As the sun set over Gateway Motorsports Park, Andretti
Autosport’s Indy Lights drivers took the green flag for a wild 75-lap contest near
St. Louis. Practicing under the lights Friday night, teams got their second
taste of the oval after it’s repaving, testing just a mere few weeks ago ahead
of the Round 15 event.
Getting a feel for balance in their cars and nuances of the differing turns, it was Canadian Dalton Kellett leading the foursome after practice, finishing second (No. 28 K-Line Insulators USA Mazda) with a top speed of 162.138 mph at 27.7542 seconds. Wrapping up the session third behind Kellett, Nico Jamin (No. 27 Synova Mazda) turned his fastest lap at 161.705 mph, with Colton Herta (No. 98 Deltro Energy Mazda) fifth and Ryan Norman (No. 48 Journey Mazda) eighth.
The Indy Lights drivers faced differing track conditions from practice the night before, qualifying Saturday afternoon instead under the warm and sunny Illinois sky. Taking their two-lap turns, Frenchman Jamin laid down the quickest lap of the Andretti drivers, starting on the inside of Row 2 in third. Beside him, Norman qualified fourth to take the outside Row 2 starting position, while Herta qualified seventh and Kellett 11th.
Shifting gears to green flag Saturday evening for the 75-lap main event, the caution flag fell just as the field approached Lap 1’s completion for a two-car incident. Settling in after the restart, it was teammates Herta and Jamin putting on a show as they battled back and forth for fourth position while catching third together. Eventually reaching lapped traffic at the halfway point, Jamin continued to work hard for fourth while Herta then battled with points-leader Kaiser with 24 laps to go. As the race wore on, Kellett faced loose conditions and understeer in his race car, but pressed on in 10th while Norman ran just ahead of him in eighth.
Adding drama to an already wild race, a three-car incident in Turn 1, brought out the caution and red flags with 10 laps remaining, bringing the field to pit lane while safety crews worked to clear the track. Restarting third, Jamin looked to use the remaining seven laps to his advantage, while Herta sat seventh, Norman eighth and Kellett 10th.
Leading the Andretti-pack, Herta finished a strong third to podium, his sixth of his rookie season. Crossing the finish line behind him, Kellett was able to take seventh while Norman nabbed yet another top-10 with eighth place, his 13th of the season. Earning the Tilton Hard Charger Award for positions earned, it wasn’t meant to be for Jamin, spinning late in the race but salvaging an 11th place finish.
Coverage of Round 15’s action-packed event airs Monday, Aug. 28, at noon ET on NBC Sports Network. Wrapping up the 2017 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires season, the teams take to Watkins Glen International in Watkins Glen, New York, Sept. 2 and 3.
Colton Herta – No. 98 Deltro Energy Mazda
Started: 7th // Finished: 3rd
Championship: 3 / 15 (277 pts.)
“We were starting seventh, so we knew a podium was possible. Late in the race, it really looked challenging. We came into the red flag seventh with seven laps to go. We made some good moves on the restart and got a clean line from the crash. We got up to third and I really think if we had a few more laps, we could’ve challenged for the win. I was catching and the car still felt really good and really fresh. I knew [racing two-wide] was possible from testing but I thought once you get a good, big group of fast guys, it was going to be tough. It proved wrong and you could really pass. It was a really good race, I think one of the best of the year.”
Dalton Kellett – No. 27 K-Line Insulators USA Mazda
Started: 11th // Finished: 7th
Championship: 10 / 15 (190 pts.)
“Overall, it’s not a bad finish to the weekend. If you had to ask me how things were going during the middle of the race, it would’ve been pretty dower, but I think with that late caution coming out we were really able to capitalize on people’s mistakes and make some moves around the outside in Turn 1 and 2. Doing that classic [Ryan] Hunter-Reay short oval high-line move off the start seems to work pretty well for this race. I think that was probably the strongest part of our race was starts and restarts. We were definitely able to make up some positions there. Race pace, we were definitely struggling there. It was a pretty nervous car the whole time. Once things settled into a rhythm, I think we needed a little bit more as far as comfort and grip overall in the car and be able to challenge for the win, but we had a consistent car under us for the whole race so thanks to the Andretti crew for putting together a good package this weekend.”
Ryan Norman – No. 48 Journey Mazda
Started: 4th // Finished: 8th
Championship: 11 / 15 (189 pts.)
“At the beginning of the race, the car was just a handful and we had a couple of huge moments that I was actually surprised I caught those, but I kind of just let all the other cars go by me. Then mid-race, the car started coming to me and I was able to throw down some good lap times. On the restart, the tires were down again and it was just a handful in Turn 1. Me and Nico [Jamin] spun going through there and somehow saved that. After that, there was another restart and the temperature of the tires just never came and I was really never able to catch anyone. It was a fun weekend overall. I think we just missed a little bit of a setup during the race, but I think we had a good weekend and we’ll come back stronger at Watkins Glen.”
Nico Jamin – No. 27 Synova Mazda
Started: 3rd // Finished: 11th
Championship: 6 / 15 (252 pts.)
“I’m a bit disappointed with today’s run. We had a really strong race car. I fell down to fourth at the start and I worked my way back up to third and was catching onto [Juan] Piedrahita for second. I think I needed one or two more laps to get him and then we had the red flag. On the restart, the guy behind me was more trimmed than I was and had a good run on the outside. We both went deep in there and then all of a sudden, my car broke crazy loose. I don’t know if someone hit me at the back – I’m not exactly sure what happened, but it broke loose and unfortunately, I brought [Mateus] Leist with me. It’s just a race incident and it’s disappointing because we for sure had car good enough for podium and maybe better. I’m confident for Watkins Glen. Things are getting better for us now.”