By Steve Wittich
If you only looked at the boxscore for Saturday’s Cooper Tires Indy Lights Grand Prix of Toronto Presented by Allied Building Products, it would appear that Patricio O’Ward, who led all 35 laps had a relatively easy drive to his fifth Indy Lights race win of 2018. That was anything but the case.
“It was not an easy race – at all,” explained O’Ward to TSO Ladder. “It’s a good win for me, I’ve got the points lead and some good momentum heading into the second race tomorrow and Mid-Ohio.”
Adding: “I think so far this is the most physical track I’ve done. It’s super bumpy. It’s super hard to get everything perfect, and it’s so easy to put it in the wall. If you go over that edge, you’ll lose it.”
Urrutia, who scored his 32nd career Mazda Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires podium, had an eventful race, dropping four spots on the start, driving his way up to second, falling back to fourth after an ill-timed spin, and finishing on the second step of the podium.
Ryan Norman finished on an Indy Lights podium for the second time on a road course this season. The 20-year-olds solid finish solidified his fifth-place championship standing and moved him to within 20 points of Victor Franzoni in fourth.
“I had a good start and was up to third, but I was struggling to keep the car under me early on,” explained Norman. “The car came to me by Lap 10, and I was able to chip away at it. It was pretty wet toward the end, but my car felt good in the rain, so I was able to power down and keep it clean. It was just a matter of braking on the inside and staying away from the rubber on the main braking line. I could brake deep, and that’s where I made up most of my ground. I got a podium at St. Pete in the first race of the season, and it’s been a drought since then so it’s good to be back here. There’s something about street races, I guess – this is definitely one of my favorite places!”
Pole sitter Colton Herta ended the morning qualifying session in the Turn 8 tire barriers and unfortunately sustained a non-displaced fracture at the base of his thumb. He was fitted with a brace and cleared to race.
After a pair of pace laps, the front row of Herta and O’Ward brought the field the green flag with light raindrops visible on the in-car camera of Dalton Kellett’s K-LINE sponsored No. 28 Andretti Autosport race car. The air temperature was 77F, and the track temperature was 95F.
It appeared that pole sitter Herta got a poor start with the car stepping out as he got to the gas. That caused the inside line behind him to accordion and the bright red Belardi Auto Racing No. 5 made nose to tail contact with the points leader.
Herta’s engineer Doug Zister told the ADVANCE Auto Parts IndyCar Radio Network that Herta’s poor start was due to Urrutia lifting Herta’s rear tires off the ground.
After the race, Urrutia told TSO Ladder: “Colton didn’t go, I don’t know what happened. At one point I just went, and I hit him, and then Franzoni came from behind and hit me really hard and broke my front wing.”
At the end of the first lap, the running order was: O’Ward, Teltiz, Norman, Herta, Franzoni, Kellett and Urrutia.
Herta and his teammate Norman went side-by-side through Turn 4 for the final podium spot, with Norman holding him off after having the preferred inside line going into Turn 5.
Herta made a move for the final podium spot in Turn 3 on Lap 3, and when they crossed the line to start Lap 4, he was 2 seconds behind Telitz, who was three-quarters of a second behind leader O’Ward.
After ten clean laps, O’Ward’s lead was 1.1 seconds over Telitz with Herta another 1.3 seconds back.
After 10 of the scheduled 35 laps, O’Ward had a 1.1 second lead over Telitz, who had Herta another 1.3 seconds back.
On Lap 11, the familiar black and teal No. 28 of the Dalton Kellett, the only Canadian in the field, nosed it into the tires in Turn 8. The Andretti Autosport veteran was able to get going on his own, avoiding a full-course caution and came to pit road where his crew put on a new front wing.
Herta started to pressure Telitz for the final spot on the podium and was able to get by him on Lap 13. Herta immediately began to push to catch his teammate up front.
Further back in the field, Franzoni and Urrutia were waging an entertaining battle for the fourth spot.
After 20 laps, O’Ward’s lead over Herta was 1.6 seconds. Teliz had dropped 2.1 seconds back from the points leader.
Herta had cut O’Ward’s lead to 1.4 seconds on Lap 22, but on the next lap the yellow flag came out for the Yankee Blue and White No. 98 of Herta, who made substantial contact with the concrete barriers at the exit of Turn 5.
We caught up with Herta later in the afternoon and while he was in obvious pain, the second generation driver wasn’t too down. With the bumps, he did think this was one of the worst tracks that he could have hurt his hand at. He said Turn 1 through Turn 3 and Turn 6 and Turn 7 weren’t too difficult for him, but the rest of the bumpy 1.786-mile, 11-turn Exhibition Place street circuit was tough.
At the same time, there were some reports from around the racetrack that it was starting to drizzle.
The running order under the race’s first yellow flag was: O’Ward, Telitz, Urrutia, Franzoni, Norman, and Kellett, who was one lap down.
On the start of Lap 27, the green flag came back out. O’Ward got a great jump, and behind him, Urrutia put pressure on his teammate Telitz.
The two Belardi Auto Racing teammates fought for two laps before Urrutia got a good run down Lakeshore Blvd. and popped to the outside. The Uruguayan executed an over-under move getting ahead at corner exit. The two drivers made slight contact, which damaged the front wing of Telitz.
The No. 9 came to pit road for a new front wing and ended up finishing ninth.
There were reports on a track that the sprinkles were becoming a drizzle, but Urrutia was quickly catching O’Ward. Urrutia appeared to use too much curb in Turn 8 while trying to catch O’Ward with his car doing a half-spin at corner exit.
Urrutia lost a pair of spots to Franzoni and Norman but was able to get by Norman in Turn 3. Franzoni was the first driver to get to Turn 5, and he told us that he oversteered on ice like concrete. The result of that was an overcorrection and a hard hit into the concrete barrier in the same spot that Herta hit.
The race ended under caution with O’Ward crossing the under the checkered flag ahead of Urrutia and Norman.
O’Ward’s win is the first Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires race win in Toronto for Andretti Autosport.
Cooper Tires Indy Lights Grand Prix of Toronto Presented by Allied Building Products Race #1 Results
The Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires series will be back on track for their final race of the weekend at 12:25 PM on Sunday.
The NBCSN Indy Lights broadcast will air at 6 PM on Monday, July 16th.