Dillon Battistini wins Indy Lights race from pole
Dillon Battistini, a product of the European farm system, won today's Firestone Freedom 100 from pole. When the final green flew with 7 laps to go, American Richard Antinucci tried to get alongside Battistini every lap but he was 100% throttle and there was nothing he could do to find a way past.
Battistini was challenged throughout the race, never leading by more than half of a second. James Davison led Lap 4, and 2006 race winner Wade Cunningham led Lap 7.
Richard Antinucci, the nephew of 1998 Indianapolis 500 winner Eddie Cheever Jr., finished second, 0.2458 of a second behind Battistini. Antinucci’s third second-place finish of the season was good enough to help him regain the series points lead, 179-176, over Battistini.
Cunningham finished third, Robbie Pecorari finished fourth and Ana Beatriz finished fifth.
Jeff Simmons, who will start 24th in Sunday’s Indianapolis 500, finished eighth after starting 10th. It was his fourth top-eight finish in as many starts in the Firestone Freedom 100.
Al Unser III, Sean Guthrie and Arie Luyendyk Jr., all sons of past Indianapolis 500 competitors, finished 11th, 12th and 14th, respectively, all improving at least four positions during the race.
J.R. Hildebrand, who entered the race as the points leader, started 21st and moved up as high as third on Lap 26. However, he and Davison were forced to pit for flat tires after they made contact on Lap 30 as they battled three-wide with Antinucci for third. Hildebrand finished 24th.
||Gap to First
||Dillon Battistini (15)
||Richard Antinucci (7)
||Wade Cunningham (33)
||Robbie Pecorari (43)
||Ana Beatriz (20)
||Bobby Wilson (17)
||Logan Gomez (23)
||Jeff Simmons (2)
||Andrew Prendeville (5)
||Raphael Matos (27)
||Al Unser III (21)
||Sean Guthrie (4)
||Mike Potekhen (92)
||Arie Luyendyk Jr. (26)
||Marc Williams (3)
||Brent Sherman (16)
||James Davison (11)
||Chris Festa (24)
||Pablo Donoso (22)
||Jonny Reid (9)
||Micky Gilbert (54)
||Tom Wieringa (55)
||Jake Slotten (6)
||JR Hildebrand (25)
||Mark Olson (8)
||Cyndie Allemann (18)
||Jon Brownson (34)
Winner's average speed: 150.820 mph
Time of race: 39:46.9495
Margin of victory: 0.2458 of a second
Cautions: 3 caution flags for 9 laps
Lead changes: 4 among 3 drivers
Lap leaders: Battistini 1-3, Davison 4, Battistini 5-6, Cunningham
7, Battistini 8-40.
Point standings: Antinucci 179, Battistini 176, Hildebrand 148,
Matos 127, Beatriz 121, Luyendyk Jr. 119, Guthrie 110, Sherman 103,
Unser III 102, Gomez 101.
DILLON BATTISTINI (No. 15 Panther Racing, finished first): “It wasn’t easy at all, especially at the start of the race. I think it was James who managed to get a few of good runs on me. You can get a massive tow from quite a long way back here, and I knew that I could get it back. You can’t see very much out of the back of these cars, but going on what my spotter said, it was very close. It was a good race, and I’m just glad that I came out on top.”
RICHARD ANTINUCCI (No. 7 Lucas Oil/Sam Schmidt Motorsports, finished second): “We tried to take it easy at the beginning because I think the majority of the field was having problems already with the rubbered-in track yesterday. The tires just weren’t lasting the race distance. Then today the rubber went away with the race last night, so we were even more concerned. We ran really conservative, with a lot of downforce. We were really quick in the corners. I think we were the quickest out there. I just kept hitting the limiter. But congratulations to Panther and Battistini. They did a good job. He was running those times by himself, without a tow – pretty good.”
WADE CUNNINGHAM (No 33 Royal Spa, finished third): “It was a bit of a gamble on setup, really. We didn’t do much running in practice and the conditions were a lot different, so I think we ran with a little too much downforce and that was pretty evident once I got to the lead. Dillon was pretty much able to pass me at will. So it was just a case of managing the race. Once him and I broke away, it was kind of easy to manage the draft of one car. I could just time it through (Turn) 1 and stick with him. I really wasn’t trying to push him or anything; I was just waiting for the end of the race. Fortunately, someone had some problems out there and we got that 10-lap shootout at the end, and that just allowed the field to bunch back up. Richard was probably pretty even with me, and he got me a lap after the restart just with momentum. After that, he had the same problem I did. He w as stuck behind Dillon. Once he pulled out of the draft, I don’t think he had much to pass him. Dillon had the fastest car today. It was probably pretty easy out front for him.”
ROBBIE PECORARI (No. 43 SWE Racing/SWE Race Car Parts, finished fourth): “First of all, yesterday was a bummer because it got rained out, but the crowd is still here, so that’s definitely a good thing. We started 13th; we finished fourth. The whole SWE team gave me a good race car. I knew we’d get to the front. It was just a matter of time. It would have been nice to go a little more to get a podium finish out of it but beside that, I can’t complain. I got into the wall a little bit in between 1 and 2 toward the middle of the race, but luckily I didn’t damage the car at all. I kind of just sideswiped it a bit, but nothing too big. I was kind of hoping for a little better car in traffic, but then again saying that, it kind of looked like everyone had the same problem. Everyone was swerving in and out and trying to find some clean air, so I don’t think our car was worse than anyone else’s.” (About racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway): “It’s great. It’s definitely one of the hardest ovals that I’ve done so far. It was 110 percent the whole race, you know, no down time. Last year we had some bad luck, we started 22nd and finished 11th. This year we caught up a little bit. We started 13th and finished fourth. It would have been nice to get one of those trophies, but what can I say?”
ANA BEATRIZ (No. 20 Healthy Choice/Sam Schmidt Motorsports, finished fifth): “It was very good. My car was very good. For sure, I could have finished on the podium. Just so much learning for me, now my third race on ovals. I think it was fantastic, passing on the track. I definitely had a car to win. I just know I have to learn a lot. For sure, for points it’s really good. It’s what I need for the championship. And just learning, learning, learning.” (About racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway) “It’s just so magic. This track is magic. It was one of my dreams, and today I got it.”
ARIE LUYENDYK JR. (No. 26 Automatic Fire Sprinklers, Inc): “We had really good restarts and were able to make up a lot of positions, but the car just wasn’t there today. It wasn’t fast in a straight line, and we weren’t able to suck up to guys. It was just a difficult day. The Targus/AGR/AFS car wasn’t too far off, but I don’t know what the issue was with getting around guys. I have to thank Targus for coming on board for this race. I wish I would have had a better run, but we’ll think about things and get to the next race and do a better job.”
RAFAEL MATOS (No. 27 Automatic Fire Sprinklers, Inc.): “It’s disappointing because the AFS Racing/Andretti Green Racing car was very good in qualifying. I thought the balance would be very similar in the race. We added some downforce to the car, and it was just never balanced in the race. I had to struggle to just keep my positions. I’m just frustrated for the team. Hopefully we’ll bounce back in the next race.”
MARK OLSON (No. 8 Michael Crawford Motorsports): “It was awesome. I really didn’t know what to expect. I struggled all weekend, and to get out there and do 40 laps and to catch up with the field was great. To learn how to run in traffic with those guys … it was awesome. What a beautiful place.”
AL UNSER III (No. 21 Ethos Fuel Reformulator): “The Ethos car did great, and the American Dream team was awesome. We gained eight positions and they were all hard-earned. The track was a little green out there and we were a tad loose, but overall we are pleased with the day. We were a little concerned at the beginning with the tires and the track being green, but they turned out well. This track is amazing, and I really love running here.”
LOGAN GOMEZ (No. 23 The Guthrie Racing Special): “We went back on the start following Cyndie Allemann, I think, I don’t know. Somebody was hitting their brakes on the inside row and checked the whole field up, and, of course, then you lose all the momentum that you had coming down the front straight, so we got freight-trained on the outside. I started ninth and my teammate, who started like 16th or something, ending up getting around me. We were way back and then we ended up seventh,, which, at this track, that’s pretty good, so I’m happy with it. Everybody’s car was going away. We’ll see what we learn from the data so hopefully we learn something from this whole race.”
CYNDIE ALLEMANN (No. 18 Cabo Wabo): “We had problems with the gearbox. This is really disappointing. I wanted to show well in this race, but we did not. That’s all I can really say right now.”
JEFF SIMMONS: (No. 2 TMR-Xtreme Coil Drilling): (About the accident he avoided during the race): “Two guys touched in front of us, and I had a big run, so I went down to the inside and the other car wanted that track, too, and it just kind of put me in the grass and that killed my run and allowed some other cars to go by. It was unfortunate. We didn’t really have it today. We didn’t have the grip that some of the other cars had, and we were just fighting for everything. I’m sorry we couldn’t get a better result. I thought we had a better race car than that based on our first practice, but that’s all we could get.”
SEAN GUTHRIE (No. 4 Car Crafters Guthrie Racing): “We struggled all weekend from the first session on. We finally got this car pretty good for the race here and just missed the gear ratio. We were coming out of (Turn) 4 under the rev limiter, and when you do that, it doesn’t matter how good the car is; you just can’t make any passes happen. We were just trying to hold on and maintain our position, and we ended up 12th, which wasn’t too bad from a 16th starting position.
BRENT SHERMAN (No. 16 National Guard Delphi): “It was disappointing today. We worked real hard in practice to get the car right, and I think we just missed it a little in the race setup. Right off the bat, we had a ton of understeer and couldn’t get the car to turn in traffic. I worked on the car the whole race and it got better in the end, but it was too late. The car didn’t have the speed in it and didn’t have the handling at the beginning of the race. We lost ground in the points, and especially when your teammate is winning, it’s not fun to be outside the top 15. We’re going to work on it and hopefully run better in Milwaukee next week.”
JON BROWNSON (No. 34 Westridge Development/SSM): "I got a little too ambitious to catch the cast of cars in front of me. Going into Turn 3, I tucked in close to a gearbox and lost all the air off of the front wing, and I was headed for the fence at that point. I was a passenger at that moment, day over, game over. I sure regret it because Sam Schmidt Motorsports gave me a beautiful car today, and it was such a shame to botch this opportunity.”
ANDREW PRENDEVILLE (No. 5 Best Friends Animal Society): " It was somewhat exciting. Definitely had a good finish, but we needed to do better. The guys have done a good job. I just think we should have done better, but it was still a good run.” (About the close racing): "There were a few guys in front of me that were throwing each other in the grass and into walls and all kinds of crap. It was the same when I got up there, too. There were a couple of idiots up there, and they were causing some real havoc."
J.R. HILDEBRAND (No. 25 RLR/Andersen Racing): "Man, I mean, we could have won that race. We got up to the front there, got a really good restart, got up ahead of Antinucci, and Beatriz pushed up and Antinucci got kind of hosed by it. I was right on Davison; I guess I was running third or fourth or something. Davison went under me going through (Turn) 1. We were three-wide through there. He was coming, bumping and banging against the two of us, come through (Turn) 2, stayed high, and we came out of the corner and he was not clear by 5 feet and just drove all the way out to the exit of the track. I don't know what else to say. I feel terrible for the team because we had some bad luck in qualifying and had some things go wrong. They gave me a great car. To end the race like that was just terrible. That hurt us in the points. Seriously, we could have won that race from the back at Indianapolis. We showed everyone we can get in done today, regardless of where we finished."
JAMES DAVISON (No. 11 Lifelock/Sam Schmidt Motorsports): "It was my first experience running up there for the lead. I learned a lot. We did have a bit of push in the car. I learned some things and applied it at the end. We went three-wide into (Turn) 1, me, Hildebrand and Antinucci, and we were banging wheels. It appears J.R.'s wing got into my right rear, and that ended any chances of winning. We made some good step forward this weekend. We started on the front row, we raced for the lead, we did lead the race, we made a good move three-wide. The race results are not there yet, but it's going to be there."
BOBBY WILSON (No. 17 Patriot Bank Team E): “Hats off to the Team E crew – put together a good car. We knew we were going forward in the race. Just happy for them. The guys put in long hours and a lot of hard work. The race was pretty wild, good for the fans, nice day out today, nonetheless a good race. We were wheel to wheel at points, aero understeer to oversteer, guys were three-wide, four-wide at times, it was pretty wild. Some drivers did not give as much room as others, but the cream rises to the top and good job Dillon (Battistini) for keeping it out front all race. Kind of wanted to see him dice it out with us, but he had the advantage of clean air, and it showed."