Nico Jamin scores career first Indy Lights win with victory at Barber
On a beautiful, sunny spring day, there is nothing better than a drive through “The Park.” That’s exactly what Nico Jamin of France did Saturday at Barber Motorsports Park as he drove to an impressive victory over Kyle Kaiser in the Mazda Indy Lights Grand Prix of Alabama.
Jamin scored his first career Indy Lights Series win in his third career start when he defeated Kyle Kaiser of Santa Clara, California. Jamin took the lead on lap four — the second lap of green flag racing — when he passed Kaiser, the pole-sitter, at the bottom of the hill in turn five.
“I knew it was going to be really hard to pass during the race, and following another car around here is quite hard on the tires, so I wanted to get it done early,” said Jamin, who drives for Andretti Autosport. “I was able to hit push to pass and brake really late and I made it stick. After that, the car was really good and ran consistent lap times. I didn’t want to push too hard on my tires after that, so I was managing the gap. The car is great and I feel good about Sunday as well.
“This is just so amazing. I thought I had to take the lead early and the pass was amazing. The car was just amazing and I’m just so happy. I just love these flowy, fast courses like Barber and Mid-Ohio. But I also like ovals as well and I can’t wait for the month of May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.”
The race-winning pass came after a crazy start that was waved off by Indy Lights officials. The wild battle out of turn 17 saw the field fan out and rookie driver Colton Herta go wide and hit Kaiser heading to the flag stand. The incident damaged the front wing on Herta’s car.
“I really didn’t feel the hit, to be honest,” Kaiser said. “I don’t think he hit me that hard, but apparently he didn’t see me going into the corner.”
Farther back in the field, Pato O’Ward’s car climbed over the back of Santi Urrutia’s machine. Debris scattered across the track. Herta did not come down pit road to repair the damaged front wing.
Urrutia’s car underwent major repairs in pit lane as Aaron Telitz also came into the pits for repairs. Herta was ordered into the pits by IndyCar after repairs, then sent to the back of the pack.
The green flag finally waved on lap three as Kaiser led the field into turn one, with Jamin second and Neil Alberico third. Jamin passed Kaiser for the lead at the bottom of the hill in turn five for a lead change.
Jamin won by 2.6525 seconds over pole-sitter Kaiser.
“It was weird,” Kaiser said. “I saw them wave off the start and chaos started around me. I thought I got a pretty good start and had a lot of understeer. Jamin came right up under me, I thought I had it clear in turn five, but he got a clean pass. He shoved it in three and I should have just stayed to the lift. It was a dumb mistake on my part.
“I gave the race away in turn five. I should have held my line a little longer.”
Neil Alberico of Los Gatos, California, was third followed by Matheus Leist of Brazil and Zachary Claman De Melo of Montreal.
Once Jamin was out front, he controlled the race, but there were some nice side-by-side battles farther back in the field, including one between teammates O’Ward and Juan Piedrahita for eighth place on lap 12. Herta, who at 16 became the youngest winner in Indy Lights history at the season-opening race at St. Petersburg, Florida, on March 12, started second but had to repair the front nose that he damaged when he crashed on the aborted start. He finished 10th after he passed Piedrahita with three laps to go.
Jamin and the rest of the Lights racers don’t have much time to celebrate, as they qualify at 9 a.m. Eastern Time Sunday for the Mazda Indy Lights Grand Prix of Alabama Race 2 at 12:45 p.m. ET.
“I’m just going to have a good steak and a good potato for some good power for tomorrow and we’ll do it all over again,” Jamin said. “No champagne tonight.”
Jamin collected two wins, six podiums and one pole position last year in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and finished third in points. The 21-year-old claimed 10 wins, 12 pole positions and 15 podiums when he won the 2015 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda.
Saturday’s win was the 32nd Indy Lights victory for Andretti Autosport.
“We had a tough race at St. Pete and I was looking forward to coming here and bouncing back with a win,” Jamin said. “We were right on pace from practice 1 through the race.”
Indy Lights Grand Prix of Alabama Saturday results