ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Norman finally claimed his share of the glory in today’s Cooper Tires Indy Lights Grand Prix of Road America Powered by AER. One month after providing the hard-luck story at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where he led the majority of a dramatic Freedom 100 before being edged to the finish line by teammate Oliver Askew, Norman, from Aurora, Ohio, moved into the lead early in today’s eighth Indy Lights Powered by Cooper Tires race of the season and never looked back.
Robert Megennis, from New York, N.Y., made it an Andretti Autosport one-two, while local favorite Aaron Telitz, from Birchwood, Wis., secured a fine third-place finish for Belardi Auto Racing.
The early stages of today’s 20-lap race were truly spectacular as several drivers battled back and forth around the fast and challenging 4.014-mile road course. VeeKay, who started from the pole position after posting the fastest lap in qualifying yesterday, maintained his position at the front of the field at the green flag, only to run wide over the curbs at the exit of Turn Seven. The Dutch teenager expertly regained control of his Juncos Racing Dallara after a lurid trip across the grass but, after rejoining the racing surface, he instinctively dodged left to prevent a close-following Megennis from making a move to the inside under braking for Turn Eight. The maneuver immediately caught the eye of the race stewards, who moments later instructed VeeKay to serve a drive-through penalty for blocking.
VeeKay, who afterward had no complaints about the call, rejoined a distant last, then showed what might have been as he posted the fastest lap of the race during a stirring comeback drive which earned him seventh place at the checkered flag.
As VeeKay headed to the pits, Megennis completed the opening lap with a narrow lead over Norman, Telitz, who started sixth, and Englishman Toby Sowery (BN Racing/Team Pelfrey), who, remarkably, bounced back from a crash during the second period of qualifying this morning to rise from eighth on the grid to fourth. Telitz thrilled the crowd at Turn Five by rising from third to the lead on Lap Two, but then it was his turn to be shuffled back as Norman took advantage of a huge draft – and the AER turbo engine’s 50-horsepower push-to-pass feature – to grab the lead at Turn One. In a flash, Sowery was up to second and Telitz and Megennis found themselves back in third and fourth.
Soon, though, the race settled down with Norman turning a series of super-consistently fast laps at the front of the field to edge clear of Sowery and Telitz.
By Lap 10, Norman’s lead had been extended to over two seconds over Telitz, who had reclaimed second place from Sowery into Turn One a couple of laps earlier. The gap grew to over five seconds before Norman eased off in the closing stage to secure a comfortable victory 4.6912 seconds clear of Megennis, who looked after his Cooper tires in the middle stages of the race and conserved his push-to-pass usages before pushing hard again and rising from fourth to second between laps 15 and 17.
Telitz was delighted with third in just his second open-wheel race of the season, with Sowery following home a worthy fourth to secure his first Tilton Hard Charger Award of the season.
Championship leader Oliver Askew (Andretti Autosport), from Jupiter, Fla., had an eventful race, falling from third to seventh in the early stages before fighting back to fifth at the finish.
VeeKay will have another opportunity to move closer to Askew in the championship chase in the morning when he starts on pole position for Round Nine, the halfway point in the season. The green flag is scheduled for 8:50 a.m. CDT.
Ryan Norman (#48 Three Chord Dallara-Andretti Autosport Dallara-AER IL-15): “Last year’s (first Indy Lights) win (at Gateway Motorsports Park) was pure adrenaline and excitement but today felt more like relief to finally pull this off! I’m so happy to get the No. 48 guys this win. I knew this was a long race so I tried to stay out of the fight early, especially with Rinus going off and guys going three-wide. Once things settled in, I was able to do what I needed to do.
“I think once I hit the wall in St. Pete, our momentum was thrown off, so my focus has been regrouping. I knew we were fast here and belonged on top so I just put my head down and made it happen. I have to win races to stay in contention in the championship, so this was a good start.”
Robert Megennis (#27 Cybersecurity Dallara-Andretti Autosport Dallara-AER IL-15): “That was insane. I led the first lap then got passed by three or four drivers on the next lap. I decided to be smart and save my push-to-pass to see what I could do later in the race, and that ended up working out. Andretti Autosport gave me an awesome car – that’s why I was able to do what I did and be there at the end. The pass on Aaron was great. I was pretty excited to make that move! It’s all the experience I’ve gained on the Road to Indy, and I’ve learned so much this year. I took what I learned at CoTA (Circuit of The Americas), where I was too aggressive, and it paid off here.”
Aaron Telitz (#4 Endodontic Specialists of Wisconsin, S.C-Belardi Auto Racing Dallara-AER IL-15): “This feels really good, to get a podium for the team at our home race. The home fans got to see me make some passes and lead a little bit, so hopefully they enjoyed it. But that race was a little bit all over the place. I had a good start but Toby Sowery had a really good start, getting up to second from way back. I did a good job to make it through the first few corners and make up a few spots. When Rinus came back on track it was right in front of all of us and we really had to check up. We all went everywhere; we were lucky not to hit anyone. I got around Toby later and was able to race with Ryan, but there was a lot of push-to-pass early on. I was a sitting duck when Rob got around me, but I’m happy with the result in only my second race in the series this year.”