Indy Lights Cooper Tires Mid-Ohio Grand Prix Powered by Mazda Preview
After a thrilling weekend of racing north of border with several twists to the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires title picture, the stars of the series will now head to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
With just five races left in the season, Patricio O’Ward leads Colton Herta by 18 points after a stellar weekend at the Honda Indy Toronto that included winning on Saturday, followed by a runner-up on Sunday. With momentum on his side with five top-two finishes in the last six races, odds are currently in his favor to walk away with the championship.
“I’m trying to make as much as I can of this opportunity,” he said. “You don’t get these everyday so when you get something like this, you have to take charge and make sure you capitalize when you can. I feel like the approach so far has been the perfect approach.”
Historically, though, the 13-turn road course hasn’t treated the driver of the No. 27 Andretti Autosport Mazda well, as he has failed to score a podium in four Pro Mazda Presented by Cooper Tire starts with a track-best fourth-place finish.
On the flip side, though, his teammate Herta has done well there, scoring a runner-up and sixth in his pair of Indy Lights races there last season. The real question will depend on whether the driver of the No. 98 Andretti Steinbrenner Racing Curb Mazda can keep a pretty wheel following a thumb injury sustained in a qualifying crash in Toronto. He only made three laps in the second event, and did not partake in the pre-event test at the speedway.
If both of the Andretti teammates slip up, Santiago Urrutia has kept himself within striking distance, just 40 points behind O’Ward going into the weekend. With three straight podiums including the Toronto Race 2 victory, the Belardi Auto Racing driver is finding momentum at the right time. His track record also speaks for itself with three wins and a runner-up in four Mid-Ohio starts.
His teammate Aaron Telitz is out of the championship picture, but don’t take him out of consideration for a race victory this season. After a rough start to the 2018 campaign that essentially took him out of contention, he posted a pair of top-fives in Toronto with a podium finish in Race 2. As discussions begin to amp up about interest in him and a Verizon IndyCar Series ride at Harding Racing, a good run could go a long way in making a good impression. But, recall Mid-Ohio wasn’t his friend last year with finishes of eighth and fifth.
Outside of these four, it is hard to believe someone else walking away with a victory as they have dominated the headlines through the season to date. However, if anybody else should be considered, it’d be Victor Franzoni. Crashing out of the second race in Toronto, the heartbreak could be seen on his face as the future now holds a big question mark in regards to funding should be return to the series once again in 2018.
Looking to attract somebody with the dollars is much easier when you have a trophy in hand, and that’ll certainly be high up on the list of goals for this weekend. Notably, last season he posted a win and a pair of runner-ups in the three Pro Mazda events at Mid-Ohio en route to his championship.
After the twists and turns of the streets of Toronto, expectations are high for another thriller this weekend in Mid-Ohio. Let’s hope that those wishes come true as we get closer to crowning a champion.
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