Three Winners in Four Indy Lights Races Highlight Ultra-Competitive Grid
 May 9, 2017| 
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Aspiring IndyCar Racers Carry Royal Purple Colors in Support of Lupus Foundation

PALMETTO, Fla. – All three levels of the acclaimed Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires open-wheel development ladder will return to action this week in the fourth annual Grand Prix of Indianapolis. Well over 50 competitors will converge upon the 2.439-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course for double-header rounds.

The level of intensity in all three series – Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda – will be fierce, and each of the six races will have some additional commonality in being presented by Royal Purple Synthetic Oil and held in support of the Lupus Foundation of America during Lupus Awareness Month. Every car will carry a decal as a means of raising awareness for this mysterious autoimmune disease, and the #RaceToEndLupus hashtag will be used throughout the event. A special donation page has been set up at lupus.org/racing.

Beginning with the Mazda Road to Indy Grand Prix Presented by Royal Purple Supporting the Lupus Foundation of America and retroactive to the season-opening race in St. Petersburg, all race winners in the Mazda Road to Indy will be presented with special “rice spoon” (called a skakushi) decals for their cars from Mazda to acknowledge their accomplishments. The rice spoon is a talisman for good luck, victory, business prosperity and a safe household, and the characters on the spoon read “Certain Victory” and “Must Win.”

“The Mazda brand and our entire motorsports program is based on the idea that we ‘Never Stop Challenging,’” said John Doonan, Director of Motorsports for Mazda North American Operations. “That determines how we improve our vehicles and how we provide our customers with enjoyment. One way we celebrate Mazda’s heritage is through winning on the race track. Every weekend, our racers come to the track with the hope of achieving ‘certain victory.' These decals for the Mazda Road to Indy and Mazda Road to 24 race winners represent a badge of honor and the virtues of fighting hard for victory.”

Rookie Colton Herta, 17, from Valencia, Calif., is well on the way toward rewriting the Indy Lights record books. The 17-year-old became the youngest ever Indy Lights race winner when he took the checkered flag in Round 2 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., then most recently at Barber Motorsports Park added another victory for Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing – in the 400th Indy Lights race since its inception in 1986. Herta now holds a 16-point lead in his quest to win the championship and a Mazda Scholarship valued at $1 million to ensure entry into at least three Verizon IndyCar Series races in 2018, including the 102nd Indianapolis 500.

A pair of podium finishes in Alabama for series veteran Kyle Kaiser moved the 21-year-old Santa Clara, Calif., native into second place in the standings as the field heads to within a few hundred yards of his Juncos Racing team’s home base in Speedway, Ind., for Rounds 5 and 6.

Herta’s Andretti Autosport teammate Nico Jamin, who won both USF2000 races at Indianapolis en route to the championship in 2015, scored a breakthrough maiden Indy Lights victory at Barber, while fellow rookie Aaron Telitz, the 2016 Pro Mazda champion who won the opening race of the season at St. Petersburg, will be looking to bounce back from a disappointing Barber weekend for the Brownsburg, Ind.-based Belardi Auto Racing team.

Other drivers to watch in a deep pool of talent will include Belardi teammates Santi Urrutia, from Uruguay, who has had no luck at all in the opening four races of the season after finishing a close second in the 2016 title-chase, and Shelby Blackstock, from Nashville, Tenn., who sits sixth in points, plus Californian Neil Alberico, who has rebounded from a challenging rookie season in 2016 to claim three top-four finishes for the Carlin team in the first four races of the new campaign and teammate Matheus Leist who just missed the podium at Barber Motorsports Park.

The event will mark a milestone for Team Pelfrey’s Juan Piedrahita as he will celebrate his 100th race start on the Mazda Road to Indy on Friday. The popular Colombian is among an elite handful of drivers who have recorded top-three finishes in all three levels of the ladder system.

The Mazda Road to Indy Grand Prix Presented by Royal Purple Supporting Lupus Foundation of America will commence with a pair of test sessions on Thursday, May 11, followed by a 45-minute practice session on Friday morning. The first 30-minute qualifying period at 1:45 p.m. EDT will set the grid for Race 1 at 5:50 p.m., while a second qualifying session at 9:20 a.m. on Saturday will determine the starting positions for Race 2 at 1:15 p.m., immediately prior to the Verizon IndyCar Series headline event.

Live timing of all Thursday sessions will be available on the respective series websites as well as indycar.com and the Road To Indy TV App, with live streaming available on all outlets, including Xbox One, beginning on Friday. Round 6 of Indy Lights competition on Saturday will air on NBCSN at 2:00 am EDT on May 21.

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