Cunningham outduels Hildebrand to win Freedom 100
In one of the most exciting Indy Lights races at Indy in years, after a seesaw battle all race long Wade Cunningham set up J.R. Hildebrand on the backstretch of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Lap 39 and overtook the AFS Racing/Andretti Green Racing driver on the inside entering Turn 3 to take the lead for the final time.
Cunningham, driving the No. 11 Lucas Oil/Sam Schmidt Motorsports car, led Hildebrand across the line by 0.1046 of a second and a hard-charging Mario Romancini by 0.4063 of a second. He posted a lap of 188.899 mph.
"That was 100 percent every lap," said Cunningham, the pole sitter who became the first two-time winner of the 40-lap race. "That last lap and a half I was yelling at my car to keep going like a jockey on his horse."
Hildebrand, who started third in the No. 26 ARPRO car, finished 0.1046 of a second back. Romancini, who was coming off a third place in his oval racing debut at Kansas Speedway, finished third (0.2821 of a second back). He started 18th in the No. 5 Revita/Win Brazil/Allied car for RLR/Andersen Racing.
Hildebrand took over the series points lead heading to The Milwaukee Mile next week.
Jay Howard, the 2006 series champion who finished second to Cunningham at Indianapolis that year, finished fourth in the No. 37 Team PBIR car. Sebastian Saavedra, who started on the front row in the No. 27 Automatic Fire Sprinklers car for AFS Racing/Andretti Green Racing, faded down the stretch and finished fifth. James Davison, who started 10th in the No. 21 Vision Racing car, was sixth.
||Wade Cunningham Lucas Oil/Sam Schmidt Motorsports
||J.R. Hildebrand ARPRO
||Mario Romancini Revita/Win Brazil/Allied
||Jay Howard Palm Beach International Raceway
||Sebastian Saavedra Automatic Fire Sprinklers, Inc.
||James Davison Vision Racing
||Daniel Herrington LeBleu/Bryan Herta Autosport
||Jesse Mason Guthrie Meyer Racing
||Pablo Donoso Genoa
||Junior Strous Shell V-Power Knaus HTP
||Brandon Wagner Davey Hamilton/Kingdom Racing
||Jonathan Summerton Andersen/Allied Interior Products/Lafarge
||Charlie Kimball Palm Beach International Raceway
||Mike Potekhen Alliance Motorsports
||Andrew Prendeville TMR-Xtreme Coil Drilling
||James Hinchcliffe Hinchtown/Sam Schmidt Motorsports
||Ana Beatriz Healthy Choice/Sam Schmidt Motorsports
||Gustavo Yacaman Crepes & Waffles/Tuvacol/SSM
||Ali Jackson Andersen/Moyvalley Golf & Hotel Resort
||Rodrigo Barbosa ELFF Racing Team
||Pippa Mann Panther Racing
||Martin Plowman Panther Racing
Winner's average speed: 118.333 mph
Time of race: 50:42.2548
Margin of victory: 0.1046 of a second
Cautions: 4 caution flags for 17 laps
Lead changes: 9 among 3 drivers
Lap leaders: Cunningham 1, Saavedra 2, Cunningham 3-4, Hildebrand 5, Cunningham 6-12, Saavedra 13, Cunningham 14-15, Saavedra 16, Hildebrand 17-38, Cunningham 39-40.
MARTIN PLOWMAN (No. 15 Panther Racing): "On the first few laps, we were just hanging in there. I dropped a few places at the start. Just as things were starting to balance out and I was starting to get control of the car and I was making up ground, making runs on people. I was loose at the start on my own, especially in traffic. I tried to dial it in, dial it out for a few laps, and it seemed to get to a point where it was reasonable. I think (Mario) Romancini pinched me on the inside down into Turn 4, and he made a run, following me into Turn 1. I'm not quite sure what happened then. Going into (Turn) 1, I got a face full of clean air, and it just snapped around on me. Didn't give me any warning."
J.R. HILDEBRAND (No. 26 ARPRO): "I really didn't want to be leading the race toward the end, but there were enough fast cars there in the front that I tried to keep it up there for as long as I could. Wade (Cunningham) got a good run, and I thought if nothing else, I could just work with him, maybe get by him there at the end. I just picked up too much understeer when I was back in traffic. I set the car so I would be quick up front, but once I got behind guys, I just couldn't adjust it fast enough. Great job by Wade. I'm really happy for the boys. We got back on track. I think we're looking good in the points right now." (More Hildebrand quotes in transcript)
MARIO ROMANCINI (No. 5 Revita/Win Brazil/Allied): ""I'm speechless. I don't know what to say. The team did a phenomenal job. We did not do well in qualifying yesterday. I started 18th. But today I was able to pass the guys. The car felt really good. I felt really comfortable in traffic. I am very happy to be on the podium here, and now I'm just thinking about the next race. The car was really good. This is just my second oval race. My first was in Kansas, so I'm still learning every lap. With this team, there is nothing to say - they really help me." (More Romancini quotes in transcript)
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA (No. 27 Automatic Fires Sprinklers, Inc.): "In the beginning, we had a great car. I was very happy with it. AFS (team) did great work. I was waiting for the last moment. When they say three laps to go, I got three-wide in corner 1. I touched the wall with one lap to go. I had pretty heavy damage to my front right (wheel). After that, I just wanted to bring it home for the points. It's a (season) championship. I was just focused on getting the points. I had the car and the equipment. Hopefully it's our race the next time."
PABLO DONOSO (No. 36 Genoa): "This track is pretty hard for us. Forty laps is a really long race for these tires. We qualified 21st; I know that wasn't the ideal scenario to win a race. I'm a driver able to win races. I did it last year, and I got poles and everything. I cannot say I'm happy, but I'm satisfied because we put the car in the top 10. It was my first top 10. The start of my season was horrible, and it's kind of improving. I don't have a lot of money to run more races, but we will try to run road courses, where I know I can win, so I'm looking forward to the future. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is by far the best track in the world. I did my career in Central America and Europe, and now I see here, and being here is just amazing. I didn't have a car for the race, but I put a deal together at the last moment just because it's Indy. The result is not too important; it's being here in Indy, with the fans and everybody that comes here. This is the best place."
JUNIOR STROUS (No. 18 Shell V-Power Knaus HTP): "That was exciting, wow! We started 14th, and this was only my second oval race. It's a real honor to drive the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and it's great to finish in the top 10. I'm happy with that. The team did a great job. Each lap was new for me. I just tried to stay out of trouble. A lot of guys crashed. It was really, really dicey. I had a flat tire in the first half of the race and had to pit and get some new rear tires. We also had a problem in the front but didn't have enough time to pit for that. It was a tough race, and we brought the car home. We got some points from this race. I'm looking forward to the next one."
WADE CUNNINGHAM (No. 11 Lucas Oil/Sam Schmidt Motorsports): "The whole race was to and fro. I got to the front early and knew I couldn't lead all 40 laps, so I fell back because I didn't want to be leading at the end. I knew I had a fast car, and it was a matter of being at the right place at the right time." (More Cunningham quotes in transcript)
BRANDON WAGNER (No. 32 Davey Hamilton/Kingdom Racing): "It was really pretty good. We had a lot of yellow flags, which helped save the right rear tire a little bit. Unfortunately the restarts hurt me a little bit. On the last lap, my downshift wasn't good, and I missed a gear, and unfortunately that cost us a top 10- finish. The car felt good, and we made a lot of cockpit adjustments to make the car better. Obviously, it would have been better if we had finished a few positions higher. Overall, it was still a great day. I ran a lot of laps, ran in traffic a lot and learned a lot."
JESSE MASON (No. 49 Guthrie Meyer Racing): "The run was actually pretty good. We started off a little dramatic, starting from the pit lane, but the car actually was pretty stable, which was good. It didn't handle great, but it was really stable. And I had a bit of confidence that I could get up behind guys, and that helped. We weren't wearing the right rear as much as some of the other guys, so I think that helped us. We got a few guys in the last lap there, which is always good. Overall, I'm just glad we made the race. We had quite a bit of dramas early in the week. And a couple new supporters came one board, Team Excavating from up in Canada and In-Flight Services, a jet company from Las Vegas; they're going to be a great partner in the future. I'm looking forward to the next race because I think we will continue to improve on what we did today."
PIPPA MANN (No. 16 Panther Racing): "I was just running in a little hole of air. The car was really, really good. I was just cruising around, taking care of my tires. I wasn't racing anybody too hard, minding my own business. My teammate (Martin Plowman) had a slightly less good car and just tried to pinch down going into Turn 1. Unfortunately, he just lost control and spun. I had to avoid him and yet got caught up in his accident. It's a real shame. Nothing to do with me, but I'm the one sitting out. It's a really big shame because we had a great race car."
DANIEL HERRINGTON (No. 28 LeBleu/Bryan Herta Autosport): "It was a very difficult race for us, actually. For whatever reason, we started the race off with a lot of understeer, and it never went away. We tried chasing it the whole time, and really we were just out there trying to hang on and wait for other people to screw up, which luckily some of them did. We came home in seventh place, which isn't too bad, so we'll get our points and get out of here and try and get ready to win some of these races."
ALI JACKSON (No. 6 Andersen/Moyvalley Golf & Hotel Resort): "This was the first time I've been in that much traffic. I just got caught up by the car in front. It took the air off my wing, and my car just glanced the wall, not very hard but enough to put us out. It wasn't a lot of damage (right rear). The draft was a big thing, obviously. We'll move forward."
CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 35 Palm Beach International Raceway): (On his collision with Mike Potekhen): "I just went into Turn 3, on the low side of Potekhen, I think it was, and running through the spotter was calling high, high, and I was down on the white line holding it as low as I could and just kept chopping, chopping lower and lower and lower and then finally hit my right front. He spun across to the inside, and I just barely kept it off the wall. The right front toe-link was bent. So it's day done. It was kind of crazy driving with like eight to go or something. It was dumb for him to come down that hard. I was as low as I could get on the white line or below it and he just kept coming on me. Too aggressive, I think."
JAMES DAVISON (No. 21 Vision Racing): "A sixth-place finish is definitely nothing to be ashamed of. For sure, you know, you could have ended up in the wall with a 20-whatever finish. Thanks a lot to the George family, People's Liberation, Charlotte Russe, sponsors on the car. Hopefully we at least got their logos up front."
JONATHAN SUMMERTON (No. 9 Andersen/Allied Interior Products/Lafarge): "Our car was great. As we saw at the end, I was plowing through all the traffic. We had as fast a car as the front runners, for sure. It was just a shame we had a little bit of problem with the radio in the race, so I had to pit for safety (and lost a lap). I'm just a little down considering my teammate (Mario Romancini) was third, and I know we had as quick a car as him. I think we would have been top three, no problem. Overall, it was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed it. Sometimes it gets a little nerve-wracking when a guy comes up on you and you get a big understeer. But all in all, the car was really good, and I'd like to thank Andersen Racing for giving me this chance to race out here. I'm sure we can fight for the championship even with this bad result."
ANA BEATRIZ (No. 20 Healthy Choice/Sam Schmidt Mtrspts): "I don't know what happened. I had some understeer. I know that I had contact as soon as I got too close I went to the inside of Turn 1 and crashed really bad into the wall. I'm not sure what happened."
GUSTAVO YACAMAN (No. 44 Crepes & Waffles/Tuvacol/SSM): (On incident with Ana Beatriz): "Where I was passing beyond the outside, I gave her plenty of space. I was right at the wall. And right at the exit, she just didn't lift. She just rushed up on me."
JAY HOWARD (No. 37 Palm Beach International Raceway): "It was actually a really fun race. It was crazy. Every time we went into (Turn) 1, it was side-by-side, and two people side-by-side don't go through Turn 1 very well. There were a few white-wall incidents out there. But overall, it was really good. Considering we decided yesterday morning at the last minute that I should come and race, I think it's a really good result for Palm Beach (International Raceway) and everyone involved." (On the track conditions): "It's kind of strange. It started off pretty good. Then it felt to me like it got more slick as the race went on. We have our adjustments we can make in our car, and I made some adjustments. But it didn't really make any difference. I haven't personally looked at the tires to see if that was a factor. For me, everything was good, and that's about the best we could have expected this weekend."