NEWTON, Iowa – In its previous two ventures to Iowa Speedway, Carlin’s Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires team has walked away with wins both times. Saturday, Carlin established itself as the favorite for a third win by leading both sessions of practice.
Second-year Indy Lights driver Neil Alberico (No. 22 Rising Star Racing Mazda/Dallara IL-15) posted the best lap of morning practice at 162.325 mph, joined by teammates Matheus Leist (No. 26 TMA Mazda) and Zachary Claman De Melo (No. 13 ZCD Montreal/Zoological Wildlife Foundation Mazda) atop the leaderboard.
Claman De Melo (162.578 mph) paced the second session in late afternoon, closely followed by Andretti Autosport’s Colton Herta (No. 98 Deltro Energy Mazda), who was fourth-quick in the morning session. Points leader Kyle Kaiser (No. 18 Juncos Racing Mazda) had a middling day, running sixth quick in the morning and 12th in the afternoon.
“I think it went well,” Claman De Melo said. “The team’s really happy, I’m really happy, so it’s been good. We’ve got a lot of things to work on for tomorrow to get the car ready for the race, but I think we are in good position for qualifying. If we can start well, I think we’ll be in for a good race.”
Claman De Melo has added confidence from the fact that his engineer, Matt Greasley, was the Chilton engineer when Max Chilton (2015) and Felix Serralles (2016) won at Iowa Speedway.
“My engineer, Matt, actually engineered both of those (winning) cars,” said Claman De Melo, “so it’s a good omen for me. As for us drivers, we work together on the track and off track. We get along well and help each other where we can, which I think shows why we’ve been so strong.”
Chad Boat, the son of former Verizon IndyCar Series driver Billy Boat, was scheduled to make his Indy Lights debut with Belardi Auto Racing this weekend, but he was not cleared to drive by the INDYCAR medical staff after sustaining injuries in a USAC national midget race on July 2.
“To say I'm disappointed doesn't begin to describe how I'm feeling right now," Chad Boat said, "but I trust the doctors and medical staff at INDYCAR and know they have my best interest in mind. I'll continue to follow the instructions I'm receiving for recovery and look forward to being back soon."
Single-car qualifying begins at 11:15 a.m. ET today. The 100-lap race, the 10th of 16 in the 2017 Indy Lights season, goes green at 3 p.m., with live coverage at RaceControl.IndyCar.com. A same-day telecast on NBCSN airs at 4 p.m., prior to live coverage of the Iowa Corn 300 Verizon IndyCar Series race at 5 p.m.
Frederick sets pace in USF2000 practice
The Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda is also in action this weekend with a 75-lap race today. In Saturday’s only practice session, it was 15-year old Team Pelfrey driver Kaylen Frederick (No. 81 Pilot ONE Racing Mazda/Tatuus USF-17) who led the field with a fast lap of 133.138 mph.
Pabst Racing drivers Calvin Ming (No. 22 Mings Products and Services/APAN Mazda), Rinus VeeKay (No. 21 Jumbo Supermarkets The Netherlands/Total Mazda) and Lucas Kohl (No. 23 Bellko Trading Mazda) rounding out the top four.
USF2000 qualifying begins at 10:15 a.m. ET today. The 60-lap race is set to start 2:05 p.m. Both will stream live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com.