ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – The premier level of the Mazda Road to Indy provided plenty of excitement this morning as Uruguayan Santiago Urrutia, last year’s winner of the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, made light of treacherous conditions at Elkhart Lake’s scenic Road America circuit to claim his second Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires race victory for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian.
Brazilian teammate Andre Negrao secured his best finish to date in second, while yesterday’s winner Zach Veach completed a fine weekend by taking third for Belardi Auto Racing.
Heavy overnight rain ensured a brief delay in track activities, and although the precipitation had ceased by the time the contenders rolled out onto the grid for the Mazda Indy Lights Grand Prix of Road America Presented by Cooper Tires, the track remained wet and the entire field was obliged to run grooved Cooper tires.
Championship leader Ed Jones took full advantage of his pole position to lead the field away from the rolling start, although he immediately came under pressure from Veach, up from third on the grid. Urrutia, who started second, had a tough opening lap which he completed in the sixth position behind Jones, Veach, Negrao, Dean Stoneman (Andretti Autosport) and Felix Serralles (Carlin).
The action was hot and heavy through the opening laps, especially in the midfield with positions changing by the lap. Up front, meanwhile, Jones continued to maintain a slender advantage until Lap Five when Veach overstepped the limit of the exit of Turn Five and spun. He resumed in sixth.
Following a brief full-course caution after Dalton Kellett slid into the gravel trap at Turn 14, Jones accelerated away into the lead once more, but by now Stoneman was up into second and anxious for more. The two Englishmen exchanged positions a couple of times on lap eight, with Stoneman taking the lead on the straightaway exiting Turn Three, only for Jones to brake deeper and regain the advantage into Turn Five.
Jones then made a robust move to defend as the leaders accelerated up the hill toward Turn Six, but Stoneman was not to be denied. The two made contact as Stoneman forced his way through. Worse was to come for Jones as he was forced sideways, then collected by his unfortunate teammate Serralles. Both Carlin cars made for the pits.
The incident ensured another full-course caution. Then it was Stoneman’s turn to have trouble. His car had picked up a right-front puncture in the earlier melee and he had to complete one full lap of the 4.048-mile road course before pitting for a change of tires. Stoneman was a lap behind the leaders when he rejoined but made the brave decision to change onto slick Cooper tires as the track was drying rapidly.
Negrao led very briefly at the restart, but only as far as Turn One where Urrutia – who had been running fifth when the green flag waved – dived to the inside to grasp the advantage. He then controlled the remainder of the 50-minute race to win by 8.1504 seconds over Negrao.
Veach held onto his oversteering car to finish third, well clear of the once again impressive Canadian rookie Zachary Claman De Melo (Juncos Racing), who ousted Shelby Blackstock (Andretti Autosport) from fourth with three laps remaining to claim his best result to date.
Stoneman’s charge on slick tires netted comfortably the fastest lap of the race as he passed both Neil Alberico (Carlin) and Garett Grist (Team Pelfrey) in the final few laps to finish ninth.
Championship leader Jones returned to take 13th after a change of rear wing. His advantage over Stoneman now stands at 19 points, 213-194, as the series heads next to Iowa Speedway for the final oval race of the season on July 10. Urrutia now lies third in the points table on 189.
Santiago Urrutia (#55 Mazda/Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian): “I had big emotions when I passed the finish line! Yesterday was a tough race, we lost a lot of points but today we won. The series is so competitive; everyone wants to win the championship and everyone is pushing really hard. The team gave me a great car today and I was very happy with the Mazda engine. I wasn’t that quick in the beginning but it was very tricky conditions so I decided to save my tires and wait to make a move until later in the race. On the first restart, guys got around me and then there was the crash, so I knew I had to push. My car was really good but as the track started to dry, I was looking for the wet lines. The Cooper tires did a great job; it was very difficult at the end but the tires survived! I’m happy to have momentum going into Iowa and Toronto so now it’s about getting points.”
Andre Negrao (#17 Novac Sports/Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian): “I’ve waited a long time for this moment and finally it came! I’m very happy for the team as well to get a podium for both cars. It was a crazy first few laps. We were all fighting for positions – Serralles, Jones, Stoneman and me. They went a little bit outside so I went inside, but Jones came inside really fast and we crashed a little bit. But my car was okay so I kept going. It was really difficult because it wasn’t completely wet conditions. The track really started to dry and the car was moving a lot. I was happy to see the checkered flag!”
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