Claman De Melo notches maiden Indy Lights win

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ELKHART LAKE, Wisconsin – It took longer than he had hoped, but Carlin Racing’s Zachary Claman De Melo can now call himself an Indy Lights race winner.

The Montreal native took the lead from pole sitter Colton Herta on Lap 5 today at Road America and never looked back, winning by 10.5479 seconds over Kyle Kaiser in Race 2 of the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires weekend. Indy Lights is the top rung of the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires development ladder for drivers and teams aspiring to reach the Verizon IndyCar Series.

“It’s really exciting, I’m super happy,” said Claman De Melo, driver of the No. 13 ZCD Montreal/Zoological Wildlife Foundation Mazda/Dallara IL-15. “I can’t thank everybody who helped me get to this point enough. It’s been a lot of work up until now that a lot of people don’t see. It took a bit longer than I wanted to get this win, but hopefully I can build off this and keep fighting for wins every weekend now.”

Claman De Melo gained added confidence from an overnight engine changed after finishing 10th in Race 1 on Saturday, charging from a fourth-place starting position today to claim the win. Kaiser’s second-place finish adds six points to his championship lead over Matheus Leist, Claman De Melo’s teammate at Carlin who finished fourth today. Kaiser holds a 27-point advantage over Leist after nine of 16 races.

Kaiser, in the No. 18 Juncos Racing entry, passed Herta around the midway point and held off the teenager to claim runner-up honors. Herta, in the No. 98 Deltro Energy Mazda for Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing, finished third to score his first podium since Race 2 at Barber Motorsports Park in April.

“I think we’ve always had pretty good pace,” said Kaiser, who notched his 75th start in all MRTI levels in his fifth full season and third in Indy Lights. “It’s a matter of just being mature and knowing when’s the right time to push, when’s to make the right moves, and you learn just from doing more races, that’s really all it comes down to. I think that’s what has allowed me to get this lead to this point.”

Indy Lights returns to action in two weeks for its second oval event of the season, at Iowa Speedway. Kaiser, who won at Phoenix Raceway in 2016, will rely on his experience and strong pace to extend his championship lead.

“I like the short ovals,” said Kaiser, whose lone Indy Lights win this year came in Race 2 at the INDYCAR Grand Prix in May. “The first year we raced at Iowa, I battled from seventh to fourth and the car felt great, and we won at Phoenix (in 2016), so I think we have a really good short oval setup. I’m looking forward to it.”

A recap of the Indy Lights doubleheader weekend from the 4.014-mile permanent road course at Road America airs at noon ET Monday.

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