History repeated itself for Aaron Telitz at St. Petersburg, Florida. For the second straight year, he’ll start the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires season opener from pole position.
The 26-year-old Wisconsin native, driving the No. 9 Mazda/Dallara IL-15 for Belardi Auto Racing, put down a clean lap of 1 minute, 5.239 seconds (99.497 mph) in qualifying today, which broke the old track record set by Ed Jones in 2015 by just under two-tenths of a second. It marked the third year in a row going back to his Pro Mazda days that Telitz has sat on pole at the 1.8-mile, 14-turn temporary street circuit.
“It’s absolutely big,” said Telitz, the 2016 Pro Mazda champion.
“I know that you guys always talk about the winners here don’t always win the championship, but I love winning here. It’s the first race of the year. You want to show everybody you’re here to fight for the championship, so that’s what I always try and do, is come out strong.
“And we’ve gotten pole three years in a row here, so that’s awesome.”
Pato O’Ward put down the second-best lap in qualifying in the No. 27 Andretti Autosport entry, 0.1578 of a second behind Telitz.
Sophomore sensation Colton Herta put the No. 98 Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing entry third, while two-time series runner-up Santi Urrutia overcame a crash in opening practice to turn the fourth-best lap to start Race 1 from the second row in the No. 5 Belardi Auto Racing entry.
Saturday action for the top rung of the Mazda Road to Indy will start at 8:30 a.m. ET with Race 2 qualifying. Race 1 signals the start of the 17-race season at 1:05 p.m. ET. Both will stream live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com.
Askew takes pole in Pro Mazda debut
Oliver Askew captured the pole in his debut in the Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires.
The 21-year-old Floridian was challenged by Parker Thompson and Harrison Scott for the top spot, but a late flying lap of 1 minute, 8.103 seconds (95.150 mph) was enough to claim the ninth pole of his Mazda Road to Indy career. Driving the No. 3 Soul Red Mazda/Tatuus PM-18 for Cape Motorsports, Askew’s lap annihilated the old track record of 1:10.352 by Conor Daly in 2010. Overall, 15 of the 16 entrants fell under the previous record as Pro Mazda debuted its new PM-18 chassis.
“Really good to start the season,” said Askew, the 2017 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda champion.
“It’s a bit stressful, but it’s great to pick up where we left off last year. The car was fantastic. These Cape Motorsports guys know how to put together a quick car when the conditions are changing, so really happy about that. On street tracks like this, it’s really important to get a good gap because it’s so hard to pass.”
Thompson, driving the No. 90 Exclusive Autosport entry, qualified second, with Scott putting the No. 10 RP Motorsport Racing entry third.
Qualifying for Race 2 takes off at 8 a.m. Saturday, while the first race of the season begins at 12:10 p.m. Both will be streamed live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com.
Sierra surges to USF2000 pole in record-setting performance
DEForce Racing scored its first pole in Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda competition when Jose Sierra put together a stellar lap in the final moments of today’s qualifying session for the first of two weekend races.
The 18-year-old Mexican, piloting the No. 12 Mazda/Tatuus USF-17, logged a lap of 1 minute, 12.549 seconds (89.319 mph), shattering the previous track record of 1:13.064 (88.689 mph) set by Matthew Brabham in 2012. The entire top 10 in qualifying flew under the 6-year-old mark.
In addition to scoring the pole, second-year outfit DEForce Racing ended Race 1 qualifying with all four cars in the top 12 (Zach Holden fourth, Kory Enders ninth and Colin Kaminsky 12th).
Saturday’s USF2000 action will begin with qualifying for Race 2 at 7:30 a.m. ET, followed by Race 1 at 10:15 a.m. Both stream live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com.