BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – The streak of different Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires winners continues as Uruguayan rising star Santiago “Santi” Urrutia claimed victory in today’s Indy Lights Legacy 100 at Barber Motorsports Park for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian.
Urrutia, 19, laid down a marker yesterday by posting the fastest lap of the race in the #55 Soul Red Dallara-Mazda. Today, in front of a large crowd basking in perfect weather conditions at the picturesque 2.3-mile road course, last year’s winner of the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires swept from third place to the lead inside the first four laps, then controlled the remainder of the 50-minute race to become the fifth different driver to step onto the top of the podium in as many races.
Saturday race winner Ed Jones (Carlin) gained the championship lead as a consequence of his second-place finish, while fellow Englishman Dean Stoneman overcame some technical problems yesterday to claim his first podium finish for Andretti Autosport.
Pole-sitter Jones managed to fend off the attentions of outside front row qualifier Stoneman at the start, but it was Urrutia who made the early progress, slipping past Stoneman on the second lap and quickly homing in on the race leader. Two laps later, Urrutia made his move under heavy braking for Turn Five, sneaking through into the lead and quickly pulling clear of the pack as Jones continued to be chased by Stoneman, RC Enerson (Schmidt Peterson), Shelby Blackstock (Andretti Autosport), Kyle Kaiser (Juncos Racing) and Felix Rosenqvist (Belardi Auto Racing).
The other driver on the move in the early stages was Canadian rookie Zachary Claman De Melo. After starting from 15th on the grid, due to his Juncos Racing Dallara-Mazda IL-15 failing post-qualifying technical inspection on Friday, de Melo made up five positions in the first four laps, then made short work of Zach Veach (Belardi Auto Racing), Dalton Kellett (Andretti Autosport) and Rosenqvist to catapult himself to seventh place after just nine laps of racing.
De Melo was consistently setting fastest times at this stage in the race, although his best of 1:15.9434 was narrowly eclipsed much later in the race by race winner Urrutia. De Melo quickly closed on to the tail of teammate and series points leader Kaiser, who proved a much tougher nut to crack. De Melo eventually had to settle for a nonetheless impressive seventh-place finish.
Urrutia continued his serene progress at the front, extending his advantage to as much as 5.7 seconds before easing off a little on the final two laps to take the checkered flag 4.2437 seconds clear of Jones. Stoneman maintained third ahead of Enerson, Blackstock, who secured his second top-five finish in as many days, then Kaiser and De Melo. Rosenqvist, Kellett and Veach completed the top 10.
Jones is the new points leader, 108-102 over Kaiser. Serralles lies third in the points table on 94 points, followed by Urrutia, 89, who is attempting to follow in the footsteps of Spencer Pigot by winning back-to-back Mazda Road to Indy titles in Pro Mazda and Indy Lights.
Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian also became the fifth different team to win this season, and now trails Carlin by 127-107 in the Team Championship as Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires moves on next to the Indianapolis Grand Prix circuit for two more races as part of the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis, once again in support of the Verizon IndyCar Series, on May 12-14.
Santi Urrutia (#55 Mazda-Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian): “I am so happy! The car was so quick yesterday but I made a mistake, so when I crossed the line today I said ‘Yes! Finally!’ Finally I got a podium, which is good for me and good for the team. We’ve had our problems so far this season but we have some momentum now. Last year was really difficult for us and this year is even more difficult, because there are so many good drivers in the Mazda Road to Indy. We’ve had five different winners this season and qualified 16 cars within one second of each other and that says how competitive Indy Lights is. I’m a rookie and I’ve made some mistakes, but I can’t make those mistakes anymore if I’m going to win the championship. I have to thank Mazda because I wouldn’t be here without them.”