By Patrick Stephan (TSO_Patrick)
Thanks everyone for your patience. I wasn’t able to actually “watch” Indy Lights Race #2 – due to some other duties that kept me away from the media center while the race was running. But, I had long time motorsports writer Bruce Martin cover this one for me, and his report is below.
Before I get to that, I wanted to provide a bit of the background stuff again from here in St. Pete. As you can guess, I’m just a wee bit busy this weekend as TSOLadder.com covers all three rungs of the Mazda Road to Indy ladder and over at TrackSideOnline.com we’re also of course covering the Verizon IndyCar Series.
This morning’s duties included playing tour guide for some sponsor groups – something I really enjoy doing. Oh, and if you ever need someone to give a tour or play MC or “Host” of an event, I’m always looking to expand that part of my racing business (yep, that means it’s not free – but it’s FUN!).
Anyway, lets go back in time. Last night it took a while to get everything wrapped up here at the track, and I left around 8:30pm. Went over to the hotel, cleaned up a little bit and then took a walk near the Hilton Hotel to find something to eat.
Wound up heading in to a restaurant called, Z-Grille It’s a couple blocks from the Hilton, and I’ve walked by it dozens of times over the years. But, I was usually staying elsewhere so I was just getting to the car for the ride home. This time though I went inside and found a pretty cool atmosphere (a bunch of skateboard decks adorn the wall) and really good food.
I grabbed a seat at the bar, and wound up sitting between some racing folks, so that was great. Heck, an hour later I was chatting with the owner/chef Zach. He really likes having the race in town, both for what it does for his restaurant and for what it does for St. Pete in general. The marketing of the area is good for him he said.
Oh, the food! I wasn’t starving, so I went with several appetizers. Had the soup (Tomato, Bacon, and some other stuff – really good). Also had the deviled eggs. There are three kinds, including “Buffalo” (yep, like the wing sauce), and the California (avocado based), and one other kind that I can’t recall. All were really good.
The highlight though was the Scallop Tostada – that was really yummy. Also got the Brussel Sprouts – they were pretty good, though I like them a bit crispier.
All in all a nice meal, in a fun atmosphere. The food is “upscale modern” (I’m making up terms here – really don’t know squat about food), so it’s not cheap. And the decor is like noted, kind of like eating in a really fancy skate shop – but cool. Service was really good.
After dinner I went back to the hotel to finish working and eventually I was able to set my alarm – which said I would be waking up in 5 hours – ouch!!
So, after the nap, headed for the track and it was off to work.
And here is Bruce’s story from the Indy Light’s race:
BY BRUCE MARTIN — @BruceMartin_500
It took just two races in one weekend for 16-year-old Colton Herta to become the youngest driver in history to win in the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires Series. Herta, the son of former IndyCar driver and current IndyCar Series team owner Bryan Herta, defeated Santi Urrutia by 1.797 seconds in a race where Herta started on the pole and led flag to flag to win Sunday’s morning’s Indy Lights Race No. 2.
Aaron Telitz won Race No. 1 on Saturday, but thanks to a bad qual run for Race #2 – he’s starting this one 10th.
Herta’s father is the 1993 Indy Lights Series champion and had tears in his eyes after the checkered flag dropped.
“I’m so proud of him,” Bryan Herta said. “He’s doing a great job. I don’t have the words for it. I’m so proud…and to see him doing really well it’s really something.”
Colton Herta drives for a team co-owned by Michael Andretti and George Michael Steinbrenner of the famed Steinbrenner family – owners of the New York Yankees among other ventures.
“It’s amazing to come back from Europe and into the IndyCar paddock and win right away,” Herta said. “We want to keep it going. Santi is probably the toughest person out here because he knows we are rookies but we held him off today and it was all good.
“I was pushing harder than anything and my heart rate is really up but it’s great to win.”
Urrutia bounced back from a 13th place finish on Saturday to finish second.
“It was really good for the championship after what happened on Saturday,” he said. “I have the same goal from last year and that is to win the championship. We had great cars all weekend and the team is working really good. We need to stay on the podium and get points.”
Pato O’Ward was third, Kyle Kaiser fourth and Telitz was fifth in the 15-car field.
Today’s race wasn’t as clean as yesterday’s – as often seems to be the case with two-race weekends. Just after the green flag waved to start the race, Nico Jamin and Neil Alberico crashed into each other just out of Turn 2. The two cars pinned each other against the wall just before Turn 3 to bring out a full-course caution.
Said Jamin, “I got through Turn 1 nice and clean, and then I went through Turn 2 and I had the advantage. I was in front of [Alberico] and there was just no room for two cars there. We touched which sent me into the wall and ended my race. I am okay. It was not big contact, I mean I just clipped the wall and ended my day. The Synova crew gave me a good car and now we’ll just have to fight to earn points in Barber.”
When the green flag dropped on Lap 6 to restart the race, a car spun off the final turn back in the pack as Juan Piedrahita lost control of his car and drove into the grass but it did not bring out a yellow flag.
Herta began to feel pressure from Santi Urrutia, who had closed onto the back of Herta’s car. Herta’s car, however, was much better down the straight between Turns 3 and 4.
Aaron Telitz, the rookie who won Saturday’ race, started 10th and was on his way through the field up to seventh place when he passed Shelby Blackstock around this same time.
Telitz then passed Matheus Leist inside of Turn 10 to take over sixth place and began to close in on Dalton Kellett as Herta continued to fend off Urrutia at the front of the field.
After 15 laps of 45, the top five was Herta, Urrutia, Pato O’Ward, Kyle Kaiser and Kellett with Telitz just out of the top five.
Kellett’s charge to the front ended abruptly when he was exiting Turn 7 and lost control in Turn 8, where a crown in the road causes a handling issue for the cars in that area. He quickly spun out and stopped and the second yellow flag of the race waved. Kellett was battling with Telitz for fifth position on Lap 22.
“Frustrating end to our day. We started third and thought we had a good car and our brakes were good during the race. I need to look at the video and data to see what happened when I lost it out of Turn 9, I’m really disappointed with that,” said Kellett.
Kellett made his way back to pit lane as the field drove by to take the green flag on Lap 24 with Herta remaining in the lead over Urrutia, O’Ward, Kaiser and Telitz. Kaiser passed O’Ward for third place and Herta raced away from Urrutia.
But on Lap 26, Garth Rickards slammed hard into the newly configured Turn 3 area – the second Carlin Racing car to have in issue in that turn. That was caution No. 3 and slowed the field with Herta ahead of Urrutia.
“All good,” Rickards said. “The cars are really safe and it held up. I’m really disappointed. I just locked up the brakes in Turn 3 there. I’ve been struggling in that corner all weekend but I’m getting more and more confidence. I’ve always struggled on the street courses so once I get to the natural terrain road courses I always seem to do better so I can’t wait to get to Barber Motorsports Park.”
With 15 laps to go and the field under caution it was Herta, Urrutia, Kaiser, O’Ward and Telitz.
The green flag was back and racing resumed on Lap 32 with Herta trying to fight off Urrutia’s charge. Because of the three cautions it looked like this might be a timed race, but the field was getting very close to making the scheduled 45-lap distance, and when said and done, they got the laps in at a time of just over one hour (1:00:24.3956).
Here is the final order for Indy Lights Race #2 in St. Pete:
|1||98||Colton||Herta||45||0.0000||1||Andretti Steinbrenner Racing|
|2||5||Santi||Urrutia||45||1.7797||Active||Belardi Auto Racing|
|5||9||Aaron||Telitz||45||7.0662||Active||Belardi Auto Racing|
|7||13||Zachary||Claman De Melo||45||11.1066||Active||Carlin|
Next up for the Road to Indy is the final race of the event, the Pro Mazda Race #2 – scheduled to run after the IndyCar Series at 4:30pm.