MADISON, Illinois – Ryan Norman made sure his first victory in Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires was an absolute thriller.
Norman, pilot of the No. 48 Journey Mazda/Dallara IL-15 for Andretti Autosport, overtook Colton Herta for the lead six laps from the finish Saturday at Gateway Motorsports Park. The teammates battled the rest of the way before Norman held on for an exhilarating win by 0.2005 of a second.
“Super thrilled to be able to pull this off, finally!” Norman exclaimed. “It’s a huge weight off my shoulders.”
Pole sitter Herta (No. 98 Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing) took command early, but Norman stayed in his teammate’s shadow until making a run for the lead late in the 75-lap race that ran without a caution flag. The pair dueled side-by-side, inches apart, lap after lap in the closing stages. After Norman made the winning pass, he put up a successful defense as Herta unsuccessfully tried to regain the front position.
“This whole year has just been a huge growing experience,” said Norman, who won in his 31st Indy Lights start. “I think at Iowa (in July) is when it started to click with the oval stuff and trying to figure that out, more of the race craft side of things.
“I’ve always been good at qualifying on ovals, but I think what I struggled with last year and at the Freedom 100 (at Indianapolis in May) was just the race craft and aero wash. Coming here, I had the experience. I was just able to apply it.”
While disappointed not to win, Herta did finish ahead teammate and Indy Lights championship leader Patricio O’Ward (No. 27 Andretti Autosport), who finished the race in third place. O’Ward maintains a 25-point advantage over Herta with just two races remaining in the Aug. 31-Sept. 2 doubleheader at Portland International Raceway.
A seven-time winner this year, including four of the past six races, O’Ward isn’t ready to change his attacking approach heading toward the season finale.
“I’m looking to win, like I’ve been looking to every weekend,” he said. “I know I have a strong car. Never been to that track, but I’m sure it’s pretty straightforward. So hopefully, I can be on pace and challenge for some poles and for some wins. That would be awesome to close out the championship battle.”
Herta’s approach is even more straightforward for the championship and $1 million scholarship to advance to the Verizon IndyCar Series that accompanies it: an all-out charge at Portland.
“I don’t have much to lose,” the son of former Indy car driver and current Verizon IndyCar Series team co-owner Bryan Herta said. “I have to go in there and drive as hard as I can, and hope for bad weekend for Pato.”