OBSERVATIONS: Mazda St. Louis Indy Lights Oval Challenge
They say it only takes two cars to make a race exciting; so when you have seven Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires drivers, that means we can still have a great show, and that’s what happened on Saturday afternoon.
The progression of Ryan Norman as a driver came full circle when he claimed victory in the Mazda St. Louis Indy Lights Oval Challenge at Gateway Motorsports Park, but it wasn’t easy.
Running second throughout the majority of the event, he had to track down his Andretti Autosport teammate Colton Herta and work his way around him. Although the top line had speed, it took a couple tries to make it happen, but the pass was ever so thrilling when it worked out through turns one and two. Then once out in front, he was handed the task of holding onto the top spot, and that wasn’t easy if you know Herta’s credentials this season.
Although the focus has been on his teammates – and rightfully so with the title chase, Norman entered the event on the heels of two podiums in the past four races. If you want to talk about drivers to keep in mind early for 2019’s championship battle, let’s start here.
Meanwhile, this year is all about Patricio O’Ward and Herta in that department as the pair trade wins back and forth. While O’Ward showed speed in practice, he fell back in the early stages and was unable to make up the ground to the top-two, placing third. This allowed Herta to cut into the point lead, now down to 25 points heading into the final two rounds at Portland.
With a small car count, though, it will take O’Ward having issues and Herta being close to perfect for a shift in the top spot – but hey, anything is possible. Just ask Herta, who went through that during Toronto.
While Andretti stole the show – as they have been all year really – with their drivers sweeping the top-three spots, the Belardi Auto Racing teammates Santiago Urrutia and Aaron Telitz put on a battle for fourth during the middle portion of the event. A shout-out to them for giving each other just enough room during those series of laps back and forth is deserving.
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