Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Norman finally claimed his share of the glory in today’s Cooper Tires Indy Lights Grand Prix of Road America Powered by AER. One month after providing the hard-luck story at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where he led the majority of a dramatic Freedom 100 before being edged to the finish line by teammate Oliver Askew, Norman moved into the lead early in today’s eighth Indy Lights series round and never looked back.
Robert Megennis made it an Andretti Autosport one-two, while local favorite Aaron Telitz secured a fine third-place finish for Belardi Auto Racing.
The early stages of today’s 20-lap race were truly spectacular as several drivers battled back and forth around the fast and challenging 4.014-mile road course. Polewinner Rinus VeeKay led from the flag, but ran wide over the curbs at the exit of Turn Seven. The Dutch teenager regained control of his Juncos Racing Dallara after a trip across the grass but, after rejoining the racing surface, he instinctively dodged left to prevent a close-following Megennis from making a move to the inside under braking for Turn Eight. That maneuver caught the eye of the race stewards, who moments later instructed VeeKay to serve a drive-through penalty for blocking.
VeeKay, who afterward had no complaints about the call, rejoined a distant last, then showed what might have been as he posted the fastest lap of the race during a stirring comeback drive which earned him seventh place at the checkered flag.
As VeeKay headed to the pits, Megennis completed the opening lap with a narrow lead over Norman and Telitz (who started sixth). Englishman Toby Sowery (BN Racing/Team Pelfrey) bounced back from a crash in qualifying to rise from eighth on the grid to fourth.
Telitz wowed the crowd at Turn Five by rising from third to the lead on lap two, but then it was his turn to be shuffled back as Norman took advantage of a huge draft — and the AER turbo engine’s 50-horsepower push-to-pass feature — to grab the lead at Turn One.
In a flash, Sowery was up to second, and Telitz and Megennis found themselves back in third and fourth.
Soon, though, the race settled down with Norman turning a series of super-consistently fast laps at the front of the field to edge clear of Sowery and Telitz.
By Lap 10, Norman’s lead had been extended to two-plus seconds over Telitz, who had reclaimed second place from Sowery into Turn One a couple of laps earlier. The gap grew to over five seconds before Norman eased off in the closing stage to secure a comfortable victory 4.6912 seconds clear of Megennis, who looked after his Cooper tires in the middle stages of the race and conserved his push-to-pass usages before pushing hard again and rising from fourth to second between laps 15 and 17.
Telitz was delighted with third in just his second open-wheel race of the season, with Sowery following home a worthy fourth to secure his first Tilton Hard Charger Award of the season.
Championship leader Oliver Askew (Andretti Autosport) had an eventful race, falling from third to seventh in the early stages before fighting back to fifth at the finish.
Tune into the Cooper Tires Grand Prix at Road America Race 2 Sunday with live coverage at 9:50 a.m. EDT on NBC Sports Gold.