SPEEDWAY, Ind. – Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires championship leader Ed Jones will start from pole position in tomorrow’s Mazda Freedom 100 Presented by Cooper Tires at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The Dubai, UAE-based Englishman, driving for the Carlin team, had posted the fastest two-lap average, at 197.078 mph, among the eight drivers who made their qualifying runs on the famed 2.5-mile oval before proceedings were interrupted by the threat of lightning from a fast-approaching thunderstorm, followed soon afterward by heavy rain. When it became apparent the weather would not clear until much later in the afternoon, Race Director Tony Cotman made the decision to abort the session and set the grid for tomorrow’s race according to current championship positions per the rulebook.
Jones’ pole was assured due to his 21-point advantage, 160-139, over Santiago Urrutia (Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian) and Kyle Kaiser (Juncos Racing) after seven races so far this season. Urrutia will start alongside Jones on the front row of the grid by virtue of claiming one win and two second-place finishes to the one win and one second from the opening phase of the 18-race campaign.
Kaiser and Felix Serralles (Carlin) will make up Row Two of the grid, followed by Dean Stoneman (Andretti Autosport) and Felix Rosenqvist (Belardi Auto Racing) on Row Three. Each of the top six already has enjoyed the spoils of victory this year, with Jones currently the only two-time winner.
The qualifying rain-out was especially disappointing for Belardi Auto Racing’s Zach Veach and Team Pelfrey’s Juan Piedrahita. Veach, from Stockdale, Ohio, had set the pace throughout most of Monday’s test session, taking advantage of fresh tires, a qualifying setup, perfect early-morning weather conditions and a tow to turn the first-ever lap in excess of 200 mph unofficially by an Indy Lights car at 44.6751 seconds, an average speed of 201.455 mph. Piedrahita, from Bogota, Colombia, was fastest in this morning’s practice session at 45.4656 seconds (197.957 mph).
The practice session was halted early, with qualifying rescheduled to start at 11:15 a.m., in the hope of completion before the arrival of the approaching weather system, but to no avail.
Of the eight drivers who had an opportunity to make a qualifying run before the interruption, Jones was the only contender to circulate at better than 197 mph. Canadian Scott Hargrove (Team Pelfrey) had posted the second fastest two-lap average speed at 196.397 mph, followed by Shelby Blackstock (Andretti Autosport) at 195.759 mph. All qualifying runs were subsequently annulled.
Blackstock’s mother, country singing star Reba McEntire, will give the command to start engines for the Mazda Freedom 100 Presented by Cooper Tires at 12:25 p.m. EDT tomorrow, Friday, May 27. The 40-lap race will be broadcast live on NBCSN. Live timing and scoring also will be available at indylights.com, indycar.com and on the Road To Indy TV App.
Ed Jones (#11 Jebel Ali Resorts and Hotels-Carlin): “The Cooper tires really came in quickly and my Mazda engine performed perfectly. It’s unfortunate that everyone else didn’t get a run in, but I think we would have been on the front row anyway. We did two pretty good laps and were sitting on pole when the weather came in. But it’s very different for me this year; I know what to expect. Everything I did last year was a guess, whereas this year, I was more confident. I’m looking forward to seeing how things play out in the race. It’s very special, to be on the pole for this race – it’s the next best thing to actually being in the 100th Running of the Indy 500. Hopefully, we can win the Freedom 100, continue leading the championship and be in the Indy 500 next year.”
Santi Urrutia (#55 Mazda/SPM with Curb-Agajanian): “We didn’t expect to be at the front in qualifying but we have a strong car for the race and that’s the most important thing. It’s not like a road course, where qualifying is so important. Here, it’s much more important to have a good car for the race. On the first practice day, it was as though I’d never driven the car before, it was so fast. The Schmidt team has won this race many times including last year, but this year is even more competitive. We need to stay up front tomorrow, but it’s so easy to pass here in the draft. My teammate, RC Enerson, has been fast all week but he’s starting eighth. Every driver really wants to win this race.”
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