By Christopher DeHarde, IndyCar & Road to Indy Writer
LEXINGTON, Ohio — Nico Jamin started second and with five previous victories was hoping for a win at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires. The Frenchman’s wish was granted in Sunday’s race.
It was a chaotic start as teammates Jamin and Colton Herta had light contact while fighting for the lead on the first lap of the race. Jamin led the first lap, but eventually Herta got around to lead a lap.
Further back in the pack, Garth Rickards and Dalton Kellett had contact that dropped Rickards out of the race and Kellett would pit for a new nose and finished 13th.
After leading one lap, Herta spun on the back side of the course and fell back through the field. Jamin picked up the lead but with a hungry Santiago Urrutia behind him, Jamin was not going to have an easy day.
Also not having an easy day was points leader Kyle Kaiser. While attempting to overtake Juan Piedrahita, Kaiser and Piedrahita had contact, dropping Kaiser back to 12th where he would finish for the second race in a row.
Meanwhile, Urrutia started to close late in the race, nearly getting around the Andretti Autosport driver but it was not to be as Jamin finished half a second ahead of Urrutia at the end.
Behind the leading duo, Urrutia’s Belardi Auto Racing teammate Shelby Blackstock scored his first podium of the season and his first since Mid Ohio in 2015. Zachary Claman De Melo was close behind in fourth with Aaron Telitz in fifth.
Jamin scored his sixth victory at Mid-Ohio across all three Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires championships but couldn’t rest on his laurels with Urrutia behind him.
“None of us had anything to lose today,” Jamin said.
“We both want race wins to come back in the championship (and) to score race wins for our resumes so we both were flat out for the win today.
“That’s why I was so aggressive at the start, got the race lead and then I was just pushing crazy hard trying to get him out of the push to pass (zone) and he was pushing very hard as well. [Urrutia] was able to come back into the zone and from then on I knew he would have 20 seconds of push to pass every single lap to come back on me and that’s what he did. (He) was able to place a great attack on me and I was able to defend and then from then on I think he was out of push to pass and we just kind of settled down for the last few laps.”
Urrutia is now tied for second in points with Colton Herta but knows he has to keep the pressure up to have any chance at winning the championship.
“I have to do the same that I did here,” Urrutia said.
“I have to win and get big points and see if Kaiser stays out of the top ten and then it’s going to be fine. But that’s out of my driving so I have to focus on me and my team.
“If we improve the car in the qualifying then it’s going to be better in the race and yeah, as long as we win the next race on the oval and then we win at Watkins Glen its’ going to be fine and we can win the championship but let’s go race by race and see what happens.”
Blackstock’s podium was the result of a lot of hard work and getting back to a track he absolutely loves.
“Overall the whole season has just been bad luck,” Blackstock said.
“Every single weekend we’ve had the pace and I think I’m the only one that’s had something happen in practice, qualifying and the race.
“I’ve had part failures, getting caught up in other people’s stuff or just simple mistakes and each weekend we’ve had the pace, we’ve come off the track and we’re tenth or something but we had the second fastest lap of the race. So we had the pace but there was always something. This was actually our first weekend all year to actually have a smooth weekend.
“We unloaded properly, we had a little bit of a shifting issue in the first practice but we weren’t really stressing it, we had two good qualifying (sessions), two good races so just kind of a smoothish weekend and I’ll take it.”
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