TORONTO, Ont., Canada – Kyle Kaiser drove another exemplary race today on the streets around Exhibition Place to claim the second leg of this weekend’s Cooper Tires Indy Lights Grand Prix of Toronto Presented by Allied Building Products.
The Californian took advantage of some misfortune for polesitter Colton Herta (Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing), then posted a series of fastest race laps to claim his second victory in as many days and his third of the season to take a commanding lead of 52 points into the final four races of the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires season.
Aaron Telitz, the winner of last year’s Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, the middle step on the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires open-wheel development ladder, finished second for Belardi Auto Racing, while Carlin’s Zachary Claman DeMelo rounded out the podium.
Herta, 17, from Valencia, Calif., took advantage of perfect track conditions this morning to post a new lap record of 1:05.0049 (98.849 mph) in qualifying for today’s 12th round of the season. Then, after a first-corner incident eliminated the cars of Frenchman Nico Jamin (Andretti Autosport), Tennessean Shelby Blackstock (Belardi Auto Racing) and Californian Neil Alberico (Carlin), Herta quickly began to pull away from Kaiser, who started third but had made a bold move to displace front row starter Santi Urrutia (Belardi Auto Racing) at Turn One.
Herta stretched his advantage after the restart to almost four seconds over the course of the next five laps, only for that margin to be erased by another full-course caution after Urrutia ground to halt with a mechanical problem.
Herta continued to lead at the restart, only this time Indy Lights veteran Kaiser, 21, from Santa Clara, Calif., was able to stay with him and keep the youngster within his sights. The pair set a fast pace as they stretched clear of Telitz, who had overtaken DeMelo at Turn Three shortly after the restart. Herta, though, had lightly glanced one of the omni-present and unforgiving concrete walls with his car’s left-rear wheel. That minimal impact proved to be the difference between success and disappointment as, on Lap 26, the rear suspension abruptly broke at Turn Six. The unfortunate Herta did well to maintain control but his race was over.
Kaiser was gifted a clear advantage over Telitz, which he extended to almost nine seconds before easing off to ensure victory by a comfortable margin of 5.8649 seconds.
Telitz, from Birchwood, Wis., soaked up the pressure from Montreal’s DeMelo to secure the third podium finish of his rookie campaign, while Colombian Juan Piedrahita snagged his best result of the season, fifth, for Team Pelfrey.
Kaiser’s closest challenger for the championship, Matheus Leist, endured another tough day with the Carlin team. After qualifying a disappointing 11th, the Brazilian rookie made a mistake at Turn Three while challenging for seventh, although he did show some more competitive pace as he fought back to fifth at the finish after passing Tilton Hard Charger Ryan Norman (Andretti Autosport), who rose to sixth after starting 14th. Nicolas Dapero finished seventh for Juncos Racing to claim the Staubli Award.
Kyle Kaiser (#18 Juncos Racing): “I knew this would be a good weekend for us because the team has always had a good setup here – Spencer won both races two years ago. But it’s really been a dream weekend – I’ve never had a double win weekend before. Actually, I can’t believe it. My goal in the race, with two really good, really aggressive drivers ahead of us, was just to keep it clean and finish the race. Going into Turn One I made a good start and when I realized we were three-wide, I hugged the inside as tight as I could. I know it sounds weird, but I was OK with the points for second. But I saw Colton getting close to the wall a couple times and I thought if he made a mistake, I would be ready. I’m usually on the bad end of luck but this year I was rewarded. I am definitely more confident and more relaxed heading into Mid-Ohio, having a little bit of a cushion in the championship. It’s unrealistic to say that the pressure won’t affect me, but it is a little bit less now.”
Aaron Telitz (#9 Mazda/Rice Lake Weighing Systems – Belardi Auto Racing): “I’ve been driving my butt off since St. Pete, where we had that awesome opener. We have been in a bit of a slump lately, pace-wise, so to come off the truck here fast and to finish on the podium today is great. I had a fast car, made good passes and stayed out of the crashes – people were all over the place. I battled hard with Zach and Santi. Guys were racing as clean as they could but it’s a tight street course – a bit too tight for some of the moves guys were making. This ups the confidence going into Mid-Ohio so hopefully we’ll keep it going.”
Zachary Claman De Melo (#13 ZCD Montreal/Zoological Wildlife Foundation – Carlin): “It’s great to get two podiums here in Toronto. I’ve raced karts here since I was 8 years old and it’s like my second home. I’ve hit my rhythm, so things are starting to really come together for us now. The speed has always been there but we’re qualifying toward the front now, which makes the racing a lot easier. The track was really slick and I was able to challenge Kyle early but I didn’t have the pace after the restart. I stayed out of trouble and was quick today, so though I’m disappointed not to get second, we’re on a high and I just want to keep it going at Mid-Ohio.”