MRTI: Friday St. Petersburg notebook

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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Friday saw all three series of the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires hit the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida for practice and qualifying ahead of Race 1 on a double-header weekend for all three series as they kick off their 2018 seasons.

Some familiar faces rose to the occasion in qualifying for Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires and the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, while a new face ended up taking pole in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda.

Below are reports on happenings from all three series.

Indy Lights: Aaron Telitz Edges Pato O’Ward for Race 1 Pole

Belardi Auto Racing’s Aaron Telitz, who scored a victory in Race 1 at St. Petersburg last year, put himself in prime position to do the same in 2018, scoring pole for Race 1 with a lap of 1:05.128, about one-and-a-half tenths quicker than Andretti Autosport’s Pato O’Ward, who qualified second.

Colton Herta, who won Race 2 on the streets of St. Petersburg last year, qualified in third for Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing, while Santiago Urrutia, Telitz’s teammate at Belardi, qualified fourth. Juncos Racing’s Victor Franzoni, last year’s Pro Mazda champion, qualified fifth in his Indy Lights debut.

Results are below. Race 1 for Indy Lights rolls off at 1:05 p.m. ET on Saturday.

Pro Mazda: Askew Survives Frantic Final Minutes to Grab Race 1 Pole

Oliver Askew will lead the Pro Mazda field to green in Race 1. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

The final minutes of Pro Mazda qualifying were about as frantic as they get, with a number of drivers taking the top spot, only to be overtaken by the next car on the track, and then again by the next car on the car, and so on.

All told, at least five different teams had drivers at or near the top of the time charts as qualifying drew to a close. In the end, it was Oliver Askew and Cape Motorsports, last year’s USF2000 champions, surviving the last-minute chaos to take pole for Race 1 with a lap of 1:08.103, almost two tenths of a second ahead of the second-place run from Exclusive Autosport’s Parker Thompson.

RP Motorsport Racing rookie Harrison Scott impressed on his debut, qualifying a strong third after leading the session at various points, with the Juncos Racing duo of Carlos Cunha and Robert Megennis rounding out the top five.

Qualifying results are below. Pro Mazda Race 1 rolls off at 12:10 p.m. ET on Saturday.

USF2000: Jose Sierra Knocks Off Kyle Kirkwood to Take Surprise Race 1 Pole

Jose Sierra surprised many by qualifying first for Race 1 of the USF2000 weekend. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Cape Motorsports’s Kyle Kirkwood and DEForce Racing’s Jose Sierra found themselves in a duel for the pole at the end qualifying. Sierra actually led the way, but Kirkwood managed to take the top spot from him on his final lap.

Sierra, however, had one more trick up his sleeve and retook the top spot as the session came to end, and the 18-year-old native of Mexico will lead the USF2000 field to the green for Race 1.

Kirkwood managed to qualify in second, followed by Pabst Racing’s Kaylen Frederick in third. Newcomer Igor Fraga was fourth for Exclusive Autosport while Zach Holden, one of Sierra’s teammates at DEForce, qualified fifth.

Results are below. Race 1 for USF2000 rolls off at 10:15 a.m. ET.

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