By Steve Wittich
Round 10 of the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires 2018 season will be the series 11th visit to the progressive banked 0.894-mile oval. The top rung on the Mazda Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires has traveled to Newton, Iowa with big brother IndyCar every year except 2014.
Alex Lloyd and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports won the first contest in 2007, and last year Carlin’s Matheus Leist used the second groove to move from his tenth starting spot to the lead in 31 laps.
Since the introduction of the IL-15 three seasons ago, the Iowa Speedway Bullring has seen domination by a single team. Carlin, who is taking a respite from Indy Lights competition this year, is three for three in wins, scored two of three poles, stood on five of the nine podium steps and led 250 of 300 laps over the past three years.
Belardi Auto Racing with two and Andretti Autosport with one have the other podiums among active Indy Lights teams in the past three years. Juncos Racing is still looking for the team’s first podium at the ⅞ths-mile oval.
Previous Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires race winners at Iowa Speedway
|2013||Sage Karam||Schmidt Peterson Motorsports|
|2012||Esteban Guerrieri||Schmidt Peterson Motorsports|
|2011||Josef Newgarden||Schmidt Peterson Motorsports|
|2010||Sebastian Saavedra||Bryan Herta Autosport|
|2009||Ana Beatriz||Schmidt Peterson Motorsports|
|2008||Dillon Battistini||Panther Racing|
|2007||Alex Lloyd||Schmidt Peterson Motorsports|
With a win on Saturday and second place on Sunday at Road America, sophomore Colton Herta was able to extend his points lead over O’Ward from six points to 17 points.
Herta’s second-place finish during Sunday’s race was his seventh straight trip to the podium and the 15th in his Indy Lights career, moving him ahead of his dad Bryan, who had 14 podiums during the 1992 and 1993 seasons of Indy Lights. Herta’s Indy Lights podium percentage now sits at an impressive 60%, the highest of active drivers.
However, with 50%+ more points on offer for the trio of Indy Lights oval races in 2018, a win by O’Ward, Urrutia, or Franzoni could quickly eat into the second generation drivers points lead.
Points available for the three Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires oval races in 2018
Herta started last year’s race on pole, the fourth time an Andretti Autosport driver has begun an Indy Lights race on pole at Iowa Speedway, but fought a loose race car, falling back to the fourth spot during the 100 lap race.
The 18-year-old and engineer Doug Zister will need to find a better set-up to keep the No. 98 Andretti Steinbrenner Racing machine at the front of the field and win the first Indy Lights races at Iowa Speedway for the Andretti Autosport stable.
“I’m super excited to get back to racing on an oval this weekend,” said the second generation pilot. “Iowa’s always a tough, hot race so we’ll need to have a good balance that won’t degrade tires.”
O’Ward, who began the season winning three of four races, has dropped 44 points to Herta over the last five races. The 19-year-old has started on pole three times in those five races, so the pace is clearly still there. Now it’s a matter of finding the results again.
Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires points over the past five races.
|2||Patricio O’Ward – R||118|
|3||Victor Franzoni – R||111|
|8||Davey Hamilton, Jr.||21|
|11||Alfonso Celis, Jr.||0|
O’Ward will be making his first short-oval start in the turbo-charged 2.0L Mazda powered Indy Lights car, but the Mexican driver does have some success from the Pro Mazda Presented By Cooper Tire series to fall back on. O’Ward has three starts on short ovals, collecting one win, two podiums and three top-five finishes, including a third-place finish at Iowa Speedway in 2015.
“Iowa – it’s our second oval of the season,” explained O’Ward. “Last time I raced at this track was in 2015 in the Pro Mazda series, and I finished on the podium, so I’m looking to move up two spots better this time around – and getting my first oval win of this season. It’s a challenging, yet physical and fun oval so I am anxious to get out on track.”
Santi Urrutia, a two-time Indy Lights vice-champion, trails Herta by 44 points with just under half of the races left in the chase for the 1 million Mazda Motorsports Scholarship. The Uruguayan driver utilized the high-line during last years race to move from a disappointing 11th starting spot to an impressive second-place finish.
Urrutia won his first Mazda Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires oval race at Gateway Motorsports Park last year and his 73 points on ovals in 2017 trailed Matheus Leist by only a single point.
Victor Franzoni is coming off an emotional race weekend at Road America where he was able to honor his former teammate and good friend Jeff Green with his first Indy Lights pole and win. The Brazilian pilot of the Soul Red No. 23 led two laps in the first oval race of the year at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and was running with the lead group before suffering a puncture just before the half-way point of the “Carb Day” event.
“I am really looking forward to the race in Iowa,” said Juncos Racing rookie Franzoni. “We are coming off of an awesome weekend at Road America. Each session we improved a lot. After the win, I think we can carry this momentum forward for the final half of the season. We were super fast in the Freedom 100, so I am sure we will be fast at Iowa. The team has done a great job finding set ups on the ovals, and I enjoy running on them as well so it will be a good weekend. Iowa is a difficult track, but it is also a fun track.”
Coming off his third podium of the season in his home state event, Aaron Telitz will look to continue to impress on the Verizon IndyCar Series teams that he is ready for the next step.
“Definitely. Efforts are already underway,” said Telitz to the ADVANCE Auto Parts IndyCar Radio network when asked what his plans are going forward. “With CoForce, and also my driver manager Steve Welk, we’re already working on knocking on doors to be in IndyCar for 2019. It will be an interesting, silly season. I think a lot of movement will happen. It’s a good time to try to jump in.”
Andretti Autosport sophomore Ryan Norman, who is tied with Telitz for fifth in the championship at 160 points, had not made an oval start until last year and is getting more comfortable with each lap turned.
“I’m excited to get back in the car at Iowa this weekend,” said the driver of the No. 48 Journey sponsored machine. “I’m really starting to enjoy ovals a lot more and we had a really good test at Gateway last week so I’m feeling very confident going into race weekend.”
Canadian and Andretti Autosport veteran Dalton Kellett is coming off another podium in the last Indy Lights oval race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The 24-year-old has podiums in five of his previous seven Mazda Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires oval starts including a third-place finish at Iowa last year in Indy Lights and a second-place finish three years ago in Pro Mazda.
- Matheus Leist, Max Chilton, and Josef Newgarden are the three entries in this years Verizon IndyCar Series Iowa Corn 300 that have wins on the ⅞th mile oval.
- Only two of the first ten Indy Lights winners at Iowa Speedway have started on pole, and the winner has come from outside of the first row in half of the races. The average starting spot of the winner is 3.8.
- The average finishing position of the pole sitter is 4.3 and Esteban Guerrieri’s 11th place finish in 2011 is the worst finish by a driver starting on the inside of the front row.
- The 2010 Indy Lights race at Iowa Speedway was the AvoidTheStork.com 100 – one of the more unique title sponsors we’ve seen. Oh, and if you are interested, that domain is available for the low, low price of $2,395.
- Before the introduction of the IL-15 in 2015, the Indy Lights race at Iowa Speedway was dominated by Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. They won five of the first seven races and collected 13 of 21 podium steps.
- The winner of the Indy Lights race at Iowa Speedway has gone on to win the championship a total of three times. Alex Lloyd (2007), Josef Newgarden (2011) and Sage Karam (2013) have won in the cornfields of Iowa in the same year they took home the Indy Lights driver’s crown.
Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires weekend schedule
- 1:30 PM – 2:15 PM – Indy Lights Practice #1
- 5 PM – 5:30 PM – Indy Lights Qualifying
- 11:15 AM – 12:15 PM – Indy Lights Race (100 laps)
The Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires race will air on NBCSN at 11 PM (ET)
Don’t miss any of the action:
- live timing – Indy Lights, and IndyCar Race Control
- on twitter –Indy Lights, Cooper Tire, Mazda Racing and TSO Ladder
- via the Road To Indy TV app – Android or Apple iOS
- on all social media channels via the #TeamCooperTire and #MRTI hashtags
The Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires race will air on NBCSN at 11 PM (ET) on Sunday, June 8th.