Colton Herta (No. 98 Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing Mazda/Dallara IL-15) put in a hard-fought comeback drive on Friday to take the opening race of the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires doubleheader on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
The action began from the drop of the green flag when pole sitter Pato O’Ward (No. 27 Andretti Autosport) was bumped from behind by Victor Franzoni (No. 23 Juncos Racing) entering Turn 1. The incident forced O’Ward off course and back to fourth place. Herta – who started second – also had to go off line and fell to fifth.
Santiago Urrutia (No. 5 Belardi Auto Racing) took advantage and grabbed the lead, but it wouldn’t be for long as Herta to march back to the front. On Lap 16 of 30, Herta put up a power move for the lead, surging to the outside of Urrutia entering Turn 1 on the 2.439-mile permanent road course.
From there, Herta as went on the claim his first win of the season by 5.1512 seconds over Urrutia. Aaron Telitz (No. 9 Belardi Auto Racing) nabbed his best finish on the year to complete the podium.
“It was a tough one,” said Herta, who now owns three wins in Mazda Road to Indy’s top series. “Kind of got hung out to dry on the outside (at the start), I think there was some contact on the inside. It’s tough, man. Especially since it was a lot hotter than we’ve run here before, so I wasn’t sure how the car was going to be, but it was fine and we had really good pace.”
With O’Ward finishing fourth, the championship tightened up. O’Ward still leads with 130 points, with Urrutia 11 points back and Herta 16 behind.
Baron betters Kirkwood in USF2000 Race 1 thriller
Alex Baron (No. 19 Swan RJB-Motorsports Mazda/Tatuus USF-17) took the fight to Kyle Kirkwood (No. 8 Cape Motorsports) to claim the opening race in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda doubleheader.
Despite falling back to third in the massive 26-car field after starting alongside pole sitter Kirkwood, Baron took advantage of a restart on Lap 7 of 15 to move by Rasmus Lindh (No. 21 Pabst Racing) for second place and then taking the lead from Kirkwood in the same sequence in Turns 1 and 2.
It was Baron’s turn to defend the top spot when another restart came on Lap 12. Although Kirkwood made a run for the lead on the next lap in the same place he relinquished it, he couldn’t make the move stick. In the end, Baron would take his second win of the season, 0.4344 of a second ahead of Kirkwood, with Jose Sierra (No. 12 DEForce Racing) coming across the finish line in third.
“Winning over here is quite a privilege,” said Baron, “and it’s an honor to win at such a legendary racetrack.
“When I started racing here four years ago, I realized pretty quickly how important this whole month is. Everyone knows about Indianapolis, so to succeed here is quite an accomplishment. It was quite an adventurous race.”
Scott takes victory in chaotic Pro Mazda race
Harrison Scott (No. 10 RP Motorsport Racing Mazda/Tatuus PM-18) grabbed his second win of the season in a wild Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires race.
The battle for the lead was a revolving door among Scott, pole sitter Oliver Askew (No. 3 Cape Motorsports), Rinus VeeKay (No. 2 Juncos Racing) and David Malukas (No. 79 BN Racing).
VeeKay looked most in charge of the 25-lap race, grabbing the lead early before going off course on a Lap 8 restart. Malukas made an outside pass for the lead on the backstretch but Race Control ruled he exceeded track limits and was forced to serve a pit-lane drive-through penalty.
VeeKay recovered from his early issue to reassume the lead, until Scott took the lead on Lap 16 just prior to a full-course caution. Scott held serve on the restart and crossed the finish line 0.3834 of a second ahead Askew, followed by VeeKay in third.
“Honestly, it’s really hard to remember where I was and what was happening,” said Scott, the 2017 Euroformula Open champion. “I didn’t get the best start, fell I think back to fourth, but felt like I had a really good race car right away from the very first lap. I raced really hard on the opening laps to keep the cars behind me and cars in front under pressure.”
Scott said the pass for the lead was a move he even admitted was “brave.”
“I managed to get close enough (to VeeKay) and have the full effect of the draft entering Turn 1 and managed to make a brave move on the outside, late on the brakes and it was just enough,” said Scott.
All three MRTI series will contest their second races of the weekend on Saturday. USF2000 starts at 9:15 a.m. ET., Pro Mazda at 10:10 a.m. and Indy Lights at 1:15 p.m. The races will stream live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com.