Mazda Road to Indy Heads to Portland for Season Finale
 August 28, 2018| 
  • Series News
Lights Portland Advance 2018

Indy Lights, Pro Mazda Titles to be Decided

PALMETTO, Fla. – The Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires season will conclude this weekend in the Pacific Northwest when all three feeder categories for the Verizon IndyCar Series – Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda – return to Portland International Raceway after a lengthy hiatus. Two races for each series will be held on the 1.967-mile, 12-turn road course situated just a few miles from downtown Portland, Ore.

A total of more than $2.5M in scholarships and awards will be presented at the Mazda Road to Indy Championship Celebration in Portland on Monday evening, when drivers and teams of the world-renowned open-wheel development ladder, representing at least a dozen nations and 14 different States, will be honored.

Kyle Kirkwood, from Jupiter, Fla., has already clinched the USF2000 title following a stellar rookie season with Cape Motorsports. He will claim a $325,000 scholarship to advance to Pro Mazda in 2019. The outcome of the other two series is still to be determined, although Dutch teenager Rinus VeeKay (Juncos Racing) has a substantial lead over Canadian Parker Thompson (Exclusive Autosport) in the quest for a Mazda Scholarship worth almost $800,000 to step up to Indy Lights in 2019, and Mexico’s Patricio O’Ward (Andretti Autosport) holds a 25-point edge over California’s Colton Herta (Andretti-Steinbrenner) in Indy Lights. At stake is a scholarship valued at $1M to guarantee entry into at least three Verizon IndyCar Series races in 2019, including the 103rd Indianapolis 500.

Herta Seeks to Keep the Pressure on O’Ward
An impressive blend of speed and consistency has been the key to O’Ward’s current position atop the points table. The 19-year-old from Monterrey, Mexico, has won the most races this year (seven out of 15) and has started eight times from the pole position, tying the existing record for most poles in a season. He has completed all but one of the season’s 585 laps and led an impressive 55.21 percent of the time (323 laps). O’Ward also has recorded a series-high 11 podiums, including a streak of six in a row.

Herta, 18, from Valencia, Calif., has four wins to his name and three poles, and has led a total of 116 laps. The second-generation racer (his father Bryan claimed the Indy Lights Championship in 1993) came agonizingly close to adding a fifth victory last Saturday at the Gateway Motorsports Park oval in Madison, Ill., only to be edged out by yet another Andretti team car, driven by Ryan Norman, following a titanic battle with just a handful of laps remaining.

The point permutations are plentiful heading into the final weekend of the 17-race season, although Herta knows that, realistically, only a pair of wins – as well as sweeping all the bonus points for pole and leading most laps – will give him a decent shot at pipping O’Ward to the crown. If he is able to achieve that goal, O’Ward will require at least a third- and a fourth-place finish (or any combination totaling 40 points) to keep the title out of Herta’s grasp.

Uruguayan charger Santiago “Santi” Urrutia’s hopes of winning the championship for Belardi Auto Racing after two straight years of finishing second in the points table have unfortunately expired, although the 2015 Pro Mazda champion retains high hopes of finishing his season on a high note. Ditto teammate and 2016 Pro Mazda champion Aaron Telitz, from Birchwood, Wis., with whom he enjoyed a thrilling tussle for fourth place at Gateway last weekend.

Norman, too, will be a challenger for the wins. The 20-year-old from Aurora, Ohio, has enjoyed a strong sophomore season, highlighted by a pair of front row starts in the last three races and, of course, his exquisitely judged maiden victory last weekend.

Brazilian Victor Franzoni, last year’s Pro Mazda champion, already has one win to his name this year, and Canadian Dalton Kellett (Andretti Autosport) has twice finished on the podium, while Korea’s Heamin Choi will make a welcome return to the series aboard a second Juncos Racing Dallara-Mazda IL-15.

The Cooper Tires Indy Lights Grand Prix of Portland Powered by Mazda will commence with a 40-minute practice session at 9:50 a.m. on Friday, August 31, followed by qualifying for Race One at 1:50 p.m. Saturday will comprise another qualifying session (to set the grid for Race Two) at 9:50 a.m., with the green flag for Race One slated for 2:05 p.m. Race Two will start at 9:55 a.m. on Sunday, September 2. All times are PDT.

Coverage of all races can 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.

The Indy Lights race will be broadcast on NBCSN at 6:00 pm EDT on Monday, September 3.

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