By Steve Wittich
A quartet of Andretti Autosport drivers will lead the Freedom 100 presented by Cooper Tires field to the green flag, with Robert Megennis starting on the pole. The pole for the first oval race of the year is the 17-year-olds second inside front row start in the past three races and the third of his career.
“This is a dream come true, being on pole for the Freedom 100 at IMS. It’s going to be awesome tomorrow, to go out there on the front row in front of all those people,” exclaimed Megennis.” That’s going to be a moment. It was a lot hotter today than it was for Monday’s test so we had to figure out what the car would be in these temperatures and we did a great job with that. Andretti one-two-three-four, that’s wild, hopefully we can end the race like that and just control everything. But you can’t set expectations for the Freedom 100, you have no clue what’s going to happen. We can strategize all we want but you just don’t know – we’ll all talk tonight and see if we can work together to stay in front.
“But it did feel like a lot of pressure when I was sitting there waiting, but once I went out it was just foot to the floor and send it. The car was awesome; I can’t thank the team enough, as well as all my partners – Palo Alto Networks, Optic, CyberArk and SailPoint. I wouldn’t be here without them and I wouldn’t have this opportunity.”
Megennis turned the quickest single lap of qualifying at 194.421 mph, and his two-lap average was 194.207mph, beating his teammate Oliver Askew by a scant 0.1390mph or a razor-thin 0.0399 seconds over the two laps of qualifying.
Veteran Ryan Norman and newcomer Jarett Andretti will follow directly behind their teammates when the green flag for the 40-lap race flies at 1 pm on ”Carb Day.”
Points leader Rinus van Kalmthout (VeeKay) had a consistent, but slow qualifying effort. The Juncos Racing rookie could only manage the ninth fastest two-lap average.
Cars took to the track for their two-lap qualifying runs in the reverse order of the current Indy Lights points standings, making the three Freedom 100 presented by Cooper Tires one-offs the first cars on track to complete their five-mile qualification attempts.
USAC regular Chris Windom was the first car on the track. The 28-year-old exited his car, got on a golf cart, and met a helicopter outside of Turn 2. He had to get to Anderson Speedway where he is due to take part in qualifying for the Little 500. The Jonathan ‘Byrd’s Racing backed driver will start his first Indy Lights race on the outside of the fifth-row after two consistent laps.
The first car on track was Aaron Telitz, whose deal to contest his third Freedom 100 presented by Cooper Tires came together just a few minutes before practice. The Wisconsin based driver was flat his entire two-laps and mentioned that they might have missed the gearing.
Jarett Andretti, the seventh member of his famous family to turn laps on the historic 2.5-mile, turned two incredibly consistent laps (less than a tenth of a mile per hour between his two laps), was the quickest of the three one-off drivers and will start the race in the fourth spot.
Lucas Kohl, making his first Indy Lights oval qualification attempt was quicker and more consistent than Telitz, his teammate for this race. After the run, the Brazilian told the team he ‘didn’t lift, but it was a bit sketchy in Turn 3. His team responded – “‘that’s the way ‘it’s supposed to be.” The Roberto Moreno mentored pilot was the quickest of the non-Andretti Autosport drivers and will start the 100-mile race on the inside of the third row.
Dalton Kellett had an incredibly consistent qualifying effort, but his K-Line Insulators USA, Inc. sponsored No. 67 didn’t have the pace that he had last year. The veteran was quicker than his teammate and will start the race on the inside of the fourth row.
Ryan Norman, the winner of the last Indy Lights oval race at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, was the sixth car on the track, and the first to turn a lap over 193 mph. The ‘veteran’s second lap fell off 0.3 mph, but his average remained above 193 mph. That average is good enough for an inside second row starting spot.
David Malukas, who missed the majority of the morning practice, was able to make a two-lap qualification attempt, and despite having no idea what to expect from the car, turned in two clean laps with competitive.
The fourth to last driver on track was Toby Sowery, who turned his first ever oval laps at Kentucky Speedway only one week ago. The 22-year-old that is sponsored by Rich Energy turned in two consistent laps that were only 0.0410 mph different.
Robert Megennis, who led the ‘Monday’s test and this ‘morning’s practice, was the first driver to break into the 194mph range. The ‘rookie’s second lap fell off almost half-a-second, but the average remained above 194mph.
The final Andretti Autosport AER/Dallara IL-15 to take to the track was Oliver Askew. His first lap was the second lap of qualifying above 194mph, but like Megennis, dropped into the 193mph range on his second lap.
The last car to take the green flag in Indy Lights qualifying was points leader Rinus VeeKay. The Juncos Racing rookie and his Soul Red No. 23 will have some work to do tomorrow. The 18-year-old had the least drop off of all 11 drivers between his first and second lap, but his pace was only good enough to put him on the inside of the fifth row.
Freedom 100 presented by Cooper Tires qualifying results
|RANK||CAR NO.||DRIVER||TEAM||LAP 1||LAP 2||AVERAGE||DIFFERENCE|
|1||27||Robert Megennis||Andretti Autosport||194.421||193.992||194.207||-0.4290|
|2||28||Oliver Askew||Andretti Autosport||194.253||193.882||194.068||-0.3710|
|3||48||Ryan Norman||Andretti Autosport||193.191||192.876||193.034||-0.3150|
|4||18||Jarett Andretti||Andretti Autosport||192.878||192.786||192.832||-0.0920|
|5||5||Lucas Kohl||Belardi Auto Racing||192.814||192.602||192.708||-0.2120|
|6||4||Aaron Telitz||Belardi Auto Racing||192.669||192.309||192.489||-0.3600|
|7||67||Dalton Kellett||Juncos Racing||192.242||192.125||192.184||-0.1170|
|8||2||Toby Sowery||BN Racing / Team Pelfrey||192.198||192.157||192.178||-0.0410|
|9||23||Rinus VeeKay||Juncos Racing||192.142||192.105||192.124||-0.0370|
|10||17||Chris Windom||Belardi Auto Racing / Jonathan Byrd’s Racing||191.671||191.443||191.557||-0.2280|
|11||79||David Malukas||BN Racing||191.205||191.403||191.304||0.1980|