ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The season-opening Grand Prix of St. Petersburg kicked off Friday with practice and qualifying for four of the six races which comprise the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires.
A dramatic qualifying session for Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires ended with Aaron Telitz marking his first Indy Lights start with pole position for Belardi Auto Racing.
Telitz, who is stepping up after winning last year’s Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, jumped to the top of the timing charts moments before young Mexican Pato O’Ward ended his session in the barriers at turn eight. Ironically, Telitz and O’Ward had been teammates last year in Pro Mazda – and had shared one victory apiece on the streets of St. Petersburg.
O’Ward had posted the fastest time in practice this morning for Team Pelfrey and also set the pace prior to Telitz’s fine lap of 1:07.5844. Even worse, as a penalty for causing a red flag stoppage, O’Ward was penalized with the loss of his fastest time, dropping him from second on the grid to ninth in the field.
Kyle Kaiser, who won the pole in 2016, will start second when the race goes green at 5:10 p.m. Eastern Saturday.
Juan Piedrahita, will line up third ahead of rookies Matheus Leist, and Colton Herta.
Qualifying for race two will take place at 7:55 a.m. Saturday.
Anthony Martin will start on pole for round one of the Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires. Martin, who is stepping up to Pro Mazda after winning last year’s USF2000 championship, set the fastest time at 1:13.6718 for Cape Motorsports, edging out Brazilian Victor Franzoni by a scant .012 of a second.
T.J. Fischer will start third for Team Pelfrey ahead of teammate Carlos Cunha and Californian teenager Phillippe Denes.
The race will start Saturady at 11:50 a.m. Qualifying for race two will take place at 7:30 a.m. Saturday, with the green flag slated for 4:30 p.m. on Sunday.
A new era for the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda kicked off Friday with qualifying for the first two races of the new season as teams utilized the new Tatuus USF-17 chassis.
Robert Megennis stopped the clocks in 1:15.3708 (85.975 mph) to secure pole position for the first USF2000 race of the season. Calvin Ming will start second ahead of Oliver Askew, Dakota Dickerson and Kaylen Frederick.
The first race of the year for USF2000 is set for 8:40 a.m. Saturday.
Qualifying for the second USF2000 race, which is slated for a 2 p.m. Saturday, ended with Parker Thompson atop the charts for the new Exclusive Autosport team. Thompson, who finished a close second in the 2016 title-chase, set an identical time – 1:15.3708 – to that set earlier by Megennis.
Askew, who bounced back impressively from an incident on Thursday afternoon which caused damage to his Soul Red Tatuus, will start second in race two ahead of Dutch teenager Rinus VeeKay, Dickerson and Megennis.