Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

MRTI: St. Petersburg Sunday notebook

Leave a comment

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.

Follow@KyleMLavigne

Previous F1 competition doesn’t guarantee IndyCar success at COTA

Manor F1 Photo
Manor F1 Photo
Leave a comment

AUSTIN, Texas – Familiarity does not breed success, according to three NTT IndyCar Series drivers who have previous experience at Circuit of the Americas in the Formula One United States Grand Prix. Several other drivers, including IndyCar Series rookie Patricio O’Ward, competed in the LMPC IMSA race in 2017.

Although the course is the same – 20-turns and 3.41-miles – the cars are completely different. The highly-advanced, technologically-driven Formula One cars are advanced beyond the realm of anything allowed in the NTT IndyCar Series. It’s more about the driver in IndyCar, which uses an impressive, but simpler formula to help showcase driver skill more than technology in its races.

Money buys speed in Formula One, but an IndyCar team doesn’t need a $400 million budget to go racing. It can get by on $5 millions to $10 million a year and contend for plenty of race victories and championships.

Andretti Autosport star Alexander Rossi drove in five Formula One races with Manor in 2015. The above photo is from his only F1 contest at COTA that season. He was the first driver ever to turn laps at COTA shortly after it was constructed in 2012.

Rossi had his best F1 finish in the 2015 United States Grand Prix when he started 17thand finished 12th.

“When I’ve come here in the past, I came into the weekend fully knowing that there was no chance to ever really do anything from a results perspective,” Rossi said. “To could come here to a track that I’ve spent a lot of time at, not necessarily driven a whole lot, but spent a huge amount of time at. To come into this weekend’s race, competing on a level where we have as good a shot as any, to win the race would be pretty cool.

“There’s kind of an almost unfinished business box that we’d like to tick here in some way. I’m very excited to get the weekend started.”

Chilton raced the entire F1 season in 2013 and 2014 with Marussia. He started 21stand finished 21stin 2013. He started in the first 16 races during the 2014 F1 season but was out of a ride by the time F1 arrived at COTA that season.

Me and Alex probably had pretty similar experiences,” Chilton told NBC Sports.com “Obviously the more laps are better — but the car we were in, we weren’t doing much racing, so the sort of racing experience part isn’t going to help.

“It’s good to be back. I first came here in 2013 for the (United States) Grand Prix. I loved the track. I love the city. I really enjoyed the whole facility, the race track. It’s a pretty long track in an Indy car but it’s got lots of overtaking potential for us and hopefully we’ll put on a great show.

“It’s great to have an English band like Muse on Saturday night, as well.”

Marcus Ericsson of Sweden has the most experience at COTA of any driver in the field for Sunday’s INDYCAR Classic. He competed in 97 F1 contests from 2014-2018 before becoming an IndyCar rookie with Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports this season.

Ericsson was 15thin 2015, 14thin 2016, 15thin 2017 and 10thin last year’s USGP.

“I’ve been here quite a few times,” Ericsson said. “It’s one of the best tracks on F1 and I think it’s great we are going here with INDYCAR. It’s going to be a great weekend.

“The racing should be very good. It’s already good on F1 on this track and from what I’ve done in INDYCAR, it’s going to be a really good show from everyone and I’m really looking forward to it.”

Ericsson emphasized that the his F1 experience does not necessarily give him any type of advantage in an IndyCar.

“I think for me I was here a couple months ago in F1 doing the race in ’18. I had all my reference points and then I did the first run and realized that didn’t really work,” Ericsson explained to NBC Sports.com “So I don’t know that the experience — it’s good to know the track, but then the Indy cars are very different cars to the F1 (car) so you have to sort of drive it quite differently and in the end, I think it didn’t really help the maximum amount in my opinion.

“The problem is we had two days of testing already in IndyCar. If we had come here straightaway without any testing it would be an advantage of one hundredth approximate. But now, if you don’t get the track in two days, I don’t think you would be in IndyCar.

“I don’t think it’s a big advantage now going into the weekend.”

But every little bit helps and if all of those little “bits” of information are added up, previous experience can provide a benefit in the race.

“For sure there’s things I can bring from my experience there that helps in INDYCAR, but the Indy car to drive today is different than the Formula One cars with the power steering and everything,” Ericsson continued. “I think it’s two different cars and what I found here on the test; things that worked in the F1 car didn’t really work in the Indy car. I think both cars of very difficult to be fast in but in different ways.

“For sure my experience in F1, it’s helped me to get into INDYCAR.”

James Hinchcliffe, who has never driven in Formula One, or at COTA, believes he has the best experience of any driver in Austin this weekend.

“I know where the restaurants are, so that’s cool,” Hinchcliffe said.