IndyLights – Firestone Freedom 100 Preview

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As has been the case all season, and really the last couple of seasons, car counts continue to be low. There are only eleven entries for this year’s Firestone IndyLights Freedom 100, but among those eleven entries, there is some serious talent. At the top of the list is series veteran Carlos Muñoz. After a rocky start in the first three events of the 2012 season, he scored a P2 finish on Carburetion Day last year in what was an absolute knife fight of a race. This year, he will be facing a crop of strong talent fresh from the Pro Mazda series, Jack Hawksworth, Gabby Chavez, Sage Karam, and his own teammate Zach Veach. All of these Pro Mazda graduates are strong drivers and the three Schmidt Peterson drivers, Hawksworth, Chavez, and Karam, all have multiple podium finishes this season.

For the Firestone Freedom 100, just as with the Indianapolis 500, there are often several one-off entries. This year we have three: Jimmy Simpson joins Team Moore Racing, Kyle O’Gara will be with Schmidt Peterson Racing, and Chase Austin returns to the Speedway in a JMM/BHA with Curb‐Agajanian car. All three of these drivers, even though Simpson and O’Gara are rookies, are no strangers to oval racing. They all have significant experience turning left, and it will be interesting to see how their pace compares to the series regulars. My guess is that they’ll be right up there.

In addition to the strong rookie drivers, Muñoz will also have to fend off the two veteran drivers Peter Dempsey of Belardi Auto Racing and Juan Pablo Garcia of Team Moore Racing. Dempsey already has one podium finish this year, and has be extremely quick at the Speedway in past years. With Belardi equipment under him this season, he will be a strong contender for the win. He’s already shown great speed this season with a P2 at St. Petersburg, and he had great pace during practice and qualifying at Long Beach, but his race was ended prematurely when he was collected by Hawksworth’s collision-damaged car.

Juan Pablo has been a bit of a journeyman in the Firestone IndyLights Series, racing for various teams over his career, but never being able to settle into a stable full-season deal. This year, he’s in for the full season with Team Moore Racing, and that stability has yielded positive results and improvement in his racing and his finishing positions. Juan Pablo had a P4 finish to start the season on the streets of St. Petersburg and was running strong at Long Beach before nosing into the tires at Turn 1.

I think there’s no mistake that Muñoz is the favorite for this race. Heck, he’s even on the front row for the Indianapolis 500! That’s not to say that the trophy is his already. The Firestone Freedom 100 has always been a vicious race, and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway takes small mistakes and amplifies them dramatically. Even though we only have eleven cars, we have a deeply talented field and it should be a great race!

Practice and qualifying for the Firestone Freedom 100 is today! Come out to the Speedway and enjoy these young drivers and the show they provide. Best of all, you don’t need a bronze badge to get to their garage area! The Firestone Indy Lights garages are in the old Formula One garages underneath the front straight grandstands. The race is on Carb Day at 12:30, immediately after the final practice session for the IZOD IndyCar Series. It’s going to be a great couple of days! See you at IMS!

Firestone IndyLights Freedom 100 Entry List

Car Driver Hometown Car Name Entrant
2 Juan Pablo Garcia Mexico City TMR‐International‐Euclid Chemical Team Moore Racing
4 Jorge Goncalvez Los Teques, Venezuela Belardi Auto Racing Belardi Auto Racing
5 Peter Dempsey Ashbourne, Ireland Belardi Auto Racing Belardi Auto Racing
7 Gabby Chaves (R) Bogotá, Colombia Schmidt Peterson c/w Curb‐Agajanian Schmidt Peterson c/w Curb‐Agajanian
8 Sage Karam (R) Nazareth, Pa. Schmidt Peterson c/w Curb‐Agajanian Schmidt Peterson c/w Curb‐Agajanian
12 Zach Veach (R) Stockdale, Ohio K12/Andretti Autosport Andretti Autosport
22 Jimmy Simpson (R) Indianapolis TMR‐Reed Smith‐Xtreme Drilling & Coil Team Moore Racing
26 Carlos Munoz Bogotá, Colombia Dialy‐Ser/Andretti Autosport Andretti Autosport
28 Chase Austin Eudora, Kan. Starting Grid JMM/BHA with Curb‐Agajanian
67 Kyle O’Gara (R) Beech Grove, Ind. SFHRD/RW/SPM – Moynahan Williams Schmidt Peterson c/w Curb‐Agajanian
77 Jack Hawksworth (R) Bradford, England Schmidt Peterson c/w Curb‐Agajanian Schmidt Peterson c/w Curb‐Agajanian