Aaron Telitz put on a clinic today in treacherous conditions to win the Mazda Indy Lights Watkins Glen Grand Prix Presented by Cooper Tires, while Juncos Racing’s Kyle Kaiser wrapped up the championship title with a steady seventh-place finish.
Telitz’s Belardi Auto Racing teammate, Santi Urrutia, from Uruguay, finished in second place, well clear of Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing’s polesitter Colton Herta, from Valencia, Calif.
Steady rain shortly before the start ensured the entire field was on wet-weather Cooper tires, and following an additional pace lap to permit the drivers an opportunity to assess the track conditions, it was Herta, the youngest driver in the field at age 17, who led on the long downhill run toward Turn One. Telitz, who started third, immediately thrust to the inside under braking to claim the advantage, only for Herta to fight back as they swept into the uphill Esses for the first time.
Urrutia, too, was in the mix, ensuring a spectacular first few laps as the three leaders traded positions numerous times before Telitz overtook Herta one more time in opportunistic style at Turn Eight. He then began to edge away as Herta and Urrutia continued to squabble over second place.
Urrutia finally made the position his own on Lap Seven, but by then the impressive Telitz was already nearly seven seconds up the road.
Herta couldn’t match their pace but still remained clear of Andretti Autosport teammate Nico Jamin, from Rouen, France, who had overtaken Zachary Claman DeMelo (Carlin), from Montreal, Canada, on Lap Four.
Urrutia set sail – almost literally – after Telitz, narrowing the deficit to around four seconds before Telitz responded with a new best lap of the race on Lap 14, just as the yellow flags flew after Andretti Autosport’s Dalton Kellett lost control and crashed at the Inner Loop.
The rain intensified during the clean-up process, leaving officials no choice but to display the red flag in the hope that conditions would improve. Thankfully, they did, and after a 12-minute delay the race was on again for a seven-lap dash to the finish.
Telitz was unfazed, despite intense pressure from his more experienced teammate, Urrutia, who, coincidentally, had preceded him as winner of the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires in 2015. The pair romped clear of the field, with Telitz posting three successive fastest laps of the race to seal the victory and ensure that he ended the season as he had begun it on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., in March – with an emphatic victory. He also claimed the Staubli Award.
In addition to cementing his unenviable position as championship runner-up for the second successive year, Urrutia’s second-place finish ensured a come-from-behind victory in the Team Championship for Belardi Auto Racing by a slender four-point margin over Andretti Autosport.
Herta finished third ahead of Carlin’s Matheus Leist, from Brazil, who earned the Tilton Hard Charger after a fine drive from ninth on the grid.
All three series which comprise the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires will celebrate with a traditional end-of-season banquet tomorrow evening, Monday, in Watkins Glen. A total of $2,682,000 in Mazda Scholarships and awards will be distributed, including a prize valued at $1 million which will guarantee Kaiser entry into three Verizon IndyCar Series races in 2018, including the 102nd Indianapolis 500.