With this stacked field, it was hard to pinpoint who the championship contenders would be at the beginning of the season. Now that we are down to eight rounds, a group of six drivers have emereged as the front-runners to win the championship and the pivotal Mazda scholarship that will help the champion run at least three races in 2017, including the Indianapolis 500. Here’s a list of the contenders:
6) Zach Veach - 168
The Mazda Road to Indy veteran got a deal done with Belardi Auto Racing to race the 2016 season. After sitting out 2015. Zach Veach has come back and performed quite well. A couple of tough breaks have caught him out this season, but after a strong weekend at Road America, Zach is still within spittin’ distance of the leader. Don’t count out Zach or his high quality team.
|#5 Belardi Auto Racing driver Zach Veach (Photo: Mike Young / Indycar Media)|
5) Felix Serralles - 169
Felix Serralles has proven to be a strong driver in Indy Lights. Some unfortunate circumstances in a couple races have knocked him down a bit in the standings. As far as racing goes, he’s got the skill. He also earns a special shoutout from me for being able to balance going to college with racing. That is not easy!
|#4 Carlin driver Felix Serralles (Photo: Mike Young / Indycar Media)|
4) Kyle Kaiser - 174
Second year Indy Lights ace Kyle Kaiser has had a very productive year, including his first career win at Phoenix back in April. Driving for Juncos Racing, who helped propel last year’s champion Spencer Pigot into Indycar this year, certainly does not hurt his chances.
|#18 Juncos Racing driver Kyle Kaiser (Photo: Mike Young / Indycar Media)|
3) Santi Urrutia - 189
I think the real wild card in this list is Santiago ‘Santi’ Urrutia. This dude from Uruguay had a terrible season in GP3 in 2014 where he did not finish in the top-ten once. He then came to America and signed a deal with Team Pelfrey in Pro Mazda and won the championship. Now at 19 years old, Santi has put himself in a position to win the championship. He could very well be the most aggressive driver out there, sometimes to a fault. Still, I think it would be a riot to see him race in an Indycar. If he can keep a clear head, it could happen.
|#55 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver Santi Urrutia (Photo: Mike Young / Indycar Media)|
2) Dean Stoneman – 193
One of the good success stories this year has been Dean Stoneman. The 2010 F2 champion and 2014 GP3 runner-up came to America and found a ride in Indy Lights with Andretti Autosport. He has been really fun to watch and clearly has the craft you would need to move up to Indycar. I see him moving up next year with-or-without the scholarship. We will never forget his breathtaking win at the Freedom 100 this year.
|#27 Andretti Autosport driver Dean Stoneman (Photo: Mike Young / Indycar Media)|
1) Ed Jones – 212
Second year Indy Lights driver Ed Jones has capitalized on his great season from last year into a championship leading effort so far in 2016. To be completely honest, the Carlin driver had the talent to move up to Indycar this year. Since seats and money are both tough to come by, Jones gave Indy Lights another go with the hopes of winning the championship and moving up. So far, so good.
|#11 Carlin driver Ed Jones (Photo: Mike Young / Indycar Media)|
My pick to win the championship? It is hard to not go against Jones at this point. He is well-rounded on all tracks, and has the experience to help him think of the bigger picture.
To be completely honest, I would be happy to see any of these six drivers win the championship and move up to Indycar next year! Like the 2010 Indy Lights season that gave us future drivers like James Hinchcliffe, Charlie Kimball, Pippa Mann, Sebastian Saavedra, Martin Plowman, Stefan Wilson, Wade Cunningham, and Dillon Battistini, I see the 2016 Indy Lights season turning out to be one of those we look back on fondly.
Keep in mind that these are only the championship contenders. The field is loaded with talent on both ends of the spectrum. Who will win the championship?! Stay tuned for the rest of the season, it will be a good one.
Thanks for reading!