By Steve Wittich
The call to fire the 2.0L turbo-charged engines powering the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires field was given at 9:55 am, with the top rung of the Road To Indy serving as the warm-up act for their big brothers, the NTT INDYCAR SERIES.
The all Andretti Autosport front row of pole-sitter Danial Frost and Kyle Kirkwood brought the 13 drivers to the green flag after a pair of pace laps behind the Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires pace car.
Frost got a good jump in the start zone, moving the right on the front straight to grab the preferred line into the fast Turn 1. Kirkwood slotted in behind Frost, with Linus Lundqvist (Global Racing Group w/HMD) trying the inside line in Turn 1. However, the Swede was not able to keep his foot in, wisely dropping in behind Kirkwood.
After the first lap of action, the running order was Frost, Kirkwood, Lundqvist, David Malukas (HMD Motorsports), Devlin DeFrancesco (Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport), Benjamin Pedersen (Global Racing Group w/HMD), Robert Megennis (Andretti Autosport), Toby Sowery (Juncos Racing), Alex Peroni (Carlin), Sting Ray Robb (Juncos Racing), Nikita Lastochkin (HMD Motorsports), Antonio Serravalle (Pserra Racing) and Christian Bogle (Carlin).
On Lap 2, Kirkwood got a great run off the Keyhole, used his push-to-pass, moved to Frost’s outside in Turn 3, and completed the pass before the pair got to the braking zone in Turn 4.
It only took the championship leader two laps to pull a ‘push-to-pass safe’ lead over Frost. Frost had Lundqvist on his gearbox, with positions two through nine separated by only five seconds.
On Lap 3, Sowery, who started eighth, got by Megennis on the long run downhill to Turn 4.
Kirkwood’s lead after five laps was 1.3 seconds over Frost. The No. 68 was the quickest car on Lap 4, pulling a 1.7-second gap to Lundqvist. The reigning Formula Regional Americas Championship Powered By Honda champion was facing immense pressure from his teammate Malukas.
On the seventh lap of the race, Frost went two-tenths quicker than the leader, moving to within 1.1 seconds of the lead.
On Lap 9, Boggle turned into Turn 1 a little late, and when he added some wheel to try and make the apex, the rear end stepped out. The rookie driver could catch it, but the No. 7 bounded through the gravel trap, high siding in the grass and bringing out the yellow flag.
The AMR INDYCAR Safety Team got the Pelican Energy-sponsored machine from the Carlin stable back on track and restarted. The driver from Covington, La. brought the car to pit road and the attention of the crew.
The green flag came back out to start Lap 12, with Kirkwood getting a good jump. After getting through Turn 1, Pedersen took a look inside Turn 2 but could not complete that pass. That gave Sowery an advantage into Turn 4, with the No. 51 Juncos Racing machine attempting the outside pass. But, again, Pedersen defended well, grabbing the inside line and braking late enough to hold onto sixth.
On Lap 14, Malukas moved past his teammate Lundqvist after the 22-year-old missed the second apex of the two-apex Keyhole.
The No. 79 immediately took off after Frost, quickly pulling away from the orange and black No. 26.
After 15 laps of action, Kirkwood’s lead was 1.6 seconds, just outside of the 1.5-second push-to-pass range. Frost needed to start paying attention to what was happening behind him, with Malukas with 0.8 seconds of the second-place driver.
On Lap 16, DeFrancesco turned his quickest lap of the race and started to catch up to Lundqvist for fourth place.
At the halfway point of the 35 lap Cooper Tires Indy Lights Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio Race #2, Kirkwood’s lead had grown to 2.2 seconds over Frost. The rest of the running order was Malukas, Lundqvist, DeFrancesco, Pedersen, Sowery, Megennis, Peroni, Robb, Lastochkin, Serravalle and Bogle.
Kirkwood’s lead after 20 laps had grown to just over three seconds. The best battle on the track was between Pedersen, who was working hard to defend against Sowery.
On Lap 23, Sowery used a great exit off The Keyhole, push-to-pass, and completed the pass around the outside of Pedersen in Turn 4, moving to fourth.
With ten laps remaining, Kirkwood’s lead was a comfortable 3.1 seconds over Frost. Frost had increased the gap to Malukas to 1.4 seconds. The best battle on the 2.258-Mile, 13-Turn Mid-Ohio Road Course was for seventh, with Megennis only 0.6 seconds behind Pedersen.
On Lap 26, Sowery turned his quickest lap of the race, moving to within 1.6 seconds of DeFrancesco. Three laps later, Sowery went faster again, moving to within 0.7 seconds of the highlighter yellow and orange machine of DeFrancesco.
Kirkwood’s lead with five laps remaining was up to 4.5 seconds over Frost.
On that lap, DeFrancesco went wide in Turn 4, allowing Sowery to attempt an outside pass in Turn 4. The pair made wheel-to-wheel contact at the exit of the right-hander, with the No. 51 dropping two wheels into the grass. The pair went side-by-side through Turn 5 and 6 before DeFrancesco used the preferred line in Turn 7 to hold off Sowery.
With three laps remaining, Malukas had closed to within 0.7 seconds of Frost for the second step on the podium.
Upfront, Kirkwood’s lead had grown to five seconds over Frost, whose advantage to Malukas had fallen to 0.6 seconds with two laps remaining. On that lap, Megennis got around Pedersen for seventh.
Cooper Tires Indy Lights Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio Race #2 results (unofficial)
|1||28||Kyle Kirkwood||Andretti Autosport||35 LAPS|
|2||68||Danial Frost||Andretti Autosport||4.1660|
|3||79||David Malukas||HMD Motorsports||4.8076|
|4||26||Linus Lundqvist||Global Racing Group w/HMD Motorsports||8.1424|
|5||17||Devlin DeFrancesco||Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport||13.4894|
|6||51||Toby Sowery||Juncos Racing||14.0083|
|7||27||Robert Megennis||Andretti Autosport||17.6080|
|8||24||Benjamin Pedersen||Global Racing Group wHMD Motorsports||18.7311|
|10||2||Sting Ray Robb||Juncos Racing||20.1702|
|11||59||Nikita Lastochkin||HMD Motorsports||28.8213|
|12||11||Antonio Serravalle||Pserra Racing||29.3824|
|13||7||Christian Bogle||Carlin||-2 LAPS|