LONG BEACH, Calif. – Ed Jones has taken his third victory in as many Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires races to open the 2015 season, but today’s triumph at Long Beach wasn’t nearly as straightforward as his pole-to-flag romps in St. Petersburg.
Jones, driver of the No. 11 Carlin Dallara IL15-Mazda, started fourth but quickly made it up to second following a sizeable first-lap accident involving Kyle Kaiser (No. 18 Juncos Racing) and polesitter Jack Harvey (No. 42 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports).
Kaiser ran up and onto the back of Harvey heading into Turn 1, with second-starting Spencer Pigot (No. 12 Juncos Racing) trapped on the outside and Felix Serralles (No. 4 Belardi Auto Racing) diving to the inside and emerging with the lead. Kaiser was done on the spot, while Harvey limped around to the pit lane sans rear wing.
On the Lap 4 restart, Serralles got the jump but Jones quickly passed him on the restart.
While Jones took the lead, Pigot, who’d fallen to fifth in the first lap fracas, began his comeback charge, making a number of excellent passes for position into Turn 9.
A mid-race caution in the 42-lap race for another incident between the luckless Harvey in a repaired car and Serralles’ teammate Juan Piedrahita – both stuck in the tires at Turn 8 – brought the 3-second gap between Jones and Pigot down to nothing.
But despite Pigot’s dogged charge, Jones held on for the win. Serralles was third for his first Indy Lights podium.
Post-race, the podium finishers described their views of the Turn 1 incident, which was the key moment of the race.
“We weren’t so quick on Friday and qualifying was so close,” Jones said. “It was so easy to make a mistake, and with only a tenth from first to fourth. So it could have been any of us on pole.
“We were on wrong side of the pace. I don’t think we had the pace of Spencer, so we took the opportunity. The start was the key factor to make up positions. I built a gap over Felix. The safety car came out, closed the gap, and it put Spencer right behind.
“For the last half of the race it was extremely hard. You have to use push-to-pass more strategically. I’d only use it when I saw Spencer was quite close. You could feel the difference. At St. Pete it was minimal.”
Pigot recapped his viewpoint and his recovery.
“Yeah it was looking good. I was side by side with Jack. Then I braked late and saw him flying by,” Pigot said. “Then I saw Kyle on the back of him. It forced me out wide with nowhere to go. I ended up fifth. It’s a good result to come back to second.
“It felt really good. The only place I could get a good run was out of 8 into 9. You had to square up the entry and put down the power. I got a little close a few times. I think we bumped wheels a few times. We had hard, aggressive, somewhat clean racing. We both got through it, so it was good.”
Serralles noted his vantage point and the restart.
“Everyone was a bit close, especially Jack and Kyle,” he said. “I decided whether to go left or right. Luckily I stayed left. Kyle went over the back and I was able to go through. It’s a good result. We struggled on pace at St. Pete. I missed a test day at Barber because I was sick. We’re getting quicker.
“It’s just different coming from European racing when the pace car leaves and you go when the leader goes. Here it’s when you see the green flag. I kind of waited but it allowed him to get a good run.”
The Indy Lights field moves to Barber Motorsports Park for a doubleheader weekend, for Rounds 4 and 5 of the championship.