For the fourth-time this year, but the first time on oval, second generation driver Colton Herta will start on the pole in an Indy Lights race, collecting the qualifying track record that Max Chilton set in 2015.
“The track didn’t change as much as we expected, explained the Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing pilot. “Obviously the track got a little hotter as more cars ran, and that evened it out a little bit. It was a really good lap, and the car was perfect, and I think it’s the track record.”
The 17 year-old was the third driver to make a qualifying effort, and his two-lap qualifying effort of 163.670mph withstood eleven attempts.
“It’s the worst. It’s terrible. I didn’t get to feel it at Indy, (Herta qualified second for the Freedom 100 qualifying at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway) because I went second to last or last,” said Herta with a sheepish grin on his face. “It’s terrible, I hope I never have to draw in the first three again, because I felt so sick watching. ‘Am I going to get it, am I going to get it.’ It’s a little bit different. I’ve never had to experience it before, but it’s cool.”
Zachary Claman De Melo, who led the final practice, and testing two weeks ago at Iowa Speedway, managed a two-lap average of 163.290mph was the closest competitor to Herta, matching his career best second place start on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in May.
Championship leader Kyle Kaiser was the first driver to take to the 0.894-mile oval for his two-lap qualifying effort, and the Juncos Racing veteran turned in the two-lap average of 162.968mph. After two disappointing practice sessions in which the 21 year-old could do no better than sixth and 12th, starting the Mazda Iowa 100 Presented by Cooper Tires is a big win.
Andretti Autosport rookie Ryan Norman, who is making his second career oval start, matched his season best qualifying effort of fourth that was achieved at the other oval race of the year, the Freedom 100.
Starting on the third row, are Andretti Autosport teammates, Dalton Kellett, and Nico Jamin. Kellett told TSO that he made just a slight mistake at the exit of Turn 1, and that it potentially cost him a front row starting spot.
The Indy Lights drivers we chatted with about what to expect during the race were fairly unanimous in their opinion that taking care of their Cooper Tire slicks was going to be the key to crossing the finish line in first.
Pole sitter Herta said: “It’s going to be all about saving the tires, and tire degradation, and passing at the end when tires go off.”
Mazda Iowa 100 starting line-up
|RANK||CAR NO.||DRIVER||AVERAGE SPEED (mph)||1st LAP SPEED (mph)||2nd LAP SPEED (mph)|
|2||13||Zachary Claman De Melo||163.290||163.423||163.157|
The green flag for the 100 lap race falls at 2pm.
For the fifth time this season Oliver Askew will start a USF2000 race from the inside of the front row. It shouldn’t be surprising to see a Cape Motorsports driver up front on an oval, the St. Petersburg, Fla. based team has won five of the nine USF2000 oval races since 2010. However, Askew and the team struggled during Friday’s three hour test (the fourth best time), and yesterday’s 45-minute practice session (the sixth best time).
“A lot of set up changes,” explained Askew when asked about the changes the team made overnight. “The guys at Cape Motorsports, and my engineer Dominic Cape did a great job in making the right decisions for me to get pole. That was a good lap, way better than the car felt yesterday. I’m looking forward to the race.”
Askew was the fifth driver to take to the track, knocking Robert Megennis from the provisional pole, and had to withstand challenges from nine drivers, including the Pabst Racing duo of Rinus VeeKay and Calvin Ming, who had been dominant in practice and qualifying.
Ming, who was the last car on track will start beside Askew, and VeeKay will start immediately behind the driver he is chasing for the championship. Alex Baron, and Robert Megennis round out the top five.
Mazda Iowa 60 starting line-up
|RANK||CAR NO.||DRIVER||AVERAGE SPEED (mph)||LAP 1 SPEED||LAP 2 SPEED|
|10||12||Moises de la Vara||128.138||127.735||128.543|
The green flag for the 60 lap race falls at 1:05pm.