MRTI Notebook: Iowa

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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The Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda visited their first short oval of 2017 (and the only oval for USF2000). While USF2000 saw a return to normalcy of sorts, Indy Lights saw a bit of a championship shakeup.

Below are reports on both races.

INDY LIGHTS: LEIST GAINS GROUND ON KAISER WITH THIRD WIN OF 2017

Matheus Leist had to start tenth at Iowa Speedway, but immediately was on the charge and ran in the top three by lap 30.

He then made quick work of both Kyle Kaiser and Colton Herta, using an outside pass on the latter in turns three and four, to vault himself into the lead.

Leist ran unchallenged from there and led the final 69 laps to score a decisive victory, his third of 2017 and his second straight on an oval (he won the Freedom 100 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May).

“I’m so happy. I think this was my best race this year,” an elated Leist said afterward. “Of course, the Freedom 100 was great but I led the whole race. Here, I needed to move forward and I did. I’m so happy for the team – we needed to make some points today.”

He added that the car’s strong handling allowed him to maintain his lead without abusing the tires. “The car was just so good so I was able to open a gap, save my tires and get the win. It is a very difficult championship since everything here is new to me so I am being realistic. We’re in a good position now so if we can keep winning, we can keep fighting,” he finished.

The win also sees Leist make a big dent in Kyle Kaiser’s championship lead. Kaiser, who had been running second to Leist in the second half of the race, began falling back as the finish drew closer. Both Santi Urrutia and Dalton Kellett passed him on lap 77, dropping Kaiser to fourth. Herta then mounted a charge and passed Kaiser with eight laps remaining, dropping Kaiser to fifth.

As a result, Leist has closed to within 12 points of Kaiser as the series heads to the Streets of Toronto next week.

Behind Leist, Urrutia managed to outduel Kellett for second, while Kellett came home third, which matches his best finish of the season (he finished third at the Freedom 100).

Herta finished fourth to keep himself in the championship picture, and he now trails Kaiser by 36 points.

USF2000: ASKEW’S DOMINATION RETURNS

Oliver Askew won from the pole at Iowa Speedway. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

After having a tough outing at Road America, where he finished 17th and third, Oliver Askew regained his dominant form from earlier in the season to claim his sixth victory of the year at Iowa Speedway. In his first oval start, Askew started from pole and led all 60 laps on his way to victory.

Having never run on ovals before, Askew wasn’t entirely sure how things would go. “I had no experience on an oval at all coming into this year, so I don’t think anyone knew what to expect. The team told me it was halfway and I thought that should have been the race distance!” Askew quipped.

Askew credited his dominant run down to setup changes made by Cape Motorsports overnight. “We struggled a bit yesterday but we made a really good change last night and were quick today,” he explained. “It’s hard to pass here but we knew that if we got the pole and through the first couple of corners, we’d be set. It was awesome to be able to pull away.”

Title rival Rinus van Kalmthout came home second, nearly four seconds back of Askew, while Calvin Ming rounded out the podium in third.

With his win, Askew increases his championship lead over van Kalmthout to 32 points. Kaylen Frederick, who finished sixth, remains in third, but at a deficit of 89 points to Askew.

Follow Kyle Lavigne.

Santino Ferrucci will drive No. 14 for AJ Foyt Racing full time in 2023 IndyCar season

Santino Ferrucci AJ Foyt
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Santino Ferrucci will return to full-time racing in the NTT IndyCar Series next season, joining AJ Foyt Racing.

Ferrucci had made eight IndyCar starts with three teams since his last full-time season in 2020 while also racing part time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series this year.

He will drive the storied No. 14 Dallara-Chevrolet for four-time Indy 500 winner A.J. Foyt’s team, which will field the car from its Waller, Texas headquarters.

“It’s incredibly exciting to be back in the INDYCAR Series full time,” Ferrucci said in a team release. “Being a part-time driver over the last two years has been hard for me, personally. I’m a race car driver, and I want to compete. Working with different teams has been exciting, and I’m proud that no matter which car I’ve raced, I’ve always shown speed and consistency. I couldn’t be more excited to join AJ Foyt Racing in the 14 Chevy. I can’t wait to make the best of it.”

Ferrucci, 24, had finished a career-best fourth in IndyCar four times, including the 104th Indy 500 in 2020. He was the 2019 Indy 500 rookie of the year with a sixth.

In nine Xfinity starts since 2021, Ferrucci has a career-best finish of 13th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“I am thrilled to welcome Santino to the team,” Larry Foyt said in a release. “He’s shown a knack for getting toward the front of the field, and I think he is a racer who moves forward on race day. A.J. sees the fire in him and has enjoyed their meetings together. I think Santino’s experience will help his rookie teammate as well, so he is a great addition to our roster.”

Ferrucci will be teamed at AJ Foyt Racing with Benjamin Pedersen, who finished fifth in the 2022 Indy Lights standings. The team has yet to specify the number for Pedersen’s entry, which will be fielded out of its Indianapolis race shop.

Foyt’s two full-time drivers last season were Dalton Kellett and Kyle Kirkwood, who is moving to Andretti Autosport.