Indy Lights – Championship Tightens Up After Toronto

The Firestone Indy Lights race on Saturday was just as chaotic and messy as the Star Mazda race on Sunday, even though there were only eleven drivers this past weekend. Four of the eleven would end up parked with broken equipment, on Lap 1 and the other two late in the race on Lap 30. A driver that we mentioned at the beginning of the season would be coming into strong form this season, Victor Carbone, put his #3 Sam Schmidt Motorsports machine on pole during a qualifying session where everyone was struggling for grip. Andretti Autosport’s Carlos Muñoz spun twice initiating two reg-flag periods and was parked by Race Control. Mark my words here, Carbone’s smooth, methodical driving style is really beginning to pay off as he’s been improving his race craft. I think this is a driver that has the right skill set to have a long and successful career in IndyCar if he can find the right support.

All cars made it to the grid and looked good coming to the line, but as soon as the green dropped, the carnage began. Carbone didn’t get the best of starts and was passed by two of his teammates, Esteban Guerrieri and Tristan Vautier. Esteban broke earlier than anticipated by Victor, causing him to bump into Esteban’s gearbox which caused Esteban to slide into Vautier tossing the Frenchman into the Turn 1 wall. Vautier’s race was over as soon as it started with his contact being far more debilitating that Esteban’s. Carlos Muñoz, who had been putting together a fairly impressive season, continued his spinning ways at Toronto and brought out the safety car after overcooking Turn 3 on Lap 2. Esteban, who had already came in for new tires, then had the opportunity to come in for a nose job without losing a lap. He was at the back of the grid, of course, but with both Vautier and Muñoz on the sidelines, the absolute worst he could place was ninth. Over the next few laps, he would struggle to find pace and consistency, but did make his way up to sixth before it was all over.

“We had a very slow start. In the first corner I got hit from the back and Tristan was on my outside. Tristan and I made contact and unfortunately Tristan went into the wall. It was a crazy start. I ended up breaking my front wing on the front left tire though. Our strategy was good after the incident because we stopped once during the caution to change the tire and went back out to avoid going one lap down. We then came back in a second time still under caution to change the front wing. Unfortunately we got stuck behind the safety vehicle and ended up going a lap down.” — Esteban Guerrieri, #11 Sam Schmidt Motorsport

After the Turns 1 and 3 kerfuffles, Victor Carbone regained the lead and held the P1 position for a thirteen laps until finally succumbing to the relentless attacks of Team Moore’s Gustavo Yacaman. One lap later, he would be overtaken by Andretti Autosport’s Sebastian Saavedra, and the three would run in that order for the remaining 36 laps of the 50-lap event. The only other drama was a mid-race incident between Belardi Auto Racing’s Jorge Goncalvez and Jeffery Mark Motorsport’s Juan Pablo Garcia. Jorge, back in the #4 machine after missing the Sukup 100 at the Iowa Speedway, was a bit too aggressive in his overtaking in Turn 3 and took out both his and Juan’s car. The track marshalls handled the incident with a local yellow only, so no safety car this time around.

“What can I say, we didn’t finish the race and I’m pretty disappointed. We had a pretty good car, but it was pretty hard to pass (Juan Pablo) Garcia and we ended up crashing in Turn 3. I did my best, the team did their best and we will just look ahead to Edmonton.” — Jorge Goncalvez, #4 Belardi Auto Racing

Yacaman’s win was his second of the year and his third podium. With the poor result from championship leader Esteban Guerrieri and second-place Tristan Vautier’s DNF, both Gustavo and Sebastian gained significant ground in the points. The two Columbians didn’t change their places in the points championship, but now both are within striking distance of the lead.

“That was a wild first corner. I am not sure what those guys were thinking. We’re not in bumper cars, you know, drivers were banging all around. I was lucky to stay out of trouble, and I got hit from behind and got bounced around but nothing happen to me or my car. I was really happy with how the race went and when I got to the front I knew I had a winning car. We had some gear box issues but still stayed in first position even though Sebastian Saavedra was right behind me the whole way. Hey it’s another win and out pockets – it’s so good to win in Toronto. This is great for the whole team. We win again. I am so happy.” — Gustavo Yacaman, #2 Team Moore Racing

For Sebastian, this was his fifth podium and third second-place finish of the year. The DNF at Iowa was a big blow, but with continued consistent results from here on out, he’s in a good position to gain on the Sam Schmidt Motorsports duo of Guerrieri and Vautier.

“It’s great, second place, I’ll take it any day. Crazy start, I knew it was going to be crazy but not that much. I was able to take advantage and pass a couple of guys, a couple guys went out, and from then on I just battled with the front gusy. A big thanks to the No. 27 car and AFS Racing, amazing race for us. Very good for the championship points, and looking forward to whatever comes next.” — Sebastian Saavedra, #27 Andretti Autosport

The Firestone Indy Lights series heads to the City Centre Airport circuit in Edmonton next, and then to Circuit Trois-Rivières. Both circuits will require very precise driving and skillful racecraft which puts the Columbians is a powerful position with their greater experience both with the circuits and the cars, but also with their greater number of years in racing. We’ll see how it all pans out in a couple of weeks!

Pos Driver No Team Points
1 Esteban Guerrieri #11 Sam Schmidt Motorsports 316
2 Tristan Vautier #77 Sam Schmidt Motorsports 295
3 Sebastian Saavedra #27 Andretti Autosport 284
4 Gustavo Yacaman #2 Team Moore Racing 269
5 Victor Carbone #3 Sam Schmidt Motorsports 253

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