LEXINGTON, Ohio – Frenchman Nico Jamin claimed a hard-earned victory for Andretti Autosport in Sunday’s Cooper Tires Indy Lights Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio Powered by Mazda at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
The 21-year-old Frenchman fended off a determined challenge from Saturday’s winner, Santi Urrutia, to become the fifth different Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires winner in the last six races.
Shelby Blackstock finished third – his first podium appearance since the corresponding event at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in 2015.
Entering the weekend, Jamin and Urrutia were the nearly perfect at the undulating 2.258-mile Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Jamin had won all three USF2000 races at the venue in 2015 on his way to the championship – and claimed a double one year ago in Pro Mazda – while Urrutia had won one Pro Mazda race in 2015 en route to the championship, then swept both Indy Lights races from the pole in 2016. So it was perhaps fitting that they should share the spoils this weekend.
Colton Herta, the youngest driver in the field at 17, seemed set to claim a slice of the action when he qualified on pole, then snatched back the advantage for Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing despite being passed in opportunistic style on the opening lap by teammate Jamin, who had started third. But one lap after redressing the balance, Herta lost control at the tricky turn nine and spun to the back of the field.
Jamin regained the point and was never again headed during the 38-lap race, although he was made to work hard by Urrutia. The Uruguayan trailed by as much as 2.7 seconds at the mid-point of the race, before laying down a series of quick laps to gradually reduce the deficit.
By the time he posted the fastest lap of the race on lap 30, Urrutia had closed to within just a few car lengths, but Jamin upped his pace in response and was able to maintain a slender advantage to the finish line to secure his third win of the season and his first since the Indianapolis Grand Prix road course in May.
“I screamed on the radio (because) I was so happy,” Jamin said. “The whole 27 team has been struggling so to be first and third this weekend and coming back a bit in the championship feels really good. The track was extremely slippery so my car was all over the place for the first two or three laps, but it was the same for everyone. I knew I had to make it happen at the start so my plan was to be in the lead after turn four.
“I made a great start, right on Colton’s gearbox, and was able to get by. He used his push-to-pass to get back by on the next lap and I thought ‘this is going to be a fun race’ because I thought we’d be going after each other all race long. He made a mistake and I took the lead, but I knew it would be a long race with Santi pushing me like crazy. We raced hard but clean so congrats to them.”
Blackstock, who started fifth, made a good start to depose Zachary Claman DeMelo, then moved up to third following Herta’s uncharacteristic mistake. DeMelo remained hot on his heels throughout, but Blackstock made not the hint of a mistake.
Argentinean rookie Nicolas Dapero ran fifth during the early stages for Juncos Racing before making a mistake and falling behind Aaron Telitz. Telitz looked secure in fifth until the final laps when Herta closed in after a tremendous drive back through the field from 12th following his early error.
Nico Jamin, Santi Urrutia, Shelby Blackstock, Zachary Claman De Melo, Aaron Telitz, Colton Herta, Ryan Norman, Nicolas Dapero, Neil Alberico, Matheus Leist, Juan Piedahita, Kyle Kaiser, Dalton Kellett, Garth Rickards.