Crucial Weekend at Mid-Ohio Beckons for Mazda Road to Indy Racers
 July 25, 2017| 
  • Series News

Indy Lights, Pro Mazda and USF2000 All Set for Action on Iconic Road Course

[Learn more about the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires on the new website – RoadToIndy.lnfo]

PALMETTO, Fla. – All three levels of the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires – the world’s most effective open-wheel development ladder – will be in action this weekend at the scenic Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course situated near Lexington, Ohio. Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda are all nearing the climax of their seasons, with Mazda Scholarships up for grabs in all series to assist each of the champions in their quest to progress closer to their goal of a career in the Verizon IndyCar Series.

For the Indy Lights and USF2000 drivers, this weekend will mark the third different genre of race track they have encountered within the past month – competing firstly on the high-banked Iowa Speedway oval, then the sinuous, concrete wall-lined temporary road course within easy reach of bustling downtown Toronto, and now on the more forgiving but no less challenging 2.258-mile, 13-turn permanent road circuit in rural Ohio. Both series will host a pair of races, while the Pro Mazda campaigners – in action for the first time since Road America last month – will enjoy a triple-header event, all in support of the Verizon IndyCar Series.

Kaiser Poised for Glory in Indy Lights
A dominant weekend for Kyle Kaiser two weeks ago in Toronto has taken the 21-year-old racer from Santa Clara, Calif., to the brink of his dream – an opportunity to win the Mazda Scholarship valued at $1 million which will guarantee the Indy Lights champion entry into at least three Verizon IndyCar Series events in 2018, including the 102nd Indianapolis 500. Kaiser’s pair of victories for Juncos Racing, added to his earlier triumph at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis, have catapulted him to a commanding 51-point lead over rookie rival Matheus Leist with just four races remaining, and he could potentially lock up the championship this weekend.

“Coming into Mid Ohio this weekend with a big point lead is definitely unfamiliar territory in my experience, but I’m still treating it like any other race weekend,” says Kaiser. “We’ve had the lead since halfway through May and I haven’t changed my approach for any other races so I don’t feel the need to change anything now. Juncos Racing has done an incredible job making sure that we continue to focus solely on our own program every race weekend while simultaneously being aggressive on the race track and competing for race wins.”

Kaiser will have no shortage of challengers. Prime among them will be teenage rookies Leist, from Novo Hamburgo, Brazil, and Colton Herta, from Valencia, Calif.

Leist, 18, has made quite an impression by winning three times in his first season of racing in North America, although his capabilities were already well known by the Carlin team with which he won last year’s BRDC British Formula 3 Championship. Herta, meanwhile, who at age 17 became the youngest winner in Indy Lights history when he made the first of his two visits to the top step of the podium at St. Petersburg in March for Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing, has underlined his prowess by accumulating three pole positions and one fastest race lap from his four most recent races. Incidentally, Herta’s father, Bryan, counts Mid-Ohio among his most memorable venues after clinching the 1993 Indy Lights Championship in style with a home victory for the Dublin, Ohio-based Tasman Motorsports Group.

Other drivers among a high-quality field include Leist’s Carlin teammate Zachary Claman DeMelo, from Montreal, Que., Canada, who has one win and two additional podium visits in his four most recent starts; last year’s Pro Mazda champion Aaron Telitz (Belardi Auto Racing), who finished a strong second at Toronto; teammate Santi Urrutia, from Miguelete, Uruguay, who won at Mid-Ohio on his way to claiming the Pro Mazda Championship in 2015 and followed up with a sweep of both Indy Lights races last year from the pole; and Frenchman Nico Jamin (Andretti Autosport), who notched a hat-trick of wins at Mid-Ohio on his way to the USF2000 title in 2015, then won both Pro Mazda races in 2016.

Eyes will also be on Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Norman, who will debut a new paint scheme in partnership with rock band Journey for his home race. Born in Cleveland and currently residing in Aurora, Norman has made several significant stops at Mid-Ohio. Moving from AMA and freestyle motocross to cars in 2014, Norman won the SCCA National Championship Runoffs in the Formula Atlantic class at Mid-Ohio in 2016. He went on to capture the Atlantic Championship Series title, earning 10 wins in 16 races including a victory and a third-place finish at Mid-Ohio.

The Cooper Tires Indy Lights Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio Powered by Mazda will start with a 45-minute practice session on Friday, July 28, followed by half-hour qualifying periods later that day at 1:30 p.m. EDT and another at 9:10 a.m. the following morning which will set the grids for the pair of races – one at 3:35 p.m. on Saturday and the other at 1:20 p.m. on Sunday, immediately prior to the Verizon IndyCar Series headline event.

Sunday’s race will feature same-day coverage on NBCSN at 11:30 pm EDT.

Coverage of the Mazda Road to Indy can also be found on a series of platforms including Road to Indy TV, the Road to Indy TV App and dedicated broadcast channels on demand via Apple TV, Amazon Fire and Roku and, most recently, the Xbox One Official App as well as live streaming and live timing on the series’ respective websites and indycar.com. Indy Lights is also featured on the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network broadcasts on Sirius 214, XM 209, IndyCar.com, indycarradio.com and on the INDYCAR Mobile app.

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