Patricio O’Ward capped off the 2018 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires season in style. The newly crowned champion swept the weekend at Portland International Raceway, with an incredible run from sixth place to win his ninth race of the season.
Saturday’s qualifying for race two of the Cooper Tires Indy Lights Grand Prix of Portland saw a jumbled grid thanks to two incidents, both Patricio O’Ward and Victor Franzoni going off course.
At the end of the chaotic session, Ryan Norman scored his first career pole ahead of Aaron Telitz, Santi Urrutia, Colton Herta, Franzoni, Dalton Kellett, O’Ward and Heamin Choi.
The Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network reported in temperatures of 61 ambient and 79 track prior to this race.
With nothing to play for and the championship decided, today’s 35-lap race was poised to feature a lot of action. And it started immediately.
The green flag flew with Norman and Telitz side-by-side, and the field going almost six-wide into the Festival Curves.
We went full-course caution after a crazy amount of contact into the opening turns.
Urrutia went down the inside and locked up to move into the lead. Franzoni then locked up behind on the inside, bounded over the curb, and hit Norman, who hit Herta, and left Herta stranded. Norman and Kellett both went through the runoff area, with Kellett then collecting two of the IndyCar signs – and launching into the air before landing his car – after losing his front wing. Kellett came out with the lead but would have to limp his car back.
Herta, Norman and Kellett all pitted for repairs, making it a very busy pit lane among the Andretti Autosport teammates.
With the chaotic start, the revised order was Telitz having got ahead of his Belardi Auto Racing teammate, then Urrutia, O’Ward, Choi, Franzoni and Herta. Norman and Kellett remained in the pits with damage.
The race was meant to resume at the conclusion of Lap 4, start of Lap 5.
Telitz restarted with a gap over Urrutia and O’Ward, with Franzoni and Herta both able to pass Choi, and Kellett then resuming in the race after extended repairs.
The start was waved off due to Choi jumping out of line, and another yellow flag flew. But by Lap 6 the race properly restarted.
Herta tried down Franzoni’s inside at Turn 10 but fell back in behind the Brazilian, in his last race in the Soul Red Mazda for 2018. Herta made it by for fourth into Turn 1.
At Lap 7, Telitz led Urrutia by 0.4351 and O’Ward by 0.8655 with Herta fourth, having just set the fastest race lap, and Franzoni fifth. Choi was sixth ahead of Kellett, three laps down, while Norman was the only car forced to retire from the first turn fracas. The DNF ended Norman’s run of eight consecutive top-five finishes.
Franzoni then took the fastest race lap a lap later, as he was within 2.6325 seconds of the lead in fifth place.
The fun in this race continued by Lap 9. Urrutia had the lead by Lap 9 ahead of Telitz and O’Ward, having made a bold move at the end of the backstraight on the inside into Turn 10, and O’Ward following though not too long after.
So by Lap 10 the revised order was Urrutia, O’Ward, Telitz, Herta and Franzoni covered only by 2.2502 seconds.
O’Ward went around Telitz on the outside into Turn 1, Telitz having lost momentum and nearly falling into Herta’s clutches at Turn 1. Herta meanwhile locked up trying to avoid Telitz.
Just 0.2497 of a second covered Urrutia and O’Ward by Lap 11, and O’Ward somehow was that close to the lead after starting sixth in this race.
Urrutia locked up under braking at Turn 1 on Lap 13 defending from O’Ward, and Telitz, only 0.9574 of a second behind, had a front row seat to the action.
O’Ward now tried to the outside of Urrutia at Lap 14, Urrutia then defending through the corner. Telitz was all over O’Ward’s rear wing out of the Festival Curves into the Turns 3, 4 and 5 complex.
Just 2.7402 seconds covered the top five at the end of Lap 14. Urrutia pulled a little bit of a gap by Lap 15.
O’Ward was incredibly close to Urrutia at the end of Lap 16, and goes over under to get past Urrutia at the Festival Curves into Turn 1 for the lead. Urrutia moved to the center of the road to try to defend, while O’Ward crossed him up by going outside, then inside to complete the pass.
At Lap 18, O’Ward led by 0.7874 seconds over Urrutia, with Telitz third, Herta and Franzoni still fourth and fifth. Choi pitted for a drive-through to fall one lap down, but remained sixth ahead of Kellett.
O’Ward banked the lead to 1.9482 seconds by Lap 20, as the top five began to spread out. It grew to 2.6319 seconds by Lap 21.
Urrutia and Telitz appeared slower than Herta and Franzoni behind them as the race went to its final 13 laps.
On Lap 25, Telitz gets by on the inside with a slight lock up of his right front Cooper Tire but gets up to second, past his Belardi teammate. Alas the American is down to just one Push-to-Pass remaining.
Urrutia locks up on Lap 26 and blows the Festival Curves chicane from third place. He comes back on in front of Herta and Franzoni, but he’ll have his hands full the next lap.
In theory, anyway. Franzoni went in deep on the inside of Herta at Turn 7 but lost the rear end, and it knocked Herta off the road in the process with contact from Franzoni’s left rear tire to Herta’s right sidepod.
O’Ward’s lead over Telitz is now 5.7996 seconds, with Urrutia third, then Franzoni fourth and Herta fifth now significantly further back.
At Lap 28, there are just seven laps to go. O’Ward lead is 5.8539 seconds over Telitz, with Urrutia third, Franzoni fourth and Herta fifth. Might penalties be coming for either or both of Urrutia or Franzoni for their off-course excursions in recent laps, yet both are still ahead of Herta? The IndyCar Radio Network reports the Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing team is talking to officials on pit lane to explain the situation.
Gap is north of 6 seconds at Lap 29 between O’Ward and Telitz. But Franzoni is now just 2.4 seconds behind Urrutia for third, and Herta’s only 0.8 of a second behind Franzoni for fourth.
Herta takes care of the Franzoni position issue as he passed the Brazilian on the inside at Turn 1 at the Festival Curves with four laps to go. Race officials deemed Franzoni needed to give the position up. However Franzoni remains right behind Herta and he’ll try to get him again before the checkered flag. There had been contact between Herta and Franzoni, Herta’s right front to Franzoni’s left front, on the run down to Turn 10 but they avoided a more significant clash.
Two to go and O’Ward’s gap is 7.4369 seconds over Telitz. Urrutia is still third, hoping to hold off Herta and Franzoni for the final podium position.
White flag and O’Ward now has the gap of 7.5275 seconds. Urrutia only has 0.4 over Herta while Franzoni is just 1.4 back.
Checkered flag and O’Ward brings it home in style with a final margin of victory of 7.7855 seconds over Telitz. Urrutia holds off Herta and Franzoni for the podium. O’Ward does victory donuts down at the Festival Curves.
Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires – Race #2 Unofficial Results
|6||7||Heamin Choi||33||1 LAPS|
|7||28||Dalton Kellett||32||3 LAPS|