By Steve Wittich

For the third time in 2017, current championship points leader Kyle Kaiser snagged the single bonus point on offer for winning an Indy Lights pole, allowing the third year Juncos Racing driver to grow his title lead over Matheus Leist to 14 points. Kaiser first grabbed the provisional pole with six minutes left in the 25 minute session, and he continued to go quicker lap-after-lap, improving on his lap time on three straight laps. That allowed Kaiser to hold off pole challenges by Leist, Zachary Claman De Melo, Colton Herta, Dalton Kellett, and Santiago Urrutia.

The quickest lap of 1 minute, 5.351 seconds turned in by the 21 year-old Kaiser, on his 18th of 19 laps, was two-tenths of a second quicker than Leist, and seven-tenths of a second ahead of the current Indy Lights track record set by Felix Rosenqvist last year.

Kaiser, who now has six career Indy Lights poles, told Rob Howden of INDYCAR Radio that starting on pole on the streets of Exhibition Place is “super important,” that his engineer Ernie Gonella “killed it” and gave him the perfect car, and that he maximized the car to best of his ability.

Leist will start beside the driver he’s chasing for the $1 million Mazda Motorsports Advancement Scholarship, and it will be a pair of veteran Canadians racing on home soil, Claman De Melo on the inside and Kellet on the outside, that will start right behind the championship contending duo on the second row.

With only one 30-minute practice session before qualifying, it appears that the overwhelming advantage during qualifying went to drivers who had experience on the 1.786-mile, 11-Turn Exhibition Place street course. Leist is the only driver among the top seven that has not raced the turbo-charged Mazda 2.0L powered Dallara IL-15 on the tricky street circuit before.

At the half-way point of the session, the top seven drivers were all within two-tenths of a second of each other, and at that point the teams started to call their drivers to pit road to make some changes to their cars before pitting on fresh Cooper Tire slicks to get ready for a last ten minute pole shoot-out.

With a lap of 1 minute, 5.849 seconds,Urrutia held provisional pole during that first new tire run, that was the first lap that was sub 1 minute, 6 seconds.

Urrutia held onto provisional pole for six minutes, but when Kaiser was able to get his Cooper Tires warmed up he grabbed the provisional top spot, and would not let go.

The final two minutes of the session saw Juan Piedrahita, Kellett, Leist, and Herta all improve their stations, but none got close to the Santa Clara, Calif. native Kaiser.

After the session, Herta was given a penalty for not reducing his speed by 15% through a local yellow. The second generation Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing driver had that lap voided, his quickest lap of the session and went from fourth to eighth. Claman De Melo received the same penalty, but his second quickest lap of the session was still the third quickest overall.

Cooper Tires Indy Lights Grand Prix of Toronto Presented by Allied Building Products Qualifying #1 Results

1 18 Kyle Kaiser 1:05.351 –.—-
2 26 Matheus Leist 1:05.578 0.2264
3 13 Zachary Claman De Melo 1:05.839 0.4877
4 28 Dalton Kellett 1:05.841 0.4902
5 5 Santi Urrutia 1:05.849 0.4976
6 2 Juan Piedrahita 1:06.019 0.6676
7 22 Neil Alberico 1:06.043 0.6924
8 98 Colton Herta 1:06.1403 0.7892
9 51 Shelby Blackstock 1:06.156 0.8045
10 27 Nico Jamin 1:06.177 0.8254
11 9 Aaron Telitz 1:06.225 0.8739
12 48 Ryan Norman 1:07.040 1.6885
13 31 Nicolas Dapero 1:07.052 1.7009
14 11 Garth Rickards 1:08.318 2.9666

The first of two Cooper Tires Indy Lights Grand Prix of Toronto Presented by Allied Building Products races rolls off at 1pm.

Don’t miss any of the action: