After a long weather delay, and only 20 minutes of practice, Matheus Leist, who is making his first ever oval start, put together a pair of consistent laps of 199.268mph, and 199.128mph. The 18 year-old rookie’s prize included a check for $3,000, but more importantly, Leist will start on pole for the Freedom 100, the most prestigious race of the Indy Lights season.
The Brazilian’s fastest lap of 199.268mph, shattered the previous qualifying lap record of 197.866 mph, that was set by Ethan Ringel in 2015.
Leist, who was the seventh driver to take to the 2.5 mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval, knocked Andretti Autosport veteran Dalton Kellett off the provisional pole with his consistent qualifying effort. Kellett, who after starting 14th, finished third in last year’s Freedom 100, also lost a spot to Herta, but will still start on the inside of the front row.
Herta, who had the quickest speed in testing on Monday, and the second quickest speed in the abbreviated pre-qualifying practice, will start his first Indy Lights and second MRTI oval race on the outside of the front-row. Despite a half-spin as he exited the pits to start his qualifying effort, the 17 year-old second generation driver was able to recover and post a two lap average speed of 198.648mph.
“I simply just lost it coming up on the track, my engineer (Doug Zister) kept telling me to put it down to second gear in practice, and see how it is, and I never did that, so it’s my fault,” explained Herta, who is currently third in the quest for the $1million Mazda Motorsports Advancement Scholarship. “Coming back up on the track, I lost it and went down into the pit entry, and then had to drive out of the pit entry. We lost some speed in that, but I don’t know how much. The Carlin guys had a good car today, so I don’t much we could have clawed back.”
Oval newbie and Andretti Autosport rookie Ryan Norman will start outside of his Andretti Autosport teammate Kellett after an impressive two lap qualifying average of 197.697mph.
“This place is amazing. I absolutely love this place, and this is definitely my favorite track so far,” exclaimed a very happy Norman. “We have a great car and I think it’s a winning car. Qualifying went well today and I gave it everything I had. We used every inch of the track we could leaving little room to spare. We just have to time it right in the race tomorrow, keep the tires under me and we should we good. I can’t wait!”
Kellett, with nine MRTI oval starts is the lone veteran among the first two rows. Leist and Norman are making their first ever oval starts and Herta has only one USF2000 oval start on the 0.625 mile Lucas Oil Raceway.
Aaron Telitz, the reigning Pro Mazda Champion was the last car out on track, will start on the outside of the third row. The Rice Lake, Wisc. native told TSO that their were rain drops on his visor during his entire run, but was able to kept his foot in it and cross the “Yard of Bricks” to end his qualifying effort with his Soul Red No. 9 Belardi Auto Racing car in one piece.
Kyle Kaiser, and Nico Jamin – the two drivers currently sitting atop the championship standings, both had qualifying efforts to forget. Kaiser, who holds a 14 point lead over Jamin, will start his third Freedom 100 from the inside of the sixth row, while the 21 year-old Jamin will start directly behind him.
“Overall, it was a tough qualifying session. We had some engine issues when testing Monday, so we had it changed before today,” explained Jamin. “We’re not starting where I’d like to start, but we’ll see what we can do tomorrow. It’s a long race and I love drafting, so I’ll do what I can to work my way up there.”
2017 Freedom 100 qualifying results:
|RANK||DRIVER||TEAM||2 LAP AVERAGE (mph)|
|2||Colton Herta||Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing||198.648|
|3||Dalton Kellett||Andretti Autosport||198.011|
|4||Ryan Norman||Andretti Autosport||197.697|
|5||Zachary Claman De Melo||Carlin||197.645|
|6||Aaron Telitz||Belardi Auto Racing||197.216|
|9||Shelby Blackstock||Belardi Auto Racing||196.417|
|10||Juan Piedrahita||Team Pelfrey||196.246|
|11||Kyle Kaiser||Juncos Racing||196.058|
|12||Santi Urrutia||Belardi Auto Racing||195.861|
|13||Nico Jamin||Andretti Autosport||195.661|
|14||Nicolas Dapero||Juncos Racing||195.445|
After a delay of seven hours due to a persistent drizzle, the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tire series finally took to the 2.5 mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval for practice and qualifying for the 15th Freedom 100.
The 20 minute practice session began promptly at 4:30pm, and it wasn’t long before a gloomy Speedway, Ind., was alive with the bubbling note of the Mazda 2.0L turbo-charged engines powering the 14 entries.
With conditions very different from when the series tested on Monday afternoon, most teams sent their drivers out for a qualifying simulation when the track opened for business. With a temperature of 61F and a slight breeze from the North, the temperatures were perfect for laying down quick lap speeds.
The quickest lap of the abbreviated session was a 201.032mph tow-aided lap by Carlin rookie Matheus Leist, who also had the fastest no-tow lap, a scorching 199.370mph laps. The 18 year-old Brazilian will be making his first ever oval start in tomorrow’s 40-lap race.
You can read our TSO Ladder Freedom 100 preview here – TSO Ladder Freedom 100 preview