By Christopher DeHarde, IndyCar & Road to Indy Writer
After a morning qualifying session that saw the Juncos Racing driver put his car on pole position for that critical bonus point, Kyle Kaiser followed that up with a victory in the first of two races for the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires on the streets of Toronto.
Kaiser led from the start and never looked back, building up a gap over Matheus Leist until the Carlin driver nudged his car into the Turn 8 tire barrier on Lap 3, causing a yellow flag. Nico Jamin was caught up in the aftermath and was also out.
Leist’s teammate Zachary Claman De Melo was promoted to second after passing Santiago Urrutia soon after the restart. Claman De Melo stayed second, giving the Canadian crowd a good showing for one of their home drivers. Urrutia finished third ahead of Colton Herta.
For Kaiser, this was his second win and seventh podium out of 11 races and with only two results out of the top five, this bodes well for his championship hopes.
“This is my first win on a street course. So now I can say I’ve won on an oval, a road course and a street course and this means a lot,” Kaiser said. “Toronto is one of the better street courses to pass on but if you get a gap, it is really hard to get around someone. The team was telling me the gap every lap, so I knew who was behind me and how far back they were and I was using that to gauge how hard to push.
“It was a very conscious race, focusing on what I had to do but also being aware of what was going on behind me. But I try not to over think it and go into every race weekend to win. Some weekends, you don’t have the setup so you focus on not getting frustrated and running with what you have. This weekend, we had the fastest car so we maximized what we had. All the stars are aligning,” Kaiser added.
Claman De Melo has been on a high after winning at Road America and a second finish moved the Canadian to fifth in Indy Lights points.
“I tried to look forward as much as I could, hitting my marks and not making any mistakes. I didn’t want to fight with Santi because I know he’s a tough driver to fight against,” said Claman De Melo.
“We had good pace early on but fell off a bit toward the end, so we’ll fix that and go for the win tomorrow. Since Indianapolis, I’ve worked really hard with the team, done a few sim days and looked at a lot of data – it’s been a big push mid-season. I’m really happy with the car and really happy with the team. We’ve learned so much together and they’ve taught me a lot. If it had been like this at the beginning of the year, we could have been championship contenders but it’s not over yet,” Claman De Melo added.
Urrutia’s third place finish is his fifth podium on the season but the Uruguayan is still looking for his first win of 2017.
“The car was good in free practice yesterday but something changed on the car for qualifying that didn’t work. I got hit on the restart and the car wasn’t the same after that,” Urrutia said.
“I pushed hard. The team has worked very hard since Iowa where we had a good result. We’re getting better and better but we just can’t find that last little bit of speed that will give us the win. But tomorrow is another day so we’ll work on the car, hopefully have a good qualifying in the morning and go for the race win,” added Urrutia.