By Steve Wittich
For the seventh time in 2017, an Indy Lights race will begin with second generation Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing driver Colton Herta starting on pole. Herta’s quickest lap of 94.439 seconds was over three-tenths of a second quicker than Belardi Auto Racing sophomore Santiago Urrutia, who will start on the front-row for the fifth straight race.
It was Herta’s seventh pole of the year, leaving the 17 year-old one shy of the season record that is held by a number of drivers, including his father Bryan.
“[Qualifying] was tough. With the tires and the cool conditions, we just kept going quicker and quicker. That’s the hardest session, you just have to keep putting in the laps consistently. I think [the race car] is good – I think we’ve had a good car all year. We just need to get a good opening lap, hopefully get ahead of the push-to-pass zone and go from there.”
Herta starts the race with 278 points, seven points behind Urrutia for the second spot in the championship.
Zachary Claman DeMelo who is only one point behind his teammate Matheus Leist for fourth on the points table will start fifth, four spots ahead of Brazilian teammate.
At the 10 minute mark of the 30 minute session, the top five times were held by: Colton Herta, Aaron Telitz, Neil Alberico, Ryan Norman, and Zachary Claman DeMelo.
At the half-way portion of the session, the majority of drivers were on pit road to make changes and bolt on fresh Cooper Tire rubber.
With four minutes to go in qualifying for the sole Indy Lights race of the weekend, Herta jumped to the top of the time sheet with a lap of 92.7653 seconds. The American teenager was able to improve on his provisional pole time in the next two laps to hold serve against his fellow competitors.
The top 11 drivers in qualifying were all within one second of each other.
The Belardi Auto Racing threesome of Urrutia (2nd), Telitz (3rd), and Shelby Blackstock (6th) will all start in the first three rows for the first time this year.
Kyle Kaiser, who just needs to start tomorrow’s race to wrap up the championship and collect the $1 million Mazda Motorsports Advancement Scholarship will the start his 82nd career and last ever MRTI race from outside of row five in 10th.
Mazda Indy Lights Watkins Glen Grand Prix Presented by Cooper Tires qualifying results
|RANK||CAR NO.||DRIVER||QUICK LAP||DIFFERENCE|
|5||13||Zachary Claman De Melo||1:32.929||0.4896|
|14||11||Garth Rickards||No Time||—|
The lone Indy Lights race of the “Soul Red Finale” will roll off at 10:50am.