Kaiser dominates at PIR

Kyle Kaiser put on a clinic
Kyle Kaiser put on a clinic

Kyle Kaiser and his Juncos Racing team put on a clinic today when the top tier of the Mazda Road to Indy open-wheel development ladder, Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, made its return to the Phoenix International Raceway oval following a 10-year hiatus.

Dubai-based Englishman Ed Jones, 21, pushed as hard as he could for the Carlin team but never quite had the pace to challenge for the lead. RC Enerson, 19, from New Port Richey, Fla., completed the podium in this afternoon’s Indy Lights Grand Prix of Phoenix for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian.

After the initial start was waved off due to poor formation among the 16-car field, Kaiser, 20, from Santa Clara, Calif., took full advantage of the second pole of his career by romping into a clear early lead in the 90-lap contest. Jones slotted into second place, while Enerson outfoxed teammate Santiago Urrutia to snatch away third place within the first couple of turns.

Brazilian Andre Negrao, driving another Schmidt Peterson Dallara-Mazda, also made a fine start to vault from sixth on the grid to fourth ahead of Urrutia and fifth-place qualifier Felix Serralles (Carlin).

Also on the move was Indy Lights veteran Zach Veach (Belardi Auto Racing), who made up four positions on the opening lap after having to start at the back of the field following an accident during practice on Friday.

Kaiser set a torrid pace at the front of the field, circulating at an average speed of over 160 mph and quickly edging away to a one-second lead over his pursuers.

A happy Kaiser
A happy Kaiser

Veach continued to move up the order, rising to 10th after 14 laps, while Andretti Autosport’s English rookie Dean Stoneman made an impressive pass on Canadian Zachary Claman de Melo (Juncos Racing) to take over seventh place in Turn One on Lap 30. The resulting loss of momentum saw de Melo also lose places to Neil Alberico (Carlin) and Veach.

Two laps later, Urrutia’s pressure on fellow South American Negrao paid off as the Uruguayan took over fourth place.

The most worrying moment for race leader Kaiser came on Lap 34 when Heamin Choi lost control and spun on the exit of Turn Four just as he was about to go a lap down. The Korean did well to keep his car off the wall, but the incident ensured a full-course caution and instantly erased Kaiser’s 1.3-second lead.

Undeterred, Kaiser took off again at the restart and sped away to as much as a 1.5-second lead before easing off in the final few laps to take the checkered flag 1.0088 seconds ahead of Jones.

Enerson, who earned the Hi-Tide Boat Lifts “Spirit" Award as voted on by Hi-Tide guests from the local area Big Brothers, Big Sisters and Sunshine Acres Children’s Home, fought off a determined late challenge from Urrutia for third, while Stoneman drove an impressive first-ever oval race, passing Negrao in Turn One on Lap 72 to finish a very strong fifth.

From left, Jones, Kaiser and Enerson
From left, Jones, Kaiser and Enerson

Negrao had to settle for sixth ahead of Serralles, Veach, Alberico and Dalton Kellett, who rounded out the top 10 for Andretti Autosport.

Kaiser’s commanding victory, which included a fastest race lap of 22.5541 seconds (163.128 mph), eclipsing the old record of 23.227 seconds set by Greg Moore in 1995, moved him to the lead of the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires points table by 81-63 over Serralles. The series heads next to Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala., for a road course double-header on April 22-24.

Kyle Kaiser (#18 InterVision/NetApp/Juniper Networks-Juncos Racing): “I felt last year that we were missing just a small piece to really break through and show what we had – and I think it was qualifying. When you start up front, it’s so much easier to stay up front than it is to start mid-pack and try to work your way forward. So I have a different mindset this year; I have confidence going into every race weekend. But I was pretty nervous today, right up until the checkered flag came out because you never know what’s going to happen. The team, along with Mazda and Cooper Tires, really gave me a good car. It was perfect from start to finish. I was in conserve mode early because I knew it was a long race, so all I had to do was to maintain the gap between me and Ed to get the win."

Results

P No Name Laps FTime Diff Gap Led ST FSpeed Team
1 18 Kyle Kaiser 90 22.554 90 1 163.128 Juncos Racing
2 11 Ed Jones 90 22.688 1.0088 1.0088 0 2 162.166 Carlin
3 7 RC Enerson 90 22.679 1.2089 0.2001 0 4 162.228 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian
4 55 Santiago Urrutia 90 22.819 1.6121 0.4032 0 3 161.234 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian
5 27 Dean Stoneman 90 22.826 2.5229 0.9108 0 9 161.182 Andretti Autosport
6 17 Andre Negrao 90 22.633 3.2298 0.7069 0 6 162.560 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian
7 4 Felix Serralles 90 22.835 4.5529 1.3231 0 5 161.120 Carlin
8 5 Zach Veach 90 22.797 5.3458 0.7929 0 16 161.392 Belardi Auto Racing
9 22 Neil Alberico 90 22.620 6.4200 1.0742 0 10 162.653 Carlin
10 28 Dalton Kellett 90 22.858 6.9455 0.5255 0 8 160.962 Andretti Autosport
11 13 Zachary Claman De Melo 90 22.891 10.5512 3.6057 0 7 160.727 Juncos Racing
12 2 Juan Piedrahita 90 23.020 11.5030 0.9518 0 14 159.827 Team Pelfrey
13 3 Scott Hargrove 90 22.908 14.3040 2.8010 0 11 160.609 Team Pelfrey
14 51 Shelby Blackstock 90 22.963 14.8676 0.5636 0 12 160.225 Andretti Autosport
15 14 Felix Rosenqvist 90 23.128 22.1871 7.3195 0 13 159.081 Belardi Auto Racing
16 77 Heamin Choi 34 23.075 3 LAPS 3 LAPS 0 15 159.444 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian

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