Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Urrutia wins Gateway as Kaiser all but seals Indy Lights title

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MADISON, Ill. – Santiago Urrutia did all he could to keep the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires title fight alive with his second win of the season, but Kyle Kaiser has all but cinched the title with one race remaining following a wild 75-lap affair at Gateway Motorsports Park.

For the young American, with a revised 31-point lead unofficially over Urrutia, merely starting at Watkins Glen next week will ensure he wins the title and the $1 million Mazda Motorsports Advancement Scholarship that comes with it.

Kaiser entered the weekend with a 42-point lead and only needed a 34-point margin to ensure he had the title clinched before going to the season finale at Watkins Glen International.

It looked early on in the 75-lap race that Kaiser would be able to pull it off outright, but a strong start quickly faded as the race went on.

After shooting up to third on the initial start from fifth on the grid, Kaiser delivered his statement of intent to wrap the title on Saturday night by making a move on Urrutia for second place on Lap 9, going to the outside of his closest title rival for the position into Turn 1 in an authoritative move.

Urrutia got Kaiser back five laps later on the inside of Turn 1, but with Kaiser not needing to fight it to ensure he had enough of a points gap to clinch at that moment, he kept the door open wide enough for Urrutia to come through.

Up front, Urrutia was left to focus on catching surprise polesitter Juan Piedrahita of Team Pelfrey for the lead and subsequent win of the race.

Kaiser ran in third place with the best battle on the road behind him in the form of Andretti Autosport’s Nico Jamin and Carlin’s Matheus Leist close for fourth.

On Lap 43, Urrutia, having closed the gap significantly on Piedrahita, powered past for the lead into Turn 1. This pass meant Urrutia was within 34 points of Kaiser, who was running in third.

Meanwhile Kaiser fell back into the clutches of Jamin and Leist, which had championship implications in terms of whether Kaiser would have enough points to win the title tonight.

Jamin was by Kaiser for third by Lap 49, and then Leist was by shortly thereafter. Zachary Claman De Melo soon closed in and made a move during the final 20 laps for fifth, and Kaiser then had to hold off Colton Herta for sixth.

On Lap 62 there was a heavy three-car accident that occurred. Contact occurred between Chad Boat, the series debutante, and Neil Alberico entering Turns 1 and 2 as Alberico attempted to lap Boat, and Garth Rickards also got caught up in it. That took out two of the three Carlin cars (Alberico and Rickards), with Boat the third Belardi car (along with Aaron Telitz and Shelby Blackstock) to be involved in an incident during the race.

The race was red flagged as a heavy amount of debris littered the track.

Following the restart, a chaotic battle for the lead occurred between Piedrahita and Urrutia, with Piedrahita briefly getting the advantage on the restart to take lead before another quick yellow was flown for a spinning Nico Jamin.

Jamin’s spin moved Kaiser up a position, again making it appear like he may clinch the championship outright. However, a restart with three laps remaining saw Urrutia finally edge passed Piedrahita, the two going side-by-side for a full lap before Urrutia cleared him for the lead with two laps left. Urrutia was able to hang on from there to take the win.

Colton Herta meanwhile moved up to third while Kaiser ended up fourth, with Nicolas Dapero completing the top five.

More to follow, unofficial results are below.

Provisional Indy Lights champion Oliver Askew ready for IndyCar ride

Road to Indy
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Provisional Indy Lights champion Oliver Askew has done nothing but dominate the 2019 season, winning seven of the 16 races run so far and finishing on the podium in all but two of those events.

Now all the 22-year-old Floridian needs to do to formally clinch the 2019 title is simply start the final two races of the season, both of which will be held this weekend at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

For Askew, his maiden Indy Lights season will likely be one he’ll never forget. 

“It’s been a dream come true,” Askew told NBC Sports. “Being with the championship-winning team from last year, we had a really good shot at winning it again for Andretti Autosport. It’s very rare that we show up to a track and struggle to find speed. 

“That’s a fantastic feeling, especially as a driver. That gave me a lot of confidence and hopes of holding the million dollar check at the end of the year. That was the goal going into it.”

This weekend, Askew will accomplish said goal. The championship will not only bring him a sense of pride, but also the opportunity of a lifetime. 

As an award for being crowned the Indy Lights champion, Askew will be awarded a scholarship that guarantees him entry into a minimum of three NTT IndyCar Series events next year – including the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500. 

Time will only tell which team Askew will race for in IndyCar next season, and whether or not Askew’s rookie campaign will be a full-time or part-time affair, but Askew’s performance during the last few seasons in the Road to Indy system has certainly drawn attention of IndyCar’s top team owners.

In August, Askew had the chance to drive an Indy car for the first time in his career during a test session at Portland International Raceway, driving the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda usually piloted by Scott Dixon.

“It was an opportunity with Chip Ganassi Racing that I was very fortunate to have,” Askew said. “I think with my experience in the past couple of years with Cape Motorsports and this year with Andretti Autosport, going into that test was very helpful.

“Going into the test, it was more of trying to treat it as just another day at the racetrack, when it really wasn’t. It was a fantastic opportunity for me – a great experience – and I hope I can take that into my rookie season next year in IndyCar.” 

The final two races of the 2019 Indy Lights season will take place this weekend on Saturday, September 21 at 6 p.m. ET and Sunday, September 22 at 12:05 p.m. ET. Both races will air live on NBC Sports Gold.

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