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A quintet of drivers turned their first laps in an Indy Lights car on Saturday – we talked to them about their experiences

By Steve Wittich

A quintet of familiar Mazda Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires pilots got their very first taste of an Indy Lights race car on Saturday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Oliver Askew, Lucas Kohl, David Malukas, Robert Megennis, and Parker Thompson all turned their first laps in the 450 HP turbocharged Mazda powered Dallara machines on the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course during the eighth-annual Chris Griffis Memorial Test.

Thompson, along with Askew won their tests by finishing in the top three of the 2018 Pro Mazda Presented By Cooper Tire championship. Rinus VeeKay also won a test, but since he tested an Indy Lights car last year, he won’t be included in this story.

We had a chance to talk to four of those drivers after they got out of their respective rides on Saturday evening and one thing was obvious, they all had ear to ear grins.

Askew, the 2017 USF2000 champion was the quickest of the newbies (and second fastest overall on Saturday) in the car that Patricio O’Ward drove to the Indy Lights championship this year. Askew and the No. 27 from the Andretti Autosport stable turned a lap at 75.0060 seconds, just over a hundredth of a second slower than his experienced teammate Ryan Norman.

Askew told us:

“Initial thoughts right away. Oh my gosh, this turbo has so much power!!

“The longer wheelbase makes the driving style quite a bit different compared to the Tatuus, especially around here. That took a couple of laps to get used to. We led most of the first session on used tires. We ended up quickest, unofficially with my in-lap. Second overall today, can’t be disappointed in that. Big thanks to the crew at Andretti Autosport. It’s an experience that I’ll always remember.”

Oliver Askew after his first day behind the wheel of an Indy Lights car with Andretti Autosport (Photo courtesy of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography)

The Mazda/Dallara is the first turbocharged race car that the 21-year-old with an MRTI podium percentage of 53.5% has driven, and that sensation was something he took particular note of, saying:

“Until you have an understanding of when it comes in. By muscles memory, feeling and the harmonics of the car then you kind of predict it coming in and be smoother on the throttle. I’ve never really experienced that kind of power before.”

The second quickest time from the newcomers during Saturday’s three sessions was turned in by Robert Megennis. The New Yorker, who finished fifth in this year’s Pro Mazda championship was on cloud nine all day, and told us:

“It’s so much fun! It’s such a fun car to drive. You really have to manhandle it because it’s a bigger car. You’re going a lot faster; you’ve got more horsepower, you’ve got the turbo. It’s overall really fun to drive. I haven’t had this much fun testing a race car before. I just love all of it.”

Robert Megennis behind the wheel of the No. 98 Mazda/Dallara (Photo courtesy of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography)

Team Pelfrey is making their first appearance in Indy Lights since the Freedom 100 in May and has Parker Thompson at the wheel. Thompson, who has ten Mazda Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires wins finished second in the Pro Mazda championship with Exclusive Autosport last year.

After the final session on Saturday, the Canadian told us:

“Pretty Cool! At the end of the day, I never thought I’d see P. Thompson on the side of an Indy Lights car, so you have to smile on a day like today. I’ve had a ton of fun, learned a lot. Early we mixed it up with the top five right off the bat. Had a ton of confidence. Then we got humbled a little bit towards the end of the day. Obviously, I have a lot to learn. How to drive this Indy Lights car. It definitely takes a different style that I’m not familiar with after driving the Pro Mazda. These Pelfrey guys are outstanding though, and we’ll do our homework tonight, and we’ll be better for tomorrow.”

P. Thompson on the side of an Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires car (Photo courtesy of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography)

Lucas Kohl, who has spent the last three seasons at the wheel of a Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda machine was one of three drivers that turned laps for Belardi Auto Racing on Saturday. The leap from USF2000 to Indy Lights is a big one, but the Brazilain certainly didn’t look out of place and after the three test sessions told us:

“It’s very different from anything I’ve ever done before. A lot more power, a lot more everything. Honestly, I’m still getting used to it. The Belardi team is helping me a lot. We’re getting up to speed, and we’re improving the car. We did some changes, and it got better. Now I have to get my driving better, and it should be better tomorrow.”

Lucas Kohl getting his first taste of Indy Lights with Belardi Auto Racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Photo courtesy of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography)

David Malukas, a three-time winner in Pro Mazda in 2018, was also at the wheel of a Belardi Auto Racing machine but was only able to complete 31 laps after an incident in the second session on Saturday.

The Chicago, Ill. pilot made contact with the barriers at the exit of Turn 6, suffering a decent amount of damage on the left-hand side of the car.

The Chicago, Ill. driver was checked, released and cleared by the medical crew at IMS. Malukas told us that he bottomed out on the curb at the exit of the quick left-right chicane and when the tires made contact with the pavement again the wheel had turned and shot him straight into the wall.

David Malukas during the Chris Griffis Memorial Test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2018 (Photo courtesy of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography)

Malukas didn’t run in the final session on Saturday but will be back behind the wheel again on Sunday.

Make sure to come back to this story after Sunday’s action when we’ll update it.

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TSO Ladder presented by Cooper Tires – MRTI – Chris Griffis Memorial Test – Saturday – Update #3 – Indy Lights session #1 and Andretti Autosport drivers

By Steve Wittich

Four drivers representing four teams topped the first Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires test of the Chris Griffis Memorial Test, and the top six drivers were all within one second of Victor Franzoni’s (Belardi Auto Racing) quick lap of 75.307 seconds.

Rinus VeeKay, the new Pro Mazda Presented By Cooper Tire champion had the second quickest time after moving into the “Soul Red” car that Franzoni occupied at Juncos Racing last year.

The remainder of the top five were: Oliver Askew (Andretti Autosport), Parker Thompson (Team Pelfrey) and Robert Megennis (Andretti Autosport).

A total of 9 drivers representing four teams turned laps during the first of three Saturday sessions.

The entire session ran under green flag conditions with the nine drivers turning a total of 195 laps.

Andretti Autosport and Askew, Megennis and Ryan Norman

Andretti Autosport drivers won 14 of the 17 Indy Lights races during the 2018 season, and with Patricio O’Ward, Colton Herta and Norman finished in first, second and fourth in the championship. The team also started on pole in 14 of 17 races and stood on 32 of 51 possible steps of the podium.

J.F. Thorman told TSO Ladder this morning that the goal is to run four Indy Lights cars next year. The Andretti Autosport President said to us that if not for European racing schedules (see note on that later) they would have a few European drivers testing this weekend.

Norman, who finished fourth in this year’s competitive Indy Lights championship has one win, one pole, four podiums, and 14 top-five finishes in 34 Indy Lights starts. Unfortunately, the 20-year-old was not able to turn any laps in that session due to a mechanical issue with the No. 48.

Askew, the 2017 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda champion is testing the No. 27 that Patricio O’Ward drove to the Indy Lights championship. Over the course of the last seven races of the season, the Jupiter, Fla. native moved from sixth in points to third, with one win, four podiums and a worst finish of sixth.

Oliver Askew is getting his first taste of Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires machinery (Photo by Steve Wittich)

Megennis, who finished fifth in the 2018 Pro Mazda Presented By Cooper Tire championship, with six podiums, is driving the No. 98 for the Indianapolis, Ind. based team. The New Yorker was grinning from ear-to-ear before and after he got out of the car.

Saturday – Indy Lights – Chris Griffis Memorial Test session #1 results

RANK CAR NO. DRIVER TEAM QUICK LAP DIFFERENCE TOTAL LAPS
1 6 Victor Franzoni Belardi Auto Racing 1:15.307 –.—- 23
2 21 Rinus VeeKay Juncos Racing 1:15.534 0.2274 24
3 27 Oliver Askew Andretti Autosport 1:16.051 0.7439 24
4 2 Parker Thompson Team Pelfrey 1:16.150 0.8434 26
5 98 Robert Megennis Andretti Autosport 1:16.240 0.9326 24
6 5 David Malukas Belardi Auto Racing 1:16.266 0.9593 23
7 4 Lucas Kohl Belardi Auto Racing 1:16.553 1.2456 24
8 7 Heamin Choi Juncos Racing 1:17.664 2.3569 25
9 48 Ryan Norman Andretti Autosport 4:52.404 3:37.0968 2

Indy Lights is back on track at 2:15 PM and 5:15 PM for 45-minute sessions.

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Carlin closing in on a return to Indy Lights

By Steve Wittich

In 2018, Indy Lights Championship winning team Carlin, took a hiatus from the top level of the American Open Wheel Ladder to focus on their freshman Verizon IndyCar Series program.

TSO Ladder had a chance to catch up with Trevor Carlin today, and he confirmed that the Delray Beach, Fla. based team is getting close to rejoining the Indy Lights grid with a two-car team for the upcoming 2019 season.

The familiar blue livery of Carlin is close to making their return to the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires series. (Photo courtesy of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography)

When Carlin moved to the United States four years ago to compete in Indy Lights, they made an immediate splash, winning the first three races of the IL-15 era in 2015.

The team’s drivers collected a dozen wins in their three seasons of Indy Lights competition and in 2016 they won the team championship and driver’s championship with Ed Jones.

The Carlin gang celebrate the 2016 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires championship (Photo courtesy of INDYCAR)

In Europe, Carlin competes in the Euroformula Open Championship, the BRDC British Formula 3 Championship, the FIA European Formula 3 Championship, and FIA Formula 2 Championship.

The team is currently leading the FIA F2 team championship, and Formula 1 bound Lando Norris with fellow Brit George Russel for the driver’s title.

Ten of the drivers in this weekends INDYCAR Grand Prix Of Sonoma have piloted a junior open-wheel machine for Carlin. That list includes Max Chilton, Jack Harvey, Colton Herta, Ed Jones, Charlie Kimball, Jordan King, Matheus Leist, Josef Newgarden, Will Power, and Takuma Sato.

The Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires series will be back on track on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course next weekend (September 22 & 23, 2018) for the Chris Griffis Memorial Test. TSO Ladder expects Andretti Autosport, Belardi Auto Racing, Juncos Racing and Team Pelfrey to all have entries.

 

MRTI at Portland International Raceway – Sunday – Patricio O’Ward caps off Indy Lights season style with ninth win, Portland sweep

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

P No Name Laps Diff
1 27 Patricio O’Ward 35
2 9 Aaron Telitz 35 7.7855
3 5 Santi Urrutia 35 13.2693
4 98 Colton Herta 35 13.7012
5 23 Victor Franzoni 35 14.1265
6 7 Heamin Choi 33 1 LAPS
7 28 Dalton Kellett 32 3 LAPS
8 48 Ryan Norman 1 Contact
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MRTI at Portland International Raceway – Saturday – Patricio O’Ward claims the Indy Lights title with dramatic win in Portland Race 1

Mexican driver Patricio O’Ward has claimed the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires championship and the $1 million Mazda Motorsports advancement scholarship that comes with it to move into the Verizon IndyCar Series in 2019.

O’Ward won his eighth race of the season in dramatic fashion at Portland International Raceway, following a culmination of his season-long title battle with Andretti Autosport teammate Colton Herta.

The pair started on the front row with O’Ward up front in his No. 27 Dallara IL-15 Mazda, and Herta second in the No. 98 Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing entry.

O’Ward made it back out for this race following great repairs from the Andretti team. He’d had an incident in qualifying for race two, earlier Saturday morning.

Seven of the eight cars rolled from pit lane for the two warm-up laps, with ambient temperatures of 71 degrees and track temperatures of 107 degrees. Heamin Choi, the eighth car, took the start from pit lane.

The field of seven moved out of the final turn and took the green flag. O’Ward got the jump from pole, Telitz locked up trying for second and Herta swept around the outside. Urrutia went through the runoff at Festival Curves after missing the corner.

O’Ward led Herta by 0.4019 of a second after the first lap with Franzoni up to third, then Urrutia, Telitz, Norman and Kellett. Choi started but was already more than 23 seconds behind on the first lap.

Herta locked up on the inside on Lap 4 on O’Ward and tried to go down the inside, but O’Ward defended enough to withstand the challenge.

He tried again on Lap 5, and this time made it past on the inside under braking into the Festival Curves to take the lead.

The Lap 5 order saw Herta clear of O’Ward by 0.8752 of a second, then Franzoni, Urrutia, Telitz, Norman, Kellett and Choi still in the same positions. Herta used more of his Push-to-Pass to get through to the lead.

Choi pitted on Lap 7 when ahead of the two leaders, to serve a drive-through as the field went past.

Norman closed on Telitz and attempted to pass him going into the Turn 10 chicane, but the Gateway winner was unable to get past.

Herta extended the lead to more than a second by the end of Lap 8 to 1.0995 seconds.

Norman tried again on Lap 10 to the outside heading into the Festival Curves.

O’Ward (27) takes title over Herta (98). (Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography)

O’Ward closed back on Herta to within 0.4633 of a second by Lap 11. He was nearly on Herta’s gearbox at the end of Lap 12.

Ultimately the most dramatic moment of the race – and the championship battle – came a lap later on Lap 13.

O’Ward went down Herta’s inside on Lap 13, and Herta bounded over the curbs once O’Ward was past! O’Ward hit the inside apex curbs at Turn 1 but regained track position, while Herta lost time to be able to do come back on the racing line. There appeared to be very light contact between O’Ward’s left rear tire and Herta’s right sidepod. As Herta re-entered the course, Franzoni closed right down to Herta’s gearbox.

Andretti Autosport’s Rob Edwards told the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network’s Rob Howden that O’Ward and Herta were “close” to exceeding the limits of what they could do as teammates.

“They were told to make sure to look after their teammate… that was close to the line!” Edwards said. “They’ve raced close all year. No team orders. Race hard… but look after each other as well.

“We’ve said it all year. The Lights field hasn’t been great in quantity but it has been in quality. Pato and Colton have done a great job all year. Santi has been a great benchmark for us all year too in his third year. It’s super competitive.”

At halfway, Lap 18 of 35, the order was O’Ward by 2.4577 seconds over Herta, then Franzoni, Urrutia, Telitz, Norman, Kellett and Choi.

The gap stabilized at 2.3 seconds between the two Andretti teammates with 15 laps to go.

With 10 to go, O’Ward still had a 2.2 second lead on Herta. Franzoni and Urrutia were next with Telitz still working to hold off Norman.

Alas by Lap 29, Norman had pressured Telitz enough to get past into Turn 1, having used his last Push-to-Pass to do so. Telitz still had two pushes remaining to use for the final five laps.

O’Ward kept Herta at bay with five to go, still outside that 1.5-second window where Push-to-Pass can be utilized. The gap was just over 1.9 seconds between the two teammates.

The gap remained between 1.8 and 1.9 seconds into the final few laps.

O’Ward took the white flag at the end of Lap 34 holding the gap to Herta by 1.7924 seconds.

He took the final corner, headed for the checkered flag and grabbed the win and the championship. The final margin of victory was 1.6867 seconds.

The Mexican driver becomes Andretti Autosport’s first Indy Lights champion since JR Hildebrand in 2009.

O’Ward was ecstatic, Herta understandably disappointed, following the checkered flag in their immediate interviews with IndyCar Radio.

“I am speechless man. It’s been such a hard fought year. What a great battle with Colton. He’s been so quick. Andretti has given us awesome cars. Mazda and Cooper Tires have treated us so well,” O’Ward told Rob Howden.

“I’m so proud of this team – mechanics, engineers, Andretti tent. It’s been amazing. I’m ready to go up to IndyCar man. I’m excited. I can’t wait to jump in one of these bad boys. It’s been a dream year.”

About the pass on Herta, O’Ward said, “I wanted to win this race. Colton did late one on me, so I returned the favor.”

Herta was less than thrilled telling Dan Rusanowsky, “Yeah I passed him nice and clean and I thought I’d receive the same respect back. But obviously not. He smacked me right off the track. I hope it was a mistake. I hope it wasn’t on purpose, because it’d make me really mad if it was.”

Tomorrow’s second race has nothing to play for but will still be fun to watch.

TSO Ladder presented by Cooper Tires will have more to come following O’Ward’s title clinch.

Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires – Race #1 Unofficial Results

P No Name Laps Diff
1 27 Patricio O’Ward 35
2 98 Colton Herta 35 1.6867
3 23 Victor Franzoni 35 12.0945
4 5 Santi Urrutia 35 14.9667
5 48 Ryan Norman 35 17.1972
6 9 Aaron Telitz 35 24.9107
7 28 Dalton Kellett 35 25.4577
8 7 Heamin Choi 30 5 LAPS
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MRTI at Portland International Raceway – Saturday – Norman’s maiden pole, O’Ward incident cap off chaotic Indy Lights qualifying

Andretti Autosport once again had two drivers make headlines during the second Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires qualifying session at Portland International Raceway.

However while for most of the year it’s been Patricio O’Ward and Colton Herta, this morning it was O’Ward and Ryan Norman, for completely different reasons.

Norman scored his maiden pole in Indy Lights competition. But an off by O’Ward at Turn 4 leaves his Andretti crew facing a scramble drill to repair his damaged car before today’s first race of the weekend.

Qualifying for race two took place under cloudy skies just after 9:50 a.m. on Saturday morning.

For O’Ward, the opportunity to extend his record of pole positions in a season to 10 was there for the taking. But the chance came unglued shortly into the 30-minute session.

Six of the eight cars went out immediately after the green flag, with Juncos Racing’s pair of Victor Franzoni and Heamin Choi out next. Choi was back out for the first time since his incident in practice on Friday, after only completing three laps.

Early times were in the 1:07 range as the field of eight drivers warmed their Cooper Tires up to temperatures.

Belardi Auto Racing’s Aaron Telitz posted a 1:05.525 before his former Pro Mazda teammate O’Ward eclipsed that at 1:04.553.

There was a red flag with 22 minutes remaining, for O’Ward going wide, off course into the tires in Turn 4.

Per the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network, the No. 27 Dallara IL-15 Mazda car was “not OK” while O’Ward was reported to get out of his car. Here is a photo of the car via @RoadToIndyTV.

Meanwhile the Andretti Autosport team was also checking the gearbox line of O’Ward’s teammate Norman’s car, as the engine cover was off the back of his car.

The No. 27 car was taken back to the paddock with left front suspension and nose damage. With less than four hours until the race start at 2:05 p.m. PT, the Andretti Autosport team faces a last-minute thrash to ensure O’Ward can make the start.

The session resumed with 10 and a half minutes remaining, and with O’Ward now sidelined and dropped down the order, the provisional grid was Colton Herta (1:04.963), Santi Urrutia, Victor Franzoni, Aaron Telitz, Ryan Norman, Patricio O’Ward, Dalton Kellett and Heamin Choi.

With limited time remaining, most teams bolted on a fresh set of sticker Coopers for the final run to the checkered flag.

Telitz improved to 1:04.786 to take the provisional pole with just over four minutes remaining.

Another red flag flew with just under four minutes remaining. Franzoni went off at Turn 11 and the AMR INDYCAR Safety Team quickly came to retrieve it. Franzoni got back going, out of the grass and into pit lane.

This was a quick red flag and with just over two minutes remaining everyone scrambled to get back out, with Herta, Norman, Kellett and Urrutia all in close quarters as Urrutia tried to pass the remaining three Andretti drivers. Telitz and Franzoni were out next and Choi, who was 19.5 seconds off pace, remained in the pits.

Telitz had 0.1765 of a second over Herta with Urrutia, Franzoni and Norman the provisional top five before the final laps.

However Norman went to the top at 1:04.5968 after the green flag to snatch the provisional pole.

He improved to 1:04.0687, a full half second quicker. Urrutia and Telitz both came close but were unable to topple the Gateway winner. Telitz missed by only 0.0079 of a second, at 1:04.0766.

For Norman this is his first pole ahead of his 32nd (Saturday) and 33rd (Sunday) races in Indy Lights. His best grid position had been second twice, most recently at Gateway Motorsports Park where he won last week.

“We weren’t so strong in Qualifying 1. But we slept on it and hit the marks,” Norman told IndyCar Radio. “I have to thank this team so much for what they’re doing for me. After Gateway, now I’m focused on race wins. At the same time I want to stay consistent.”

Telitz is second with Urrutia third and Herta only fourth, ahead of Franzoni, Kellett, O’Ward and Choi.

The first race of the weekend goes green later today at 2:05 p.m., with the main focus now on how the No. 27 car repairs go for O’Ward.

Indy Lights Qualifying #2 – Unofficial Results

P No Name FTime Diff Laps
1 48 Ryan Norman 1:04.069 –.—- 15
2 9 Aaron Telitz 1:04.077 0.0079 15
3 5 Santi Urrutia 1:04.189 0.1205 15
4 98 Colton Herta 1:04.798 0.7293 15
5 23 Victor Franzoni 1:05.184 1.1153 14
6 28 Dalton Kellett 1:05.225 1.1568 15
7 27 Patricio O’Ward 1:06.250 2.1816 5
8 7 Heamin Choi 1:24.302 20.2338 7
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MRTI at Portland International Raceway – Friday – Qualifying 1 – O’Ward scores record Indy Lights pole, VeeKay captures Pro Mazda pole

O’Ward secures record ninth pole of Indy Lights season

Pole man Patricio O’Ward. (Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography)

He’s new to the Portland International Raceway circuit, but is not new to pole position. That was the story for Patricio O’Ward in qualifying for the first of two Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires races at the track.

O’Ward is in search of the Mazda Motorsports advancement scholarship to win the top rung of the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires ladder. He’ll start from the best possible place to do so on Saturday with a record ninth pole position this year.

The four Andretti Autosport and two Belardi Auto Racing cars led the field out of the pits for the 30-minute qualifying session. Juncos Racing’s Victor Franzoni followed about half a minute later. Heamin Choi’s second car remained on pit lane at the start of the session, as the Juncos team had to repair it following his incident in the morning practice session.

After Patricio O’Ward’s 1:03.933 lap in the morning practice, it remained to be seen whether anyone could go faster in the heat of the day for qualifying. That question didn’t take long to get answered.

O’Ward and Colton Herta were both into the 1:03.8 range to start off the session. O’Ward then improved to a 1:03.1868 lap, which was significantly quicker.

Herta got down to a 1:03.3508 lap before a red flag flew with just under 20 minutes remaining, for Dalton Kellett off course at Turn 4.

The green flag flew shortly thereafter with O’Ward, Herta and Franzoni going back on track. Kellett returned to the track next ahead of Aaron Telitz and Ryan Norman. Santi Urrutia completed the runners on track with less than 12 minutes remaining.

Kellett had another off in Turn 11 later in the session into the tires, and pulled off course at that corner. Norman had an off-and-on at the same corner, but resumed.

O’Ward made it into the 1:02 bracket at 1:02.8074, a full half second clear of Herta.

Telitz moved into second at 1:03.3171 with Herta third with one minute to go. But Herta got him back at 1:03.1808, 0.3734 off the pole.

Ultimately, the pole time eclipsed Townsend Bell’s previous qualifying record of 1:04.991, set in 2001, by more than 2.1 seconds.

O’Ward told the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network’s Rob Howden on pit lane: “I didn’t know the track coming into the weekend. I knew I just had to get it together. I didn’t expect it by four tenths! Survive Turn 1 and we’ll have a chance to win. I did really well in Turns 4, 5 and 6. The lasts sector of the track is so fast and keeps you on your toes. It’s so narrow. There’s no room for error. I didn’t think I would like this place, but man I really do like it.

This pole is O’Ward’s ninth this year, which is a new single-season record. It broke a tie he had with Bryan Herta (1993), Townsend Bell (2001) and Thiago Medeiros (2004).

Qualifying two is Saturday at 9:50 a.m. The first race, where O’Ward can clinch the title, goes green at 2:05 p.m.

Indy Lights Qualifying #1 – Unofficial Results

P No Name FTime Diff Laps
1 27 Patricio O’Ward 1:02.807 –.—- 23
2 98 Colton Herta 1:03.181 0.3734 21
3 9 Aaron Telitz 1:03.317 0.5097 21
4 23 Victor Franzoni 1:03.452 0.6449 21
5 5 Santi Urrutia 1:03.593 0.7859 19
6 48 Ryan Norman 1:03.611 0.8034 21
7 28 Dalton Kellett 1:04.687 1.8800 14
8 7 Heamin Choi No Time

VeeKay grabs Pro Mazda pole for Race 1

Rinus VeeKay. (Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography)

Rinus VeeKay’s coronation as champion of this year’s Pro Mazda presented by Cooper Tires series is off to a good start at Portland International Raceway.

The Dutch teenager scored the pole position for Saturday’s first race of the weekend, ahead of his two sparring partners in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda from last year.

VeeKay took his No. 2 Juncos Racing Tatuus PM-18 Mazda to a best time of 1:06.3317 around the 1.964-mile, 12-turn road course. The new car is a full two-plus seconds quicker than the previous qualifying record, set by Pablo Donoso in 2005, at 1:08.466.

VeeKay moved into the top spot with just under eight minutes remaining at 1:06.3475, then improved by a little over one hundredth before the checkered flag flew to end the 20-minute session.

While VeeKay will look for his sixth consecutive victory this season, last year’s USF2000 champion Oliver Askew is poised to return the “Soul Red” Mazda colors of Cape Motorsports to victory lane for the first time this season in Pro Mazda.

Askew will start alongside with a best time of 1:06.4202 in his No. 3 car. Askew seeks third place in the championship, and locked in a battle with Robert Megennis and David Malukas for that position.

Parker Thompson came up just 0.0008 of a second off a front row starting position, but the Exclusive Autosport driver may have the benefit of the clean line on the run down to Turn 1 from third place.

Malukas is fourth, ahead of Sting Ray Robb in fifth. Each of these three drivers are their lone representative from their respective teams (Exclusive, BN Racing and Team Pelfrey) this weekend, as all of their teammates have dropped off at some stage this season.

Megennis will look to continue his recent run of form, with four consecutive podium finishes, from sixth on the grid.

DEForce Racing’s Moises de la Vara will start seventh ahead of Cape’s Nikita Lastochkin. De la Vara was late out to the track and his car sounded off song, but he still managed to complete 10 laps.

The first race of the weekend for Pro Mazda goes green at 4:50 p.m. Saturday afternoon. Before they race, they’ll have their second qualifying session of the weekend on Saturday morning at 10:35 a.m.

Pro Mazda Qualifying #1 – Unofficial Results

P No Name FTime Diff Laps
1 2 Rinus VeeKay 1:06.332 –.—- 14
2 3 Oliver Askew 1:06.420 0.0885 15
3 90 Parker Thompson 1:06.421 0.0893 14
4 79 David Malukas 1:06.536 0.2044 15
5 82 Sting Ray Robb 1:06.735 0.4031 15
6 9 Robert Megennis 1:06.843 0.5111 15
7 12 Moises de la Vara 1:07.859 1.5276 10
8 8 Nikita Lastochkin 1:08.130 1.7986 13
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MRTI at Portland International Raceway – Friday – Pro Mazda (VeeKay clinches title) and Indy Lights (O’Ward leads) practices

Pro Mazda Practice Session #1 – Rinus VeeKay leads the way and clinches the Pro Mazda Presented By Cooper Tire Championship.

The first open-wheel series on the 1.964-mile, 12-turn Portland International Raceway natural terrain course were the Mazda powered Tatuus PM-18 of the Pro Mazda series.

The 25-minute practice session was the fourth and most crucial practice session that Rinus VeeKay has led during the 2018 season.

By taking the green flag on the first official practice session of the race weekend, the Juncos Racing rookie goes from the presumptive Pro Mazda Champion to the official winner of an almost $800,000 Mazda Motorsports Advancement Scholarship.

VeeKay’s lap of 1:06.543 is well below the track record of 1:08.466 set by Pablo Donoso in 2005.

The three drivers that are in contention for third place (a $20,000 prize and Indy Lights test), David Malukas, Oliver Askew, and Robert Megennis were the second, third and fourth quickest drivers, all within 2/10ths of VeeKay.

The top six drivers were all within 4/10ths.

The entire session was run under green conditions, and the eight drivers turned a total of 143 laps.

Portland International Raceway – Pro Mazda Practice Session #1 results

RANK CAR NO. DRIVER FASTEST LAP GAP TOTAL LAPS
1 2 Rinus VeeKay 1:06.543 –.—- 20
2 79 David Malukas 1:06.700 0.1567 17
3 3 Oliver Askew 1:06.714 0.1713 19
4 9 Robert Megennis 1:06.799 0.2563 15
5 90 Parker Thompson 1:06.893 0.3504 19
6 82 Sting Ray Robb 1:06.941 0.3981 20
7 8 Nikita Lastochkin 1:07.440 0.8975 18
8 12 Moises de la Vara 1:08.327 1.7840 15

The Pro Mazda Presented By Cooper Tire series is back on track for qualifying at 1:15 PM.

Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires practice session #1 – O’Ward pips Herta in a tight practice session.

Indy Lights points leader Patricio O’Ward spent much of the first and only practice session of the weekend behind fellow championship rival and teammate Colton Herta on the timing screens.

However, a last-second lap 1:03.933 seconds moved the Mexican driver to the point, only 0.086 seconds ahead of Herta.

O’Ward’s quickest lap is full second under the track record set by Townsend Bell in 2001.

It’s the fourth practice session that the 19-year-old has led this season.

The eight Indy Lights entries followed the Pro Mazda cars on the track, and when their practice session began it was 74F, and there was just the slightest mist in the air.

The 40-minute session was only green for nine minutes before the red flag came out for the first and only time.

Series returnee Heamin Choi was the cause of the red flag when his No.7 Juncos Racing Mazda/Dallara came to a stop in the bypass of the Festival Curves with left front suspension damage. The car of the South Korean turned left into the concrete wall under braking for Turn 1. Choi was only able to complete three laps.

At the half-way point of the session, Colton Herta had the quickest lap, followed by the championship leader Patricio O’Ward, Victor Franzoni, Ryan Norman, Santi Urrutia, Aaron Telitz, Dalton Kellett and Heamin Choi.

The top five drivers all set their quickest laps of the session on their final laps.

Portland International Raceway – Pro Mazda Practice Session #1 results

RANK CAR NO. NAME QUICK LAP DIFFERENCE TOTAL LAPS
1 27 Patricio O’Ward 1:03.933 –.—- 25
2 98 Colton Herta 1:04.019 0.0859 22
3 9 Aaron Telitz 1:04.235 0.3012 24
4 23 Victor Franzoni 1:04.263 0.3295 24
5 48 Ryan Norman 1:04.445 0.5111 23
6 5 Santi Urrutia 1:04.692 0.7591 24
7 28 Dalton Kellett 1:05.185 1.2512 27
8 7 Heamin Choi 1:28.168 24.2347 3

The Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires drivers are back on track at 1:50 PM for their first qualifying session of the weekend.

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MRTI at Gateway Motorsports Park – Saturday – Ryan Norman scores exciting first Indy Lights win

From a competitive motocross rider to an Indy Lights race winner in only five years. Ryan Norman’s path to four-wheeled motorsports has not been conventional but has still been impressive.

Only three seasons ago the 20-year-old from Aurora, Ohio was competing in SCCA Formula Enterprise competition.

Norman’s first win came at the expense of his teammate Colton Herta who led the first 69 laps of the 75 lap race before settling for second place.

Herta did finish ahead of fellow Andretti Autosport rookie Patricio O’Ward, cutting the Mexican drivers lead to 25 points and pushing the championship to Portland International Raceway in one weeks time.

The Andretti Autosport front row of Herta and Norman brought the field to the green flag after a pair of pace laps.

Herta and Norman quickly fell into line, but behind them, they went three wide.

Urrutia, who started in seventh was the big mover when the green flag came out, using the outside line to move up to third.

Championship leader O’Ward was cautious at the start, falling back to fifth.

The running order at the end of the first lap was: Herta, Norman, Santi Urrutia, Aaron Telitz, Patricio O’Ward, Victor Franzoni and Dalton Kellett.

It didn’t take long for O’Ward to start to move forward, getting around Telitz on Lap 3 and setting after the No. 5 Belardi Auto Racing machine of Urrutia.

On Lap 7, O’Ward peeked to the outside of Urrutia going down the front straight before diving inside in Turn 1. He was forced to back out of the move and regroup.

The next lap, O’Ward made a brave move around the outside of the Uruguayan in Turn 1 and Turn 2, completing the pass on the run to Turn 3.

That battle allowed Telitz to get back up under the rear wing of his teammate. Urrutia got high and loose in Turn 1 but was able to keep control after getting sideways and hold his teammate behind him.

The lead for Herta over Norman when Lap 10 of 75 began was 0.9861 seconds. Another 2.88 seconds afield of Norman was teammate Norman. Urrutia, Telitz, Franzoni, and Kellett rounded out the running order.

On lap 30, Herta’s lead had dropped to 0.5 seconds. The pair of leaders had pulled almost five seconds ahead of O’Ward.

At the crossed flags, Herta’s lead was only 0.2980 seconds and over the second half of the race that lead was never more than 0.6 seconds.

Further back Belardi Auto Racing teammates Urrutia and Telitz waged a back and forth battle 10-lap battle for fourth with the spot officially changing hands five times between Lap 46 and Lap 53.

With 20 laps to go, Norman was still in the tire tracks of Herta only 0.3491 seconds back.

Behind them, the Belardi Auto Racing teammates were still battling for position.

With 15 laps remaining, Norman started trying different lines in Turn 1 to see if he could get a run on his second generation teammate.

After the race, Norman mentioned that because they had 10 seconds over O’Ward, he felt comfortable trying different lines, knowing that he’d be able to hang on to the spot if he made a mistake.

On Lap 62 Herta turned his quickest lap of the race, but couldn’t shake Norman.

With ten laps left the leading duo caught teammate Kellett, who graciously pulled to the inside to let them continue the battle.

On Lap 68 and 69, Norman made a high entry into Turn 1 going to the outside of Herta but was unable to complete the pass.

On the next lap, Norman made the same move, tucking right in behind Herta before popping low late into Turn 3. The two drivers were close to making contact but raced cleanly. Norman pulled ahead to lead lap 70.

Two laps later, Herta went to the inside of his teammate. Once again, the two were close but didn’t make contact. Herta took one more look underneath Norman after taking the white flag, but Norman’s car was better in Turn 1.

Mazda St. Louis Indy Lights Oval Challenge Presented by Cooper Tires race results

RANK CAR NO DRIVER TEAM DIFFERENCE
1 48 Ryan Norman Andretti Autosport 75 LAPS
2 98 Colton Herta Andretti Steinbrenner Racing 0.2055
3 27 Patricio O’Ward Andretti Autosport 14.4474
4 5 Santi Urrutia Belardi Auto Racing 18.1805
5 9 Aaron Telitz Belardi Auto Racing 18.4407
6 23 Victor Franzoni Juncos Racing 19.5890
7 28 Dalton Kellett Andretti Autosport -1 LAP

The Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires series championship fight heads to Portland International Raceway next weekend.

MRTI at Gateway Motorsports Park – Sunday – Herta grabs pole – Norman starts second – O’Ward has code brown moment

Colton Herta put together the only two-lap qualifying effort quicker than 140mph to grab a single bonus point and the upper hand in his attempt to stave off elimination from the chase for the $1 million Indy Lights Advancement scholarship.

The 75-lap race will be the third time that Herta will start on pole in 2018 and the tenth of his Indy Lights career, moving him into a tie with Townsend Bell for fourth on the career list.

Herta told TSO that he was relatively conservative on his qualifying run because he was concerned by what happened to Patricio O’Ward on his first of two qualifying laps.

O’Ward, who led the practice just before qualifying had a moment at the exit of Turn 2 on his first lap which resulted in a lap at 157.311 mph was the slowest of the fourteen qualifying laps. O’Ward almost made up for his mistake by turning the fastest of the fourteen qualifying laps at 159.988mph.

The two extreme laps equated to a two-lap average of 158.638mph. The points leader will start on the inside of the second row, directly behind Herta.

The qualifying session began immediately after the Pro Mazda session when the K-Line Insulators sponsored No. 28 of Dalton Kellett took to the 1.25-mile oval for the Canadian’s two-lap qualifying run. Kellet’s two-lap average of 158.277 mph means he will start on the inside of row three.

For the third straight Indy Lights oval race, Ryan Norman will start inside of the first two rows. His second place starting spot matches the best of his Indy Lights career for the Andretti Autosport sophomore.

Only a stout qualifying effort by Aaron Telitz prevented an Andretti Autosport lockout of the two front rows by slotting between O’Ward and Kellet.

The seven cars two-lap qualifying averages were separated by a scant 1mph.

The single point for winning the pole moves Herta to within 31 points of O’Ward.

Mazda St. Louis Indy Lights Oval Challenge Presented by Cooper Tires qualifying results

RANK CAR NO. DRIVER TEAM QUAL AVERAGE (MPH) LAP 1 (MPH) LAP 2 (MPH)
1 98 Colton Herta Andretti Steinbrenner Racing 159.075 158.664 159.489
2 48 Ryan Norman Andretti Autosport 158.904 158.654 159.155
3 27 Patricio O’Ward Andretti Autosport 158.638 157.311 159.988
4 9 Aaron Telitz Belardi Auto Racing 158.412 158.287 158.538
5 28 Dalton Kellett Dalton Kellett 158.277 158.550 158.006
6 23 Victor Franzoni Juncos Racing 158.184 158.126 158.242
7 5 Santi Urrutia Belardi Auto Racing 158.102 157.990 158.215

The 75-lap race rolls off at 4:45 pm.

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