IndyLights – 2011 Firestone Freedom 100 Recap

Carburetion Day brings with it the final day of practice prior to the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, thus its name. Yes, I know the engines have been injected for a long time, but its still a cool name and we like tradition, here. For the past eight years, this year being the ninth, in addition to the traditional final practice session for the IndyCars, its also been the day of the Firestone Freedom 100 Indy Lights race, a 40-lap sprint race around the 2.5 mile circuit.

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The Firestone Freedom 100 has been a barnstormer of a race the last couple of years, and given how close everyone looked in practice, this year was shaping up to be a rival to 2009. Unfortunately, the weather was extremely uncooperative on Thursday and rain ruined all but 10 minutes of the practice time, and completely rained out the qualifying session. The race grid would be established based on points, instead, which placed first time Firestone Indy Lights racer, Bryan Clauson, on the pole position.

The weather on Carb Day was uncharacteristically chilly, with temperatures in the upper 50s. This made for rather difficult conditions for the young drivers, all but three of whom were rookies, as many would struggle to find grip in Turn 1 on cold tyres that never seemed to warm up. In morning practice, Victor Carbone spun and grazed the wall. Fortunately, the damage wasn’t too bad and the Sam Schmidt Motorsports crew couldn’t get the car repaired and back on the grid for the start of the race. Unfortunately, on Lap 8, Carbone would suffer the same type of mistake in Turn 1, and would exit the race prematurely.

During those first few laps of green-flag racing, the field was pretty tightly bunched with some great racing all through the grid. Josef Newgarden would lead the first couple laps until dropping behind Stephan Wilson for a lap. Anders Krohn would take the lead from Newgarden on Lap 5 and hold that lead until Carbone’s Turn 1 incident. However, while coming around Turn 4 to take the green flag, Krohn would spin the car and drop to the back of the grid! Esteban Guerrieri would take the lead for a couple of laps after the race went back to green, but Josef would regain the lead and keep it for the remainder of the race.

While the front of the grid remained uneventful and unchanged for the remainder of the race, the same couldn’t be said for the rest of the racers. The cold track temperatures combined with the yellows cooling the tyres and the adrenaline coursing through the young drivers, there were a few other multi-car incidents, all at the south end of the track. On Lap 21, #2 Gustavo Yacaman, #12 Juan Pablo Garcia, and #26 James Winslow would all end up in the wall in the South Chute with Gustavo suffering a seriously hard hit. Gustavo would be rushed off to Methodist complaining neck pain. Not long after the race went green again, #28 Duarte Ferreira would spin in Turn 1 and collect innocent bystander, #32 Brandon Wagner.

The most brutal incident of the race came on Lap 35 when Belardi Auto Racing teammates #9 Anders Krohn and #4 Jorge Goncalvez would try and take Turn 1 three-wide with #77 Bryan Clauson. They failed. Anders spun and hit the wall backwards, and climb out of the car sore, but no worse for the impact. Jorge, however, would run up wide and hit the South Chute wall with his front right which shot him back across the track to the inside wall at the entrance to Turn 2. His car erupted in a fireball as the engine and gearbox were sheared from the chassis and he would eventually slide to a halt in Turn 2, skidding upside down on his roll hoop. Jorge, who fractured his femur earlier in the year, was alert and responsive, but was taken to Methodist for further evaluation.

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“I’m so disappointed for the guys as Belardi Auto Racing because we really had the fastest car today. It would have been the easiest thing to at least be on the podium or potentially win the race. We could run up, down low; it didn’t matter. At the same time I think we’ve shown people where our speed is so hopefully we can come back next year and dominate this race.” — Anders Krohn, #9 Belardi Auto Racing

With the lateness of the incident between the Belardi racers, the 9th Firestone Freedom 100 ended under caution and Josef Newgarden took his 2nd win of the season and a 26-point lead over his teammate Esteban Guerrieri. The 1-2 finish by Josef and Esteban also marked the first time in the event’s history that teammates would finish 1-2.

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“It’s certainly the largest moment in my career. But this is a victory as much for the whole team. Certainly not the way I wanted to win it. But either way, we come here as a team and work so hard to prep four race cars. If I’m not going to be in Victory Lane, we’ve got to make sure one of them gets there. So overall it’s a good day for the entire team and what they worked for. So I’m very happy with that fact. But certainly it wasn’t nice to see all the cautions and all the people. I got a little concerned that last one that people could be hurt and anything like that. You never want to see that. You want to see green flag racing and people fighting hard.

But again, a great day for the team. I’m so elated for them, they worked so hard. Everyone works on everyone’s car, it’s not necessarily just my team, it’s everyone and all the work that goes into it on all the cars. I’m very happy for them.” — Josef Newgarden, #11 Sam Schmidt Motorsports.

Firestone Indy Lights – Firestone Freedom 100
INDIANAPOLIS – Results Friday of the Firestone Freedom 100 Firestone Indy Lights event on the 2.5 mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, laps complete and reason out (if any):

1. (2) Josef Newgarden, 40, Running
2. (5) Esteban Guerrieri, 40, Running
3. (4) Victor Garcia, 40, Running
4. (3) Stefan Wilson, 40, Running
5. (1) Bryan Clauson, 40, Running
6. (6) Peter Dempsey, 40, Running
7. (16) Rusty Mitchell, 40, Running
8. (9) David Ostella, 40, Running
9. (17) Chase Austin, 40, Running
10. (7) Mikael Grenier, 40, Running
11. (10) Jorge Goncalvez, 34, Contact
12. (8) Anders Krohn, 34, Contact
13. (14) Duarte Ferreira, 29, Contact
14. (18) Brandon Wagner, 28, Contact
15. (12) Gustavo Yacaman, 20, Contact
16. (15) Juan Pablo Garcia, 20, Contact
17. (11) James Winslow, 20, Contact
18. (13) Victor Carbone, 7, Contact

Race Statistics

  • Winner’s Average Speed: 107.817
  • Time of Race: 55:38.9881
  • Margin of victory: Under caution
  • Cautions: 4 for 22 laps
  • Lead changes: 6 among 4 drivers
  • Lap Leaders: Newgarden 1-2, Wilson 3, Newgarden 4, Krohn 5-11, Newgarden 12, Guerrieri 13-14, Newgarden 15-40.
  • Point Standings: Newgarden 149, Guerrieri 125, V. Garcia 121, Wilson 121, Dempsey 111, Conor Daly 109, Grenier 102, Ostella 95, Krohn 94, Goncalvez 90.

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