LEXINGTON, Ohio – Santi Urrutia has clearly developed an affinity for the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
The Uruguayan secured a hard-earned victory in the Cooper Tires Indy Lights Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio Powered by Mazda on Saturday – his fourth victory in just five starts at the challenging 2.258-mile road course – and his first of the season for Belardi Auto Racing.
Second-generation Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires competitor Colton Herta finished a close second for Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing, with Andretti Autosport teammate Nico Jamin in third.
After winning in his debut at Mid-Ohio in 2015 en route to the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires title, then winning both Indy Lights races from the pole last year, Urrutia maintained his dominance by claiming the pole position during qualifying on Friday afternoon. Following two aborted attempts at a start, he took the green flag during the third attempt by leaping ahead of Herta, who qualified alongside him on the front row of the grid.
An intense first lap saw Jamin make a bold maneuver to overtake his Andretti teammate around the outside at turn two, only for Herta to reclaim the place four laps later with a similarly forceful pass at the end of the back straight heading into turn four.
The in-fighting allowed Urrutia to stretch out a lead of almost two seconds, but it didn’t last for long. After moving back into second place, Herta posted a series of fastest laps to whittle away the deficit, and by lap 12 the two leaders were once again in nose-to-tail formation. Furthermore, they were also being tracked closely by Shelby Blackstock, enjoying his strongest race of the season for Belardi Auto Racing, and Carlin teammates Zachary Claman DeMelo and Neil Alberico.
The top five positions remained unchanged through the remainder of the 35-lap race, with Urrutia winning by less than half a second and all five cars separated by just 3.3116 seconds at the checkered flag.
“It’s good to be back at the top, especially for the Belardi team that has been working so hard,” said Urrutia. “I got the win and Shelby (Blackstock) took quickest lap, which shows that we’re doing great work together as a team. We have been struggling this year and the team really deserves this. I really like Mid-Ohio. I won both races here last year and one Pro Mazda race two years ago. This helps in the championship – Kaiser was off today, we just need him to be off for the next couple of races. The series is so competitive, any mistake costs you a lot.”
Santi Urrutia, Colton Herta, Nico Jamin, Shelby Blackstock, Zachary Claman De Melo, Neil Alberico, Dalton Kellett, Aaron Telitz, Ryan Norman, Juan Piedrahita, Matheus Leist, Kyle Kaiser, Garth Rickards, Nicolas Dapero.