MADISON, Illinois – Set in front of a growing Gateway Motorsports Park crowd, Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires put on a thrilling race this evening, with South Americans Santi Urrutia and Juan Piedrahita battling to the checkered flag.
Urrutia, from Uruguay, made the winning pass on Lap 73 of 75 and held off the Colombian for his second win of the season.
“When I was second behind Juan, I thought, ‘I’m going to win this race or I’m going to finish in the wall,’” said Urrutia, driver of the No. 5 Belardi Auto Racing Dallara IL-15 Mazda. “It was a good race. I think it was one of the best races of the season. I think this is racing, this is the way that it should be every race. It was competitive, it was clean and it was good to race against Juan.”
Piedrahita’s result was the best of his Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires career, but the Team Pelfrey driver was disappointed to see victory slip away in the closing stages.
“I’m just heartbroken,” Piedrahita said. “I gave it all. My car was perfect, but I think (Santi’s) car was perfect, too. It was a great battle.”
Juncos Racing’s Kyle Kaiser came home fourth on the day. With a 31-point advantage over Urrutia heading into the season finale next week at Watkins Glen International, Kaiser simply needs to start the race to claim the Indy Lights championship. Despite knowing how close he is to winning the crown and the accompanying $1 million Mazda scholarship to join the Verizon IndyCar Series in 2018, Kaiser remains in perspective and focused forward.
“At this point, I’m proud and I’m happy for the effort, but I’m not satisfied until I’m doing well in INDYCAR,” said Kaiser, the native of California. “I’ve been telling everyone I’m focused on the Indy Lights championship until it’s done. I’m not trying to get ahead of myself.”
The Indy Lights season finale is set for Sept. 3 at Watkins Glen. The race starts at 10:50 a.m. ET and will stream live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com.
Franzoni’s daring pass scores Pro Mazda win and points lead
Victor Franzoni’s pass on Lap 19 around Anthony Martin in the Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires race at Gateway may go down as the move of the year in the Mazda Road to Indy. It led to Franzoni’s victory that put the Juncos Racing driver back on top of the series standings with two races to go.
Stepping to the outside of race leader Martin in Turn 1, Franzoni carried the momentum out of Turn 2 down the back straight and held on around the outside in Turns 3 and 4 to complete the pass down the front stretch and never looked back.
Franzoni won by 4.6962 seconds to pick up his fifth victory of the season. By gaining two bonus points for leading the most laps and posting the fastest lap of the race, Franzoni now leads Martin in the championship by those two points.
“We were going for the win,” said an exhilarated Franzoni. “Every time I was going outside, he gave me space, so that was really good, but we were fighting really hard with each other. He tried to squeeze me, I tried to squeeze him. I knew the outside of Turn 1 could be a little bit dangerous but I had to try, and it worked.”
With a doubleheader on tap at Watkins Glen International next week to decide the champion, this year’s Pro Mazda championship is set to go down to the wire. For both drivers, there are no plans to be conservative.
“We’ve been fast all weekend, so it’s kind of a shame to finish it like that,” said Martin, who has won the five Pro Mazda races Franzoni hasn’t won this season. “But we still got good points. (Victor’s) only two points ahead. I think that’s fine, anything can happen at Watkins Glen, so we’ll go into those races all guns blazing.”