Iowa Indy Lights: Leist stuns his rivals with dominant drive

Matheus Leist scored his third victory in four Indy Lights races at Iowa to pare down his championship deficit to 13 points behind Kyle Kaiser, who could only salvage fifth.

Iowa Indy Lights: Leist stuns his rivals with dominant drive
Matheus Leist, Carlin
Santiago Urrutia, Belardi Auto Racing
Dalton Kellett, Andretti Autosport
Colton Herta, Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing
Kyle Kaiser, Juncos Racing

Colton Herta immediately took advantage of his pole to beat Claman De Melo’s Carlin car to the front and swiftly pulled a half second gap, as Kaiser held off Andretti Autosport trio Ryan Norman, Dalton Kellett and Nico Jamin.

Behind these three, Neil Alberico maintained seventh ahead of Carlin teammate Leist, who came into the race second in the championship on the strength of two wins in the last three races.

Kellett moved past teammate Norman for fourth on Lap 15 but in these early stages of the 100-lap race, everyone was being cautious about tire degradation while carrying a full tank of fuel on an abrasive track surface and in 92 degree heat.

Kaiser moved past de Melo for second on Lap 20 and started cutting into Herta’s lead which still hadn’t extended to a full second, but on Lap 22 the yellows due to a spin from Carlin’s Garth Rickards, who had rapidly fallen away from his eight-place starting position.

The Lap 26 restart saw an amazing surge from Leist; two laps later he was into fourth, on Lap 29 he took teammate De Melo’s third place, on Lap 30 he was second ahead of Kaiser, and on Lap 32 he zapped Herta around the outside of Turn 1.

Leist started checking out, too, and by Lap 36 his lead was out to 2.5sec, with Herta, Kaiser, Kellett, Claman De Melo.

Another man making good progress was Santi Urrutia who had qualified only 11th but was now running in sixth and threatening Claman De Melo’s fifth place, ahead of Norman, Jamin, Aaron Telitz and Neil Alberico.

Having survived a challenge from Kellett, Kaiser surged forward to take Colton Herta around the outside to grab second on Lap 48, and eventually Herta had to give way to Kellett, too at half-distance. A couple of laps later, Urrutia passed Claman De Melo for fifth and he’d soon grab fourth from Herta.

Kaiser now had a lot of work to do; just past half-distance, he was now 6.5sec adrift of the remarkable Leist but only 0.6sec clear of Kellett. The Canadian finally passed Kaiser on Lap 77 and Urrutia took advantage of the Juncos driver’s lost momentum to move the Belardi car into third, just a couple corners later.

On Lap 81 Urrutia and Kellett banged wheels twice battling for second, but it wasn’t until the pair of them caught up with the lapped Alberico a lap later that Kellett had to back off and Urrutia was able to complete a clean pass.

Herta was able to pass Kaiser around the outside to move into fourth on Lap 92, but was three seconds behind Kellett who kept the pressure on Urrutia until the final couple of laps.

Leist allowed his 6sec lead to dwindle over the closing stages, finishing three seconds ahead of Urrutia, who decided to celebrate his runner-up finish with donuts on the front straight as he thought he had won – an indication of how far ahead Leist had run for most of the race.

De Melo salvaged sixth ahead of Jamin, Norman, Telitz, and Team Pelfrey’s Juan Piedrahita, who knocked Alberico out of the top 10 in the final 20 laps.

Race results:

1 26 brazil Matheus Leist  37'08.2565 
2 5 uruguay Santiago Urrutia  2.9294
3 28 canada Dalton Kellett  6.7115
4 98 united_states Colton Herta  13.3736
5 18 united_states Kyle Kaiser  14.7353
6 13 canada Zachary Claman DeMelo  15.9305
7 27 france Nico Jamin  18.7394
8 48 united_states Ryan Norman  21.9026
9 9 united_states Aaron Telitz  1 Lap
10 2 colombia Juan Piedrahita  1 Lap
11 22 united_states Neil Alberico  1 Lap
12 31 argentina Nicolas Dapero  1 Lap
13 51 united_states Shelby Blackstock  1 Lap
14 11 united_states Garth Rickards  73 Laps
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