Colton Herta's Indy Lights debut was the top story of the weekend in MRTI. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

MRTI: St. Petersburg weekend digest

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With six races to kick off the new Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires season, there was always going to be an overload of story lines that emerged from the streets of St. Petersburg.

And indeed, there was a heavy magnitude of incredible moments that played themselves out the last few days.

HERTAMANIA 2.0 IS FOR REAL

I’ll admit to having had only a casual following of Colton Herta during his stint in Europe the last couple seasons, not because I didn’t think he was good, but when you cover double digit series on a regular basis it’s hard to put EuroFormula Open and F4 with Carlin on your full-time radar. But knowing that he’d won races overseas against what is always a stacked field was always going to be an impressive feat, particularly when you consider the Californian moved overseas and raced there at 14 and 15 years old.

Rise up, young man. This is Colton Herta, and at 16, his future is bright. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Testing, too, can always be a bit of a red herring coming into a new season because of different test plans, programs and the occasional fast lap “glory run” for promotional purposes. That Herta ended fastest from the only official day of preseason testing in his No. 98 Deltro Energy Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing Dallara IL-15 Mazda at Homestead-Miami Speedway was nice and great to see, especially considering he’s working with talented engineer Doug Zister. But would it translate onto the bumpy, if repaved, streets of St. Petersburg, a place as far away on setup from Homestead’s infield road course as the miles it takes to get between the two in this long state? That was always the question going in.

But good lord, if Bryan’s son – “HertaMania 2.0” – is this good, this early in his career, the sky is the limit for him. He’s 16 now and turns 17 later this month, but showed the combination of aggression, tenacity and poise well beyond his years, and was so cool as a cucumber outside the cockpit even as he ran the gamut of interviews during the weekend that could have easily distracted him.

Telitz (9) won Saturday but Herta’s (98, white text rear wing) moves were impressive. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Cool as it was to see Aaron Telitz, another fascinating and talented young American walk away with Indy Lights race one on Saturday, it was Herta’s passing demonstrations into Turn 1 that dazzled in arguably one of the best Indy Lights races since the introduction of the new car. Making several moves on Kyle Kaiser (Lap 5), Shelby Blackstock (Lap 20), and Neil Alberico (Lap 31, after nearly colliding on Lap 26), Herta was the passing star of the race.

“I guess push-to-pass worked!” Herta deadpanned with a wit you’d expect of a 26-year-old, not 16. “It was a bit of an unknown going from Homestead. It performed great.

“That one on Neil… oh that was close. It took my nose nipple off a little bit. It was close, but he left me room and saw me coming. We both kind of locked up and went a little wide, so we avoided big contact.”

Alberico, who drives for Carlin and is supported by Rising Star Racing, had to tip his cap on the move to the fellow Californian, on a day when SoCal just edged NorCal.

“He had a lot more pace at end of the race,” Alberico said. “Getting a podium after starting mid-pack would be a good result. The smartest guy will win this championship. Colton earned second place today.”

Herta’s win in race two (airs March 18 on NBCSN) allowed him to showcase his defending, rather than overtaking, level of race craft. He defended against the aggressive but determined Santiago Urrutia on multiple occasions, to complete the dream debut weekend, and lead the points in the process.

At 13 in 2013, Herta won the Pacific F1600 championship driving for PR1/BHA with Curb-Agajanian and won 10 of 15 races, so his win Sunday was his first win on North American soil since that time. It capped off a week where Herta tossed out the first pitch at a New York Yankees spring training game on Tuesday and then ended on top Sunday morning.

Herta (center) and the Steinbrenners. George Michael Steinbrenner IV is to Herta’s immediate left. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

“We had the whole Steinbrenner family that all came out today. Hank’s even out here. It was great to have the team rooting for us,” he said.

George Michael Steinbrenner IV, Steinbrenner Racing principal added, “It really couldn’t have aligned any better. It’s very satisfying for me. Knowing Colton for so long, I’ve known how good he could be.”

SOUL RED SATURDAY IN ST. PETE

Askew, Telitz and Martin. Photo: Mazda Motorsports

The running joke that permeated during the Mazda Road to Indy offseason was that the three Mazda scholarship drivers, Telitz, Anthony Martin and Oliver Askew, had to tactfully and carefully manage to note they were driving but couldn’t say with which team until Mazda formally confirmed it. At one point, Telitz – who’d been linked to Belardi Auto Racing since September – was listed as driving with “Team Real Big Secret” and the laughs followed.

Laughs turned to straight-up smiles and jubilation on Saturday when all three of the scholarship drivers, having been formally confirmed with Belardi (Telitz in Indy Lights) and Cape Motorsports (Martin in Pro Mazda, Askew in USF2000) won on the same day, at the same track, in their debuts in the respective series.

Martin won the first Pro Mazda race of the weekend, with Askew then winning the second USF2000 race of the weekend. Once Telitz started from pole and survived a four-wide passing attempt off the start into Turn 1 in the Indy Lights race, the stage was set for the “Soul Red Saturday” sweep.

“I mean honestly this feels a little bit unreal,” said Telitz, the Wisconsinite who at 25 is one of the older but savvier and funniest drivers in the Mazda Road to Indy. “I knew Belardi cars were fast. But to actually do it, qualify on pole, lead the most laps and win by 11 seconds or something, it is seriously awesome. I can’t explain exactly what this means. Huge thanks to Mazda for having the scholarship to move up!”

Askew’s win came after running second in the morning race, where he pressured Robert Megennis but didn’t force the issue against the talented teenager. “I keep telling myself, it’s all about points this weekend. So many guys come out of here with a huge deficit,” he said then. After the win, Askew was reflective and effusive with praise: “I thought if I could come out second, that would be great. But that caution came out and it threw the plan out the window. I reacted to whatever was happening and I was off from there.”

Martin had the broom at Mid-Ohio in USF2000 last year and had it this weekend in Pro Mazda. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Martin, who’d traditionally struggled at St. Petersburg in USF2000, completed the only weekend sweep for the MRTI this weekend in Pro Mazda. The Australian, now back in a single-car effort after having two teammates last year, has the sole focus on him and impressed straightaway.

“Yeah I knew the pressure was on, with St. Pete as the first race of the year,” he said. “As a team we were really pushed to set a mark for everyone involved. We’ve shown what we’re gonna do. We’re not gonna play around. The Soul Red boys… man it proves what Mazda is doing, is working. It gives me the confidence when people believe in me. This weekend is the hardest I’ve ever pushed in my life.”

USF2000’s DAILY DOUBLE, TATUUS USF-17 DEBUT

Race 2 start for USF2000. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

If one was to grade the debut of the new Tatuus USF-17 for Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, a B to B-plus would be a fair assessment. The car raced very well, particularly in the first race of the day held Saturday morning when drivers raced smart and kept the 30-minute affair caution-free, and then continued to do well in race two on Saturday. The downgrade from a firm A comes with the number of accidents in practice that occurred, which while understandable given it’s inexperienced drivers and a street course, quickly added up to make a good weekend for the spare parts department.

It was interesting to talk to two of the drivers who raced the previous generation Van Diemen and continued this year, in Megennis who won race one and Parker Thompson, who had pole for race two in his Exclusive Autosport entry but made a mistake at Turn 1 that opened the door for Askew, ultimately ending third.

“As a new team we have brand new mechanics and a lot of new components,” explained Thompson, out of Red Deer, Alberta. “The team handled it really well. Exclusive gave me a car that could have won and I threw it away. But I have to hold my head high. Myself and team have worked to learn everything. Pabst and Cape have been to this track before. We haven’t. And we had a car, a new car, good to win first race… so I guarantee I’ll work harder than ever to repay them.”

Megennis scored both his and Team Pelfrey’s first USF2000 win in St. Petersburg. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Added Megennis, who drives for Team Pelfrey: “It’s different. I had the aero wash being behind people. Out front, it was a different experience! This car is a lot more comfortable to drive. It’s a lot more fun, it’s not easier, and you have to push it harder, it’s a lot more enjoyable and exciting.

“I tried to approach it exactly like last year. But now, you can show up at the weekends ahead. You know the track, you know the setup direction, and you know how the races work. Being a second-year driver makes a lot of difference.”

BACK FROM BREAK, AND BACK TO A NEW BREAK IN PRO MAZDA

With a reduced schedule, the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires series races only six weekends this season. The gap between St. Petersburg and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course is the longest gap this season, a full two months.

So what do you do to stay sharp in that time? We asked the podium finishers this weekend what their game plan was.

Franzoni (left), Martin (center) and Fischer (right) were podium both days, flanked by the Team Cooper Tire girls. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

“I think I’ll be in Indy for the break. It’s a bit of a break but we may be doing some testing,” said Martin.

“This break will be really good for us,” said Victor Franzoni, who concluded a late deal to race with Juncos Racing this season. “We already had a great result there in a test. And we tested together, so they know the setup for me. I think there, it will decide our championship! Here, was more to meet each other and start the work.”

“It is a big break,” added TJ Fischer, who delivered two-time defending champions Team Pelfrey both his and its first two podiums of 2017. “We don’t have Barber – which is somewhat unfortunate. But it makes every weekend more powerful, and means more in the championship. In the little break we have, we have one or two days of testing, so it’s about getting the rhythm down. From there you have to stay mentally in the game.”

NEWS AND NOTES

Urrutia’s “Red 5.” Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
  • In Indy Lights, keen-eyed observers will have spotted Urrutia’s No. 5 Belardi car with Arrow signage on the sidepods this weekend. Arrow Electronics is a sponsor of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ Verizon IndyCar Series program. The Uruguayan was gutted to have been taken out by Dalton Kellett in race one, but bounced back with second in race two.
  • Kyle Kaiser had a respectable but not sterling weekend for Juncos Racing with finishes of sixth and fourth. Juncos was the only team of the five in Indy Lights that didn’t score at least one podium this weekend.
  • Pato O’Ward did make the podium on Sunday, and fifth and third finishes were great for him at Team Pelfrey. The teenaged Mexican driver will be in action next at this weekend’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring with Performance Tech Motorsports in the PC class, where he looks for his second win after also winning at the Rolex 24 at Daytona. Regarding his Indy Lights future? “I have to work on more, but I’m optimistic you might see me in Barber,” he said.
  • Kellett and Juan Piedrahita were unlucky to not convert top-five starting positions into results this weekend, as both series veterans were further up the grid than they had been previously.
  • Meanwhile, quietly good weekends occurred for two other returning drivers in Shelby Blackstock (fourth and sixth) and Zachary Claman De Melo (eighth and seventh) in their first weekends with new teams of Belardi and Carlin, respectively. Ryan Norman also did well to score a pair of top-10s in his first weekend with Andretti.
  • Neil Alberico’s run to third on Saturday was aided by a pre-race engine change, as Alberico has continued to bear the brunt of mechanical issues. He didn’t get a chance to repeat on Sunday, collected in a first-lap accident with Nico Jamin.
  • A loss of power also stunted a potential podium run for Alberico’s teammate Matheus Leist in Sunday’s race, the young Brazilian having done well to come to grips early on in his first weekend.
  • Pro Mazda not only saw Martin sweep, but the same podium in order in both races. Carlos Cunha (race one) and Sting Ray Robb (race two) were fourth, with Los Angeles-based Russian Nikita Lastochkin fifth in both races.
  • After completing a late deal to race Pro Mazda with ArmsUp Motorsports in an old Kaiser-driven, Juncos chassis, Max Hanratty did well to end eighth and sixth in the two races. He’d missed qualifying for race two with a gearbox issue. The Gregg and Brent Borland-led ArmsUp group also bagged a solid seventh place in USF2000 race two, with Devin Wojcik.
  • USF2000’s star beyond the winners was Dutch driver Rinus Van Kalmthout, or VeeKay as he’s been listed in promotional material this year. The Pabst driver scored a double podium finish with third in race one, and second in race two. “I’ve never felt so good at a race weekend,” he said.
  • Cape, Pabst, Pelfrey, ArmsUp, John Cummiskey Racing and RJB Motorsports continued into 2017 with the new car, while new teams rounded out the grid in the form of DE Force Racing, Exclusive Autosport, Kaminsky Racing and Newman/Wachs Racing. Benik was a no-show with Kyle Kirkwood, who along with Askew and Exclusive’s Luke Gabin were part of Spencer Pigot’s winning team in Wednesday night’s Kart 4 Kids Pro/Am, an unfortunately – and hopefully briefly – sidelined Team USA Scholarship winner.
  • Newman/Wachs Racing scored five top-10 finishes out of six shots this weekend, Dakota Dickerson with two sixths, Cameron Das with an eighth and a ninth and Andre Castro with one 10th. But it was an expensive and character-building weekend otherwise as Castro sustained three accidents, one in the race, and Das one in a preliminary session. You never want to see a team incur such a weekend but if a team was well-prepared to handle it, it would be NWR, given its previous ladder experience in Atlantic, its crew experience, and the seemingly ever-present smile on veteran PR rep Anne Roy’s face. If the racing gods took away from NWR on the streets of St. Pete, they should make up for it later this year.
  • DE Force was quietly impressive in its series debut. Both Moises de la Vara and Kory Enders were in the front half of the field and Enders banked a solid P8 in race two for the Mexican-influenced team that features former driver and veteran driver coach David Martinez as part of its ownership structure.
  • Seven drivers scored top-10s in both races: Askew, Van Kalmthout, Thompson, Dickerson, Das, 14-year-old Kaylen Frederick of Team Pelfrey who was fourth and fifth,and Guyana driver Calvin Ming, another Pabst driver.
  • Former John Cummiskey Racing drivers Lucas Kohl and Ayla Agren had tough weekends in their new teams. Kohl was 12th and 11th, while Agren had a frustrating weekend where again she was unable to show her potential. JCR pressed on with sports car driver and open-wheel novice Kris Wright, who kept the car in one piece with two top-15 finishes.

The next round for the Indy Lights and USF2000 series is at Barber Motorsports Park in about a month and a half in April, while as mentioned, the Pro Mazda series is off until mid-May in Indianapolis.

What Drivers Said after the finish of the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama

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Here’s What Drivers Said after the rain-delayed conclusion of the INDYCAR Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park:

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 1 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet) – WINNER: “That was more eventful than I would have liked. But everybody did a great job. How about Team Chevy today – they gave us a great engine, good fuel mileage and good reliability, and that’s what we needed to win this race. It’s great having Hitachi – we got Verizon a victory, now we got Hitachi a victory, so thank you guys. Everyone at Team Penske did a great job, but like I said, that was more eventful than I wanted it. It would seem like smooth sailing for the most part, we didn’t have any yellows, which we were hoping no yellows today, but then the rain crept in. I couldn’t believe how long everyone stayed out. It was really risky what they were doing, but I understand why there were doing it. I’m glad we made the call to come in so soon.”

RYAN HUNTER (No. 28 DHL Honda) – finished 2nd: “It was a good race, it was tough getting the fuel number and trying to keep the pace up, but it was a lot of fun when it started raining, trying to find the grip again and searching around. I was almost worried that I was going to burn the front (tires) off. We came in early for the wet (tires). I stayed out there as long as I could, but on the slicks, I was a lot quicker and it was that inconsistent snap that you have. When you have one of those (snaps) with the slicks you can absolutely lose it completely, so we thought that was the best time to come in and grab the Firestone wets. It was good from there. I just needed a little bit more time to cut in on (Josef) Newgarden’s lead. Congratulations to Team Penske and (Josef) Newgarden. Great job by the DHL guys this weekend. We rolled off the truck, we weren’t that happy with the car and we kept working on it methodically, chipping into it and everybody just executed it – so a good weekend overall.”

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow Electronics SPM Honda) – finished 3rd: “I feel bad for the fans as much as anything. We were driving around out there, and it’s like, ‘Right guys its getting wetter, it’s getting wetter….’ ‘Wet enough for rains?’ ‘Nah, not wet enough for rains…’ ‘Wet enough for rains?’ ‘Nah…’ ‘Pit for rains.’ ‘Are you guys sure?’ It was the right call for sure, so big props to the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports guys; solid weekend for us in the end. As I said before, not a great test here, but two cars in the top 10 after qualifying and then two cars in the top five in the race, so pretty proud of these boys and everyone on the Arrow Electronics car. It’s good to get a couple of Hondas up there, maybe not on the top step of the podium, but we took the rest of it.”

ROBERT WICKENS (No. 6 Lucas Oil SPM Honda) – finished 4th: “I was having to save a lot of fuel in that second stint, so once (Scott) Dixon started getting close to me, I was thinking I might have to give this position up. Then the rain came, so the fuel mileage kind of happened naturally. The rain saved us a bit, but overall great job by the Lucas Oil guys. I was a little gutted that we came out into a big bunch of traffic, but it made the race fun. It was also a little bit frustrating as we lost a bit of track position there, and I think we could have both been fighting for higher steps on the podium today.”

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 18 Team SealMaster Honda) – finished 5th: “It was just a tough day for the SealMaster Honda No. 18 team. It was looking perfect. We executed the plan to perfection. I started on scuffed Firestone red (alternate) tires, so we had a lot of tire degradation, but were still able to save more fuel than almost everyone. Josef (Newgarden) went for the push and it looked like we were still going to beat him because he pitted the second time and we got ahead. I had enough fuel to finish, but unfortunately, Mother Nature decided to open the skies and there wasn’t anything we could do about that. We tried to stay out and it bit us. On top of that, when we put on the wet tires, I don’t know what happened but the car was diabolical. I couldn’t do anything. I barely kept Scott (Dixon) behind me. I gave it my best shot, the guys did a good job, but it wasn’t enough. Everyone is executing perfectly. Unfortunately, you can’t predict what the weather is going to do, so you have to make a call one way or the other and we were on the wrong side of the fence today. The good news is we finished fifth and keep putting ourselves in position. Our pace is good and we are in the championship mix.”

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) – finished 6th: “I think I was one of the drivers on the fence in regards to if we should restart or not yesterday. I guess overall, it was the same for everyone. I literally couldn’t see a thing from the PNC Bank car and was just trying to hold it straight. Cars were just going by me, and there was nothing you could do because I couldn’t see anything out of my visor. It’s a shame we couldn’t get in the full distance Sunday because Barber is an amazing track with an incredible crowd. I think the one-stop strategy was the one to have today and it would have put us third, but the rain took care of that, unfortunately. The car was fast and really good on fuel mileage, but it is what it is. Hopefully we can get a break to go our way in a few weeks.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Mi-Jack Honda) – finished 7th: “In the dry, we were able to make some moves and get by some guys, and turn in some good laps when we needed to before the pit stops and cycle out to a pretty good spot. Overall, it was a decent day. I can’t say too much bad about it. I’ll take seventh. We lost some ground to a few of the guys ahead, but overall it’s good to be third in points.”

TAKUMA SATO (No. 30 Mi-Jack / Panasonic Honda) – finished 8th: “We tried a one-stop strategy, and basically everyone else was on two-stoppers, so we looked like we lacked pace, but we had to save a massive amount of fuel. It looked good until the middle. My teammate came on charge and was on a hard two-stopper, so I let him go and lost some positions a couple of times, but then it looked good. If the yellow came, we would have been in a very positive position. Even not, a lot of people had to come into the pits. However, unfortunately the rain came and I had to stop again for rain tires, which meant my second stint was basically just a slow pace. It’s a big shame. The rain helped me a lot yesterday to get to eighth and today, in the end, the rain didn’t help my strategy. I will take it after a difficult qualifying.  We need to make the car fast at the (INDYCAR) Grand Prix because we have a lot of work to be done.”

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet) – finished 9th: “We had a pretty good race going and I think we potentially could have been a top five (finisher). So, I was very frustrated with Gabby (Chavez). He was two laps down. And I just got stuck behind him, which gave an opportunity to (Scott) Dixon as I was trying everything I could to make it happen. But, it’s a real shame because when it’s not your day, it’s just not your day. You’ll have better days later, but you won’t have everybody on your side when you have a good day. And at the moment, he doesn’t have me on his side, let me tell you. But, it’s a real shame. I think the Menards No. 22 was really from where we started. The strategy to go on rain (tires) when we went on rain was a good choice and I thought it was a really good pace. We just started from too far back.”

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 98 Kerauno / Curb Honda) – finished 10th: “It was a lot of fun out there, but I think finishing 10th is the worst we should’ve finished. I think myself and the guys earned a third-place finish. We beat (James Hinchcliffe) out in the end – so we had third locked up until the rain made all the one-stoppers work. We were looking really good for a podium; the Kerauno team was way better than what the race results showed, but we know we have the pace, so we’ll keep digging and move on to Indy.”

ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 27 Kerauno / MilitaryToMotorsports.com Honda) – finished 11th: “It definitely wasn’t our best day. We initially went into the race with the plan of doing a two-stopper, then we switched to a one-stop strategy once the race started because of the extra formation laps. Once the race got going, we were on the wrong tire for the one-stop plan, and couldn’t make the fuel work, so we switched back to a two-stop strategy. It was looking OK, but we tried to survive the rain probably one lap too long and we lost time to guys that had already switched to rain tires. We ended up 11th. It wasn’t a great day from a performance or strategy standpoint. It’s a day that we’ll certainly be putting behind us as soon as possible and look forward to (the INDYCAR Grand Prix) where we had a really strong test a couple weeks ago.”

MATHEUS “MATT” LEIST (No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet) – finished 12th: “We made some great progress from where we started the weekend, so I’m pretty happy with that. The car was good with the reds (Firestone alternate tires) in the race, so I think we had good pace. We were running with (Simon) Pagenaud, and when (Scott) Dixon came in front of me he was not that much faster, which means we made some progress from practice. Unfortunately in the rain, the car wasn’t as good, we were struggling with understeer, so I couldn’t push as I wanted. If we look at where we started and where we finished, it was a good weekend. I’m happy for the ABC Supply team and myself. Onto Indianapolis.”

ZACH VEACH (No. 26 Group One Thousand One Honda) – finished 13th: “The weekend overall was good for us, confidence-wise – advancing to the top 12 in qualifying and getting up to position sixth yesterday for the first part of the race. Today, I think we definitely had the pace to finish inside the top 10, but we had a few mechanical issues during the race. I lost all of my adjustments inside of the car, so once that happened I was a sitting duck. Extremely thankful for my Group One Thousand One crew for the job they did this weekend. We held on the best we could to come home 13th. Hopefully we can improve for the (INDYCAR Grand Prix) and of course build on everything in time for the Indianapolis 500.”

JORDAN KING (No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet) – finished 14th: “I had a really good restart. I did exactly what I wanted to do, I wanted to dispatch a couple of cars quite quickly. I managed to get past both Ed (Jones) and Scott (Dixon) before Turn 2, so that was really good actually. That gave me good track position, we were then in the top five. Unfortunately, the rain yesterday may have caused an electrical problem that took quite a while to clear. Once we got going, it was then alright. Our strategy was then compromised with the rain and we were caught out. Overall slightly annoying, we really would have been fine for a top-five finish quite comfortably, I think.”

SPENCER PIGOT (No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet) – finished 15th: “It was definitely a difficult race out there. We thought we were making up some ground by pitting early and running hard, which seemed to be working a bit. We tried to gamble at the end to stay on slicks. We were hoping for a yellow that the race would end under and we could stay up where we were. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen and I just tried to keep it on the road the best I could. Eventually, it just got too wet and we had to come in at the end. There are some positives to take away from this weekend, we’re going to take those into the INDYCAR Grand Prix and hopefully be back up front.”

RENE BINDER – finished 16th: No comments

GABBY CHAVES (No. 88 Harding Group Chevrolet) – finished 17th: “Today’s conditions were not ideal for us to start. Our strategy we used yesterday to hope for a yellow to get our lap back obviously never came. We just did more to learn, try to gauge our pace and try to keep improving. I thought we really improved on our pace compared to everyone else and we did well to pick up a few positions at the end of the day and brought the car home. Now we get to work on our most important month of the year.”

TONY KANAAN (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet) – finished 18th: “We had a very difficult weekend and I’m glad it’s over. Looking forward to Indianapolis.”

ZACHARY CLAMAN DE MELO (No. 19 Paysafe Honda) – finished 19th: “Yesterday was tough with all the rain, and I think it was a good call to postpone the race to today. With the two-lap penalty that we received yesterday, we knew we were already at a disadvantage. So, the main goal today was to show my race craft aboard the No. 19 Paysafe car, show that my pace was there and to show that if we would have been on the lead lap that we could have definitely fought for a top 10 position. I think we did that with how I was able to pass other cars on a track that is known to be difficult for passing. We had good pace, and the fastest race lap, so it was a positive weekend overall even if it didn’t go our way.”

ED JONES (No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) – finished 20th: “Yesterday at the start, I was trying to attack, but it was very difficult. I just couldn’t see anything. Especially on the restarts. Maybe I could have been more aggressive or kept my foot down, but I didn’t think it was worth the risk in the NTT DATA car. Conditions were just very, very tough. You couldn’t see a thing. Today we got restarted and we were making progress, but we had mechanical issues and had to pit way before it was over. The guys will have to take a look at the car to see what happened I think. Hopefully we can move on and have a good start to the month of May in Indy.”

WILL POWER – finished 21st: No comments

MAX CHILTON (No. 59 Gallagher Chevrolet) – finished 22nd: “That was a really unfortunate way for us to end the weekend. We were happy with the qualifying effort of the No. 59 Gallagher Chevrolet and felt like we were making progress, but after the race was red-flagged and everyone was allowed to start on full fuel, we knew we were going to have a hard time doing much strategy-wise to move toward the front. Unfortunately for us, we didn’t get a chance to see what we could do during the remainder of the race because of an electrical issue that had us stopped on track before the field went green. The boys had it fixed and back out on track, but once we had confirmed the issue was fixed out on track and the heavy rain picked back up again, there was no point in us continuing and possibly tearing anything up.”

CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 23 Tresiba Chevrolet – quote given Saturday) – finished 23rd: “The No. 10 car of Ed Jones just drove into the back of me. The stewards reviewed it and decided that no action would be taken, which I vehemently disagree with. Yeah, visibility was tough out there, but it was tough for everyone. I didn’t run into anyone and no one else ran into me, except for the No. 10 car. I don’t know what the stewards were looking at, but I’m going to have a discussion with them after the race. I’m just disappointed because the Carlin guys know how to run in the wet and they gave me a great car. We were moving up the field a few spots, and with the Marco (Andretti) spin, we were able to elevate another spot. We were just knocking on the door of making it into the top 10 and coming out of here in these conditions with a top-10 result heading into May would’ve been really good for the team.”

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