Kaiser dominates; Jones grabs Indy Lights points lead at Monterey
MONTEREY, Calif. - Kyle Kaiser dominated the first of two Mazda Indy Lights Grand Prix of Monterey Presented by Cooper Tires en route to his second win of the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires season, and second on the West Coast.
The Californian broke through for the first time at the 1-mile Phoenix International Raceway oval back in April, and today added a road course win at his home track of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, not far from his hometown of Santa Clara, Calif. It’s also Juncos Racing’s third straight win in Monterey, Spencer Pigot having won both races here last year
Kaiser led 29 of 30 laps - he was not listed for leading the waved off initial start - and beat new points leader Ed Jones to the flag by a final margin of victory of 7.9169 seconds.
Behind him in second, meanwhile, Jones took the first step of the weekend en route to potentially securing the Indy Lights title and the $1 million Mazda advancement scholarship that comes with it, and a three-race guaranteed program in the Verizon IndyCar Series.
Santiago Urrutia led Jones by only one point going into Saturday’s first of two races this weekend, 319-318.
But following today’s result when Jones finished second and Urrutia fifth, Jones now holds a seven-point edge - 343 to 336 - heading into tomorrow’s season finale. The four other drivers eligible for the championship - Kaiser, Dean Stoneman, Felix Serralles and Zach Veach - were all mathematically eliminated from contention today.
Kaiser took the lead into the opening turns in his No. 18 Juncos Racing Dallara IL-15 Mazda following an initially waved off start, and the got better as the race went on.
Jones, meanwhile, started second in his No. 11 Carlin car and defended against the advances of Zach Veach, who got a solid start up to third in the No. 5 Belardi Auto Racing entry.
Another driver who made a strong start was Sean Rayhall, in his first start of the year upon returning to Indy Lights, moving from sixth to fourth in the No. 2 car for Team Pelfrey.
The young American drove a calculated race ahead of Urrutia, the points leader in the No. 55 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian car going into the race.
Urrutia ran about a second or so behind Rayhall but never was able to catch him up. Instead, the Uruguayan was squeezed in-between the teammates from the team he won his championship in Pro Mazda last year, Team Pelfrey, with Rayhall in fourth and Garett Grist poised for an Indy Lights-best sixth.
But Grist’s would-be best finish went south in the final two laps as his engine sounded horribly off song - perhaps down a cylinder - and he fell back to an unrepresentative 11th place.
Neil Alberico then swept up to sixth ahead of Dalton Kellett, Serralles, Andre Negrao and Shelby Blackstock. Negrao lost two spots to Kellett and Serralles in the final couple laps.
Serralles and Stoneman had contact at one point with race officials reviewing that incident after the race. Stoneman was, however, assessed a drive-through penalty for contact with Zachary Claman De Melo, and that dropped him back as low as 14th before recovering one position past series debutante Davey Hamilton Jr.
Heamin Choi spun on the opening green flag lap at Turn 2 but resumed after a near full lap delay; the race stayed green.
Tomorrow’s second race to decide the championship goes green just after 1 p.m. PDT.
Indy Lights coverage from Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca airs Sept. 23 on NBCSN, with coverage starting at 1:30 pm EDT.