Cunningham holds off Kimball in Freedom 100
Wade Cunningham became a three-time winner of the Firestone Freedom 100 edging Charlie Kimball by .4368 of a second.
The victory for Cunningham, driving the No. 77 Lucas Oil/BSS/Sam Schmidt Motorsports car, gave team owner Sam Schmidt his fifth win at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in eight Firestone Freedom 100 starts.
Kimball moved within five points of series point leader J.K. Vernay, who finished 16th after an early mechanical issue. James Hinchcliffe, who started eighth in the No. 2 Team Moore Racing car, finished third.
1. (2) Wade Cunningham, 40, Running
2. (3) Charlie Kimball, 40, Running
3. (8) James Hinchcliffe, 40, Running
4. (10) Dan Clarke, 40, Running
5. (4) Martin Plowman, 40, Running
6. (7) Philip Major, 40, Running
7. (13) Stefan Wilson, 40, Running
8. (16) Brandon Wagner, 40, Running
9. (12) Sebastian Saavedra, 40, Running
10. (11) Adrian Campos Jr, 40, Running
11. (9) Gustavo Yacaman, 40, Running
12. (14) Rodrigo Barbosa, 40, Running
13. (6) JK Vernay, 34, Running
14. (15) Arie Luyendyk Jr, 24, Mechanical
15. (5) Jeff Simmons, 2, Contact
16. (1) Pippa Mann, 2, Contact zzzz
Winners average speed: 150.285
Time of Race: 39:55.4552
Margin of victory: .4368 of a second.
Cautions: 1 for 6 laps
Lead changes: 4 among 2 drivers
Lap Leaders: Cunningham 1 - 9,Kimball 10, Cunningham 11 - 32, Kimball 33, Cunningham 34-40.
Point standings: Vernay 157, Kimball 152, Hinchcliffe 134, Plowman 120, Saavedra 107, Wilson 102, Major 90, Yacaman 87, Clarke 75, Mann 74.
Wade Cunningham, Charlie Kimball, James Hinchcliffe
May 28, 2010, Indianapolis Motor Speedway
MODERATOR: Like many of you, I've been around racing a long time, and sometimes it takes a little bit longer to discuss the race than it did to actually run it. They're going through all of it and these are two gentlemen who just ran tremendous races, Charlie Kimball and James Hinchcliffe. Charlie, you're the closest, it looked like -- first of all, congratulations, a great race and clearly in terms of entertainment value, one of the best we've had here in Indianapolis.
CHARLIE KIMBALL: Yeah, it was pretty solid all the way through. The weather sort of being a little cooler lent itself to a little more grip, and I think that lent itself to some closer racing. I had a good start. Went to the lead early just to see what my car was going to be like in clean air and then sort of backed off and let Wade run by to see if the two of us could make it a two-car race out front. Then after the yellow, made sure I got a good restart, ran clean. At some points I got shuffled back, I think as far as fourth or fifth, but was just saving the car, working the tools. The 26 Levemir FlexPen car started a little tight and from there I was chasing it all day. I think James can attest to what I had to do in the corners to get the thing to do. I was down on the grass a couple of times and when you're down that low it's a bit of a ride but it was what I had to do to run with Wade. Those last three laps, the car just wasn't quite there, but I gave it all it had.
I've got to give a lot of credit to the guys I was racing with; I mean Wade Cunningham ran clean pretty much all day. His experience really paid off as far as early in the race, managing car, lifting at the right spots so I couldn't get a run. James, I don't know how he could run that high and I'm sure he doesn't know how I could run that low. We ran side by side a through the corners a couple of times. It was clean and all credit to everyone out there. I don't know what it looked like from outside, it sure was a great show in the car.
MODERATOR: It was indeed. James, this discussion of Charlie going in the grass, was this the part of the conversation over here that involved the word, "Dude"?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: Dude, it was unbelievable. (Laughter) When you think how fast we're going through these corners and how on edge these cars are, the fact that he was putting it in the grass over the rumble strips, I'm way up here thinking, "What is he doing down there?" but he was making it work. He ran a really good race, so credit to him.
MODERATOR: But on the same token, you were also, as he noted, running a higher line than most of the rest of the field.
HINCHCLIFFE: Yeah. Well, starting eighth, we knew that we were going to have to get by some guys, so we just sort of knew that we were going to have to have a good car on the high side because guys were going to block the inside. To come from eighth right up to second place pretty early in the race, you know, we had a rocket ship of a car. So huge thanks to Lee Dykstra and the whole TMR crew. It was a lot of fun out there.
Like Charlie said, I hope it was a good race from the outside because in the cars it was wicked. We ran up with Wade there and then we sort of got thrown a curve ball with J.K. coming out of the pits a bunch of laps down. A bit unnecessary because he ended up sort of costing me, he stole the air off the front of my car one lap and I thought I was going into the exit of Turn One, had to lift and gear down and that's when Charlie got by.
It's unfortunate that that happened but we remember these things, it's a long season. (Laughter) It's cool. For us to be on the podium here at Indianapolis is an amazing feeling. I mean, it would have been nice to be a three-car run right at the finish line, for sure, but from where we started, I think we did a good job. We had to drive a little bit harder early on to get those positions but a 40-lap race here when it's this hot, those Firehawks held up really well at the end there. So it was a real pleasure to drive out there today.
KIMBALL: Like James said, I think a lot of credit to the cars and the tires. It was hot and this place is not easy on tires. The test we were going through tires pretty quickly and here 40 laps the thing was, I ran those last two laps full throttle, top speed in a, tow which is a big testament to the tires and the cars. The whole series does a great job and, you know, James mentioned the lap traffic and I didn't mind it being a two-horse race at the end, I didn't mind that he wasn't there, but I agree that it was unnecessary and unfortunate. Having said that, it's a long season.
Q: Can you both talk a little bit about -- you can hear the crowd outside and you had them on your feet, Charlie, when you had them two wide. Can you talk about running the event? And I know it's not the big show but it pumps things up for the Indy Lights series.
HINCHCLIFFE: The crowd is fantastic. This is far and above what we saw here last year. Last year my motor blew on lap 1, so I didn't get a chance to race here. This is sort of my first race, and to do it, to finish the distance, to see the crowd; and, like I said, if we gave them a good show, that's all the better because we had a blast out there. It's so cool to see sort of the revival of this event, the revival of Indy car and Indy Lights. I mean, this series is going up. The Speedway is in a great position to just be the hallmark event of the year on the racing calendar again. So to be a part of it, it's just awesome.
KIMBALL: Following up what James said, the fans are fantastic. I was at breakfast this morning, and I heard a table next to me talking about the fact they never come out for the 500 but they always come out for Carb Day because of the concert and the race. People call the 500 the big show, but with the 40 laps we just ran as hard as we ran them, I'd venture that we put on a better show.
HINCHCLIFFE: We're the main show. They're a follow-up act, and they're cool with that. (Laughter)
KIMBALL: I mean, we came first, and in racing, first is always the most important, right?
HINCHCLIFFE: If you're not first, you're last. Somebody told me that, I think it was Ricky Bobby. (Laughter)
Q: Charlie, will you talk about running two wide with Wade? It doesn't seem like you're supposed to be able to do that here.
KIMBALL: They say that but I'm not so much for people telling me I can't do anything. It was good. I trust him. He and I train together and I figured that if it came down to it and we had an issue, we could work it out competing in the gym.
It was good. The car would stick. I had a lot of trust, a lot of confidence in the car. It's the best oval car I've ever raced and I knew that with his experience, his being a one-time thing, yes, he didn't have anything to lose but he had everything to gain as well. He was racing for the race win and would race me cleanly.
Q: Easy question: Blood sugar before and after.
KIMBALL: It was dead flat actually. Hold on, I can tell you the exact number if you want. I got in the car at 180 and got out at 182.
Q: That's pretty good.
KIMBALL: For 45 laps solid sort of tweaked my insulin regime.
KIMBALL: Yeah, I obviously didn't work hard enough if that's the case.
HINCHCLIFFE: It's because of the exceptional training we receive at Pit Fit Training.
HINCHCLIFFE: Shameless plug.
KIMBALL: As Hinch said, you know, all three of us, Wade, Jim Hinchcliffe and myself all train up at Pit Fit with Jim Leo. Racing an oval is not quite as physical as a road course, that sort of affects it less. Having said that, I think it's more emotional and mental draining. So I'll sleep well for that tonight for sure.
MODERATOR: Other questions?
Q: To both you guys, Cunningham has won it three times now, and I think that's good and I think it's bad. Could you comment on the good and the bad? Because this is a developmental series and the idea is for you guys to be able to move up. Not knocking the accomplishment but you want to see you guys go up to the big show, right?
KIMBALL: It's true. I know that Wade sort of feels like probably -- well, feels like to me he came in and cherry-picked in the championship. But fair enough, he got it done on Race Day. That's the most important point is he won the race. Having said that, it is a lot about momentum. It's a learning series, and I probably learned more by finishing second than I would have by winning. And come Iowa, I'm going to want to win that much more.
So it is good and bad for the series. At the end of the day we put on a great show, we had a good result, we can go home happy and move on to the next one and take the championship lead hopefully.
HINCHCLIFFE: Yeah, and just sort of like he said, the fact that he's been here and done if three times, he obviously has this place sort of figured out. To not see him even get a shot to make the 500 is a bit tragic. I hope that the seems are paying attention and maybe next year he gets that break because he really deserves it.
As Charlie said, I think we learn a lot running behind him because he's done five or six, I think this is his sixth race here and this is sort of my first because I didn't turn a single racing lap last year. I learned a ton and he was odds-on favorite coming in, returning to the team he went with last year and the guy has already won it twice. I think he's proved his worth especially around the Speedway, and I hope it works out for him in the future.
His on track speaks for itself, especially at this place.
KIMBALL: We're talking about you.
HINCHCLIFFE: In a terribly negative way.
MODERATOR: Gentlemen, we'll let you go. By the way, guys, next time when you come back, try to bring a little personality next time, OK?
HINCHCLIFFE: Sorry about that, I just wasn't in the mood. (Laughter)
MODERATOR: Third time for you, Wade, fifth time for Sam Schmidt. I have to tell you, we all got a bit of a chuckle, you're in the car, you know what's going on, but you're pumping that fist there and I'm going, man, I hope he didn't pump that fist too soon. Charlie was closing a little bit, but you knew you had it.
WADE CUNNINGHAM: Yeah, absolutely. In a race like that, you remember the closing speeds of the cars behind you pretty well. You know, there was no way he was going to get by unless the car miraculously cut out. If it had done that, I wouldn't feel too bad about celebrating early. But I made sure I was in a straight line. I was tempted in Turn Four to wave, but I didn't.
No, it was awesome.
MODERATOR: You get an opportunity to run this race, you might as well win it.
CUNNINGHAM: Absolutely, I've had nothing going all year. I've been working trying to put stuff together for Indy car, but it's been a long road and it's tough, it's tough for everyone. But Sam and Tim Neff, we first spoke about roughly in Alabama, the idea was floated, "Do you want to come back?" and of course I wanted to. If I wasn't going to be racing anything, at least I could come back to Indy, it's a track I love, a track that I hope can define my career. I know it has so far.
So to get the opportunity to come back with Sam and Doug (Zister), my engineer who I won both of the Freedoms with. It was too good an offer to turn down. I was really, really disappointed yesterday not getting pole. I felt that if I had done things differently, we could have. Not being in a car, it's tough to keep focused at a big race like this, and I'm not race fit at the moment like I would have been last year. So, you know, it's tough, tough last night, I was wiped out at the end of the day. I knew we had a good car and Doug and I spoke for hours, we were actually the two last people to leave the track last night, and obviously the results speak for itself.
MODERATOR: Sure did and it was a tremendous race, too, by the way. Questions?
Q: With this being your third win, does this track suit your driving style, that's why you've been successful? Whenever you've been here you've always been up front one way or the other.
CUNNINGHAM: I love oval race, it's a very fine balance between getting there and then getting to the limit. I think it's honestly from my days of European karting on super-high-grip tracks that you learn that feeling. When I came over, I felt comfortable right away on ovals and especially here at such a great track. All four corners are different, the conditions change and the car changes so much more than Kentucky or Chicago or at the other mile and a halfs. So when you get here, it's like you get to do four road course corners over and over again and the smallest amount of change in line or what you're doing inside the car makes a big difference on the track and that's what I enjoy. I enjoy making the difference. You know, whether I was in an AFS car or the Schmidt car or a Brian Stewart car, I've always done well here. I'm just thankful to Sam for giving me the opportunity to come back this year.
Q: Wade, anytime from the moment you've won to being here right now, where a thought might have popped in your head, well, maybe this time, maybe this time will get me over the hump, maybe this time to get me the little extra nudge to get up to Indy car?
CUNNINGHAM: Not at all, because at the end of the day there's still no budget. There's not many teams that have the opportunity to pick a driver who they truly believe in; and with the testing rules the way they are, it's safer for a team to run with a good, solid driver who's not going to stick the car in the fence. I had a conversation with Mike Hull a couple years ago, and he said they used to do 30,000 miles of testing with a driver before they put them in a Champ Car back in the mid '90s, and with the rules today, you just can't do that anymore. So you're learning on the job, which can be an expensive proposition. So I'm here because I want to get to Indy car and I'm trying to prove myself. And I know that the biggest contributing factor to getting me there is me going out and selling myself.
Q: Take us through that, when you and Charlie were two-wide there and passing on the high side and come back on the low side, take us through that whole run.
CUNNINGHAM: The tone was set I think on the first restart when Charlie drafted me around the outside into (Turn) 1 and right at the apex he came down to the pole line and cut my air off and it really put a bug in me and frustrated me. From that point on I wasn't going to be much of a gentleman and I was going to drive as hard as I could every lap, every corner, and fight for the track position every lap, which sometimes you don't need to do, but I was willing to from then on. So when I got the chance to draft by Charlie going down the back straight into (Turn) 3, I hung on the outside and I pinched him low and he had to lift; and then we ran side by side all through (Turn) 4 and up the main straight and kind of into (Turn) 1 and (Turn) 2 again. As soon as I hit clear in the exit of (Turn) 2, I came down and took the inside. Really from that time on I knew that he didn't have a car strong enough to run in the draft very well; and as long as I protected the bottom, he was never going to get by.
MODERATOR: Other questions? Wade, congratulations.
CUNNINGHAM: Thank you.
DAN CLARKE (No. 40 Wasteco Deans Knight Special, fourth): "Wow. That was my first ever Freedom 100 and my first-ever Speedway race. That was awesome. I really enjoyed that. We're new to this car. This is our third race together, so we're still finding our feet, but that race car was good. I could really keep the foot down in the corners. It is just a bit unfortunate at the end that (James) Hinchcliffe blocked me. We already had the rules stated to us this morning that you don't change your line when someone is right behind you, and Hinch just drove all the way down inside into (Turn) 1. It stopped me getting past him. So we're hoping that justice can have its day, and we're going to get third place for that. I think we deserve that. Other than that, I'm relieved to finish, because that's one hairy race."
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 2 TMR -Xtreme Coil Drilling, third): "Bittersweet day, really. Starting eighth, it was great to get the car up on the podium. The car was a rocket ship all day. We managed to get all the way to the leader's gearbox, but ultimately, it was a lap car that came into play and assisted in me losing the draft and second place. That's bittersweet. Getting up to third is a good result, and huge thanks to the boys. But at the same time, I think we could have been running with the two lead cars and challenging for the win."
ARIE LUYENDYK JR. (No. 4 Andersen Racing IZOD, 14th): "The fuel pressure light came on. I don't know what's going on. The car never had speed. All weekend the car's been slow. I don't know what more to do. I don't know if something let go in the motor. But the motor just shut off. Maybe that's the problem we've been having all along. It's just kind of a waste. The car's great. Flat is all you can go. And if the guys are walking away from you, there's nothing you can do. Driving my butt off to finish last is not my ideal situation for a good comeback."
BRANDON WAGNER (No. 32 Davey Hamilton Racing, eighth): "The day was what we had expected. Unfortunately, we had a little problem. We had to change engines right before qualifying (Friday), so we were hoping the engine was fine, and it proved to be good right from the start. I was able to make a couple of moves right away and run down a big line in front of us. The car was really good in traffic. At the end, the tires were going away and the car was getting a little free down in (Turns) 1 and 2 on the exit. You have to expect that the way the heat was today and the tires the way they were. Overall, we were hoping to get a top five, but we'll take a top 10."
ADRIAN CAMPOS JR. (No. 22 TMR-Xtreme Coil Drilling, 10th): "We could have finished closer to the front, but we had a problem with the right front tire. We kept burning it out and then coming in to the pits to change it. Later in the race, the car was very, very good, and I could do whatever I wanted when I was trying to overtake other drivers. It was my first oval race, and I didn't want to take risks. I just wanted to finish the race. I enjoyed it. We had a top-five car, and this is a top team."
JEFF SIMMONS (No. 17 Team E, 15th): "Well, I'm very disappointed for all of us at Team E and our sponsor Zymol. We had a really good car, and I feel terrible that we couldn't bring the car home. We've been fighting a fuel pressure problem since yesterday, and it turns out that we didn't get it completely solved today. Even with that, though, we were still a contender. We kept getting pushed down low and, for some reason or another, the car snapped around and got real loose. We're not sure if it was mechanical or not, and we haven't been able to go through the data yet. Unfortunately, we collected Pippa Mann, and we're disappointed about that, as well as losing our car. It's just very disappointing."
MARTIN PLOWMAN (No. 27 Automatic Fire Sprinklers/KEP Printing, ): "It was a bit of a boring race for me, really. I had a great start. I went from the outside of Row 2, got second place ahead of the pole sitter. Then my teammate got a good run on me on the outside between (Turn) 1 and 2. I kind of let him go because we're working together as teammates and wanted to get to the front of the pack. After the yellow period, the car just developed a really severe push. I tried to dial it out as far as I could inside the car . I was really battling a push the rest of the race. That really hindered me. I had to keep getting out of the throttle to avoid hitting the wall. Today's a really hot day. I think the conditions got us out by surprise."
STEFAN WILSON (No. 28 Bryan Herta Autosport, seventh): "After yesterday, I was a little bit worried about what we had in store for the race. Our work during the week paid off for a good race setup. In the race, the car was handling really good. I kept making a lot of adjustments in the cockpit, and it really paid off. I'm really pleased with seventh place. We got some good solid points for the championship. Not bad for my first Indy race."
PHILIP MAJOR (No.49 Sam Schmidt Motorsports, sixth): "I had a fantastic first run here. I'm just really thrilled to be here. It's pretty much just a learning experience for me. It's my first time on an oval. I think at the beginning I was pretty confident in my car. But then at the end when it starts falling off, I just have a bit to learn as far as how to drive the car and adjust it to where it's a good balance." (On the difficulty adjusting to oval racing): "About halfway through the race, my tires started going off and I had a really big moment coming out of (Turn) 3, which is pretty scary. But I just made some adjustments in the car. What people don't see is you're constantly making small adjustments with your hands as the car is walking up the track. If you see the driver crossing the hands, it's usually going to end up pretty poorly."
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA (No. 29 William Rast/Bryan Herta Autosport, ninth): "The race didn't go our way. We didn't have the car to go in traffic, and that's a shame. Five laps into the race, we were having lots of trouble. That's racing. We'll continue working, continue making the car better. So the next time we come here we will know. We brought the car (home) in one piece. Now let's go for the Indianapolis 500."
PIPPA MANN (No. 11 Sam Schmidt Motorsports): "I've got some pretty bruised feet, and I'm going to have a very sore neck tomorrow. I'm pretty angry, but I'm OK." (About crash): "So the blue car (Simmons) pulls out on the inside, gets pinched down really, really hard on the white line by the car on the outside(Plowman), gives him no room. He spins, slides up the track, whacks me because I'm the car behind. That's what I see on the replay. It was an accident that didn't need to happen, but it's actually not the No. 17 car's (Simmons) fault, in my opinion. He got pushed down really, really hard. I saw it unfolding, but there was nothing I could do about it."
J.K. VERNAY (No.7 Lucas Oil/CJ/Sam Schmidt Motorsports): "I didn't do a great race because I had a problem with the car, and we lost everything (power). I had no power after Turn 1 at the green flag. I don't know what the problem was. We can be happy because I know I can be really fast on the oval, and that's good for the rest of the year. The car was good. I really wanted to win, but it's motorsports. Sometimes you have mechanical problems, sometimes you crash and sometimes you win. The team did a good job. I'm happy for Wade (Cunningham) that he won. (Running between leader and second place) I wasn't trying to overtake Wade (Cunningham), wasn't trying to be quicker, because I was five laps down. I just wanted to really conserve his first place and help him. That's why I was behind him. After my engineer told me that, I had to go down, let them race. That's why I lifted. We had a little problem with the radio, but it turned out not to be a big deal."