– Brazilian Won the Pole and the Race in First-Ever Oval Competition –
INDIANAPOLIS (May 26, 2017) – It seems a new star is born every time the Mazda Road to Indy takes to the track. At the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Friday afternoon, American race fans saw 18-year old Brazilian driver Matheus Leist win in his first-ever oval race. Leist, with the Carlin Racing team, won the pole position in qualifying, and then led each of the 40 laps of the race. In the seventh race of the Indy Lights season, four different rookie drivers have won six times.
“Amazing!,” said Leist, a native of Novo Hamburgo, Brazil, who saw the Speedway for the first time Monday of this week. “This is my first time ever here at Indianapolis. The track is amazing and I’ve never been so fast. It’s a big place and an important place. The best drivers in the world have driven here, so it’s a dream come true. To win here is unbelievable and I look forward to coming back and win the Indianapolis 500 some day.”
Even though Leist led every lap, it was a brilliant battle in the final 10 laps as Mazda scholarship driver Aaron Telitz, in the Soul Red car with Belardi Racing, tried to pass for the lead by going to the outside of the leader. The two drivers went side-by-side for three-quarters of the 2.5-mile lap, bringing the large Indianapolis crowd to their feet. Telitz eventually dropped to third-place, but made a great move on the final corner to finish second in a close finish with third-place finisher Dalton Kellett. The Canadian Kellett, driving for Andretti Autosport, also finished third in this race last year.
“It was I thought he would overtake me actually,” said Leist, about the hard charge from Telitz. “I was just trying to relax and do my job. He did a nice job to try to overtake me, but I was able to hold on.”
Leist was convinced he could win from his very first laps in a test session earlier in the week.
“My first-ever oval laps here, the car had great balance and was fast,” said Leist, who won the championship in the British Formula 3 series last year. “I felt we had a winning car. I just had to concentrate and do my job.”
Californian Kyle Kaiser maintained his lead in the point standings, ahead of former Mazda scholarship driver Nico Jamin and rookie Colton Herta in third.
The next race weekend for the Mazda Road to Indy will take place at Road America, June 24-25.
Mazda Motorsports boasts the most comprehensive auto racing development ladder system of any auto manufacturer in the world. The Mazda Road to 24 (#MRT24) program offers a number of scholarships to advance drivers up the sports car racing ladder, beginning with the MX-5 Cup series and culminating with the Mazda Prototype team. The Mazda Road to Indy (#MRTI) is a similar program that includes Mazda-powered categories of USF2000, Pro Mazda and Indy Lights. In grassroots road racing, more Mazdas race on any given weekend in North America than any other manufacturer. Mazda is also the title sponsor of the renowned Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif. Follow all of the latest news at MazdaMotorsports.com, @MazdaRacing on Twitter, and MazdaMotorsports on Instagram and Facebook.
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