MADISON, Ill. – The stage is set for today’s pair of Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires races from Gateway Motorsports Park, with the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires racing a 75-lap race and Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires racing 55 laps around the 1.25-mile oval.
While Anthony Martin’s Pro Mazda pole isn’t a particular surprise – he and title sparring partner Victor Franzoni have been duking it out for the top spot on the grid all season – Juan Piedrahita’s in Indy Lights is.
The Colombian, who has more than 100 career starts over eight years on the Mazda Road to Indy, scored his first career Indy Lights pole in the No. 2 Team Pelfrey Dallara IL-15 Mazda by the slimmest of margins.
Piedrahita ran only a 160.926 mph first lap but improved to 161.354 mph on his second, for a two-lap average speed of 160.823 mph, and a total time of 55.9620 seconds.
That supplanted Uruguayan Santiago Urrutia’s provisional pole speed and time by a microscopic amount. Urrutia’s first lap in the No. 5 Belardi Auto Racing with SPM car was quicker, at 160.600, but didn’t improve as much on the second lap, only at 161.044. That left him with a two-lap average of 160.822 mph, and a total time of 55.9626 seconds – just 0.001 of a mph and just 0.0006 of a second slower over 2.5 total miles.
“In one and two, because you have to lift, I had a bit of push. So I was downshifting to get a better exit; the car should be great. It’s been very hard for us since everyone else is so competitive. There’s tracks we struggle a lot with the setup but today we got it right,” he said.
“We just took wing out and changed springs on the rear. We knew we had a good car and it paid off.”
Championship leader Kyle Kaiser, who is poised to clinch the title today, enters with a 42-point lead and with Urrutia having been denied a critical point for his title hopes. The driver of the No. 18 Juncos Racing entry will roll off fifth after an abnormal run.
Kaiser’s warmup lap of 160.104 mph looked to see the Californian beat Piedrahita for the top spot, but actual qualifying laps of 160.610 and 159.850 mph left his two-lap average at 160.224 mph, inside of row three.
Andretti Autosport teammates Nico Jamin and Ryan Norman will roll off from row two.
Provisional speeds are below. The race goes off at 6 p.m. CT and local time, and will air on NBCSN on Monday, August 28, at noon ET.
In Pro Mazda, Martin topped Franzoni with the first and only 140 mph average in the series’ lone oval race this year. The Australian, who leads the Brazilian by four points entering the weekend, delivered a two-lap average of 140.001 mph, which was clear of Franzoni’s 139.433 mph speed.
“We learned a lot in the test here a few weeks ago, with a qualifying stint done in that,” Martin explained. “We sort of knew and expected what the temperatures would be. We went faster than what we did in testing. We were able to go quicker than normal. The Cape guys got me an awesome car from the moment I got on track.
“Nah, mate! It was on the edge. The second lap into one I went in really fast, I was so close to flat… I was really trying. The car was definitely on the limit.”
The Team Pelfrey trio of TJ Fischer, Carlos Cunha and Nikita Lastochkin complete the top five.
The Pro Mazda race goes off at 4:55 p.m. CT and local time. Qualifying times are below.
Both series also ran a practice session on Friday, with conditions closer to what should be expected for the races. Those times are linked here (Indy Lights, Pro Mazda); Urrutia and Martin topped those sessions.