Kaiser claims pole after tight Phoenix qualifying

AVONDALE, Ariz. – Kyle Kaiser didn’t turn the fastest lap during this afternoon’s qualifying session on the 1.022-mile Phoenix International Raceway oval – that honor fell to Brazilian Andre Negrao – but a blend of impressive pace and admirable consistency over his two-lap run was enough for the Californian teenager to claim the pole position for tomorrow’s Indy Lights Grand Prix of Phoenix.

The pole was Kaiser’s second in three races for Juncos Racing, coming on the heels of his first career Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires pole on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla.

Kaiser was the fourth driver to make his attempt during the traditional single-car qualifying session. His first lap, at 21.9182 seconds (167.860 mph), wasn’t quite as fast as Negrao’s best of 21.891 seconds (168.067 mph), set a few minutes earlier, but Kaiser went slightly quicker on his second lap, 21.9152, to ensure a two-lap cumulative time of 43.8334 seconds and an average speed of 167.872 mph. Kaiser’s marks comfortably eclipsed the old Indy Lights qualifying track record, set on a slightly different one-mile configuration by Canadian Claude Bourbonnais at 160.755 mph in 1995.

Even though Negrao’s single best lap remained fastest of the day, the Brazilian’s first lap for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian was significantly slower at 22.1402 seconds. His two-lap average of 167.117 mph was good enough for only sixth on the closely matched grid.

Ed Jones (Carlin) qualified second fastest at an average speed of 167.507 mph, followed by Uruguayan Santiago Urrutia (167.365 mph), who carried the distinctive Mazda Soul Red livery for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian as a result of winning last year’s Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires.

Teammate RC Enerson was fractionally slower at 167.306 mph to complete Row Two of the grid. Felix Serralles (Carlin), who recorded the fastest lap in practice this morning at 22.0617 seconds (166.769 mph), and Negrao will make up Row Three. Canadian rookie Zachary Claman de Melo also impressed aboard the second Juncos Racing entry with a two-lap average of 167.037 mph to earn seventh on the grid.

The top seven qualifiers were within a fraction over two tenths of a second of each other.

The green flag for tomorrow’s race will fly at 1.30 p.m. local time. Live commentary and streaming video will be available at indylights.com, indycar.com and on the Road To Indy TV App.

Kyle Kaiser (#18 InterVision/NetApp/Juniper Networks-Juncos Racing): “We were quickest in the session before qualifying so we really contemplated how much we wanted to change for qualifying. We stayed aggressive because we did think the track would get better. We made good changes to the setup. I was confident in our decision so I kept it flat the whole way and just hoped for the best. The car felt perfect; I was surprised how good the track was. We did a lot of long runs in previous tests here, so we know what the tires will do. But ovals are scary, I’ll be completely honest. They’re intimidating, especially in a car like this where you’re going so fast. You have to have confidence that the car is behind you and that you have the experience. That translates to your feedback as well, so you get a better car.”

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