KAISER VIRTUALLY ASSURED OF $1 MILLION INDY LIGHTS PRIZE
30 AUGUST 2017
PALMETTO, Fla. – Drivers representing no fewer than 14 nations will highlight the international appeal of the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires as all three steps on the acclaimed open-wheel development ladder – Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda – will conclude this weekend at the famed Watkins Glen International road course in upstate New York.
Mazda Scholarships and year-end awards valued at over $2.6 million will be presented at the traditional awards banquet to be held in Watkins Glen on Monday.
Third-year Indy Lights racer Kyle Kaiser needs only to begin one of the practice sessions this weekend on the storied 3.37-mile track to achieve his goal of clinching the championship and a Mazda Scholarship valued at $1 million to guarantee him entry into three Verizon IndyCar Series races in 2018, including the 102nd Indianapolis 500.
Uruguayan Santi Urrutia, who turns 21 today (August 30), scored a sensational last-gasp victory for Belardi Auto Racing this past Saturday evening in front of an enthusiastic crowd at the Gateway Motorsports Park oval to keep his slim championship hopes alive. However, with a commanding 31-point lead and only 33 points available in Sunday’s series finale, Kaiser, 21, from Santa Clara, Calif., requires only last-placed points in his No. 18 Juncos Racing Dallara-Mazda IL-15 to ensure an unassailable advantage.
“Heading into the weekend I have a very different feeling from the other weekends this year,” said Kaiser, who finished fourth at Watkins Glen in 2016. “Each weekend this year I’ve always had the championship in the back of my mind, but without that restriction I think I’ll be able to go out there and enjoy racing on such an amazing circuit. This is also likely my last race in the MRTI, so there is plenty of motivation to go out and perform at my best. My approach and preparation for this race weekend won’t be any different but my plan is to show up and go for the race win to end this amazing season on a high note.”
Urrutia’s second win from the last three races moved him clear of a tie for second place in the standings with the youngest driver in the field, 17-year-old Colton Herta, from Valencia, Calif., who finished third at Gateway for Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing. Eight points currently separate the two.
Carlin teammates Matheus Leist, from Brazil, and Canadian Zachary Claman DeMelo currently hold fourth and fifth place in the standings, separated by just one point, while Frenchman Nico Jamin lies just seven points further in arrears for the Andretti Autosport team.
Colombian Juan Piedrahita (Team Pelfrey) will be looking to maintain the form which brought him a maiden pole and second-place finish last weekend, while Wisconsin’s Aaron Telitz, the 2016 Pro Mazda champion, has designs on book-ending a challenging rookie Indy Lights season with victories after claiming a spectacular win from the pole on his debut at St. Petersburg., Fla., in March.
The Team Championship is yet to be decided, with Andretti Autosport currently holding an 11-point edge over Belardi Auto Racing, 364-353. Defending champions Carlin, which also secured victory on its first appearance at Watkins Glen in 2016, lurk just eight points adrift after a disappointing day at Gateway. A maximum of 40 points are up for grabs.
The Indy Lights competitors will begin their weekend with a 45-minute practice session at 4:25 p.m. EDT on Friday, September 1 and another 30-minute session at 8:45 a.m. on Saturday. Qualifying will take place later that day at 2:15 p.m., with the race slated for 10:50 a.m. on Sunday, September 3. The race will air on Wednesday, September 6, at 7:00 pm EDT.
Additional coverage of the Mazda Road to Indy can be found on a series of platforms including Road to Indy TV, the Road to Indy TV App and dedicated broadcast channels on demand via Apple TV, Amazon Fire and Roku and, most recently, the Xbox One Official App as well as live streaming and live timing on the series’ respective websites and indycar.com. Indy Lights is also featured on the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network broadcasts on Sirius 214, XM 209, IndyCar.com, indycarradio.com and on the INDYCAR Mobile app.