Title Chase Heats Up in Indy Lights as New Faces Join the Fray
 June 21, 2016| 
  • Series News

PALMETTO, Fla. – This weekend will mark a welcome return to the picturesque Road America circuit for all three levels of the highly acclaimed Mazda Road to Indy, with a pair of races on the docket for each series in support of the Verizon IndyCar Series’ Kohler Grand Prix. Located in Elkhart Lake, Wis., the 4.048-mile, 14-turn road course has long been a driver and fan favorite.

Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires has held only four events at the legendary circuit, making its last appearance 25 years ago in 1990 with Paul Tracy taking the win en route to the championship title. The Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda have a more recent history. The last Pro Mazda race took place in 2010 with IndyCar talent Conor Daly winning from the pole. USF2000 last held a tripleheader event in 2012 with Matthew Brabham and Scott Anderson earning victory honors.

Six Indy Lights drivers have claimed victory in the eight rounds held to date but only two drivers have notched a pair of wins in the hotly contested championship – Ed Jones of Carlin and Dean Stoneman of Andretti Autosport. Only 29 points separate the two at the season’s halfway mark with Jones looking to extend his lead this weekend.

Hot on their heels are Santi Urrutia (Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian), Kyle Kaiser (Juncos Racing) and Felix Serralles (Belardi Auto Racing), who are separated by a mere six points with Urrutia only 10 markers in arrears of Stoneman.

The majority of the Lights teams tested at Road America in May including Carlin, Juncos Racing, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, Andretti Autosport and Belardi Auto Racing.

“It’s so much like Spa with the long straights and fast corners,” said Jones. “That can make it difficult to put a good lap together because there are so many things to get right. It’s very challenging and I really enjoy that. It’s one of my favorites here. With the flowing, high-speed corners and heavy braking zones, it has a good mixture of everything. I think the racing will be very good especially since the long straights should create more opportunities for passing.”

“It’s a high-speed, flowing track and it’s really enjoyable to drive,” added Stoneman. “It’s got a bit of everything: high-speed, low-speed, sweepers and 90-degree corners. It’s enjoyable to work with your engineer here, to figure out how to make the car better on the whole track. It’s been a learning curve for us in developing the car this season, especially since last year Andretti Autosport had one car and this year they have three. Between the three of us, we have the car going in the right direction.”

Andretti Autosport indeed has shown its progress. In the most recent round – the Freedom 100 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway – Stoneman took the win while teammate Dalton Kellett finished third to claim his career-best result with Shelby Blackstock fourth.

Two new faces will be on the Road America grid as Garett Grist moves up from Pro Mazda to make his Indy Lights debut with Team Pelfrey and James French of nearby Sheboygan debuts with Belardi Auto Racing, filling in for Sweden’s Felix Rosenqvist who has European racing commitments this weekend.

The Mazda Indy Lights Grand Prix of Road America Presented by Cooper Tires will feature Race 1 at 1:00 pm EDT on Saturday and Race 2 at 9:45 am on Sunday. All Indy Lights track activity will be livestreamed on the Road To Indy TV App as well as indylights.com and indycar.com. Sunday’s feature race will have same day coverage on NBCSN at 3:30 pm.

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