Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

MRTI: St. Petersburg Sunday notebook

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Sunday finished the season-opening double header for the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires, with the three series book-ending the Verizon IndyCar Series’ Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

The Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires started things off in the morning while the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda finished the day off in the late afternoon and into the early evening.

Indy Lights saw one driver survive a carnage-filled affair to take the win, while Pro Mazda and USF2000 saw a pair of dominant runs to victory.

Reports on all three races are below.

Indy Lights: Urrutia Survives Chaotic Race 2 to Take Victory

Santi Urrutia celebrates his win in Race 2 at St. Petersburg. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

A wild Race 2 for Indy Lights was plagued by contact and saw several potential race winners suffer misfortune that dropped them from contention.

The chaos was immediate from the drop of the green flag. Belardi Auto Racing’s Aaron Telitz crashed in Turn 2 off the start while battling with Juncos Racing’s Victor Franzoni. Franzoni tried to stay inside of Telitz entering Turn 2, but made contact with the left-rear of Telitz and spun him into the outside wall, with Franzoni also suffering a damaged wing.

The incident ended a nightmare weekend for Telitz, as the Belardi team needed to borrow a car from Carlin after Telitz crashed in qualifying for Race 2. The Belardi team did not have a backup chassis with them at St. Petersburg, and the No. 9 IL-15 suffered too much damage to be repaired, forcing Telitz to miss Race 1 after grabbing the pole.

The team had to work overnight to prepare their new car for the race, only to see it end in the opening two laps.

When racing resumed on Lap 5, Andretti Autosport teammates Pato O’Ward and Colton Herta (Herta competing under the Andretti Steinbrenner Racing banner) began battling for the lead. Herta had taken the lead from the polesitting O’Ward on the initial start, but O’Ward got him back on the Lap 5 restart as they approached Turn 4.

A short time later, on Lap 11, Herta drifted wide in Turn 8 and clouted the outside, eliminating him on the spot.

O’Ward continued to lead on the subsequent restart, but his race unraveled with six minutes left. The 18-year-old overshot the entry into Turn 4 and ran into the runoff area. He was able to eventually rejoin, but not until he fell back to seventh.

O’Ward’s error moved Santi Urrutia into the lead, which he held until the end to give the Belardi team something to cheer about after a tough weekend.

“Super big emotions right now. I’m so proud of the team, second yesterday and a win today,” Urrutia said in Victory Lane. “From the time I arrived in the United States and joined the Mazda Road to Indy, this is the best start I’ve had. To win the championship, you have to always be on the podium and in the points, so I think things are going the right way.”

Team Pelfrey’s Shelby Blackstock finished second, while Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Norman finished third following a late battle with Pelfrey’s Neil Alberico. Alberico, who was in third, suffered a cut right-rear tire in the process, and limped home in fifth, behind fourth-place finisher Franzoni.

Dalton Kellett was sixth, followed by O’Ward in seventh. Herta and Telitz were credited with eighth and ninth.

Pro Mazda: VeeKay Takes Race 2 to Sweep the Weekend

Rinus VeeKay swept the Pro Mazda weekend at St. Petersburg. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

A bizarre start to Pro Mazda Race 2 saw the green flag fly a little too early, and several drivers were swamped as a result. Among them, polesitter Rinus VeeKay plummeted from first to ninth.

However, race control quickly determined that the race began too early, through a red flag, and got everyone back in their original starting order to restart the race.

The second attempt was much cleaner, allowing VeeKay to rocket off into the lead after starting on the pole. However, the Juncos Racing driver had to deal with BN Racing’s David Malukas, who stalked VeeKay the entire way.

A late-race caution put Malukas right on VeeKay’s gearbox, but VeeKay held him off in the final minutes to take the victory, completing a weekend sweep for the Dutch driver. Malukas hung on for second, while Carlos Cunha finished third, putting two Juncos drivers on the podium.

Sting Ray Robb and Parker Thompson completed the top five, while Harrison Scott, who was running inside the top five before the final restart, dropped like a stone through the field after suffering front wing damage. Scott ended up 12th.

Race 2 results are below.

USF2000: Alex Baron Dominates Race 2 to Win from the Pole

Alex Baron led every lap on his way to winning Race 2 on the streets of St. Petersburg. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Swan-RJB Motorsports’ Alex Baron endured a very difficult race 1 on Saturday, incurring a drive-through penalty that he never recovered from, finishing 22nd.

Sunday’s Race 2 was a different story, however, with the Frenchman dominating from the pole to take his first USF2000 victory.

Baron was never headed at any point during the 25-lap race, leading every lap on his way to beating second-place Igor Fraga by two seconds.

Fraga enjoyed a solid Race 2 to finish second for Exclusive Autosport, while Pabst Racing’s Lucas Kohl rebounded from a 13th in Race 1 to finish third in Race 2.

Jaime Caroline finished fourth while Race 1 winner Kyle Kirkwood finished fifth.

Race 2 Results are below.

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Christopher Bell survives caution-filled Chili Bowl Prelim

TeeJay Crawford
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Christopher Bell survived the most caution-filled Feature of the week to win Thursday’s preliminary night at the 33rd Annual Chili Bowl. His ability to hold the lead on restarts helped lock Bell into his seventh Saturday A-Feature since 2013.

“I pretty much suck on restarts. I do better when I get into a rhythm,” said Christopher Bell on twitter.

Bell started the feature in third place behind Danny Stratton and Jerry Coons Jr. He took the lead on the first official lap of the race, but not until after two Lap 1 cautions.

The Oklahoma native held the lead through the remaining 24 laps and eight cautions until being challenged by Shane Golobic and CJ Leary on the final laps. Golobic briefly made it past him though Turns 3 and 4 of the final lap. Bell regained control in 1 and 2 to claim the checkers.

“It was a lot busier than what I wanted them to be. Shane definitely made a race out of it and I hope the last four laps were a good show. It was a lot of fun … well it was fun because I won but if I hadn’t won it wouldn’t have been much fun,” Bell said regarding the final laps.

Golobic earned the second transfer into Saturday’s A-Main after starting to the outside of Bell.

Leary completed the podium with the pole sitter Stratton finished fourth.

Josh Most battled through the B after a hard crash in his heat. He rebounded to transfer to the A and drove from 22nd to fifth.

With the throng of cautions at the start and finish of the race, the goal quickly became survival. Only 15 of 24 entries completed the full feature. Notable DNF’s included Ryan Bernal who started fifth, Coons, who started on the front row and Thomas Meseraull in 15th.

NASCAR’s Justin Allgaier finished 13th and will have a long day ahead of him on Saturday.

Friday Jan. 18 will be the final Qualifying night for the 33rd annual Chili Bowl Nationals.

MORE: Rico Abreu wins Chili Bowl Night 3 
MORE: Kyle Larson wins Chili Bowl Night 2

Thursday’s Results

1. Christopher Bell
2. Shane Golobic
3. CJ Leary
4. Danny Stratton
5. Josh Most
6. Austin Brown
7. Tracy Hines
8. Casey Shuman
9. Kyle Cummins
10. Andrew Felker
11. Austin O’Dell
12. Seth Carlson
13. Justin Allgaier
14. Chase Johnson
15. Johnny Herrera
16. Ryan Bernal
17. Jerry Coons Jr.
18. Matt Sherrell
19. Thomas Meseraull
20. Jake Morgan
21. Andrew Deal
22. Kevin Bayer
23. Kaleb Currie
24. Joe B. Miller