By Christopher DeHarde, IndyCar & Road to Indy Writer
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. — After a 2017 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires season that was, for the most part, one to forget, Aaron Telitz was able to earn his second victory of the season and his first since the first race of the year in St. Petersburg in some very wet conditions.
Polesitter Colton Herta led at the start but Telitz took the lead shortly thereafter and so began one of the best on track battles of the season.
Santiago Urrutia, Herta and Telitz were dicing back and forth before Telitz was able to get the lead and pull out a gap in the wet conditions.
Telitz was leading ahead of Urrutia and Herta but Urrutia was gaining on Telitz while Carlin’s Matheus Leist got to fourth around Andretti Autosport’s Nico Jamin. Leist was catching Herta but a full course yellow changed everything.
The third Andretti Autosport car of Dalton Kellett spun coming out of the inner loop and hit the barrier on drivers’ left. After the drivers were prepared to go green, officials decided to bring out the red flag on Lap 18.
After a brief red flag, the engines were fired up and after the green flag came out Telitz was able to maintain a small lead over Urrutia and Herta.
Urrutia tried everything he could to catch his Belardi Auto Racing teammate but it was to no avail as Telitz managed to set his fastest lap of the race on the penultimate lap of the season.
Telitz was the only driver that went out to test in the rain when Cooper brought tires to a Mazda Road to Indy test at Watkins Glen. That experience gave him a bit of an advantage.
“I think it did give me an advantage,” said Telitz.
“Obviously, I knew where the rain line was. I knew where the puddles formed. I knew where there was going to be a hard time putting power down, so I just already knew all of that. Obviously during the test you’re not pushing to get an optimal lap time or anything like that, but I felt it out and knew what it was like and I think that did give me a pretty big advantage. Which is why I could attack right away and why I got to the lead and then put a big gap on everybody else.
“Then they all kind of caught up to what I was doing near the end of the race, where Santi and I were doing more or less the same lap times at the end. I wanted to win the last race and Santi knew that we were going to win the team championship if we finished 1-2. So we didn’t take any risks or take each other out so that’s good.”
For Urrutia, he was 11th in the standings after Road America and to finish second in the season was a major accomplishment for the Uruguayan but the larger accomplishment today was Belardi Auto Racing scoring first in the team championship.
“It was pretty good,” said Urrutia. “I think (Aaron) deserved to get this win.
“I always want to win, but I wanted the team to win the championship. So 1 and 2 is really good for us. I think the problem for me was the wrong map of running, the wet map has less power than the dry map so I think anyway it was a good race, finished second after the tough year that I had so yeah, I’m ready to move to IndyCar.”
Meanwhile, championship leader Kyle Kaiser took the green flag to win the 2017 Indy Lights championship. Kaiser would spin once in the race exiting the inner loop and would eventually finish seventh but was more focused on staying on track than anything else.
“I wasn’t really thinking about it too much until the end of the race,” Kaiser said.
“I was just trying to drive the track. There was a lot of concentration and focus. We started at the back and so I didn’t see anything at the start. So it was tough trying to work our way through and I really just wanted to bring the car home at the end of the day.
“It’s very tricky conditions, high chance of an accident. I was trying to move forward, but at the same time it was tough to race. So I brought it home, finished, we did what we had to do and it is what it is.”