Three-way Indy Lights title fight heads to Iowa oval

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

The Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires heads to its third – and last – oval round of the 2016 season this weekend at the 0.894-mile Iowa Speedway.

It’s a 115-lap race, the longest of the year race distance wise for the teams (race will air on Wednesday, July 13 on NBCSN at 6:00 pm ET).

Qualifying will likely be most important for the series because passing was difficult on the only other short oval of the season, the 1-miler at Phoenix International Raceway. Kyle Kaiser took his first series win from pole back in April for Juncos Racing.

Last year, the Carlin teammates finished 1-2 at Iowa with Max Chilton scoring an emotional victory from pole a day after the death of his former Manor F1 teammate Jules Bianchi, leading home Ed Jones.

Jones has been a bridesmaid in each of the last three oval races at Iowa, Phoenix and the Freedom 100 – the latter by just 0.0024 of a second to Dean Stoneman – and the Dubai-based Brit will look to deliver his first oval victory this weekend, which would be pivotal in the title chase.

Of course, Jones, Stoneman and Santiago Urrutia – the three top drivers in the series – enter under a greater microscope this weekend since all three were placed on probation by Indy Lights Race Director Tony Cotman after an eventful weekend in Road America.

Further sanctions will be imposed on any of the three if their on-track behavior continues to draw the ire of Race Control.

“The notices issued do not preclude a driver from racing hard but serve as a reminder on how to race over the final eight rounds of the championship,” Cotman said in a series release.

Jones leads Stoneman by 19 points and Urrutia by 24 (213-194-189) heading into Iowa.

Kaiser, fourth in the points but with only one top-three finish in the last seven races after three in the first three, has 174 points and can use this weekend as a clawback weekend if any or all of the top three hit trouble.

Felix Serralles is also one to watch, having banked a short oval win at Milwaukee last year; the same is true for Zach Veach, who won the first of two races at Road America two weeks ago. These two are fifth and sixth in points, at 169 and 168 points respectively, and the last two still with remote title hopes.

Andre Negrao and Shelby Blackstock sit seventh and eighth in points heading into the weekend, with the balance of the 13-car field comprised by Zachary Claman De Melo, Juan Piedrahita, Dalton Kellett, Neil Alberico and the returning Heamin Choi.