WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – An international crew of six drivers is still chasing the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires 2016 championship, with the 16th of 18 races slated for Saturday at Watkins Glen International.
Santiago Urrutia, the Uruguayan driver for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian (pictured above), takes a 16-point lead over Carlin’s Ed Jones, the Dubai-based Englishman, into the race weekend. Also still mathematically eligible for the title in the top tier of the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires ladder series are England’s Dean Stoneman, Puerto Rico’s Feliz Serralles and Americans Kyle Kaiser and Zach Veach.
The Indy Lights champion earns a $1 million Mazda scholarship that guarantees a ride in three 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series races, including the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.
Urrutia, who turned 20 Tuesday, has been through an MRTI championship battle already, capturing the Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires last year. He is looking to replicate the success of Spencer Pigot, who won Pro Mazda and Indy Lights championships in consecutive seasons (2014-15) to launch his career in the Verizon IndyCar Series this year.
“Winning the Pro Mazda title gave me the chance, with Mazda and Cooper Tires, to be in Indy Lights this year,” said Urrutia, who has a season-high four race wins in the No. 55 Mazda Dallara IL-15. “Now I want to win the Indy Lights championship and, as a team, we are working hard toward that goal.”
Urrutia overtook Jones for the points lead by sweeping the weekend races a month ago at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. With only this weekend’s single race and the season-ending doubleheader during the Soul Red Finale weekend Sept. 9-11 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Jones realizes the challenge at hand.
“The championship is the goal, but I have to go very strong in the last three races,” said Jones, driver of the No. 11 Jebel Ali Resorts and Hotel entry. “If I can be the best in those races, that’s all I can control.”
The top six in the points are all within 52 of leader Urrutia. A maximum of 99 points is available in the final three races.
There will be a pair of 45-minute Indy Lights practice sessions Friday (10-10:45 a.m. and 2:30-3:15 p.m. ET), with qualifying Saturday morning (10-10:45 a.m.) and the race set for 1:35 p.m. that afternoon. All sessions will stream live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com, with NBCSN’s race telecast airing at 1 p.m. ET Sunday, just prior to the live telecast of the INDYCAR Grand Prix at The Glen.