Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

MRTI: IMS road course Saturday recap

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While the first day of racing at the Royal Purple Synthetic Motor Oil Grand Prix of Indianapolis supporting the Lupus Foundation of America was somewhat routine, Day 2 was the exact opposite, as chaos was the name of the game for the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires.

The Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires saw a thrilling, if not somewhat controversial, duel for the win between a pair of series veterans that culminated in contact between the two, with the race winner completing a weekend sweep.

The Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda both saw the championship leaders entering the weekend survive all the carnage and attrition to take victories.

Reports on the events from all three series are below.

Indy Lights: Herta Outlasts Aggressive Urrutia to Win Race 2 and Complete a Weekend Sweep

Colton Herta at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Andretti Steinbrenner Racing’s Colton Herta and Belardi Auto Racing’s Santi Urrutia staged a duel for the ages in Indy Lights Race 2 on Saturday, and it ended up being Herta who came out on top while Urrutia was left seething in defeat.

Urrutia led most of the race after passing Andretti Autosport’s Pato O’Ward, who started on the pole, on Lap 2, while Herta ran slightly deeper in the field, and actually made contact with Urrutia’s teammate Aaron Teltiz as they battled for third in the opening laps – Herta tried diving inside of Telitz in Turn 1 on Lap 2, but both tried to take the racing line into the corner and ran wide after slight contact.

Still, both continued, with Urrutia leading O’Ward and Herta, while Telitz quickly regrouped to run in fourth for much of the race.

Lap 20 was when things started to get interesting at the front, as Herta got around O’Ward for second and set his sights on Urrutia, while O’Ward eventually limped into the pits in the final laps with a tire that was going down.

Up front, Herta and Urrutia pressed each other very hard, with Urrutia aggressively taking the inside line into Turn 1 and pushing Herta out wide on corner exit whenever he tried a pass.

Their battle hit its peak as they approached the 3-lap-to-go mark, with Herta trying a pass through Turns 8,9, and 10, while Urrutia desperately tried to defend. As they approached Turn 1 with three laps left, Urrutia again dove inside to take the line away, with Herta again trying an outside move.

This time, Herta hung on around the outside to stay wheel to wheel with Urrutia, and when the Belardi driver tried to pinch Herta off track entering Turn 2, they made contact that sent Urrutia into a spin.

Herta’s car suffered no damage and he cruised home to take the win and complete the weekend sweep, while Telitz ended up in second due to the troubles of Urrutia and O’Ward. Juncos Racing’s Victor Franzoni rounded out the podium, while a frustrated Urrutia ended up fourth.

An elated Herta could  barely contain himself in Victory Lane.

“I can’t believe it. I have not swept a weekend on the Mazda Road to Indy, and we needed it to get back into the championship,” he revealed. “To get two wins at Indy is just spectacular – now I want to win the Freedom 100 and sweep the month!”

Andretti’s Ryan Norman and Dalton Kellett finished fifth and sixth, while O’Ward languished in seventh at the checkered flag.

Full results are below. O’Ward remains in the championship lead, but only by one point over Herta. Urrutia is not far behind either, sitting six points out of the lead in third.

Pro Mazda: Thompson Outduels Cunha for Win in Attrition-Filled Race 2

Parker Thompson made a late pass on Carlos Cunhas to take the win in Race 2. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Pro Mazda Race 2 was chaotic from the outset, as Juncos Racing teammates Robert Meggenis and Rinus VeeKay, who started fourth and fifth, got together on the front straightaway as they took the green flag. Both suffered damage, but while Meggenis was able to continue, VeeKay – the points leader entering Race 2 after finishing second in Race 1 – dropped out after his Tatuus PM-18 suffered too much damage.

The VeeKay/Megennis contact resulted in a full-course caution, and a Lap 5 restart saw Juncos driver Carlos Cunha pounce on Cape Motorsports’ Oliver Askew, who led from the pole in the early laps.

Cunha got around Askew on the outside entering Turn 1, with Exclusive Autosport’s Parker Thompson following suit in Turn 7. Askew’s day took a dramatic turn in the next few laps, as he began dropping back somewhat and defended his position aggressively, resulting in a drive-through penalty when he made contact with a another car.

Up front, Cunha held the lead, while RP Motorsport Racing’s Harrison Scott – the Race 1 winner – got around Thompson for second, with the Top 3 all running nose to tail.

Scott’s day, however, came to an abrupt end only a few laps later, when his car slowed on the front straightaway with a mechanical problem. Simultaneously, teammate Lodovico Laurini stopped on track, causing another full-course caution in a disastrous day for the RP Motorsport team.

Cunha continued to lead on the Lap 12 restart, but Thompson was now all over his gearbox, and Thompson was able to slipstream Cunha on the run up to Turn 1 at the beginning of Lap 17 and dove inside entering Turn 1.

Thompson pulled away from there to take the win, with Cunha hanging on for second.

Thompson revealed that the win was an emotional one, with he and team battling back from engine issues at the beginning of the weekend to win a place he loves.

“I was tearing up at the checkered flag and my engineer, Tim Lewis, was just screaming on the radio. It was so awesome to get a win here – it doesn’t get much better than winning at the Racing Capital of the World!” Thompson detailed “It was tough out there today. We made a gamble on a low-downforce setup and it played out. I avoided the melees at the start and kept everything intact. We set fastest lap after fastest lap and that makes weekends like this so special, starting from back in sixth and taking the victory.”

Team Pelfrey’s Sting Ray Robb rounded out the podium following a tense battle with teammate Andres Gutierrez and the aforementioned Askew, who got back into the Top 5 after his penalty. Robb emerged in third, with Askew finishing fourth. Gutierrez completed the Top 5.

FUll race results are below. Thompson now leads VeeKay by 22 points in the Pro Mazda championship, with Cunha in third, 30 points out of the lead.

USF2000: Kirkwood Survives Late Cautions and Restarts to Take the Win

Kyle Kirkwood survived several late cautions to led every lap in Race 2 on the way to victory. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

The facts and figures of USF2000 Race 2 may lead you to believe that Kyle Kirkwood had it somewhat easy, as he led every lap from the pole to score the win.

But, the numbers only tell a small portion of the story. While Kirkwood led from the pole, chaos reigned behind him. Swan-RJB Motorsports’ Alex Baron and BN Racing’s Jamie Caroline made contact on the opening lap, knocking Baron to back of the field.

Later, a hard-fought battle for second ended in tears for Caroline and Pabst Racing Services’ Kaylen Frederick, who made contact in Turn 4. Frederick spun into the gravel trap, but did continue after getting restarted, while Caroline retired due to damage.

Their incident created a full-course caution, putting drivers like Pabst’s Rasmus Lindh and Newman Wachs Racing’s Darren Keane right behind Kirkwood. Baron, meanwhile, had charged all the way back up to seventh, and was in position to challenge for a podium, and maybe even a win.

Racing resumed on Lap 14, with Kirkwood holding the lead from Lindh, while Baron continued his charge and found himself in third on Lap 17 when Newman Wachs’ David Osborne spun off course, resulting in another full-course caution.

Racing resumed on Lap 19, giving the field one green-flag lap before the finish. Baron got around Lindh for second, but was unable to challenge Kirkwood for the win as Pelfrey’s Bruna Tomaselli spun and made contact with another car in Turn 11 while approaching the restart.

That incident created another caution, sealing the win for Kirkwood, with Baron, Lindh, Keane, and James Roe Jr., on his debut with Swan-RJB, rounding out the Top 5.

“To come here and win in the USF2000 series is unbelievable,” Kirkwood said afterward. Oliver (Askew) swept the weekend last year, so I’m disappointed I didn’t do that, but it’s amazing to win here.”

Baron, too, was pleased at race’s end.

“I can’t be totally disappointed with what happened today because only a few days ago, I wasn’t sure I’d even make it here,” he revealed. “The victory yesterday was a great reward for all the hard work to get me here, and the second-place today is a bit bittersweet because I thought it could be better. I had an unfortunate incident at the start, but I took advantage of the two safety car periods to show what I’m made of, and what the team is made of.”

Full race results are below. Kirkwood now leads Baron by 13 points in the championship. DEForce Racing’s Jose Sierra, who suffered mechanical problems right after the race started, sits third, 42 points behind Kirkwood.

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IMSA: Sims, De Philippi deliver first win for BMW M8 GTE in Michelin GT Challenge at VIR

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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DANVILLE, Va. – After coming tantalizingly close two weeks ago at Road America, the BMW M8 GTE is a first-time winner.

Co-drivers Alexander Sims and Connor De Phillippi delivered the new-for-2018 race car’s first victory anywhere in the world in a strong and strategic performance aboard the No. 25 BMW Team RLL machine en route to the Michelin GT Challenge victory at VIRginia International Raceway.

The No. 25 duo combined to lead a race-high total of 32 laps of 88 trips around the 3.27-mile road circuit that comprised the two-hour, 40-minute race. Sims led the final 31 laps and crossed the finish line 1.323 seconds ahead of Jan Magnussen to take the victory.

The VIR victory was redemption of sorts for the No. 25 team after the Continental Tire Road Race Showcase, when De Phillippi appeared on his way to victory only to be forced to pit lane for fuel with two laps to go.

Sunday, the team had to overcome a midrace incident in which Sims tangled with the GT Daytona (GTD) class car of David Heinemeier Hansson. Sims had to serve a drive-through penalty for incident responsibility.

“It’s fantastic,” Sims said. “The team’s done an awesome job. They’ve been working really hard all year. Some races haven’t really gone our way. But they haven’t given up. BMW and Rahal have done a mega job. It’s fantastic to get us this first win for the M8. Connor did a great job at the start of the race to get us up to third.

“He did a flawless stint, despite my mistake at the start of my first stint. I kind of held my hands up. That was my mistake. We deserved the drive through. We got back in the race after the safety car and had mega pace. I was really, really pleased.”

It was Sims’ fourth career WeatherTech Championship victory and the second for De Phillippi. Both drivers’ last victory came at Motul Petit Le Mans last season, Sims in the final race for the BMW M6 GTLM and De Phillippi with the Montaplast by Land-Motorsport Audi team in GTD. De Phillippi became a BMW factory driver prior to this season.

“It was down to the last pit stop,” De Phillippi said. “Obviously, after the contact, we had to rethink what we were going to try to do. We went with a more aggressive strategy and we saw that if we stayed out longer we’d have a clear track and the others would be hitting the GTD traffic. We went forward with that strategy and with that we gained while they were stuck in traffic which was enough to keep us out front.

“The Michelin tires were hooked up and held up so well we didn’t have to put any on the last stop. Alex just drove the wheels off to it for the finish. This win feels amazing. This is a new program, and obviously when you switch to a new brand and a new family you always want to win the first year out. I got one at the Nürburgring, and now to do one with my full-time team in this series, it’s really special to me and feels really great.”

After winning the Michelin GT Challenge each of the past two years, Magnussen came up just shy of a three-peat in the No. 3 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7.R along with co-driver Antonio Garcia. It was the team’s seventh podium result of the season and sixth consecutive and it vaulted them into the GTLM championship lead by four points, 269-265, over No. 67 Ford GT co-drivers Richard Westbrook and Ryan Briscoe with three races to go.

John Edwards and Jesse Krohn made it two BMW M8s on the podium with a third-place run in the No. 24 BMW Team RLL entry. In addition to it being the first victory for the M8, it also was the first time two M8s finished on the podium in the same race.

Ford Chip Ganassi Racing saw its GTLM winning streak stopped at four in the Michelin GT Challenge. No. 66 Ford GT co-drivers Joey Hand and Dirk Mueller finished fourth, while the No. 67 entry of Briscoe and Westbrook was forced to retire early from the race with clutch problems. Westbrook started the race from the pole position and led the first 28 laps before pitting to turn the car over to Briscoe, and the problem reared its ugly head shortly thereafter.

No. 912 Porsche co-drivers Earl Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor came back from an opening lap incident with the No. 4 Corvette to finish fifth.

Baumann In Right Place At Right Time As Lexus Wins Thriller At VIR

Dominik Baumann and 3GT Racing celebrate a GTD triumph. Photo courtesy of IMSA

It was an example of being in the right place at the right time for Dominik Baumann in a victorious effort alongside co-driver Kyle Marcelli in Sunday’s Michelin GT Challenge at VIRginia International Raceway.

Running in the fourth position with 30 minutes remaining, Baumann successfully navigated his No. 14 3GT Racing Lexus RC F GT3 through a series of incidents involving the top three ahead of him. Once clear, he went on to lead the race’s final 17 laps, beating the No. 58 Porsche 911 GT3 R of Patrick Long to the stripe by 0.567 seconds in a thrilling last-lap battle for the GT Daytona (GTD) class win.

The race-winning sequence began when the No. 44 Audi R8 LMS GT3 of Andy Lally got a run on the race-leading No. 93 Acura NSX GT3 of Lawson Aschenbach. The two made slight contact allowing the No. 33 Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Jeroen Bleekemolen to pull alongside Lally for the lead. One corner later, Lally and Bleekemolen made side-to-side contact, sending the No. 33 into a spin with Baumann capitalizing to pass both for the lead.

“I saw the Audi and Mercedes fighting in front of me and going off,” said Baumann, who won earlier this year alongside Marcelli at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. “We just stayed out of trouble and just did our race.”

“Thanks to the Mercedes, and the Audi and the Acura coming together, it inherited us the lead, and those closing laps under pressure are tough to drive, and Dominic was a true professional today,” added Marcelli. “I think if you look up and down the grid, we’ve all made a few mistakes, but it’s just minimizing them. It’s a track that’s demanding physically and mentally and easy to make mistakes and drop wheels and fill the radiator full of grass. It was he who made the least mistakes who came out with a victory today.”

It certainly wasn’t easy for Baumann from there, however. In the closing minutes, Katherine Legge made up a nearly 10-second deficit in her No. 86 Meyer Shank Racing w/ Curb-Agajanian Acura NXS GT3 to get to the bumper of Baumann on the final lap.

The two raced side-by-side up the backstretch of the 3.27-mile circuit, but Baumann had the benefit of the inside line. Long took advantage of the battle ahead of him and was able to slip by Legge to finish second alongside co-driver Christina Nielsen.

Legge and co-driver Mario Farnbacher finished third, with Legge making up significant ground in the GTD points race with two races remaining. A midrace unscheduled pit stop for contact for the points-leading No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 of Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow relegated the team to a sixth-place finish. Sellers and Snow now lead Legge by 13 points, 275-262, heading to the penultimate race of the season at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

The No. 63 WeatherTech Ferrari 488 GT3 of Cooper MacNeil and Gunnar Jeannette finished fourth, with Bleekemolen and co-driver Ben Keating finishing fifth. Lally was hit with a stop and go penalty for his previous contact with Bleekemolen and finished seventh with co-driver John Potter.

Next up for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is the penultimate round of the season, the America’s Tire 250 as part of the Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca on Sept. 7-9.

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