Urrutia leads SPM 1-2 at Road America; drama for title rivals

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – In changeable conditions, with a wet track then drying but with most of the field remaining on Cooper Tires’ wet weather compounds, Santiago Urrutia claimed his second win of the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires season to lead a Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian 1-2 finish at Road America.

The Uruguayan led his only remaining teammate, Andre Negrao, who scored his first series podium. Race one winner Zach Veach overcame a spin to finish third for Belardi Auto Racing and thus become the only driver to score two podiums here this weekend.

Meanwhile a Lap 8 contretemps between Urrutia’s two primary Indy Lights championship rivals, points leader Ed Jones and Dean Stoneman, proved to be the dominant story on the day after a lead battle between them led to contact and then Jones getting hit by his Carlin teammate, Felix Serralles, which took both drivers out of contention for any sort of result. Stoneman would rebound from the incident, although he’d still finish off the podium for the first time since Round 4 at Barber.

Jones led away from pole in the No. 11 Dallara IL-15 Mazda over Veach, Negrao, Stoneman and Serrales with Urrutia falling to sixth on the opening lap despite starting second.

Once Dalton Kellett went off course at Turn 14 in the No. 28 Andretti Autosport entry, that led to a full-course caution and bunched up the field with Jones and Stoneman running 1-2.

Jones led the restart but Stoneman, showing his typical tenacity and passing poise, made it past on the run down to Turn 5 for the lead. Jones meanwhile then rebounded to pass him back.

On the run up to Turn 6, Jones moved to the left from the outside of the track, which forced Stoneman off the road and into a barrier – the contact ultimately damaged Stoneman’s valve and would cause a slow puncture. Jones’ day would be compromised on corner exit of Turn 6. Once he exited and slowed, his teammate, Serralles, ran into the back of him and climbed up over Jones’ rear wing.

With the Carlin twins sidelined the new order was Stoneman, Negrao, Veach – who’d spun on Lap 5 when running second but recovered – Urrutia and Kaiser.

Stoneman would restart only then realizing his tire had been punctured, and that took the Englishman out of win contention. Urrutia and Negrao then powered past with Urrutia moving into the lead past Lap 10.

While the lead battle and positions stabilized, Stoneman’s Andretti Autosport team took the opportunity to pit him and move onto Cooper’s dry weather slicks. Unsurprisingly, Stoneman was able to set off on a charge from there after unlapping himself and gaining more than a minute, plus two positions to get back to ninth place and setting the race’s fastest lap. It was small consolation for the earlier contact with Jones.

Urrutia won from Negrao, Veach, Zachary Claman De Melo and Shelby Blackstock. Stoneman was ninth, Jones 13th. James French and Garett Grist finished eighth and 10th in their second races of the weekend.

We caught up with the podium finishers and the two title combatants after the race. Unofficially, Jones has 213 points to Stoneman’s 194 and Urrutia’s 189. Kyle Kaiser is lurking with 174 points.

PODIUM

“All of the race was difficult,” Urrutia said. “At the beginning of the race I wasn’t that quick. So I wanted to save my tires. The guys in front were fighting. On the restart I said this is my moment, I need to push, and I kept pushing. It was difficult throughout.”

“It’s pretty difficult in the beginning, as it started to dry,” Negrao said. “My setup was completely for the full wet. So I tried to find water in the circuit but the circuit dried! So it got worse and worse and worse. But I created a big gap between me and Zach Veach. Have to thank the team believing in me, so thanks for the second position.”

“I was too aggressive. We played back and forth with the rain map,” Veach said. “I tried to get to power more aggressively. The turbo surprised me. Lost it. We just need more rain experience! That’s only the second or third time I’ve raced in the rain.”

STONEMAN AND JONES

“It was quite clear what he done. It’s very obvious he physically drove me off the track,” Stoneman said. “I thought it was a really great move into Turn 5, made it on the boost around the outside. He came back to me on the brakes, which is what I was expecting. I was more focused on the exit. And as you could see I got the cutback on him, and he literally drove me off the track. Safety car came out and I was leading by then. But unfortunately at that point I realized I had a puncture. I realized it… then I lost God knows how much time on that lap, which was frustrating.”

“We had a good car before the yellow. We were pulling away and had a good gap,” Jones said. “Then on the restart, Dean got around and past me going by, then in the braking zone I went down the inside. I locked up a little. Then I still kept the position. Turn 5 I went to defend. Then it was maybe a bit too much. That’s not really a passing spot anyway. He drove off the track. I touched his wing, so once his wing was damaged he realized that it was over for him. He tried to run me off 6, and that’s what caused the pileup. It’s frustrating. But I wasn’t really surprised.”

Most of the field tests in Iowa next week.