With a flair for the dramatic, Colton Herta continued his late-race heroics on Saturday to sweep the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires doubleheader weekend on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
Santiago Urrutia (No. 5 Belardi Auto Racing Mazda/Dallara IL-15) led 31 of the 35 laps and appeared to have control of the field, fending off Herta (No. 98 Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing) not once, but twice. However, the second proved to be Urrutia’s undoing as the pair entered Turn 1 side-by-side on Lap 33 with Herta on the outside. The real estate tightened as the two made contact, which sent Urrutia in a spin and to a fourth-place finish.
“From my side, I was ahead going into the corner by half a car length and (Urrutia) pushed me off the track when we were side-by-side,” said Herta. “I was on the grass and fully locked up and couldn’t stop. He didn’t give me any room getting back on to the track, so we made contact.”
Herta went on to win by 4.1988 seconds over Aaron Telitz (No. 9 Belardi Auto Racing), who overcame contact on Lap 2 with the race winner that sent him to last in the seven-car field.
Victor Franzoni (No. 23 Juncos Racing) finished third. Pole sitter and championship leader Pato O’Ward (No. 27 Andretti Autosport) endured a series of issues and finished last.
“Man, that was incredible,” said Herta. “I thought I couldn’t top (Friday’s) race, but I think I had more fun in this one. It was hard-fought. I was fully focused the entire 35 laps and I’m so sweaty after that one.”
The championship battle couldn’t be tighter. O’Ward holds a one-point margin over Herta, Urrutia six points out of the lead. Indy Lights races on the IMS oval on Friday, May 25 in the Freedom 100.
Thompson flexes muscle for Race 2 victory in Pro Mazda
Parker Thompson (No. 90 Exclusive Autosport Mazda/Tatuus PM-18) enjoyed a standout performance in taking the Race 2 victory on Saturday in the Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires.
Starting sixth on the grid, Thompson avoided opening-lap chaos when Rinus VeeKay (No. 2 Juncos Racing) took damage from apparent contact with teammate Robert Megennis (No. 9 Juncos Racing) and David Malukas (No. 79 BN Racing). From there, Thompson began to put down fast lap times around the 2.439-mile, 14-turn permanent road course and march forward.
He ultimately passed Carlos Cunha (No. 1 Juncos Racing) for the lead on Lap 17 of 25 and cruised to a 1.8885 second victory over Cunha. Sting Ray Robb (No. 9 Team Pelfrey) finished third.
“Winning here at Indianapolis at the ‘Racing Capital of the World’ is unbelievable,” said Thompson, who picked up his second victory of the season.
“But to dedicate this one to not only to Exclusive Autosport, but Elite Engines – we had a bit of technical troubles the other day, a part failure that wasn’t the fault of anyone. The crew had to turn the car around in an hour and a half, get me out for qualifying (for Race) 2. It just goes to show how good this Exclusive Autosport crew is and how great Elite Engines are.
“This one is going to go down as one of the best in my career.”
Thompson extended his championship lead to 22 points over VeeKay and 30 over Cunha. Pro Mazda races again on May 25 at Lucas Oil Raceway, a 0.686-mile located about five miles from Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Kirkwood wins hectic second USF2000 race
Kyle Kirkwood (No. 8 Cape Motorsports Mazda/Tatuus USF-17) put together a solid drive from pole on Saturday to win the second race of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda doubleheader.
The action-packed race had its share of drama. While running second on Lap 3 of 20, Alex Baron (No. 19 Swan RJB-Motorsports) – winner of Friday’s race – made contact with Jamie Caroline (No. 28 BN Racing), spun and dropped to 24th place. However, a pair of restarts helped a remarkable comeback drive as Baron returned to take the runner-up spot at the finish.
Kirkwood fended off the hard-charging Baron on a final-lap restart and won by 0.8372 of a second. Rasmus Lindh (No. 23 Pabst Racing) scored his best finish to date by placing third.
“I had that big lead, and once again the caution came out,” Kirkwood said. “That made me nervous. I did know he (Baron) was behind me at the end. I didn’t know he had to pit (earlier). That’s just incredible. Fortunately, I was able to keep him behind me toward the end of the race.”
Kirkwood leads Baron in the championship by 13 points after four of 14 races. USF2000 returns to action on May 25 at the Lucas Oil Raceway 0.686-mile oval.