INDY LIGHTS RACE REPORT: WATKINS GLEN ROUND 16
It was a cold, wet and wild Soul Red Finale at Watkins Glen
International, capping off an eventful and exciting 2017 Indy Lights Presented
by Cooper Tires season.
Kicking off the weekend with practice on the 3.37-mile course, Colton Herta (No. 98 Deltro Energy Mazda) led the Andretti-foursome, finishing the session second ahead of Ryan Norman (No. 48 Journey Mazda) in eighth, Dalton Kellett (No. 28 K-Line Insulators USA Mazda) in 10th and Nico Jamin (No. 27 Synova Mazda) in 11th.
Opening their second day of track activity Saturday, the drivers took to the track for a chilly morning second practice session ahead of afternoon qualifying. Lasting 30 minutes, it was Herta leading the pack once again, finishing the session second over Jamin in third, Kellett seventh and Norman eighth.
Saturday afternoon saw the Andretti drivers hit the track ahead of the field for their 30-minute qualifying session, setting the starting grid for Sunday’s Mazda Indy Lights Watkins Glen Grand Prix Presented by Cooper Tires. Nabbing his seventh pole of the season with a fastest lap at 131.243 mph, one pole shy of the multi-driver seasonal record that includes his father Bryan, Herta once again would lead the field to the green flag Sunday. Qualifying with a fastest lap at 130.607 mph, Jamin would start behind Herta in the second row in fourth, with Norman starting seventh and Kellett eighth.
With rain falling as the starting grid prepared to roll off for the final time this season, the droplets increased as Herta and the rest of the field took the green flag for 25-laps. With the top three putting on a show as they traded position in opening laps, Herta shuffled back as he and Urrutia battled for second and third.
Lap 5 saw Norman go off-track, damaging the rear wing but able to continue after his spin. Ten laps in, Jamin reported having issues with grip on-track, echoing others in the field about the rain-soaked track conditions but still running strong in fourth.
Working a wider line as the race progressed, Herta tried to hold off Urrutia but lost second, settling into third approaching halfway. For Kellett, he saw an early end after spinning in the Bus Stop, hitting the wall but escaping unhurt. Unfortunately, his car was too damaged to continue and after another competitor stalled in the same area of the track, the field was called to pit lane under red flag conditions.
As track cleanup commenced, clouds broke and rain stopped, allowing the field to continue racing with seven laps remaining. With the race winding down, Herta did his best to hold off an approaching Leist in fourth, holding on to third place solidly as he crossed the finish line for another podium finish. Working hard in the challenging wet conditions, Jamin ended his season with another top-five finish in fifth, while Norman ended his first race in rainy conditions 10th and Kellett finished 13th.
Colton Herta – No. 98 Deltro Energy Mazda
Started: 1st // Finished: 3rd
“The last lap was dicey. I was looking behind and I could see Matheus [Leist] there and he tried to get me in Turn 8. We were super close – we might have touched. It was a fun race, though. It is good to end the season on a high and on the podium. It gives a lot of motivation going into the offseason, and I’m happy with that. I think we may have had a little bit more in the Deltro Energy car, but we’ll see what we have next year.”
Nico Jamin – No. 27 Synova Mazda
Started: 4th // Finished: 5th
“Overall, it was really a tough race. I ended up in the top-five and scored some points for the team so that’s a positive. I think we missed something in the rain. I had no real grip at all, and I felt like I was on slick tires the whole race, so we just tried to hold on and bring it home. Top-five isn’t bad, and we’ll move on to next year. It’s still been a really good season as a rookie. We’ve had three wins and tied for most wins this season. I’m very thankful for the opportunity this season with Andretti, and I want to thank my sponsors, Synova, who has been following me for many years as well and RelaDyne and The Stellrecht Company. We will have more success in the future, but overall I learned a lot which is a big positive.”
Ryan Norman – No. 48 Journey Mazda
Started: 7th // Finished: 10th
“At the beginning of the race, we were alright. I was right behind Nico [Jamin]. I’m not really sure what place we were in, but I made a small mistake and spun [the car] and put the back end in the wall, hurting the wing a little bit. We got going again, I don't think the wing was affecting us too much, but hurt us a little bit. When they called us in for the red flag, we replaced the damaged wing but didn’t make it back out in time for the green flag with everyone. Given we made changes under a red flag, we would have faced a penalty anyway. It’s not the way we wanted to finish the season, but at the end of the day I want to thank Andretti Autosport and the crew for all the hard work they’ve given me all year and giving me a great car. I’m so thankful to be part of this great organization and I’m looking forward to next season.”
Dalton Kellett – No. 28 K-Line Insulators USA Mazda
Started: 8th // Finished: 13th
“I'm really frustrated with how things ended up here in the last race of the season. I definitely wanted to end on a high note but we were really struggling for grip out there. I was trying to work my line, find where the grip was and couldn’t really figure that out. Going through the bus stop, I hit a little patch of water and hydroplaned and just looped it around. I had contact with the wall, which caused the end of our race. It is definitely frustrating for the No. 28 K-Line crew. These guys have worked hard all year. We had some success on the ovals and good pace on the road courses, but haven’t been able to put together a consistent race weekend. I’m a little frustrated overall we couldn’t have ended the season on a higher note."