The turbo-charged Mazda 2.0L engines of the 14 entries for the first Indy Lights race of the weekend were fired just after noon.
The all blue front row of Carlin teammates Leist and Alberico that matched the bright blue skies of Central Wisconsin, lead the field to the green flag to begin the 20 lap “sprint” race.
The green flag flew early, and Alberico pulled in behind his teammate before the field got to the start/finish line to try and draft him in the long run down to Turn 1. Ryan Norman, who started the race in a career best third took that as invitation to fill in the gap, and the three drivers ended up three wide when they got to the brake zone of Turn 1.
That was never going to work, and it was Alberico, who was in the middle of the trio, that ended up losing. The No. 22 made contact with the black and orange No. 48 of Norman, and fell down to ninth place with a damage front wing.
The Los Gatos, Calif. driver was able to recover two positions, finishing the race in seventh.
At the end of the first lap, the top 10 were: Leist, Norman, Kaiser, Urrutia, Jamin, Dalton Kellett, Juan Piedrahita , Shelby Blackstock, Alberico, Aaron Telitz.
On the second lap of the race, Urrutia, who had moved from his 10th starting spot to fourth by the end of the first lap, made an outstanding pass of both Norman and Kaiser in Turn 5. The No. 18 of Kaiser was able to get by Norman by out dragging him down the front straight and into Turn 1. Norman fought back going down the Moraine Sweep, and the two drivers were side by side into the braking zone of Turn 5. Urrutia saw an opening and dove down the inside of the second and third place cars, out braking both of them and still making the corner.
Kaiser fought back against Urrutia, passing him into Turn 1 on the next lap, but losing the position again at the bottom of hill when Urrutia pushed him wide.
At the half-way point of the 20 lap race, Leist had pulled out to a 3.89 second lead over Urrutia. The 2016 Indy Lights vice-champion had the familiar Juncos Racing white, green and orange livery of Kaiser filling his mirrors. Kaiser had a decent gap to his closest championship competitor Jamin, who had a charging Norman coming quickly.
With five laps remaining, Leist had grown his lead to 4.87 seconds over Urrutia who had pulled a slight one second gap Kaiser. Four seconds behind that battle for the final two spots on the podium, Norman, Jamin, and Piedrahita were waging a battle for the fourth spot. Jamin held that position beginning the 15th laps, but by the time the threesome crossed the under the flag stand, he had fallen to sixth place.
With two laps to go, Leist had checked out, but Kaiser had pulled back to within a half-of-a-second of Urrutia for the second step on the podium, and continued to pressure the black and gold Belardi Auto Racing No. 5, crossing the line only seven hundredths of second ahead of Kaiser.
Outside of the spotlight out front, Zachary Claman DeMelo, Aaron Telitz and Colton Herta, had a back and forth battle for the 11th position. Claman DeMelo held off Telitz for 11th. Herta ended up spinning on the final lap, but kept going and was able to finish 13th.
Cooper Tires Grand Prix of Road America Powered by Mazda Race #1 Results
|1||26||Matheus Leist||Carlin||20 laps|
|2||5||Santi Urrutia||Belardi Auto Racing||6.1667|
|3||18||Kyle Kaiser||Juncos Racing||6.2446|
|4||48||Ryan Norman||Andretti Autosport||9.5155|
|5||2||Juan Piedrahita||Team Pelfrey||10.7724|
|6||27||Nico Jamin||Andretti Autosport||13.2025|
|8||51||Shelby Blackstock||Belardi Auto Racing||16.7010|
|9||28||Dalton Kellett||Andretti Autosport||18.9077|
|10||13||Zachary Claman De Melo||Carlin||20.1144|
|11||9||Aaron Telitz||Belardi Auto Racing||22.1026|
|12||98||Colton Herta||Andretti Steinbrenner Racing||38.1412|
|14||31||Nicolas Dapero||Juncos Racing||– 1 LAP|
We’ll be back with driver reactions and more after the next two MRTI races.