Indy Lights: Ryan Norman outduels Colton Herta for first career win

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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It was hardly a surprise that a pair of Andretti Autosport teammates engaged in a duel for the race win in the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, but it was slightly different from the usual battle we’ve seen lately.

While Colton Herta, who started on the pole, was expected to be in the fight for the win, teammate Ryan Norman was his surprise counterpart this time – Patricio O’Ward started third and was shuffled back to fifth on the opening lap, and could only get back up to third and was not a factor for the win.

Herta and Norman engaged in a thrilling late-race dog fight that saw Norman routinely try outside passes on Herta at seemingly every turn, with Herta able to hold him off every time.

However, Norman eventually timed his move perfectly and sliced to the inside of Herta entering Turn 3 to take the lead with less than 10 laps remaining.

Herta tried to battle back, but was unable to get back around Norman, and the 20-year from Ohio took his first career Indy Lights win.

“Colton put up a great fight, props to him, that was such a fun race. It’s a huge weight lifted off my shoulders,” said an elated Norman afterward.

“I knew I had to do it with only two weekends left. I’ve had podiums this season, but some of those were given and I wanted to show everyone that I am capable of really racing for wins. But this whole field is amazing: I believe that if there were 15 cars, it would still be these top seven cars. It’s such a cool series to be a part of and I’m glad I’m here.”

O’Ward rounded out the podium in third, with Santi Urrutia, Aaron Telitz, Victor Franzoni, and Dalton Kellett completing the finishing order.

Herta did reduce the points deficit to O’Ward, but only marginally. O’Ward now leads by 25 points entering the final race weekend of the year at Portland International Raceway.

Pro Mazda: VeeKay Inches Closer to Championship With Fifth Win in a Row

Rinus VeeKay took his fifth win in a row on Saturday. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Rinus VeeKay overtook pole sitter Harrison Scott off the start and rocketed away to take a dominating victory in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires.

VeeKay led all 55 laps on the way to the victory, his fifth in a row and seventh of the 2018 season.

“I knew the start would be the time to make a move and risked it a little bit going into Turn 1 because I didn’t know how the car was going to be. But the car stayed stable and I got around Harrison in Turns 3 and 4 and held it the rest of the way for a 1-2 for the team,” Veekay said afterward.

“They gave me a great race car, so I’m so grateful. I tried to focus in every corner, on doing the best I could and not take more risks than I needed to because the championship was in the back of my mind. I stayed pretty cool – but in my head, not around me because it was super hot.”

Teammate Robert Megennis came home second to make it a Juncos Racing 1-2, while Harrison Scott rounded out the podium in third. Moises de la Vara and Oliver Askew rounded out the top five.

Parker Thompson, VeeKay’s championship rival, started last after suffering an electrical issue in qualifying and could do no better than sixth at the checkered flag.

As such, VeeKay now leads Thompson by 47 points entering Portland.

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Cadillac, Acura battle for top speed as cars back on track for Rolex 24 at Daytona practice

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The new hybrid prototypes of Cadillac and Acura battled atop the speed chart as practice resumed Thursday for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Chip Ganassi Racing driver Richard Westbrook was fastest Thursday afternoon in the No. 02 Cadillac V-LMDh with a 1-minute, 35.185-second lap around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course at Daytona International Speedway.

That pace topped Ricky Taylor’s 1:35.366 lap that topped the Thursday morning session that marked the first time the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship was back on track since qualifying Sunday afternoon that concluded the four-day Roar Before The Rolex 24 test.

In a final session Thursday night, Matt Campbell was fastest (1:35.802) in the No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsports Porsche 963 but still was off the times set by Westbrook and Taylor.

Punctuated by Tom Blomqvist’s pole position for defending race winner Meyer Shank Racing, the Acura ARX-06s had been fastest for much of the Roar and led four consecutive practice sessions.

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But the times have been extremely tight in the new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) category that has brought hybrid engines to IMSA’s premier class. Only 0.9 seconds separated the nine LMDh cars in GTP in qualifying, and though the spread slightly widened to 1.378 seconds in Thursday’s practices with teams on varying strategies and preparation, Westbrook still pooh-poohed the importance of speeds.

“It’s always nice to be at the top, but I don’t think it means too much or read too much into it” Westbrook said. “Big fuel tanks in the GTP class this year, so you have no idea what fuel levels people are running. We had a good run, and the car is really enjoyable to drive now. I definitely wasn’t saying that a month ago.

“It really does feel good now. We are working on performance and definitely unlocking some potential, and it just gives us more confidence going into the race. It’s going to be super tight. Everyone’s got the same power, everyone has the same downforce, everyone has the same drag levels and let’s just go race.”

Because teams have put such a premium on reliability, handling mostly has suffered in the GTPs, but Westbrook said the tide had turned Thursday.

“These cars are so competitive, and you were just running it for the sake of running it in the beginning, and there’s so much going on, you don’t really have time to work on performance,” he said. “A lot of emphasis was on durability in the beginning, and rightly so, but now finally we can work on performance, and that’s the same for other manufacturers as well. But we’re worrying about ourselves and improving every run, and I think everybody’s pretty happy with their Cadillac right now.”

Mike Shank, co-owner of Blomqvist’s No. 60 on the pole, said his team still was facing reliability problems despite its speed.

“We address them literally every hour,” Shank said. “We’re addressing some little thing we’re doing better to try to make it last. And also we’re talking about how we race the race, which will be different from years past.

“Just think about every system in the car, I’m not going to say which ones we’re working on, but there are systems in the car that ORECA and HPD are continually trying to improve. By the way, sometimes we put them on the car and take them off before it even goes out on the track because something didn’t work with electronics. There’s so much programming. So many departments have to talk to each other. That bridge gets broken from a code not being totally correct, and the car won’t run. Or the power steering turns off.”

Former Rolex 24 winner Renger van der Zande of Ganassi said it still is a waiting game until the 24-hour race begins Saturday shortly after 1:30 p.m.

“I think the performance of the car is good,” van der Zande said. “No drama. We’re chipping away on setup step by step and the team is in control. It’s crazy out there what people do on the track at the moment. It’s about staying cool and peak at the right moment, and it’s not the right moment yet for that. We’ll keep digging.”


PRACTICE RESULTS:

Click here for Session I (by class)

Click here for Session II (by class)

Click here for Session III (by class)

Combined speeds