MONTEREY, Calif. – Kyle Kaiser took a dominating win, leading 29 of 30 laps to capture Race 1 of the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires “Soul Red Finale” doubleheader at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
The 20-year-old from Santa Clara, Calif., just up the road from the 2.238-mile, 11-turn permanent road course, was uncontested during the 30 lap race, beating runner-up Ed Jones by 7.9169 seconds. The win was the third consecutive at Laguna Seca for Juncos Racing, with last year’s races won by reigning Indy Lights champion Spencer Pigot.
SOUL RED FINALE RECAPS: Pro Mazda - O'Ward wins opener of Soul Red finale | USF2000 - Franzoni notches second victory of season
“I’ve driven this track so much,” said Kaiser, driver of the No. 18 Juncos Racing Mazda. “I know the track really well. I have great support here from my family and friends, so it was just the perfect weekend, so far. The race went really well.”
Despite the win, Kaiser was one of the four drivers eliminated from championship contention with one race remaining, something he was prepared for as a possibility.
“I knew that it was a possibility and I knew I needed a lot of help going into this race, but I’m still here to win races,” Kaiser said on being eliminated. “I wasn’t resting everything on winning the championship. I had the realistic approach that I would need a lot of help in order to win the championship.
“It doesn’t change my mindset for tomorrow. I’m still going to go out and try to win the race.”
The early race action began on Lap 2 when Felix Serralles and Dean Stoneman rekindled their rivalry, making contact that dropped them down to the back of the running order.
Serralles managed to pull his No. 4 Juncos Racing Mazda back up to eighth at the finish. However the race became more adventurous for Stoneman. The No. 27 Andretti Autosport driver made contact with the No. 13 of Zachary Claman De Melo on lap 10 at the Andretti Hairpin (Turn 2) and was forced to serve a drive-thru penalty for his actions and never recovered.
Zach Veach ran within one second behind Jones all afternoon, failing to find a way by en route to finishing third.
“The big thing for me was how fast the tires fell off here,” Veach said. “I went into it thinking I could attack like I normally do, and that was a mistake on my part. The last 20 laps I was just hanging on.”
Sean Rayhall made his return to the series with a fourth-place effort, ahead of title contender Santiago Urrutia.
Garrett Grist held sixth position solidly all race long, but on lap 28 the car began to encounter a mechanical issue, causing him to relinquish that spot to Neil Alberico before falling to 11th.
Dalton Kellett led the Andretti Autosport-squad with a seventh-place finish, his sixth consecutive top 10.
Veach, Serralles and Stoneman joined Kaiser in elimination, with only Jones and Urrutia eligible for the title. Jones holds a seven point advantage over the No. 55 Schmidt-Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian Mazda driver.
“It’s great to have that and be in the prime position,” Jones said. “He’s (Urrutia) going to have to do something big and make something happen, and that isn’t a great place to be in.”
The second race of the Soul Red Finale is set for 4:10 p.m. ET at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca with the champion earning a $1 million Mazda scholarship that grants a three-race deal in the Verizon IndyCar Series next year, including the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.