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For the second year in-a-row, the Indy Lights points leader coming into the “Soul Red Finale” at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca leaves disappointed.

Carlin sophomore Ed Jones entered the two-race Mazda Indy Lights Grand Prix of Monterey Presented by Cooper Tires finale at the 2.238-mile, 11-turn road course trailing Santiago Urrutia by one point. After two-practice sessions, qualifying and two races at Mazda’s “spiritual home” Jones leaves with the $1 million Mazda Motorsports Advancement Scholarship after outscoring Urrutia by three points.

Ed Jones celebrates winning the 2016 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tire championship and the $1million Mazda Motorsports Advancement Scholarship that goes with it. (Photo courtesy of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography)

Ed Jones celebrates winning the 2016 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tire championship and the $1million Mazda Motorsports Advancement Scholarship that goes with it. (Photo courtesy of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography)

In 2015, it was current Ed Carpenter Racing IndyCar driver Spencer Pigot who entered the final weekend of the season trailing Jack Harvey. Pigot won both races, and was able to parlay his Indy Lights success into a ride in IndyCar.

Jones, who over the past two years has twice tested an IndyCar with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, is guaranteed a three race program that includes an opportunity to qualify for the 101st Indianapolis 500.

The victory was the second in three races and third of the season for Berardi Auto Racing veteran Zach Veach. After a rough start to the season, that included four finishes of 10th or worse before May came to a close, Veach finished on a tear, ending up only two points shy of third in the championship and scoring in the top five in all but two races. Veach’s final ten races was so strong that he scored the most points in that three-month stretch.

This year was the second time in three years that Urrutia has lost a championship to Jones. In 2013, Jones, Urrutia, Nelson Mason, and Sandy Stuvik were battling for the European F3 Open Championship. Jones won three of the final five races to win the title, while Urrutia had two DNF’s and ended up finishing fourth.

For the second straight day, the initial start of the day was waved off when things got jumbled up behind the front two rows.

The 15 drivers got paired up for a second time and this time the starter threw the green flag, but unlike yesterday, Kaiser had a slow start and Urrutia followed Jones through Turn 1 and down the hill to the Andretti Hairpin.

Veach got a great jump from the outside of the second row, passing Kaiser on the way down to Turn 2, got around the outside of Urrutia in Turn 2, and go beside Jones on the run down to Turn 3.

The two drivers went side-by-side through Turn 3 before Jones yielded to Veach in Turn 4. Jones wisely backed out but lost momentum, allowing Urrutia, Kaiser and Serralles to get by.

Behind the chaos up front, the No. 3 of Garett Grist spun and ended uphigh-sided on the curb in Turn 4 causing the second yellow flag of the race.

The running order at the end of the first lap green flag lap just before the yellow flag flew was: Veach, Urrutia, Kaiser, Serralles, Jones, Negrao, Stoneman, Rayhall, Blackstock, Claman De Melo, Alberico, Kellett, Choi, Hamilton, Jr., and Grist.

Grist got restarted, but he ended up losing two laps and finished a disappointing 15th.

As the top three of Veach, Urrutia and Kaiser began the fourth lap, they were covered by only a second-and-a-half, with Carlin’s Serralles and Jones immediately behind them in fourth and fifth.

Jones was also receiving pressure from Negrao, Urrutia’s Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian teammate.

The biggest movers outside of Veach in the first five laps were Negrao and Stoneman who had both moved up two spots and were in a spirited tussle for sixth. Also part of that battle for sixth were Rayhall, Blackstock and Claman de Melo.

By the 10th lap of the race, Veach was able to pull out to a 2.8 second lead over Urrutia. Urrutia, who would be champion if things finished as they ran on Lap 10, was being forced to defend against Saturday’s race winner Kaiser. The blue and white Juncos Racing No. 18 of Kaiser was just over half-of-a-second behind the Soul Red Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian No. 55 of Urrutia.

Serralles continued to run in fourth, over 3.5 seconds behind the final spot on the podium, and just over one second ahead of his Carlin teammate Jones.

Negrao had fallen another 1.1 seconds back and was still followed closely by Stoneman, Rayhall, Blackstock and Claman de Melo.

On Lap 12, a pair of Canadians, Dalton Kellett and Garett Grist got together and both went off track while battling for 12th place.

Kellett was able to continue, but Grist was forced to pit with suspension damage

On lap 15, Stoneman got loose in Turn 6 losing four spots, however he was able to save the Strellecht sponsored No. 28 and continued on to fight

At the half-way point of the race, Veach had built up a 4.9 second lead over Urrutia, who was still being hounded by Kaiser. Serralles was a further 4.6 seconds afield, and was being pressured by his teammate Jones.

At this point in the race, things had started to settle in as drivers tried to conserve their Cooper Tire slicks. The only pass on track came when Claman de Melo was able to cleanly get by Stoneman for ninth.

With ten laps left in the 38 laps feature race, Veach’s lead over Urrutia had remained right around five seconds. For the first time in the race, Kaiser had fallen over a second behind Urrutia.

Serralles remained in fourth, 1.5 seconds clear of teammate Jones, who at that time needed that position to break the championship tie with Urrutia.

Behind Jones, Negrao was getting closer to the Carlin No. 11, but it was Team Pelfrey’s Rayhall that was making noise by making up time to not only Negrao but also Jones.

By lap the start of lap 33, Jones had closed the gap to Serralles to under half-of-a second, but was not able to get by his teammate.

Blackstock, who was running in eighth spun in Turn 6. The No. 51 kicked up a lot of dust, but he was able to keep it running and rejoined in 11th.

With three laps left in the race, Urrutia had cut almost a second out of Veach’s lead, and the Uruguayan was only seven-tenths of a second ahead of third place Kaiser. Behind them, Serralles was still keeping his teammate behind him despite continuing to lock up the brakes heading into Turn 11.

Veach took the white flag with a 3.2 second advantage over Urrutia, further back Jones needed to get the position that Serralles held. In Turn 2, on the final lap, Serralles pulled over to allow his teammate by.

Race Results:

1 Zach Veach 38 laps
2 Santiago Urrutia -2.8798
3 Kyle Kaiser -3.5402
4 Ed Jones -19.6642
5 Felix Serralles -20.6958
6 Andre Negrao -21.6949
7 Zachary Claman De Melo -23.4277
8 Sean Rayhall -26.2047
9 Dean Stoneman -27.5982
10 Neil Alberico -28.5777
11 Shelby Blackstock -47.7974
12 Heamin Choi -50.0021
13 Dalton Kellett -50.7385
14 Davey Hamilton Jr -1 lap
15 Garett Grist -2 laps