Five-time USAC Silver Crown champion Kody Swanson made it look easy in his first Indy Pro 2000 start. The pole-sitter for the Carb Night Classic Silver Crown race started on the outside of the front row in his Road To Indy start. He used the high-line to perfection, including making the winning move to the outside of the leader in Turn 4.
It was the first Indy Pro 2000 win for Legacy Autosport, in their first start on the middle-rung of the Road To Indy.
An emotional Swanson told Rob Howden; this has been a dream of his for a long time. The 32-year-old was thankful for Legacy Autosport team for giving this opportunity along with his engineer Kent Boyer (Belardi Auto Racing Indy Lights engineer) and his spotter Dewayne Ellwanger (Alexander Rossi’s spotter in the NTT INDYCAR® SERIES)
One of the biggest movers of the race was Pabst Racing rookie Hunter McElrea, who’s No. 22 was dialed in for the second half of the race. The American born, New Zealand citizen who grew up in Australia started sixth and finished second. It’s his second straight (and career) Indy Pro 2000 podium and the 14th in his 21 race Road To Indy career.
The pole-sitter, DEForce Racing rookie Manuel Sulaiman was able to hold on to stand on the Indy Pro 2000 podium for the first time. It’s the Mexican driver’s third career Road To Indy podium.
Speaking of first, all three teams were newcomers to the Indy Pro 2000 podium at Lucas Oil Raceway Park.
The call to start the 2.0L engines powering the 15 PM-18s entered in the Freedom 90 was given at precisely 7:45 pm.
The surprise front row of Manuel Sulaiman and Kody Swanson led the field to the green flag, with Mexican DEForce Racing.
The running order at the end of the first lap was: Sulaiman, Swanson, Sting Ray Robb, Danial Frost, Hunter McElrea, Devlin DeFrancesco, Artem Petrov, Parker Thompson, Braden Eves, Colin Kaminsky, Kory Enders, Moisés de la Vara, Jacob Abel, and Antoine Comeau. Fatboy Racing! veteran Charles Finelli didn’t make the start of the race.
On Lap 2, Swanson got loose in Turn 2, giving up the second spot Robb. Robb returned the favor on the next lap, giving up the second spot to Swanson. That allowed last year’s winner Frost to join the battle.
For the next ten laps, Swanson and Robb were side-by-side, before the Juncos Racing veteran tucked in behind the five-time USAC Silver Crown Champion.
The biggest mover in the first ten laps was DEForce Racing veteran Moisés de la Vara, who had moved from his 15th starting spot to 11th.
Sulaiman first ran into traffic on Lap 20, as the leader came upon Enders. He got by cleanly, but it wasn’t as easy for second place Swanson, who had to go to the bottom of Turn 1 and Turn 2 to complete the move.
At the ⅓ pole of the race, Sulaiman’s lead over Swanson was 2.1 seconds. Swanson was slowly eating into the DEForce Racing rookies lead, while also building up a 1.2 second lead over Robb. The rest of the top ten was: Frost, McElrea, DeFrancesco, Eves, Petrov, Thompson, and Kaminsky.
On Lap 35, Sulaiman hit more traffic, allowing Swanson to close within seven-tenths of a second of the leader. Robb was still right there, only six-tenths behind Swanson. Further back, the best battle was between Colin Kaminsky and Parker Thompson.
On Lap 41, Swanson went to the lead, with an impressive move around the outside of Sulaiman in Turn 4.
At the halfway point of the 90 lap race, the top four of Swanson, Sulaiman, Robb, and Frost were separated by less than two seconds.
On lap 49, Frost was able to get by Robb for the final spot on the podium, and it only took him three laps to catch Sulaiman. The two drivers were side-by-side as they entered Turn 3, but the No. 68 Turn 3 Motorsport fought some understeer at the apex of the corner, and he was forced to back out of the move.
On Lap 59, Hunter McElrea made his second pass for position, moving past Robb for fourth.
At the ⅔ pole of the race, on Lap 60 of 90, Swanson’s lead was a comfortable 3.3 seconds over Sulaiman. Frost was still putting pressure on Sulaiman. The rest of the top 10 were McElrea, Robb, DeFrancesco, Eves, Petrov, Thompson, and Kaminsky.
That pressure didn’t last long, though, as Frost was immediately forced to defend against McElrea. The two drivers went side-by-side for two laps before McElrea fell in line to cool down his Cooper Tires.
On Lap 70, McElrea went back on the attack, going inside of Frost for the final spot on the podium on the bottom of Turn 1 and Turn 2 at the south end of the 0.686-mile Lucas Oil Raceway oval.
As they began lap 75, McElrea was right on the gearbox of Sulaiman, getting a better drive off Turn 4 on the next lap and grabbing second place with a pass on the front straight.
With ten laps left, Swanson’s lead over McElrea was 4.9 seconds. McElrea was the quickest car on the track but was not able to real in the Legacy Autosport driver.
Further back in the field, McElrea’s teammate Kaminsky also had a fast car, gaining spots on Thompson and Petrov, finishing the race in eighth.
With five laps remaining, the two drivers separated by only one point for the points lead, Robb and DeFrancesco, were battling for the fifth spot. The Andretti Steinbrenner Racing driver was able to get the pass completed, and he still wasn’t done, moving past Frost to grab the fourth spot.
Freedom 90 unofficial results
|1||20||Kody Swanson||Legacy Autosport|
|2||18||Hunter McElrea||Pabst Racing||-5.6772|
|3||8||Manuel Sulaiman||DEForce Racing||-11.4169|
|4||17||Devlin DeFrancesco||Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport||-13.1287|
|5||68||Danial Frost||Turn 3 Motorsport||-13.9312|
|6||2||Sting Ray Robb||Juncos Racing||-15.4587|
|7||1||Braden Eves||Exclusive Autosport||-17.2297|
|8||19||Colin Kaminsky||Pabst Racing||-17.4425|
|9||42||Artem Petrov||Juncos Racing||-17.9271|
|10||9||Parker Thompson||DEForce Racing||-19.0338|
|11||6||Moises de la Vara||DEForce Racing||-1 LAP|
|12||51||Jacob Abel||Abel Motorsports||-1 LAP|
|13||3||Antoine Comeau||Turn 3 Motorsport||-1 LAP|
|14||7||Kory Enders||DEForce Racing||-4 LAPS|
|15||83||Charles Finelli||Fatboy Racing!||DNS|