By Christopher DeHarde, IndyCar & Road to Indy Writer
A thrilling final three lap shootout nearly allowed Juan Piedrahita to earn his first win in the Mazda Road to Indy but it was Santiago Urrutia who walked away from Gateway Motorsports Park with another victory in his sophomore Indy Lights season.
The race began with a first lap yellow flag after Belardi Auto Racing teammates Aaron Telitz and Shelby Blackstock had contact resulting in Telitz’s retirement from the event.
Soon after the green flag came out for the restart there was another yellow as Carlin’s Zachary Claman De Melo got loose in Turn 1 and slid through the grass in the first turn.
After the next restart, Piedrahita pulled away from Urrutia but Kyle Kaiser was on Urrutia’s heels and got second place soon after. Urrutia would get second place back on Lap 14 in the 75 lap race and would start to chase down Piedrahita.
Meanwhile in the early going of the race Matheus Leist and Dalton Kellett were the early movers moving to seventh and eighth after starting 12th and 11th respectively.
The field shuffled around during the race as Leist moved up to fourth while Kaiser slid back from third to sixth. The next yellow wouldn’t come out until Lap 62 as Carlin teammates Neil Alberico and Garth Rickards had contact with the Belardi Auto Racing car of Chad Boat.
The debris from the incident was enough to warrant the officials to call for the red flag on Lap 65. Urrutia was in the lead over Piedrahita, Nico Jamin, Leist, Zachary Claman De Melo and Kaiser.
The race restarted soon after but just after the green flag came out again Jamin got loose and spun, causing his retirement and the final yellow of the race. Before the yellow was called however, Piedrahita was able to get around Urrutia for the lead.
The last restart came and Urrutia got around Piedrahita in a daring move that ultimately would give the Belardi Auto Racing team a reason to smile after a rough race with three cars that ended up with damage.
Urrutia was pleased to score yet another win but it was bittersweet as Kaiser all but clinched the Indy Lights championship. Urrutia went into the last restart with an all or nothing mentality and it paid off.
“It was good,” said Urrutia. “I have nothing to lose, so coming on the last two laps before the restart when I was second I said I was going to either win the race or I’m going to put the car in the wall because I don’t care, I don’t want to be second again.”
“Second is the first loser so I won this race and I think it was awesome but I won this race because the car was really good. I was able to run on the high line (and) I know I took a lot of risk in the last pass against Juan but this is racing. I think it was really good, I wish it could be this way every race that you race clear, very tight and very competitive.”
Piedrahita was close but unfortunately could not score his maiden victory.
“I was just heartbroken because I think we could’ve done this more often during the season but there are things that are out of our control so yeah, I’m a little disappointed,” Piedrahita said.
“It was a good race against Santi, I thought I had him. It was good.”
Short of Kaiser’s engine failing, he will be the 2017 Indy Lights champion but isn’t celebrating just yet.
“Literally no pressure,” Kaiser said.
“I mean I guess in some bad miracle I guess the worst thing can happen and my car won’t start. I’m not going to celebrate until it’s officially done but I’m feeling pretty good.”
- Santiago Urrutia
- Juan Piedrahita
- Colton Herta
- Kyle Kaiser
- Nicolas Dapero
- Zachary Claman De Melo
- Dalton Kellett
- Ryan Norman
- Shelby Blackstock
- Matheus Leist
- Nico Jamin
- Neil Alberico
- Garth Rickards
- Chad Boat
- Aaron Telitz