixth place starting spot.
Veach said it was four-wide going into Turn 2 on the opening lap and he was happy to be able to come home third after having a car that he wasn’t happy with.
The running order at the end of the first lap was: Kaiser, Jones, Veach, Rayhall, Urrutia, Serralles, Stoneman, Grist, Alberico, Negrao, Claman de Melo, Kellett, Blackstock Hamilton, Jr. and Choi.
Choi spun on the first lap, but the South Korean driver was able to keep the No. 77 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian fired and the course stayed green.
On the third lap of the race, Stoneman and Serralles , who were running sixth and seventh, got together in Turn 4. Stoneman dropped back to 10th and Serralles fell back to 14th. The incident will be reviewed post race.
Kaiser was able to pull out to a 1.5 second lead over Jones by the fifth lap. Veach was only 0.8 seconds behind Jones, as Rayhall and Urrutia held down the fourth and fifth places.
On lap 10, Claman de Melo, and Stoneman were involved in an incident in Turn 2. Both cars were able to keep going, but race control immediately put the contact under review. After reviewing the incident Stoneman was issued a drive-thru penalty for avoidable contact. Claman de Melo fell back to 12th and Stoneman fell back to 13th after serving his drive thru.
The crossed flags signifying half-way flew on Lap 15 with Kaiser holding a comfortable 4.1 second lead over Jones. Veach was a further 1.1 seconds back of Jones.
The entire running order at the half-way post was: Kaiser, Jones, Veach, Rayhall, Urrutia, Grist, Alberico, Negrao, Kellett, Serralles, Blackstock, Claman de Melo, Stoneman, Hamilton, Jr. and Choi.
With ten laps left in the 30 lap race, Kaiser’s lead had grown to 4.9 seconds over Jones.
Jones, who had been busy defending Veach for third for the first-half of the race had stretched his lead over third to 1.3 seconds. Rayhall and Urrutia continued to run fourth and fifth.
With Negrao, Kellett and Serralles all within one second of each other, the best battle on the track at that point in the race was for eighth place. The three drivers remained stuck together until the last lap when Kellett got by Negrao to come home in sixth. The seventh place finish was the best road course finish of the season for the Canadian rookie.
With only one lap left, Grist was running a career best Indy Lights 6th when he had mechanical problems and fell all the way down to 11th.
The final results of the first Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tire race:
|1||Kyle Kaiser||30 LAPS|
|12||Zachary Claman De Melo||-48.6955|
|14||Davey Hamilton Jr||– 1 LAP|
|15||Heamin Choi||– 1 LAP|
Tomorrow’s final Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tire race goes green at 1:10pm (PT) or 4:10pm (ET).