The intense, season-long battle for the 2018 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires championship comes to a dramatic close this weekend, with the doubleheader at Portland International Raceway.
The title and $1 million Mazda scholarship to graduate to the Verizon IndyCar Series for at least three races in 2019, including the 103rd Running of the Indianapolis 500, is on the line as teammates Patricio O’Ward and Colton Herta close out this chapter of their rivalry.
O’Ward (No. 27 Andretti Autosport Mazda/Dallara IL-15) sits atop the standings with a 25-point lead over Herta (No. 98 Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing) heading to Portland.
The 12-turn, 1.964-mile road course is new for the drivers of the top rung of the Mazda Road to Indy, sanctioned by INDYCAR, though Herta recently tested an Indy car on the track. Despite having never run there, O’Ward is “looking to win, like I’ve been looking to every weekend.”
That mentality should come as no surprise. It has helped lead the 19-year-old Mexican-American to seven victories and eight poles in 15 races this season.
Meanwhile, Herta – the 18-year-old Californian and son of former Indy car driver Bryan Herta – has been a model of consistency, scoring four wins and six runner-up finishes. The one area where Herta holds an advantage is experience after he finish third in the standings as an Indy Lights rookie in 2017.
Conceding he has “a mathematical chance” of catching O’Ward, Herta looks to this weekend as a proper opportunity.
“This year, it’s a little different,” Herta said. “There is a chance. It is pretty tight and can happen if he has a bad weekend and I end up winning both the races, so I feel prepared.”
Indy Lights kicks off its weekend with practice and qualifying for Race 1 on Friday. Second-race qualifying takes place Saturday morning, ahead of the first race (5:05 p.m. ET Saturday). The final Lights race of the season begins at 12:55 p.m. ET Sunday. Both races will stream live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com.
VeeKay close to clinching Pro Mazda title
The 2018 Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires is on the cusp of celebrating a new champion.
Rinus VeeKay (No. 2 Juncos Racing Mazda/Tatuus PM-18) carries a 47-point advantage over Parker Thompson (No. 90 Exclusive Autosport) heading into the Portland doubleheader. All VeeKay needs do wrap up the championship and Mazda scholarship to move up to Indy Lights in 2019 is start one of the races.
However, third place is up for grabs as Oliver Askew (No. 3 Cape Motorsports) holds a six-point cushion over David Malukas (No. 79 BN Racing) and is 15 points up on Robert Megennis (No. 9 Juncos Racing).
The Pro Mazda races are scheduled for 7:50 p.m. ET Saturday and 5:15 p.m. Sunday. Both stream live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com.
Kirkwood chasing wins record in USF2000
Kyle Kirkwood has already locked up the 2018 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda. However, a sweep of the doubleheader weekend would give the Cape Motorsports driver 12 victories on the season, tying the series mark set by JR Hildebrand in 2006.
Rasmus Lindh (No. 23 Pabst Racing) sits second in the standings, with Igor Fraga (No. 91 Exclusive Autosport) six points behind, Lucas Kohl (No. 22 Pabst Racing) 13 points back and Calvin Ming (No. 21 Pabst Racing) down 26 points to Lindh.
USF2000 races take place at 4:10 p.m. ET Saturday and 6:20 p.m. Sunday, with both streaming on RaceControl.IndyCar.com.