By Patrick Stephan (@TSO_Patrick)

Welcome to Carb Day here at IMS. We’re covering all the activities at both and of course the MRTI focused coverage here of the Indy Lights Series presented by Cooper Tires.

The race got off to a tough start. Pole sitter Matheus Leist brought the well formed field down to the green at what looked to be a bit of a slow pace. But, as soon as the green waved, everyone jumped out of position and started battling down to Turn 1. The field made it through the first turn ok, but over in Turn 2, we saw second place starter Colton Herta get sideways right in front of the pack.

The Lights cars are able to run side by side through the turns here at times and it looked like Herta didn’t know that Dalton Kellett was still underneath him as they ran through Turn 2. Herta’s car turned sideways and slid for quite a while as some drivers stuck to the low line.

Unfortunately, Herta’s car slid backwards toward the wall around the exit of Turn 2 as the laws of physics took over and pushed him wide, directly in to the path of Ryan Norman who wasn’t able to take the low line as he had cars to his inside. They made pretty solid contact as Norman’s left front hit the left rear of Herta’s sideways race car.

Both cars then slid across the track as the rest of the field scrambled to avoid hitting those spinning and disabled race cars. This was Norman’s best start of the year (4th) and he said after the accident that he was proud of that, and he’ll have to just now focus on being quick at Road America (the next race weekend for Indy Lights).

Herta wasn’t sure what happened and wanted to look at the data, but he did acknowledge the contact with Kellett (who started third).

The race restarted after 5 laps under yellow, with Leist still up front and leading his first laps of the season.

Things would settle out a bit as the race ran on. Kellett would get around Claman de Melo for second, and then around lap 18, Aaron Telitz would himself move to second as he passed Kellett.

On lap 21, the order was Leist, Telitz, Kellett, Alberico, Claman de Melo, Urrutia, Piedrahita, Rickards, Kaiser, Blackstock, Jamin, Dapero, Herta, Norman.

The lead on lap 26 was up to 0.355, but third place was another .06 back, giving us one of the most spread out fields we’ve seen for a while. Looked like the drivers up front were settling in and waiting for a bit later in the race to make a move.

Then on lap 31, Telitz attempted a move on the high side of Turn 1, but he wasn’t able to complete the pass on Leist. The top 6 were within about 2.1 seconds as Leist, Telitz, Kellett, Alberico, Claman de Melo and Urrutia had broken away from the rest of the field.

Lap 34 ad Telitz goes to the high side again in Turn 1 and stays there all the way through Turn 1 and most of the way through Turn 2. Leist got away from Telitz on the back stretch and Kellett himself tried the outside on Telitz. The move worked and Kellett then set his sights on Leist and the lead.

Urrutia then started to make a move himself, moving to fourth and on lap 36, the order was Leist, Kellett, Telitz, Urrutia, Alberico and Claman de Melo.

Lap 37 and Urrutia has brushed the wall in Turn 2, and he slows for a bit, dropping to 5th as Alberico takes 4th position.

The white flag waved over Leist and the field, with Kellett 0.4542 back at the line. Leist is able to make a clean lap and keep Kellett out of his draft, winning the race by 0.7760 seconds.

While the victory seemed fairly locked up as the field came off Turn 4, who would finish second – well, that was far from decided. Telitz followed Kellett off Turn 4 as they drifted back to the low line until Telitz was able to jump to the outside and pull side by side with Kellett as the duo approached the yard of bricks.

At the line, it was Telitz taking second by just 0.0641 seconds.

Patrick’s Opinion – that was a very good race, and I really liked that the winner had the best car – we saw some great moves and some great attempts that failed – but when the checkered flag fell it seemed like Leist was just a bit better today. And congrats to him for managing his Carlin Racing car and the race so well. Some of those side by side laps with Kellett were thrilling as was the action in the pack. But, it didn’t feel too “artificial” and the leader was only to be passed by a better car – I like that!

Ok, back with more in an little while. Here is the finishing order of the 2017 Freedom 100:

Pos Car # Driver Diff TL Comment
1 26 Matheus Leist 40
2 9 Aaron Telitz 0.7760 40
3 28 Dalton Kellett 0.8401 40
4 22 Neil Alberico 2.3748 40
5 5 Santi Urrutia 9.9919 40
6 13 Zachary Claman De Melo 10.3970 40
7 11 Garth Rickards 12.4357 40
8 2 Juan Piedrahita 20.4610 40
9 18 Kyle Kaiser 25.1065 40
10 27 Nico Jamin 34.9961 40
11 51 Shelby Blackstock 35.1473 40
12 31 Nicolas Dapero 35.6239 40
13 98 Colton Herta 40 LAPS 0 Contact
14 48 Ryan Norman 40 LAPS 0 Contact