Archives for Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires

Frost Heats Up Barber by Leading Lights Practice

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (Friday, April 29, 2022) – Danial Frost started the Indy Lights Grand Prix of Alabama race weekend hot by pacing Friday’s sole Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires practice session.

Frost turned a best lap of 1 minute, 12.6511 seconds in the No. 68 HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing car around Barber Motorsports Park after being the first driver to dip below the 1:13 mark.

SEE: Practice Results

Frost, from Singapore, showed his strength throughout practice, besting his top lap of the session multiple times in the 45-minute practice around the 17-turn, 2.3-mile road course.

“We’re just kind of getting in the rhythm of things and starting off the weekend pretty well,” Frost said. “It’s always about momentum, so we’ve got a good start. I think it’s going to be pretty good for the rest of the weekend right now.”

Last year’s Indy Pro 2000 champion Christian Rasmussen was second fastest in the No. 28 Road to Indy/Stellrecht car at 1:12.6684, with 2021 Barber-1 winner Linus Lundqvist third at 1:12.8248 in the No. 26 HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing car and Benjamin Pedersen fourth at 1:12.8544 in the No. 24 Global Racing Group with HMD car.

Hunter McElrea rounded out the top five at 1:13.0577 in the No. 27 Andretti Autosport car.

So far this weekend in Birmingham, Alabama, the Indy Lights field appears to be incredibly close on the time sheet. The top 10 drivers are separated by less than a second, as Jacob Abel produced the 10th-best time at 1:13.4244 in the No. 51 Abel Speedwagon, just .7733 of a second behind Frost’s quick time.

“Now we have to keep digging in and looking for more time, because these guys are going to be doing the exact same thing,” Frost said. “Fourteen cars behind me looking for the same spot as I am. I have to do the actual work and now look for where I can find a little bit more.”

Abel was at the center of the most noteworthy incident to come out of practice. As time was running out in the session, he exited Turn 4 side-by-side with Kyffin Simpson in the No. 21 TJ Speed Motorsports car. Abel dipped his right-side tires off track and did a 360-degree spin, but he sustained no damage to the car and continued.

Indy Lights will be back in action Saturday for practice at noon (ET), followed by qualifying at 3:35 p.m. The INDYCAR Live! streaming platform and the INDYCAR Radio Network will provide live coverage of both sessions.

About Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires

Celebrating 35 years, Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires develops drivers and teams to compete in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES and the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge. Past champions include INDYCAR SERIES champions Tony Kanaan, Scott Dixon, Josef Newgarden, Paul Tracy and Cristiano da Matta. In 2021, 20 drivers in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES were Indy Lights graduates, including rising stars and race winners Colton Herta, Pato O’Ward and Rinus VeeKay. The 2022 season consists of 14 races in the United States. The NTT INDYCAR SERIES, Indy Lights, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IMS Productions are owned by Penske Corporation, a global transportation, automotive and motorsports leader. For more information on Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, please visit For more information on INDYCAR and the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, please visit

About Cooper Tire

Cooper Tire, a subsidiary of The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company (NASDAQ: GT), specializes in the design, manufacture, marketing and sale of passenger car, light truck, medium truck, motorcycle and racing tires. Cooper is headquartered in Findlay, Ohio, with manufacturing, sales, distribution, technical and design operations located in more than one dozen countries around the world. For more information on Cooper, visit or

About Goodyear

Goodyear is one of the world’s largest tire companies. It employs about 72,000 people and manufactures its products in 55 facilities in 23 countries around the world. Its two Innovation Centers in Akron, Ohio, and Colmar-Berg, Luxembourg, strive to develop state-of-the-art products and services that set the technology and performance standard for the industry. For more information about Goodyear and its products, go to

Andersen Promotions Signs Three-Year Agreement with Green Savoree Racing Promotions

PALMETTO, Fla. (August 29, 2017) – All three levels of the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires – the world’s most effective open-wheel development ladder – will continue to enjoy competition at three high profile venues as Andersen Promotions and Green Savoree Racing Promotions today announced a new multi-year contract.

Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda will all be in action on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio, through 2020. All three events respectively known as the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Honda Indy Toronto and Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio will be highlighted by rounds of the Verizon IndyCar Series.

“Eight years ago the Mazda Road to Indy’s relationship with Green Savoree began with USF2000 at St. Petersburg, and over the years it has been a tremendous partnership,” said Dan Andersen, Owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions. “This renewal to have the entire Mazda Road to Indy at all three Green Savoree events through 2020 is the perfect foundation for what we believe to be the best calendar of road courses, street circuits and oval venues designed to train young drivers for careers in professional racing. Kim [Green] and Kevin [Savoree] have three of the premier events on the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule – a testament to their skills in organizing and promoting – and we are very pleased to be a part of their success.”

The waterfront street course at St. Petersburg, the cosmopolitan Toronto street circuit – the second longest-running street race – and picturesque Mid-Ohio Sports Car course have played host to the Mazda Road to Indy since the inception of the INDYCAR-sanctioned ladder system in 2010.

”The racing competition and the depth of driver talent showcased in the Mazda Road to Indy have been fantastic. Dan (Andersen) and his Andersen Promotions team have done a phenomenal job of building each step of the development ladder for open-wheel racing’s future stars,” said Kevin Savoree, president and chief operating officer of Green Savoree Racing Promotions. “We’re proud to have all three series return and be key features at all three of our INDYCAR venues for an additional three years.”

The Mazda Road to Indy provides opportunities for drivers from around the world to progress all the way from the grassroots to the pinnacle of the sport in North America. This year, over $3.5 million in Mazda Scholarships and awards are on offer to help drivers take the next steps in their careers, with the Indy Lights champion claiming a prize valued at $1 million to ensure entry into three Verizon IndyCar Series events in 2018, including the 102nd Indianapolis 500. All three levels will wrap up the 2017 season this weekend at Watkins Glen International.

Urrutia Wins a Thriller on Indy Lights Return to Gateway Motorsports Park 

Fourth-place Finish Means Kaiser Merely Needs to Start Practice at Finale
MADISON, Ill. – Santi Urrutia claimed a last-gasp victory in this evening’s Mazda St. Louis Indy Lights Oval Challenge Presented by Cooper Tires at the 1.25-mile Gateway Motorsports Park oval. The Uruguayan’s second win of the season for Belardi Auto Racing came after a tense battle with fellow South American Juan Piedrahita, who started from the pole position for Team Pelfrey but had to be content with a career-best second place finish.
Second-generation Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires racer Colton Herta finished third for Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing, narrowly ahead of fellow Californian Kyle Kaiser (Juncos Racing). The result means Kaiser merely needs to take the green flag for practice at next weekend’s season finale on the Watkins Glen International road circuit in upstate New York to put the coveted championship title beyond the reach of his rivals and secure a Mazda Scholarship valued at $1 million which will guarantee him entry into three Verizon IndyCar Series races in 2018, including the 102nd Indianapolis 500.
Indy Lights’ return to Gateway Motorsports Park following a 14-year absence proved to be a huge success as the large and appreciative crowd was treated to a thrilling 75-lap race.
Both Urrutia and Herta, who arrived at Gateway tied for second place in the championship, knew they needed to win the two remaining races to have any chance of beating Kaiser to the crown. In short, it was a long shot.
Urrutia, who lost out on the 2016 title in heartbreaking style at the season finale, did his level best to secure the additional championship point for pole position, only to be denied by series veteran Piedrahita – by a scant 0.006 of a second. Nevertheless, he knew his dream was still alive when he lined up on the front row of the grid.
The opening stages were marred by a succession of incidents. Aaron Telitz, last year’s winner of the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, was particularly unfortunate when his Soul Red Belardi Auto Racing Dallara-Mazda was collected by a couple of spinners on the very first lap.
When the race finally got under way, with Piedrahita narrowly maintaining his advantage, Kaiser laid clean his intentions by passing Urrutia for second place around the outside in Turn Two. He didn’t hold it for long as Urrutia repaid the favor on Lap 15 and immediately began to pressure Piedrahita for the lead.
Kaiser, meanwhile, soon slipped back into the clutches of a battling Nico Jamin (Andretti Autosport), Herta – who earned the Tilton Hard Charger Award, Kaiser’s teammate Nico Dapero and Matheus Leist (Carlin), who had won the two previous ovals raced this season and quickly fought his way up from a lowly 12th on the grid.
Urrutia finally found a chink in Piedrahita’s armor on Lap 42, when he sliced past on the exit of Turn Four, but by then he had already lost any chance of gaining one of the other bonus points – for leading most laps. A little later in the race, on Lap 61, Zachary Claman DeMelo (Carlin) put the final bonus point – for fastest race lap – beyond Urrutia’s reach when he turned a lap in 28.0370 seconds, an average speed of 160.502 mph.
Still, Urrutia had eked out a margin of almost 1.5 seconds with 15 laps remaining, so at least the race win seemed to be well within his grasp. Furthermore, by then Kaiser had been overtaken firstly by Jamin and then by Leist and DeMelo.
But then the complexion of the race changed again when Carlin teammates Neil Alberico and Garth Rickards, who were battling for the 11th position, tangled with the slower car of debutant Chad Boat (Belardi Auto Racing), who earned the Staubli Award.
Officials wisely displayed the red flag while the wreckage was cleared away, leaving enough time for what was expected to be a five-lap shootout to the checkered flag. Piedrahita promptly made an opportunistic move around the outside of Urrutia at the restart, only for the yellows to fly again following an incident involving the third and fourth-placed cars of Jamin and Leist.
The green flew again with just three laps remaining. Urrutia knew it was now or never. He and Piedrahita battled side by side for almost two full laps before Urrutia completed the pass and sped away to a brilliant victory. Herta emerged in third, while Kaiser, who narrowly escaped becoming embroiled in the drama, crossed the line in fourth to ensure that his own dream was almost accomplished.
Kaiser now holds an unassailable 31-point edge as the series heads to Watkins Glen next weekend, although he will still need to turn up and practice for the race in order to be assured of the championship spoils.
The Team Championship remains more finely poised, with Andretti Autosport holding a 11-point lead, 364-353, over Belardi Auto Racing. Last year’s champions Carlin now trail in third on 345 points.
Santi Urrutia (#5 Belardi Auto Racing w/SPM): “It was one of the best races of the year – competitive, clean and really exciting. It was good racing against Juan. He was quicker than me on the straight and I was better in Turns One and Two so when he made a small mistake in Turn One, I was able to get past. When the red came out, I was worried because I thought he would be able to pass me on the restart. When that happened, I knew it was my last chance and I had to try to get by. I’m happy – I did what I had to do today; the rest was out of our control. We had a difficult start to the season but the second half we have been really strong, and I hope races like this will help me be in IndyCar next year.”
Juan Piedrahita (#2 Petrosur-Team Pelfrey): “There were two perfect cars this weekend: my car and Santi’s car. It just happened that his car was perfect in Turns One and Two and my car was perfect in Turns Three and Four, so we could get a run on each other but not hold it. I gave it my all today. It feels awesome to be up front, but I’m heartbroken not to get the win for the team. But Santi did a great job. I kept hoping the race would end, because it was so difficult mentally. I didn’t know what he was going to do. I had a run on him, then he had a run on me – it was crazy. We both did a great job and I hope I can get the win at Watkins Glen.”
Colton Herta (#98 Deltro Energy Mazda-Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing): “It was discombobulating, between the yellows and the red flag, so it was a tough race, but I also think it was one of the best races of the year. We came into the red flag in seventh and made some good moves on the restart. I think if we had a few more laps we could have challenged for the win. The year has gone so quickly, and I’m happy with what we’ve done this year. I didn’t expect to be in the title chase our first year; we planned on a two-year program. So we’re ahead of the game.”
Pos Car # Driver Diff Laps Status
1 5 Santi Urrutia –.—- 75 Running
2 2 Juan Piedrahita 0.4518 75 Running
3 98 Colton Herta – R 0.9641 75 Running
4 18 Kyle Kaiser 2.5437 75 Running
5 31 Nicolas Dapero – R 3.0843 75 Running
6 13 Zachary Claman de Melo 3.1337 75 Running
7 28 Dalton Kellett 4.1024 75 Running
8 48 Ryan Norman – R 6.4154 75 Running
9 51 Shelby Blackstock 74 Running
10 26 Matheus Leist – R 73 Running
11 27 Nico Jamin – R 68 Running
12 22 Neil Alberico 61 Contact
13 11 Garth Rickards – R 61 Contact
14 84 Chad Boat – R 58 Contact
15 9 Aaron Telitz – R 1 Contact

Meet the Contenders: Matheus Leist

Meet the Contenders: Matheus Leist

Brazilian rookie Matheus Leist made his mark in his debut season of Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires. With two races remaining, the teenager is in mathematical reach of points leader Kyle Kaiser of Juncos Racing and still has an outside chance of winning the championship for the Carlin team.

To say that this has already been an epic year for Matheus Leist might be an understatement. The 19-year-old Brazilian came to the United States after winning the BRDC British Formula 3 title, joining 2016 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires champions Carlin. A year after he took that championship, he lies fourth in the 2017 title chase, 48 points back, with an outstanding rookie season that saw him earn victories on two ovals, including the prestigious Freedom 100 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Add to that a test in an Indy car, and this has been a season to remember as Leist inches closer to his dream: a ride in the Verizon IndyCar Series.

Leist might have been a new name in America at the start of the season but he was already well known to the Carlin team, having earned the British F3 title over Carlin driver Ricky Collard. With the team’s championship-winning driver, Ed Jones, graduating to the Verizon IndyCar Series, Trevor Carlin’s eponymous team searched for a new driver to bring to the U.S. and looked no further than the driver who had cost them the F3 championship. Leist knew he had a significant mountain to climb with learning a new team, a new car and an entire series worth of new racetracks – in a new country.

Matheus Leist is one of three drivers in contention for the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tire title. (Photo courtesy of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography)

“I knew a few of the Carlin guys from last year” said Leist, “so it was not hard at all to get used to the team. It was much more about getting used to the car, the tires and the tracks and just living in America. The team has helped me so much this year, to improve and to grow as a driver. I felt comfortable with them from the first day. It’s not just about the racing, it’s about being friends as well. I have a great relationship with my engineer Steve Barker and my mechanics Ryan Lall and Rob Hothi. We’re good friends away from the racetrack. I have a great relationship with my teammates as well. I live near Miami Beach, only about an hour from the Carlin shop, so I can go up to the workshop, hang out with them and do some simulator work, which is nice.”

The series schedule pushed Leist into the deep end of the pool at the outset, with his first race in America taking place in the narrow confines of St. Petersburg, Fla. Leist qualified a promising fourth for the opening double-header, but mechanical issues in both races meant he finished back in the field. He showed more form at Barber Motorsports Park, finishing fourth and seventh in the two races on the fast and flowing road course. He arrived at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway hoping to turn things around, but it was a well-timed conversation with Carlin team manager Colin Hale that really began to change his mindset.

“In the first qualifying session at the grand prix I was ninth and I thought ‘my God, I’m lost.’ Colin called me into the office and told me that he knew I could be up there, that I could be better than I was showing. From there, I did the fastest lap in Race One, qualified third for Saturday’s race and finished third to earn my first podium.”

Later that month came the series’ marquee event: The Freedom 100, held on Carb Day ahead of the Indianapolis 500. It would be Leist’s first race on an oval, but anyone who expected him to be intimidated could not have been familiar with either the young Brazilian’s demeanor or the oval aptitude of the Carlin team.

“It was so crazy, my first time racing on an oval. I remembered seeing interviews with some of the European drivers saying that they would never race on an oval, that it was crazy. It is crazy, but only a little bit! The first day at Homestead was a bit difficult but it was exciting. It was so fast and so fun. To be honest, after this summer, I’d rather race on an oval than a road course. That’s crazy.

“The car was just perfect that whole week at Indianapolis and I felt very comfortable,” Leist continued. “Everything was perfect. From the first lap of practice to the green flag at the Freedom 100, we did not make any changes to the car – it was just sit down and drive. I was very relaxed the morning of the race. I told my father that it would be a very tough race, because there had been so many passes in the previous years. I was on pole but I did not expect to be out front all race. And then I led every lap and won the race. It was just unbelievable for everyone, with all the people in Victory Lane. I felt like I was dreaming.”

With his Freedom 100 success fresh in his mind, Leist qualified a disappointing 10th for the second oval race of the year, at the .894-mile Iowa Speedway. In hindsight, his sudden appearance at the front of the field at the restart should probably not have been a surprise.

“The week before the race, I watched a lot of races from past years and everyone was saying that you needed to qualify up front because it was so difficult to overtake. When I qualified 10th I thought ‘what am I supposed to do now?’ I was trying to pass another car about 15 laps into the race and I couldn’t get by, so I tried the high line and it worked very well. Coming back to the restart after the yellow, I stayed high and overtook two or three cars in Turn Two. I figured out from there how to win and I think it was one of the best races of my life. It was really cool.”

Before Indy, Leist was 10th in the championship, 52 points out of the lead. But with the podium at the grand prix, the victory in the Freedom 100 and another win on the road course at Road America, Leist found himself in the thick of the title chase, up to second position and only 21 points out. Heading to Gateway, he lies fourth, 48 points behind. It’s a slim chance, but a chance nonetheless.

“I was last in the championship coming away from St. Pete and it seemed impossible. I was still figuring out how to drive the car at Barber and getting used to the longer races, and everything changed at Indy. I started dreaming of the championship. I still think I can win, even though it is difficult. We’ve had a lot of ups and downs this season but I do think it’s been impressive, with the important races we’ve won – especially the two ovals. It doesn’t matter if we win or not, we’ve already done many good things.”

Matheus Leist leads the field at Road America (Photo courtesy of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography)

Among those “good things” in 2017 was a test of Andretti Autosport’s Indy car at Road America in June. It was almost a surreal moment for Leist, realizing just how far he had come in such a short amount of time.

“It’s crazy to think about it. Colin reminds me that last year at this time I was driving British Formula 3 at Oulton Park, and this year I won the Freedom 100 and tested an Indy car! It was another dream come true for me, it was so amazing. I remember being young and my brother and I talking about IndyCar and Formula One and now I was driving one of those cars. It makes me want to move forward and do my best, to impress people so I can one day be winning the Verizon IndyCar Series championship and the Indy 500.”

Meet the Contenders: Santi Urrutia

Santi Urrutia – Photo By INDYCAR
Driving for Belardi Auto Racing, Santi Urrutia enters the final two races of the season tied for second place in the standings with Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing’s Colton Herta and within mathematical reach of points leader Kyle Kaiser of Juncos Racing.
Santiago “Santi” Urrutia came into the 2017 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires as one of the favorites for the championship after finishing an agonizingly close second in 2016. But his title aspirations were dealt a blow in November, when Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, with which he had signed a two-year contract, announced its withdrawal from the series. Enter Belardi Auto Racing, which, with help from SPM, honored the second year of Urrutia’s contract and set him back on track.
The team experienced its share of growing pains early on, with Urrutia capturing only two podium finishes in the first seven races. But they have roared back in the second half, taking four podiums and a victory in the last six events to put Urrutia 42 points back of title leader Kyle Kaiser with two races remaining. That the 20-year-old Uruguayan not only survived but thrived under the tutelage of Brian Belardi’s eponymous team is a testament not only to the team’s championship pedigree, but to Urrutia’s passion and determination to reach his goal: the Verizon IndyCar Series.
Urrutia appreciates the chance the 2014 champions gave him to return to the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires in 2017.
“It was difficult at the beginning,” Urrutia acknowledged.” I wanted to do my second year with Schmidt but Brian gave me a chance to race with his team and that was big. He believes in me and helped me race with them. Everything was new in the beginning, since I didn’t know anyone on the team. As soon as I adapted to the way they work, everything was okay.”
Not only was the team new, but so were the teammates – sophomore Shelby Blackstock and rookie Aaron Telitz, who succeeded Urrutia by winning the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires last season. Telitz scored the first victory of the season but it took the team chemistry a bit longer to get off the ground – though becoming accustomed to the atmosphere in the United States also has demanded some adaptation for the intense young driver.
“Just like with the mechanics and engineers, it took a while for us to figure it out, but once we did, it really worked. Shelby and Aaron are really good guys. We go out to dinner and talk not just about motorsports but about life. It’s gotten stronger all season and I’m really glad to have them as teammates. We help each other make the cars quicker. Coming from Europe, where the atmosphere is colder, you don’t have relationships with other teams or other drivers. It took me a little while to understand how it is here in America but now I realize how friendly it is, that you can talk to other drivers. I know people still call me ‘ice man’ here, probably because I don’t smile so much, but when I win, I’m happy.”
Urrutia’s season took off at Road America, where he came back from an 11th-place starting position to finish second. He repeated the feat at Iowa, making a nail-biting storm up through the field. But it was the Mid-Ohio weekend last month that cemented his resurgence, as Urrutia took a victory from pole and a second place to close the gap to Kaiser. He knows it’s going to be tough overhauling Kaiser with only two races remaining, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t going to try.
“The goal for the season was to win the championship, but it’s been a tough year. We’ve had weekends with good luck, weekends with bad luck, but we always turned things around. The team never gave up and worked hard, and when you work, the results will come to you. That’s been the key, to put everything together. We’ve gotten wins and pole positions in the second half of the season. I’ve been here in America for three years and, for the third time in a row, I get to fight for the championship. There are two races left to go and who knows what happens from here? We’re stronger than ever and I know it’s going to be difficult for us to win the championship but our goal is to win the next two races then see what happens.
“Each of these last two races will be like a final. We had a good car at the Gateway test so we should be good for the race. And I had the pole at Watkins Glen last year so I think I’m in a good position, the best position I’ve been in this year.”
One constant for Urrutia from last season has been his engineer, Tim Neff. After earning five Indy Lights championships in 17 years with SPM, Neff has a close relationship with Urrutia, who feels the pair have a unique kind of communication.
“I really trust Tim. I don’t have a lot of friends in racing and I can call him my friend. I believe in him and we have a really good relationship. If he makes a mistake, he tells me – and if I make a mistake, I tell him what I did. I can work closely with him and he really helps me. I know he’ll give me 100 percent to make the car as quick as he can, and he knows I’ll drive it as fast as I can. I’m really glad that we were able to do a deal for this year and I hope that if I go to IndyCar I can bring him with me.”
Neff is not the only source of advice for Urrutia, who has made friends with several drivers in the Verizon IndyCar Series paddock, including fellow South Americans Helio Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya. The veteran drivers certainly have a wealth of knowledge about life on the IndyCar circuit to impart.
“I have had a lot of conversations with Helio – he lives in Miami as well, so we’re on the same plane quite a bit. He’s a good guy and he’s given me a lot of tips about racing, about life, about everything. He’s very talented and I really respect him. Juan Montoya was always my favorite driver, and I’ve had many chances to talk to him as well. I really enjoy when he’s on track and around the paddock, so I hope he’ll be at the Indy 500 next year.”
Urrutia holds a special place in the hearts of race fans in his home country. Fans in soccer-mad Uruguay remember another young talent that made his way to IndyCar – Gonzalo Rodriguez, who, tragically, lost his life at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in 1999, during his first race weekend with Team Penske. Urrutia was barely 3 years old when Rodriguez died but he knows that Rodriguez paved the way he hopes to follow. He also appreciates the passionate support he receives from his fans, who can be found waving Uruguayan flags at races all over the United States.
“It’s great for the Mazda Road to Indy and for IndyCar to be able to see the support that they have from my country. As you can see from social media, they’re always responding. But it’s not only from the people – I’ve met the president many times and my biggest sponsor is from Uruguay so it means a lot to me to have that support. People are always posting things about me, people come to the airport when I go home, I have lots of interviews. It’s a country that is all about soccer but people are learning more about motorsports and they hope to see another driver in the biggest league, like Gonzalo Rodriguez did in 1999. It’s great for everyone.”
Urrutia recently held a press conference in Uruguay announcing his intention to graduate to the Verizon IndyCar Series in 2018 – with or without the Mazda Scholarship awarded to the Indy Lights champion. With a little help, Urrutia says, he will make it happen. And for those who have come to recognize his grit and determination, few would bet against him.
“I’m already working on next year. Fans at home and fans here in America want to see me in IndyCar next year and we’re working hard toward it. I know it won’t be easy, especially if we don’t win the scholarship, but it’s not impossible. I’m talking to sponsors and to teams, so we’ll see what we can put together. I hope I’ll be able to announce something by the end of the year.”

Meet the Contenders: Kyle Kaiser

Photo Credit INDYCAR

Kyle Kaiser of Juncos Racing currently leads the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires championship standings with two races remaining at Gateway Motorsports Park and Watkins Glen International. Colton Herta (Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing) and Santi Urrutia (Belardi Auto Racing) lie 42 points in arrears with the remaining championship contender, Matheus Leist (Carlin), at 48 points.
Kyle Kaiser knew this would be his best and, perhaps, last chance. 2017 marked his third Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires campaign, so it was a “now or never” scenario that presented itself to the 21-year-old Californian as the season began. Kaiser and his Juncos Racing team proceeded to spend the bulk of the year doing exactly what it took to take, then maintain, the championship lead, placing him on the cusp of realizing his dream: a ride in the Verizon IndyCar Series and the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.
“It’s everything I’ve been working toward since I joined the Mazda Road to Indy,” said Kaiser. “I have yet to win a championship and the Mazda scholarship, so it would mean that all the hard work over the past five years has, well, not paid off exactly, but it means my name would be etched in the history books. That affirmation would mean a lot.”
That Kaiser is in this position now is a testament to his hard work. Making the jump from karting to the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires with only a season in the Formula Car Challenge to help in the transition, Kaiser signed with Juncos Racing for his second season in 2014 as teammate to good friend Spencer Pigot. With a front-row seat for Pigot’s championship-winning run, Kaiser finished sixth in the title chase and earned his first MRTI victory at the season finale in Sonoma. He graduated with Pigot to Indy Lights the following year and was once again wing man to Pigot’s title run. He became the Juncos team leader and championship contender last season, finishing third with three poles and two wins to his credit. Kaiser came into the 2017 season knowing that the time was now if he wanted to claim that elusive title.
However, the season did not start off as planned, with Kaiser earning a sixth and a fourth-place finish in the season opener in St. Petersburg, Fla. (compared with a third and a second in 2016). The team regrouped and the learning experience set the tone for the season.
“This is my third year in the series so this was the year to get the championship. I have enough experience and I needed to go out and show what I could do. The St. Pete weekend was almost a wake-up call, since we didn’t do all that well – especially compared to last year. We had to figure things out and really make a push. Barber was much better, with a pole and two seconds. We found our rhythm so we knew we could make a run at the title and that was the focus from that moment on.”
Kaiser went on a four-race run after St. Pete that included two pole positions, four podium finishes and a victory on the road course at Indianapolis to mount a 13-point lead in the championship. He took podiums in four of the next six races, including a sweep of both races in Toronto that meant he holds the distinction of being the only current driver to score series victories on all three genres of race track (ovals, road courses and street courses). Kaiser believes the accomplishment really shows the amount of progress he has made in the series – an accomplishment made even more impressive by the depth of the Indy Lights field.
“I’m proud of the fact that I have won on all three disciplines. I think INDYCAR owners look for that sort of trait, to be versatile enough to win on any type of circuit. Toronto was my first double win and my first win on a street course. It meant a lot, since it’s almost like a home race because I have so much family there. But everything has really come together this year – mentally, attitude-wise and experience. All that came together this year to help me get more out of the car.
“Drivers come from all over the world to compete in Indy Lights, so you’re racing against some really good drivers,” Kaiser continued. “We get a good amount of seat time each weekend and I think my race craft has really improved. That’s why I wanted to stay in the series for three years. I wanted to get to the point where, after my last Indy Lights race, I would feel 100 percent ready to get into an Indy car. I’m proud of my progression over the past five years: not just in the results but in my driving. For example, I couldn’t get a pole my first couple of years, but this year I have three. I’ve gotten more aggressive as well, but smartly aggressive. Those are two areas I really wanted to improve upon, and I have.”
Ricardo Juncos’ eponymous team is well-known for the importance placed in driver development. Kaiser was no stranger to the classroom environment in the Juncos shop, now residing on Main Street in downtown Speedway, Ind. This development, coupled with the relationships established over the past four years, made the decision to stay with the team for his entire Indy Lights career a very easy one.
“The best thing is since I’m in Indy now, I can spend more time at the shop. So during that early stretch, I was there a lot, in meetings, talking to Ricardo, my coach and my engineers. It wasn’t about the big picture at that point, it was just a race-by-race focus on what it took to be the fastest car going into each weekend. We did a great job in pre-race so when we got to the track, we were quick right out of the gate. We didn’t worry about anyone else, we just focused on ourselves. And the execution was really good. Our best weekends were the ones where we did all our work ahead of time.
“It’s a huge benefit to me and that’s why I keep coming back. I love the group of guys, I trust everything they do and I know they’re going to be honest in their feedback to me regarding what I need to do to be better. Having that trust and that level of relationship is why I’ve had this kind of progression, and why I haven’t felt the pressure that much this year. We focus on having the fastest car in every session and what happens, happens. When things get tough, that’s invaluable. The championship lead had really been cut going into Toronto, so we focused on what we knew how to do – and we were quick right out of the gate, won both races and got the lead back. We’ll go into Gateway and Watkins Glen with that same mentality; that we took a hit at the previous race but we’re going to come back and execute the same way we did before.”
As Kaiser looks back over the past three years in the series, he remembers himself as the young driver who shadowed his championship-winning teammate inexorably moving up to the pinnacle of open-wheel racing. Through the lens of experience, he wishes there were a few words of wisdom he could have imparted on that impatient youngster.
“Focus on yourself and don’t worry about anyone else – that would be my number one piece of advice. I compared myself to Spencer and all the experience he had and tried too hard to keep up with that instead of focusing on my own driving. I didn’t feel as though I wasn’t ready; I was just trying too hard to make an impression. I won’t make that mistake again.”

Leist Wins Iowa Speedway Thriller

Urrutia’s Impressive Charge Through Field Nets Well-Deserved Second
NEWTON, Iowa – Rookie Matheus Leist is quickly becoming an oval master, following up his Freedom 100 victory in May with his second oval win of the season – and third victory overall – in an action-packed Mazda Iowa 100 Presented by Cooper Tires race this afternoon. His victory marks the third consecutive run to the checkers for Carlin, who won at the super-fast speedway in 2015 with Max Chilton and Felix Serralles last year in Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires.
Qualifying was held earlier in the day with Colton Herta of Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing claiming his fourth pole to date and setting a new track record in the process with a two-lap average of 39.3279 seconds (163.670 mph). Carlin’s Zachary Claman DeMelo – who claimed his maiden win the last round at Road America – points leader Kyle Kaiser of Juncos Racing and Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Norman comprised the first two rows. Six drivers in total bested the existing track record.
Herta led through the opening laps but a brief four-lap caution on Lap 23, when Garth Rickards (Carlin) spun in Turn Two, set the stage for a complete shuffle at the front of the field. Leist, who qualified 10th and had moved into fourth at that stage, took advantage of a bunched up field and made quick work to pass Claman DeMelo for third, Kaiser for second and Herta for the lead.
The side-by-side action continued with Dalton Kellett (Andretti Autosport), who qualified fifth, moving into contention and a hard-charging Urrutia. With Leist comfortably out front, Urrutia and Kellett became the stars of the show. Urrutia, last year’s Indy Lights vice-champion, sliced through the field from an 11th place grid position and became embroiled in a great dual with Kellett for the second step on the podium which he solidified with 18 laps to go. Kellett, who set the fastest lap of the race and also earned the Staubli Award, crossed the line in third followed by Herta and Kaiser.
Although tied on positions gained, Leist claimed the Tilton Hard Charger Award as the highest finisher over Urrutia.
Kaiser’s point lead has been cut in half and he now maintains a 13-point advantage over Leist with Herta a further 35 points in arrears in third. In the Team Championship, Andretti Autosport and Carlin are tied, with the tie-breaker going to Andretti on more third-place finishes (four to three).
Indy Lights will return to action this week for a doubleheader Cooper Tires Indy Lights Grand Prix of Toronto Presented by Allied Building Products on July 15/16 at the challenging Toronto street circuit.
Matheus Leist (#26 TMA – Carlin): “I’m so happy. I think this was my best race this year. Of course, the Freedom 100 was great but I led the whole race. Here, I needed to move forward and I did. I’m so happy for the team – we needed to make some points today. It was a little tricky in the beginning, on new tires. When I managed to overtake Neil just before the yellow, I found out that the high line was perfect for me. When the race restarted, I ran the high line and everyone else was low so I think I passed three drivers in Turn One. I couldn’t believe everyone stayed on the inside. The car was just so good so I was able to open a gap, save my tires and get the win. It is a very difficult championship since everything here is new to me so I am being realistic. We’re in a good position now so if we can keep winning, we can keep fighting.”
Santi Urrutia (#5 Belardi Auto Racing w/SPM): “We have been struggling, especially in qualifying, so starting in the back is difficult. But we found the speed for the race. I had a really good car today – I was able to pass on the inside early but then I realized the high line was better and found a good groove out there. It’s good points for the championship. But at the end of the race I did donuts because I thought I won! When I passed Dalton I thought I was leading because I never saw Matheus. I came into Victory Lane and my mechanics were happy, but not super happy and I didn’t understand why they didn’t park me inside the podium. Then they told me ‘Santi, you finished second.’ Now we’ll head to Toronto and try to figure things out and have a strong weekend. The championship is still alive – I am far back but it’s not over yet.”
Dalton Kellett (#28 K-Line Insulators USA, Inc. Mazda – Andretti Autosport): “It just shows all the work the Andretti team has done this weekend. We have been fast all weekend, and in qualifying and the race we had a very consistent car. Santi, Kyle, Colton and I were able to run side-by-side at different moments, running two-wide around the whole track. We really focused on having a good race car and keeping the Cooper tires under us the whole race. There were some great battles all race long out there!”

Photo Credit: IndyCar Photos!

Claman DeMelo Maintains Carlin’s Indy Lights Streak with Emphatic First Win

ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Trevor Carlin’s team is on a roll. One day after Brazilian rookie Matheus Leist followed up his maiden victory at Indianapolis with a dominating drive at Road America, teammate Zachary Claman DeMelo, 19, from Montreal, Que., Canada claimed a slice of the action by producing a similarly crushing performance to claim his first series’ win. He became the sixth different Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires race winner this season.
Californian Kyle Kaiser (Juncos Racing) strengthened his championship lead with a hard-fought second-place finish following a lengthy battle with polesitter Colton Herta (Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing).
The ever-changing face of Indy Lights was amply demonstrated by the grid for today’s race, which was set during a dedicated qualifying session yesterday morning in crisp, cool conditions. No fewer than 12 of the 14 contenders circulated faster than the existing qualifying record of 1:52.9410, set last year by Zach Veach, with Herta, who finished a distant 12th yesterday afternoon, posting a new benchmark of 1:52.0034 (129.018 mph).
Herta made a good start to lead the opening four laps, but behind him a tremendous battle was brewing between Leist, who started second, Kaiser, Claman DeMelo and Santiago “Santi” Urrutia (Belardi Auto Racing), who made another of his trademark starts to rise briefly as high as second on the opening lap.
But it soon became apparent that Claman DeMelo was the man to beat in the cool, sunny, breezy conditions that greeted the field for this morning’s early (8:55 a.m.) start in advance of the Verizon IndyCar Series headline event. The Canadian, who set a new record fastest lap of 1:54.6326 (126.058 mph) last year at Road America, bettered that standard comfortably as early as Lap Two as he vaulted past Kaiser into second place and closed rapidly onto the tail of race leader Herta. He wasn’t nearly done.
Herta gamely resisted Claman DeMelo’s challenge for a couple more laps but it was apparent he was on borrowed time. Sure enough, on Lap Five, Claman DeMelo took advantage of the draft on the long front straight, then used his Mazda engine’s push-to-pass feature to draw alongside Herta before sweeping past to take the lead. He proceeded to post comfortably the fastest lap of the race, a new record 1:53.0138 (127.864 mph), as he quickly pulled away in the lead.
In his wake, Kaiser and Herta continued their protracted duel for second, exchanging places several times before Kaiser made the position his own with a bold outside-line maneuver at Turn Five. Herta tried several times to redress the balance in similar style but was never quite able to make it stick, so he had to settle for third.
Leist remained in contention with this pair until slipping back a little over the final few laps, when he was chased by Belardi’s local favorite Aaron Telitz, who won both Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires races at Road America last year en route to the championship and a coveted Mazda Scholarship.
Tennessean Shelby Blackstock (Andretti Autosport), who claimed the Staubli Award, also impressed in the closing stages by climbing from 10th to sixth ahead of Andretti teammate Ryan Norman, who earned the Tilton Hard Charger Award, Carlin’s Neil Alberico and Dalton Kellett (Andretti Autosport). Their progress was made easier by the fact Urrutia, a winner at Road America in 2016, sustained a tire puncture on the final lap, falling to a disappointing 11th-place finish.
Kaiser’s second-place finish leaves him with a 27-point advantage, 199-172, over Leist in the quest for the championship and a Mazda Scholarship valued at $1 million which will ensure entry into at least three Verizon IndyCar Series events in 2018, including the 102nd Indianapolis 500. The next Indy Lights action will see a return to oval competition at Iowa Speedway on July 9.
Zachary Claman DeMelo (#13 Paysafe/ZCD Montreal/Zoological Wildlife Foundation-Carlin): “It’s such a great feeling, I’m just really at a loss for words. I can’t thank the people who helped get me here enough. It was such a great turnaround from Race One. Getting the win – and by such a big margin – shows that I am here to win races and fight for the championship. I was pushing every single lap to make the lead bigger, while trying not to make any mistakes that would let the guys behind me get close. The only stressful point was when Colton was behind me. I worked with the push-to-pass to get a gap and that was really all I had to think about the whole race. It’s such a great group at Carlin: from the team to the other drivers, we all push each other so hard. I’m learning from everyone on the team and I can’t thank my engineer, Matt Greasley, enough. He’s helped me develop as a driver to be in front like I was today.”
Kyle Kaiser (#18 Juncos Racing): “It was pretty hectic out there. My goal was to get through Turn One cleanly and though I didn’t get the jump I was looking for, I was able to get by Matheus when I needed to. I tried to keep up with Colton but he started on sticker tires, had a ton of pace right out of the gate and got a real big gap. I had pressure from Zach right away: he was on fire. I knew he would be aggressive, so after he got by me and started battling with Colton, I just waited for an opportunity. But the goal is to increase the championship lead every weekend, and we did that.”
Colton Herta (#98 Deltro Energy Mazda/Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing): “We found some pace and started on pole, which was great after a rough Friday. We really needed a comeback to get back on the podium so hopefully we can keep up this consistency. We held the lead early but made a little bit of a mistake that let Zachary get by. After that it was a battle with Kaiser all race long to keep P2. It’s tough to find the balance between going for wins and making sure we get as many points as possible, but I’m still young so if we don’t make it this year, we have a few more years to get there.”

Zachary Claman DeMelo celebrates his first Indy Lights Race Win on Sunday at Road America. INDYCAR Photo

Matheus Leist Holds off All Challengers to Take Freedom 100 Spoils

Matheus Leist Holds off All Challengers to Take Freedom 100 Spoils
Brazilian Rookie Claims First Mazda Road to Indy Victory in Style for Carlin Team
SPEEDWAY, Ind. – Matheus Leist led from pole position to checkered flag in today’s Freedom 100 to earn a well-deserved maiden Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires victory. But this was no walkover for the Carlin team’s Brazilian rookie, who came under intense pressure from several other contenders during an exciting 40-lap, 100-mile race in front of a bumper crowd on Carb Day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Fellow rookie Aaron Telitz (Belardi Auto Racing) barely edged Canadian Dalton Kellett (Andretti Autosport) for second place on the run to the flag.
Weather conditions were markedly improved over yesterday, when persistent rain forced qualifying to be delayed for more than four hours. Instead sunny skies and warm temperatures greeted the talented field of 14 drivers as they assembled on the historic Brickyard oval.
After country music star (and mother of Indy Lights racer Shelby Blackstock) Reba McEntire’s rousing rendition of the National Anthem, the action began early as Canadian Zachary Claman DeMelo made a storming start from fifth on the grid to tuck in behind Carlin teammate Leist at Turn One. Behind, Kellett also got a run on Colton Herta, who started on the front row for Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing. Unfortunately, in trying to hold off Kellett at Turn Two, Herta barely clipped his teammate’s front wing which in turn tipped him into a spin. Worse, teammate Ryan Norman, from Aurora, Ohio, who had qualified a fine fourth, was unable to avoid the spinning #98 car. Exit two contenders even before the field was fully up to speed.
After five laps of caution to clear away the wreckage, Leist held on to his advantage over Claman DeMelo at the restart, followed by the third Carlin Dallara-Mazda IL-15 of Neil Alberico, who leapfrogged Kellett with a bold outside line pass into Turn One.
The race soon settled into a rhythm with Leist turning consistent laps at an average speed of around 195 mph at the head of the field. Claman DeMelo held onto second until Lap 13, when Kellett drafted past his countryman on the inside line at Turn Three. Telitz took advantage of Claman DeMelo’s slight loss of momentum to move into third, then, on Lap 19, second when he drafted past Kellett on the entrance to Turn Three.
Six cars ran virtually nose to tail for the majority of the race, with Leist holding onto the lead ahead of Telitz, Kellett, Alberico, Claman DeMelo and Santi Urrutia (Belardi Auto Racing), who, after starting 12th, moved up steadily through the pack during the middle portion of the race to claim the Tilton Hard Charger Award.
Telitz, too, was looking especially racy. Last year’s winner of the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires made his first challenge for the lead on Lap 30, only to be rebuffed, then tried again a couple of laps later – around the outside at Turn One. Leist barely clung onto the lead as they sped into Turn Two, whereupon Telitz tried again at Turn Three. Once again, Leist held his ground, leaving Telitz to lose a little valuable momentum – and a position – to Kellett.
That was as close as anyone got to usurping the 18-year-old Brazilian, who held on to claim the win. After finishing a career-best third in last year’s Freedom 100, Kellett was unable to make a move on Leist in the final stages, and instead found himself passed on the run to the line by a fired-up Telitz.
Alberico maintained his strong run of recent finishes in fourth, while the expected challenge from Urrutia, who posted the fastest lap of the race at a new record of 198.104 mph, failed to materialize after he glanced the wall at Turn Two with a few laps remaining. Urrutia maintained control of his car and held on to finish fifth ahead of Claman DeMelo, who also brushed the wall in Turn One.
Californian Kyle Kaiser, despite finishing a disappointed ninth for Juncos Racing, actually stretched his championship lead by one point to 14 over Frenchman Nico Jamin, who struggled to a distant 10th for Andretti Autosport.
The Indy Lights contenders will be in action next at Elkhart Lake’s famed Road America in Wisconsin on June 23-25.
Matheus Leist (#26 TMA-Carlin): “I can’t believe it, this is a dream come true. The track is just amazing; it’s so fast. To win here is unbelievable. We had a perfect car today so we were able to lead the whole race. I kept the same line the whole race to try to keep Aaron behind me, but it was so tough. I was nervous early in the race because I thought it would be really close. I thought Aaron would overtake me when he pulled even with me – we were side-by-side for three or four corners. I tried to relax and do my job and he wasn’t able to get by me. We led my first ever oval practice Monday and the car was just amazing – I knew we had a winning car. I spent this week at the hotel watching the races from the past few years and I knew they were all decided on the last corner so I studied everything. I’m so thankful for this; the Carlin guys worked so hard this week. This is my first time here on the oval so hopefully I can win the Indy 500 here in the future.”

Americans Lead the Way as Indy Lights Drivers Prepare for Freedom 100

Mazda Road to Indy’s Feature Race Set for Carb Day
SPEEDWAY, Ind. – The annual Freedom 100 represents the most prestigious race of the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires season. Taking place on the historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval directly after the traditional final practice for the Indianapolis 500 on Carb Day this Friday, May 26, it is the race every driver particularly wants to win.
No fewer than 24 of the 33 starters in this year’s 101st Indianapolis 500 have graduated to the pinnacle of American open-wheel racing via Indy Lights, including 10 series champions dating back to Tony Kanaan in 1997. Four of them – Ed Carpenter, Josef Newgarden, Jack Harvey and Gabby Chaves – will have an opportunity this coming Memorial Day weekend to etch their name in the record books as the first to win both the Freedom 100 and the Indianapolis 500.
This year’s 15th annual Freedom 100 is the seventh of 16 races that will comprise the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires title-chase. Four different drivers have claimed victory from the opening six races of the season, and while seven different nationalities will be represented on the starting grid, four of the current top five championship contenders are young Americans, headed by series veteran Kyle Kaiser, from Santa Clara, Calif. Ultimately at stake is an opportunity for the season champion to claim a Mazda Scholarship valued at $1 million to ensure entry into three Verizon IndyCar Series races in 2018, including the 102nd Indianapolis 500.
The high-quality field of 14 drivers today began preparations for Friday’s Freedom 100 with a pair of 90-minute test sessions on the hallowed 2.5-mile superspeedway oval. Second-generation Indy Lights racer Colton Herta, 17, from Valencia, Calif., led the speed charts with a lap of 44.9842 seconds – an average speed of 200.070 mph – this morning at the wheel of his No. 98 Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing Dallara-Mazda IL-15.
All 14 drivers recorded times within seven-tenths of a second (or 2.7 mph) of Herta’s best, suggesting the possibility of another photo-finish to match last year’s race when Dean Stoneman claimed the closest margin of victory ever recorded at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway – by a scant 0.0024 second over eventual series champion Ed Jones (who, incidentally, posted the second fastest lap, 228.118 mph, during today’s IndyCar practice session) – or perhaps the remarkable 0.0443 second which blanketed the top four finishers in 2013.
As a measure of the series’ unpredictability, points leader Kaiser ranked only 13th on the charts today for Juncos Racing, fractionally ahead of Frenchman Nico Jamin, who already has won twice this year for Andretti Autosport and currently lies second in the standings, just 13 points shy of Kaiser.
Aaron Telitz, from Birchwood, Wis., the winner of last year’s Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, posted the second fastest lap today for Belardi Auto Racing at 199.610 mph.
Rookie Matheus Leist, from Novo Hamburgo, Brazil, was third fastest overall and quickest this afternoon at 199.568 mph for the Carlin team, edging out teammate Neil Alberico, from Los Gatos, Calif., and Team Pelfrey’s Juan Piedrahita, from Bogota, Colombia.
The Freedom 100 protagonists will return to the track on Thursday for a pair of 30-minute practice sessions at 9:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. EDT, followed by single-car qualifying at 1:30 p.m. The green flag for Friday’s race  – which will air live on NBCSN – will fly at 12:30 p.m. All times are EDT.
Live timing and live streaming of practice and qualifying will be available on the Road to Indy App, RoadtoIndy.TV, and
Kyle Kaiser (#18 Juncos Racing): “We didn’t really run qualifying trim. Our focus has been working on the race car. We had a lot of downforce so our trap speeds haven’t been the best, but we’re working on having a good balance in the car. Everyone wants to win this race, whether your last in points or the points leader. I’m just going in trying to build a good race car and we’ll see what happens from there. This is the most exciting race of the year with all the people here and the anticipation of the whole month leading up to this. It’s nerve wracking, especially on race day. This is my third one, so hopefully I have less nerves than everyone else but I’ll probably still be nervous.”
Colton Herta (#98 Deltro Energy Mazda/Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing):  “That last half-hour was hectic. I think Aaron and I were side-by-side for about four laps. Now we know that we can run high or low and be competitive. The car is fantastic so to be quickest shows that we can run up front. But it’s so awesome to drive here – it makes me want to get to IndyCar even faster because now that I’ve gone 200 mph, I want to go 230! You get used to the speed here – we tested at Homestead, where you’re going 190 mph, which is pretty quick and it’s relatable. It definitely helped me adjust to the speed here. We did one run this morning in qualifying trim, but we mainly focused on race trim because as important as qualifying is, it’s more important to have a good race car. That’s what I’m mainly focused on now.”
Aaron Telitz (#9 Mazda/Rice Lake Weighing Systems-Belardi Auto Racing): “I had some ideas about what IMS would be like, but it was seriously a good time. Every corner is a little bit different, even though they look the same on a map. And it was fun going over 200 mph for the first time! We were pretty conservative in the beginning, with more downforce than we would usually run in order to get me comfortable going flat. Once I was, we went with race trim and started working on running in traffic. I didn’t break the 200 mph lap time mark, but I hit 210 on the straight which was cool. In practice, we were pretty courteous to each other and having a good time getting runs on each other and going three wide. In the race, it will be more challenging – but it’s still going to be a really awesome race. This will be the first time I’ll be racing on live TV, so I’m excited that all my friends and family can watch on NBCSN. And I really want to be the first driver to bring the Soul Red colors to victory lane in the Freedom 100.”
Matheus Leist (#26 TMA-Carlin): “When I first got out there, I thought ‘here I am, this is really big!’ We tested at Homestead back in March but this is very different. It was very strange in the beginning, with the steering wheel not being straight and the speeds being so much faster than on a road course. I got the pace pretty quickly. We did some qualifying simulations early this afternoon and I set the fastest lap so that’s good. It still feels on the edge to me, with the car moving a lot, but I’m getting used to it. I’m a bit disappointed with my run in all the traffic late in the session but it’s my first day and I think I learned a lot – and brushing the wall is all part of the game.”
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