By Christopher DeHarde, Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG, Florida — Saturday has come and gone for the Verizon IndyCar Series and the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires on the streets of St. Petersburg and many storylines and other things have taken place that made for a full day at the track.
Robert Wickens getting pole position for Sunday’s race was massive for the Canadian. Stealing the top spot from Will Power on the final lap of the session made it all the sweeter. Wickens came from DTM, but before that raced in European open wheel junior formula.
Matheus Leist and Jordan King qualified third and fourth, giving the rookie contingent additional reasons to smile. Leist had been near the top of the time sheets during much of the weekend, leading the first practice session before he was 12th in the second session and fifth in Saturday’s session.
Probably the best thing from the weekend so far is that there hasn’t been any heavy wall contact for the IndyCar guys. King hit the tire wall in his No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet for Ed Carpenter Racing in the last corner, but there wasn’t a massive to-do about clean up.
On Friday, Aaron Telitz qualified on pole for the first race of the weekend, but a crash in Saturday morning qualifying was severe enough where the Belardi Auto Racing driver would not be able to continue.
That put Pato O’Ward on pole for the Indy Lights race and he drove away from everybody to win handily. Colton Herta had a nice battle with Victor Franzoni during the race and was able to get around the Brazilian to finish third.
Rinus VeeKay took advantage of what stopped Parker Thompson last year: a mid-race restart. VeeKay got around Parker Thompson to give Juncos Racing the first race win with the new Tatuus PM-18 car. Thompson would finish second and Robert Megennis finished third.
Oliver Askew started on pole, but a divebomb by Harrison Scott at the first corner dropped the 2017 USF2000 champion down the field. He would recover to fifth place.
Kyle Kirkwood may as well have been a library book because he was checked out from the rest of the field. After getting around Jose Sierra heading to the first corner, the Jupiter, FL native won by almost 5.5 seconds over Sierra, while Darren Keane scored Newman Wachs Racing’s first ever podium in the Mazda Road to Indy.
There were several big movers during the race as Russell McDonough and Mathias Soler-Obel ran higher up the standings during the day after starting far back in the field. McDonough retired with damage, as did Alex Baron who started sixth, fell back early and was climbing into the top 10 before suffering wall contact.
2017 British F4 Champion Jamie Caroline had a strong race going, especially considering his deal came together in the week before St. Petersburg. Caroline started seventh and moved up as high as second before wall contact necessitated his retirement from the race.
Four cars retired from the race due to contact, with Manuel Cabrera finishing last after contact at the first corner.