What the Lights drivers had to say

After the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires race, TSO Ladder had a chance to catch up with winner Patricio O’Ward, and podium finishers Colton Herta and Santi Urrutia.

Patricio O’Ward celebrates his second Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires win of the year at Barber Motorsports Park (Photo courtesy of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography)

O’Ward explained that his pass of Herta for the lead began with a defensive late braking maneuver to keep Urrutia behind him, and ended with Herta leaving him an opening to go up the inside.

The Mexican rookie told TSO that he wanted to win this race to make up for his mistake while leading at St. Petersburg. He also explained that his car was an absolute handful and he’d never been so happy to see a checkered flag.

Herta told us that it’s pretty hard to pass at Barber because of the aero wash and lack of long straightaways and heavy braking zones and that you need to hope that other drivers make mistakes.

The second generation driver also told us that the track seemed to be really “green” this weekend, and not gripping up at all, and it felt substantially different than last year.

Urrutia, who lost the points lead to O’Ward, told us that they don’t quite have the pace in the No. 5 Belardi Auto Racing Mazda/Dallara and that he would love to see a wet race on Sunday. Urrutia’s first Mazda Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires win came in a wet race at NOLA Motorsports Park in Avondale, La. in 2015.

Observation from Steve: It appears there is a growing inter-team rivalry between a pair of talented 18 year-olds at Michael Andretti’s Indy Lights team. It’s not boiled to the top yet, but it’s something we’ll be watching very closely as the season progresses. 

The Mazda Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires cars are really fast. 

The new Pro Mazda Presented By Cooper Tire PM-18 is really fast around the 2.3-mile, 17-turn Barber Motorsports Park natural terrain circuit. Parker Thompson snagged the new track record with a lap of 76.297 seconds, a full four seconds ahead of Spencer Pigot track record that was set in 2014. That’s quicker than the 2011 and 2014 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires pole. 

The Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires IL-15 says not to forget about how quick it is. Colton Herta’s pole lap of 72.577 seconds is just shy of the qualifying track record that Pigot set in 2015. It’s also quicker than the quickest race laps in the 2010, 2011 and 2012 Verizon IndyCar Series races at Barber Motorsports Park. 

A few notes from Belardi Auto Racing

The car that Aaron Telitz is piloting is the car that Belardi Auto Racing purchased from Carlin.It has been painted with the familiar red and white Belardi livery. The Mazda powered IL-15 that clobbered the wall at Turn 3 in St. Petersburg is not presently able to be raced. 

Chris Windom, a regular in the USAC Silver Crown, Sprint Car and Midget divisions will be making his Indy Lights debut at the Freedom 100. Windom who will be driving the No. 33 Belardi Auto Racing with Byrd & Baldwin entry, will be doing his Indy Lights oval test at Kentucky Speedway on April 30th. 

Double Duty

Reigning Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda champion Oliver Askew is doing double duty this weekend. He’s racing in the Pro Mazda series and driving the Mazda MX-5 pace car for the Mazda MX-5 Cup races.

Catching up with Will

TSO Ladder had a chance to catch up with Mazda Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires grad Will Owen.

The 23-year-old had one win and twelve podiums in three seasons of MRTI competition spread across USF2000 and Pro Mazda.

Owen made a move to sports cars last year, contesting the European Le Man Series (ELMS) in the LMP2 category. Owen partnered with Filipe Albuquerque and Hugo de Sadeleer in Ligier entered by Anglo-American team United Autosport. The trio won twice (Silverstone and Red Bull Ring) and finished second in the standings.

The same three drivers also partnered together at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, finishing fifth overall and fourth in LMP2.

United Autosport with Owen, de Sadeleer, and former F1 pilots Paul di Resta and Bruno Senna finished fourth in the American Endurance classic.

Owen is back for a second year of ELMS action with United Autosport. De Sadeleer will return to partner with Owen, and they will be joined by former USF2000 race winner Wayne Boyd for the regular season and former F1 and IndyCar star Juan Montoya for the 2018 Le Mans 24 hours.

Owen told us that he is having an absolute blast driving in some of the most significant races in the world with some of the biggest names in racing. He did also admit that being here with Pro Mazda and Indy Lights does have him wanting to scratch an open-wheel itch.

Owen is in Alabama after being called into duty to partner with Leo Lamelas in the Mazda Prototype Challenge series.

Owen’s next race after today is the European Le Mans Series 4 Hours of Monza on May 13, 2018.