MRTI Toronto Notebook: Saturday

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 were in action for the second week in a row after last week’s visit to Iowa Speedway. And, for the first time since the season opening event in St. Petersburg Florida, a street course awaited each series.

Saturday’s Indy Lights and USF2000 outings saw one series have a big twist in its championship battle, while the other saw a driver get his first win of the 2017 season. Reports on both races are below. 

 

INDY LIGHTS: KAISER EXTENDS POINTS LEAD WITH VICTORY AS LEIST CRASHES OUT

Kyle Kaiser grabbed his second victory of 2017. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Kyle Kaiser dominated Race 1 in Indy Lights, leading flag-to-flag after starting on the pole to take his second victory of the season. However, the championship picture saw a big twist when title rival Matheus Leist crashed in the opening laps.

Leist, running third at the time and fighting to hold off a charging Santi Urrutia, overcooked it entering turn 8 on lap 4. The car broke loose in the middle of the corner and hit the tire barriers with the left-rear corner.

His car stationary, Leist was then collected by Nico Jamin, causing further damage and eliminating both cars from the race.

Kaiser, however, went unchallenged at the front of the field for his first victory on a street circuit and increase his championship over Leist to 37 points. “It’s amazing – this is my first win on a street course. So now I can say I’ve won on an oval, a road course and a street course and this means a lot,” he said in victory lane.

Kaiser added that he and his Juncos Racing team had to manage the gap back to second place, which was over five seconds at one point, so he could push the car just the right amount without overextending himself.

“The team was telling me the gap every lap, so I knew who was behind me and how far back they were and I was using that to gauge how hard to push,” Kaiser explained. “It was a very conscious race, focusing on what I had to do but also being aware of what was going on behind me. But I try not to over think it and go into every race weekend to win. Some weekends, you don’t have the setup so you focus on not getting frustrated and running with what you have. This weekend, we had the fastest car so we maximized what we had.”

Behind Kaiser, Zachary Claman de Melo and Santi Urrutia dueled for second, swapping the position a handful of times in the first half of the race. In the end, Claman de Melo was able to hold off Urrutia and finished second in his home race. Urrutia held on for third after outlasting a late push from Colton Herta, who finished fourth. Aaron Telitz rounded out the top five.

Results are below. Race 2 begins at 12:15 p.m. ET on Sunday, and NBCSN will air its Indy Lights coverage on Monday 7/17 at 7:00 p.m. ET.

 

 

USF2000: PARKER THOMPSON RETURNS TO VICTORY LANE

Parker Thompson celebrates after winning his home race in Toronto. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

A down 2017 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda season for Parker Thompson has seen the Canadian up and comer go winless through the first nine races of the year. However, all of that turned around in Race 1 at Toronto, as the native of Alberta, Canada led flag-to-flag to score his first victory of 2017.

What’s more, Parker’s team, Exclusive Autosport, is also based in Canada, in Saskatchewan, making it an all Canadian victory lane for Race 1 in Toronto.

“When the checkered flag came out, the emotions were just so high – I was screaming, so I apologize to anybody on my radio channel,” quipped an emotional Thompson, who won four races last year on his way to second in the USF2000 championship. “This win tops anything I’ve done this year. It’s extremely hard to win in this series and I think I took a few wins for granted last year, but to have the team behind me here is so emotional. They are so invested in winning so to get the job done for them and get our first win together feels so good.”

Thompson rocketed off from pole ahead of second-place starting Oliver Askew and never looked back. Askew finished second, while Rinus van Kalmthout finished third, meaning Askew increased his championship advantage to 34 points, with Thompson moving up to third in the championship.

Askew explained that while he was occasionally quicker than Thompson, the conditions did not permit much of a push for victory once Thompson got the lead off the start.

“I was a tenth quicker than Parker but with the track having such low grip, it’s hard to pass. There’s aero loss at other tracks but here it’s magnified because it’s so slick,” Askew explained. “I couldn’t do anything because of the aero wash. You have to be so precise and get your turn-in points right and hit your marks. If you turn in too wide you’re going to completely lose the car. It’s demanding but I enjoy it – it’s a great challenge and it’s something different.”

Results are below. Race 2 kicks off at 9:40 a.m. ET Sunday morning.

 

 

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Cadillac, Acura battle for top speed as cars back on track for Rolex 24 at Daytona practice

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The new hybrid prototypes of Cadillac and Acura battled atop the speed chart as practice resumed Thursday for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Chip Ganassi Racing driver Richard Westbrook was fastest Thursday afternoon in the No. 02 Cadillac V-LMDh with a 1-minute, 35.185-second lap around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course at Daytona International Speedway.

That pace topped Ricky Taylor’s 1:35.366 lap that topped the Thursday morning session that marked the first time the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship was back on track since qualifying Sunday afternoon that concluded the four-day Roar Before The Rolex 24 test.

In a final session Thursday night, Matt Campbell was fastest (1:35.802) in the No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsports Porsche 963 but still was off the times set by Westbrook and Taylor.

Punctuated by Tom Blomqvist’s pole position for defending race winner Meyer Shank Racing, the Acura ARX-06s had been fastest for much of the Roar and led four consecutive practice sessions.

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But the times have been extremely tight in the new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) category that has brought hybrid engines to IMSA’s premier class. Only 0.9 seconds separated the nine LMDh cars in GTP in qualifying, and though the spread slightly widened to 1.378 seconds in Thursday’s practices with teams on varying strategies and preparation, Westbrook still pooh-poohed the importance of speeds.

“It’s always nice to be at the top, but I don’t think it means too much or read too much into it” Westbrook said. “Big fuel tanks in the GTP class this year, so you have no idea what fuel levels people are running. We had a good run, and the car is really enjoyable to drive now. I definitely wasn’t saying that a month ago.

“It really does feel good now. We are working on performance and definitely unlocking some potential, and it just gives us more confidence going into the race. It’s going to be super tight. Everyone’s got the same power, everyone has the same downforce, everyone has the same drag levels and let’s just go race.”

Because teams have put such a premium on reliability, handling mostly has suffered in the GTPs, but Westbrook said the tide had turned Thursday.

“These cars are so competitive, and you were just running it for the sake of running it in the beginning, and there’s so much going on, you don’t really have time to work on performance,” he said. “A lot of emphasis was on durability in the beginning, and rightly so, but now finally we can work on performance, and that’s the same for other manufacturers as well. But we’re worrying about ourselves and improving every run, and I think everybody’s pretty happy with their Cadillac right now.”

Mike Shank, co-owner of Blomqvist’s No. 60 on the pole, said his team still was facing reliability problems despite its speed.

“We address them literally every hour,” Shank said. “We’re addressing some little thing we’re doing better to try to make it last. And also we’re talking about how we race the race, which will be different from years past.

“Just think about every system in the car, I’m not going to say which ones we’re working on, but there are systems in the car that ORECA and HPD are continually trying to improve. By the way, sometimes we put them on the car and take them off before it even goes out on the track because something didn’t work with electronics. There’s so much programming. So many departments have to talk to each other. That bridge gets broken from a code not being totally correct, and the car won’t run. Or the power steering turns off.”

Former Rolex 24 winner Renger van der Zande of Ganassi said it still is a waiting game until the 24-hour race begins Saturday shortly after 1:30 p.m.

“I think the performance of the car is good,” van der Zande said. “No drama. We’re chipping away on setup step by step and the team is in control. It’s crazy out there what people do on the track at the moment. It’s about staying cool and peak at the right moment, and it’s not the right moment yet for that. We’ll keep digging.”


PRACTICE RESULTS:

Click here for Session I (by class)

Click here for Session II (by class)

Click here for Session III (by class)

Combined speeds