By Steve Wittich
For the second time this year, and eighth time in his Indy Lights career Santi Urrutia ended up on the top step of the podium.
“We’ve been struggling, so I’m very happy to get this win, especially for the Belardi guys who have worked so hard,” said the two-time Indy Lights vice-champion. “It was super physical today. Pato was quicker than me early but once the grip came in, I was quicker. I’m happy, we needed this. It’s been frustrating lately and it’s been tough to be behind the Andretti cars but we never give up. The engineers and mechanics did a great job to give me the best car today. I made some mistakes early and nearly hit the wall in Turn Five late in the race to let Pato catch up but, other than that, there was no pressure.”
He was followed across the finish line by Patricio O’Ward and his Belardi Auto Racing teammate Aaron Telitz.
Urrutia’s win was the fourth time that a Belardi Auto Racing driver traveled to victory lane at Exhibition Place, tying them with Juncos Racing and Brian Stewart/Landford Racing.
Colton Herta was once again cleared to race after this morning’s T11 impact at the end of qualifying for Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires race #2.
But, Herta sat on pit lane after the field pulled away, which was reportedly an intentional move to keep him out of the potential first lap carnage. He would depart pit lane after the field went by for a start.
When the green flag waved, pole sitter Santi Urritia got out to a clean start and led the field cleanly through Turn 1. They also stayed pretty clean through Turn 3 and everyone filed in, making the order at the end of the first lap Urrutia, O’Ward, Telitz, Norman, Kellett, Franzoni, and Herta.
Herta would bring the car back to pit lane after turning a single lap.
By Lap 3, Urrutia was slowly getting away from O’Ward, leading now by 0.7987 seconds.
After the race, the three podium finishers said that the track was like ice during the first five laps.
“That was the most physical weekend I think we’ll have this season,” explained O’Ward. “It tested your mental and physical ability. I have never felt this track so slippery. The first four or five laps, it was like ice. Santi was all over the place and I knew Aaron was struggling. You could see the rubber on the track but there was no grip. But as the tires came in, the grip got better.”
Victor Franzoni brought his machine to pit lane after two laps slotting him in the 6th position for now.
“I’m having the worst weekend of my life, I think,” said the emotional Brazilian to the ADVANCE Auto Parts Yesterday I had a crash and I couldn’t crash this year. I didn’t have the money to pay the crash damage yesterday, Today in the qualifying I tried to push, but I was just thinking about crashing again and if I crash again I am going to be broke for the rest of my life, I don’t have the money to pay for the crash so I stopped it in the qualy. Same thing in the race. I tried it again. I’m not feeling good in the car. My mind is not good for the weekend. My best option was for me to stop. I’ll keep racing. I’ll keep going for the week and for the year, but we need to find some money. This was a difficult situation. We knew what to expect for the year, but it was not happening and this time, unfortunately, I had the crash. It is what it is, life sometimes life is not good for us, I had my weekend.
“It’s difficult because I wanted to be racing. I knew even starting from last I could race. But at the same time, I can break my life and I would be owing Rick and the team for the rest of my life. And sometimes you need to be smart. If I was extremely fast and I was with a really good mind I would keep racing. But I wasn’t feeling well and I was thinking about the crash and I couldn’t focus on the right thing. And I stopped!”
He finished up that emotional interview with Dave Furst with comments on how this is how racing and life both work. One day business is good and another it’s not. And today “my business is down,”
He did say he would be at Mid-Ohio and racing again, but he is still looking for money for this year and to go to IndyCar next year, but this was just the best decision for today.
On the track, the front three stayed reasonably close together with Urrutia having a 2.1 second lead over O’Ward and Telitz was closely in third. Ryan Norman was further back, 13.9 seconds off the lead with Dalton Kellett 42 seconds further behind as the last car on the track in fifth place.
Colton Herta got back in the car and made a couple more laps to pass Franzoni and pick up 6th place. That will score him additional points, which may be huge as the season winds down.
Bryan Herta told Jake Query that he decided not to let Colton run hard in the race today and just to park the car. They will get him to the best doctors after this weekend and get that thumb working. He couldn’t hold the steering wheel on the track.
The lead stayed steady on the track, with Urrutia 2.4 seconds up on Lap 27. O’Ward was a little busier with Telitz for most of the race, but on Lap 28 we started to see O’Ward start getting closer as the lead was down to just 1.4 seconds. Perhaps a mistake we didn’t see cost Urrutia that second, but he would open his lead back up to 1.6 seconds on Lap 29.
Lap 32 and the lead is back to 2.4 seconds again, and Telitz is slipping to 2.1 behind O’Ward for second place.
At the white flag, Urrutia was 2.65 ahead and would take the checkered flag a comfy 1.2708 seconds ahead of O’Ward, Telitz, Norman, Kellett, Herta, and Franzoni.
With this finish, Herta now trails O’Ward by 18 points as the series heads to Mid-Ohio in a little less than two weeks.
Race #2 Results:
|1||5||Santi||Urrutia||35||Belardi Auto Racing|
|3||9||Aaron||Telitz||35||2.1283||Belardi Auto Racing|
|6||98||Colton||Herta||4||21||Andretti Steinbrenner Racing|
The Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires series is back on track for testing at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for testing next week in preparation for their race weekend on the 1.786-mile, 11-turn Exhibition Place street circuit on July 27th – 29th.