Busy Month for Indy Lights Contenders Kicks Off at Iowa Oval
PALMETTO, Fla. – July is likely to be crucial to the outcome of this year’s Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires title-chase. Five races will be held during the month – on three markedly different tracks – starting with Sunday’s Mazda Iowa 100 Presented by Cooper Tires at the fast and challenging 0.894-mile Iowa Speedway oval in Newton, Iowa. This will mark the second of three oval events during the 17-race season.
Up for grabs is a scholarship valued at $1 million to guarantee the season’s champion an entry into at least three Verizon IndyCar Series events in 2019, including the 103rd Indianapolis 500.
Second-generation racer Colton Herta currently leads the standings for Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing. Herta, 18, from Valencia, Calif., has finished on the podium in all but one of the nine races held so far this season, including a hard-fought victory in the Freedom 100 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. His sequence of four consecutive victories was ended by Brazilian Victor Franzoni in the most recent race at Road America, but Herta retains a 17-point edge in the standings as he seeks to follow in the footsteps of his father, Bryan Herta, who won the Indy Lights title a quarter-century ago in 1993.
Herta finished fourth last year at Iowa after qualifying on pole position at a new two-lap track record average speed of 163.670 mph.
Andretti Autosport teammate Patricio O’Ward, from Monterrey, Mexico, holds second place in the championship after winning three of the opening four races. O’Ward also notched a second-place finish at Indianapolis.
“Last time I raced at this track was in 2015 in the Pro Mazda series and I finished on the podium, so I’m looking to move up two spots better this time around – and getting my first oval win of this season,” said O’Ward.
Teammates Ryan Norman and Dalton Kellett also are confident of running strongly. Norman, from Aurora, Ohio, qualified a career-best third and finished fifth at Indianapolis, while Kellett, from Toronto, Ont., Canada, took third after recording his first-ever pole position. Kellett also finished third at Iowa in 2017.
“Last year’s race was a lot of fun,” said Kellett, who also posted the fastest lap of the race. “We saw different cars taking various lines through the corners and I think that made the action enjoyable for the fans so this will definitely be a race to watch this year. Judging off of our pace last year I’m looking forward to starting this weekend off strong and having a good qualifying effort and seeing what we can do in the race.”
Belardi Auto Racing will enter its usual pair of Dallara-Mazda IL-15s for Uruguay’s Santi Urrutia and Wisconsin’s Aaron Telitz. Urrutia finished a strong second at Iowa last year and will be looking to rediscover the form that saw him finish on the podium in four of the first five races this season, while Telitz is chasing his first win of the year after standing on the podium in four of the most recent five races.
Franzoni (Juncos Racing), who was out of luck at Indianapolis, forced to pit with a puncture after running strongly in the opening stages, also has high expectations after scoring an emotional first Indy Lights win at Road America.
“I am really looking forward to the race in Iowa,” said the popular Brazilian. “After the win, I think we can carry this momentum forward for the final half of the season. We were super fast in the Freedom 100, so I am sure we will be fast at Iowa. The team has done a great job finding set ups on the ovals and I enjoy running on them as well so it will be a good weekend. Iowa is a difficult track but it is also a fun track.”
A single 45-minute practice starting at 1:30 p.m. CDT on Saturday will be the only opportunity to prepare for single-car qualifying at 5:00 p.m., while the green flag for the race is set for 11:15 a.m. on Sunday, immediately prior to the Iowa Corn 300 Verizon IndyCar Series headline event.
Coverage can be found on a series of platforms including Road to Indy TV, the Road to Indy TV App and dedicated broadcast channels on demand via Apple TV, Amazon Fire and Roku and the Xbox One Official App as well as live streaming and live timing on the series’ website, indylights.com, and indycar.com. Indy Lights is also featured on the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network broadcasts on Sirius 214, XM 209, IndyCar.com, indycarradio.com and on the INDYCAR Mobile app.
Sunday’s Mazda Iowa 100 Presented by Cooper Tires will have same-day coverage on NBCSN with the race airing at 11:00 pm EDT.
About Indy Lights: Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires is the third and final step on the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires. Sanctioned by INDYCAR, the series is operated by Andersen Promotions, which oversees all three levels of the ladder system. The Indy Lights champion is awarded a scholarship valued at $1M toward the Verizon IndyCar Series. The series has a rich history as a development platform for many of today’s top drivers. For more information, visit indylights.com and roadtoindy.info.
About Mazda, Mazda Motorsports: Mazda Motorsports boasts the most comprehensive auto racing development ladder system of any auto manufacturer in the world. The Mazda Road to 24 program offers a number of scholarships to advance drivers up the sports car racing ladder, beginning with the Global MX-5 Cup series and culminating with the Mazda Prototype team. The Mazda Road to Indy is a similar program that includes Mazda-powered categories of USF2000, Pro Mazda and Indy Lights. In grassroots road racing, more Mazdas race on any given weekend in North America than any other manufacturer. Follow all of the latest news at MazdaMotorsports.com, @MazdaRacing on Twitter, and MazdaMotorsports on Instagram and Facebook.
About Cooper Tire & Rubber Company: Cooper Tire & Rubber Company is the parent company of a global family of companies that specializes in the design, manufacture, marketing and sale of innovative, great-performing tires that you can count on to last for thousands of miles, getting you where you need to go, and back again. Cooper is proud to be the spec tire for all three levels of the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires, a development program within the Verizon IndyCar Series. Cooper tires can also be seen on the track as a sponsor of the Americas Rallycross and short course off-road racing. Headquartered in Findlay, Ohio, Cooper, with its subsidiaries, has manufacturing, sales, distribution, technical and design operations in more than one dozen countries around the world. To connect with Cooper, visit www.coopertire.com, www.facebook.com/coopertire or www.twitter.com/teamcoopertire.