There is one thing that all race car drivers are looking for – a car that feels perfect.
With only three minutes remaining in Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tire qualfying, Juncos Racing veteran Kyle Kaiser found exactly what he was looking for. The Santa Clara, Calif. blistered the 2.3-mile 17-Turn Barber Motorsports Park road course in a time of 1 minute, 13.285 seconds and was able to withstand a last second double barrel Andretti Autosport attack to score his fourth career Indy Lights pole.
“The car felt perfect for that one lap, so I’m glad we put it together,” proclaimed Kaiser after climbing out of his No. 18. “I knew it was really close, but he tires came in perfectly – earlier than I thought – I thought it would get quicker and quicker, but after I did my fast lap the car got a little too free and I couldn’t get back down to that time.”
“This is one of those tracks where you have to hit it when the tires are perfect, and after that it’s really hard to get back to that time.”
The first shot in the Andretti arsenal came from Nico Jamim, who had just been knock of the top spot by the 21 year-old Kaiser a minute earlier. Rookie Jamin came across the timing line only eight-hundredths off Kaiser’s lap, and will start the race on the inside of the second row, his best career Indy Lights shot.
“It was a really good qualifying effort for the team, with Colton in P2 and me in P3,” said a happy Jamin. “I really feel I had that pole in my hands, and it was in the car as well. On that last set, I made a really good first run. On the second, which I think would’ve been the golden lap, we caught a slow car. It diminished my lap time, so I had to back up and go again. I think the peak of the tires were gone at that point, but I was still able to put it in P3 after running P1 in the session. Overall, it was a great qualifying run by the No. 27 Synova Mazda team. We’ll go get them in the race!”
The second shot that Kaiser withstood came from Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing’s Colton Herta. The current points leader spent most of the first-half of the session at the top of the time sheet, but was mired down in eighth when he started his final lap of qualifying. The 16 year-old, who started on pole in the second race at St. Petersburg, just missed out on his second career pole by a minuscule three-hundredths of a second.
Making excuses to Dad on why I wasn't quickest. We start P2 for the race later pic.twitter.com/r0OYu8ms8y
— Colton Herta (@ColtonHerta) April 22, 2017
The extremely tight field had the top nine drivers covered by only a half-second.
The lone red flag came out with eight minutes expired in the half-hour session when Carlin rookie Garth Rickards spun in the final corner and came to rest dangerously in the racing line. A number of trailing cars just missed the 24 year-old’s stricken No. 11, before the track went red.
At that point in the session, Herta’s 1 minute, 14.201 second circuit was the quickest of the session. Jamin, Santiago Urrutia (Belardi Auto Racing), Kaiser, Dalton Kellett (Andretti Autosport) and Pato O’Ward (Team Pelfrey) were all within one second of Herta when the track went back green with just under 20 minutes left in the qualifying session.
Just as the session passed the half-way point, Jamin moved to the point when the Rouen, France native threw down an impressive lap of 1 minute, 13.5767 seconds.
Jamin’s lap held-up for most of the second-half of the session, even as drivers put on fresh Cooper Tire rubber in an attempt to improve on their times.
Jamin was finally knocked off the top of the timing pylon that towers over the 1,595 foot Barber Motorsports Park front straight when Kaiser turned in his quickest lap.
Qualifying results for Indy Lights race #1
|RANK||CAR #||DRIVER||TEAM||QUICK LAP||GAP|
|1||18||Kyle Kaiser||Juncos Racing||1:13.285||—|
|2||98||Colton Herta||Andretti Steinbrenner Racing||1:13.316||0.0307|
|3||27||Nico Jamin||Andretti Autosport||1:13.369||0.0835|
|4||5||Santi Urrutia||Belardi Auto Racing||1:13.455||0.1699|
|6||3||Pato O’Ward||Team Pelfrey||1:13.580||0.2951|
|8||28||Dalton Kellett||Andretti Autosport||1:13.656||0.3705|
|9||13||Zachary Claman De Melo||Carlin||1:13.825||0.5399|
|10||2||Juan Piedrahita||Team Pelfrey||1:13.995||0.7094|
|11||51||Shelby Blackstock||Belardi Auto Racing||1:14.170||0.8848|
|12||31||Nicolas Dapero||Juncos Racing||1:14.372||1.0869|
|13||9||Aaron Telitz||Belardi Auto Racing||1:14.377||1.0923|
|14||48||Ryan Norman||Andretti Autosport||1:14.388||1.1024|