By Patrick Stephan
Hunter McElrea en route to his first Indy Lights win at Mid-Ohio. Penske Entertainment: Travis Hinkle
With the track temp rapidly approaching 100F and the air at 78, the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires field came down to take the green on the front stretch under the control of Hunter McElrea with Linus Lundqvist alongside. Like the NTT INDYCAR Series, the Lights cars take the green on the run down from Turn 3 to Turn 4 – not at the start/finish line.
McElrea was able to keep the lead, with Lundqvist slotting in, but Brabham went from 4th to 3rd and Sting Ray Robb got by Rasmussen for 5th. Brabham would get second on the next lap and Pederson would also try to get around Lundqvist down in Turn 4-5, but couldn’t quite get it done – even dropping a couple tires off at the exit of 4.
Lap 3 and Danial Frost is slow on the track, but still moving, and would eventually make it to pit lane.
Lap 5 and McElrea leads Brabham by 2.1 with Lundqvist another 3.1 back. Pedersen in 4th is 1.1 back of that, and then it’s packed up with 0.5 second gaps from 4th to 10th.
Lap 6, complete order is McElrea by 2.8, Brabham, Lundqvist, Pedersen, Robb, Rasmussen, Abel, Bogle, Serravalle, Simpson, Francis, Jr., Roe and Frost – out with an engine issue.
Lundqvist had a big slide at the exit of Turn 1 on Lap 6, dropping him closer to Pedersen in 4th though that gap is still 1.4.
On the TV broadcast (NBC Sports – Peacock) Kevin Lee reminded everyone of a couple new teams for 2023 in Indy Lights as Cape Motorsports and Legacy Autosport will move to the Lights series.
And yes, I know our Steve Wittich already mentioned some of these announcements, but I believe the Cape Motorsports part was new – at least to me 😉
That bodes well for 2023 Indy Lights car counts, particularly when coupled with some other rumors that should see car counts closer to 18 than 13 – at least from what we’re hearing – Steve will have more details on that in the near future.
Back here at Mid-Ohio, Hunter McElrea continues to lead, now by 3.9 seconds over Brabham, Lundqivst, Pedersen and Robb.
Lap 16 and we can’t say McElrea hasn’t put a wheel wrong because he did drop the left sides off at I believe it was Turn 8. That hasn’t slowed him down though as officially at the end of Lap 17 his lead is up to 5.3 seconds over Brabham who has an 8 second gap to Lundqvist.
The closest battle on the track is Christian Rasmussen trying to get around Sting Ray Robb for 5th. He’s able to make that happen on Lap 18 and now Rasmussen needs to close a 1.4 second gap to Pedersen for 4th.
One way to do that is to turn a fast lap and Rasmussen turns his fastest of the race on Lap 19, cutting that gap to 0.96.
Lap 20 of 35 and that gap is 0.7 from 4th to 5th. Lap 21 though the gap stays the same and Robb closes back to 1.0.
Out front, Lap 22 shows McElrea leading Brabham by 6.9.
Lap 23 and James Roe spins and finds the gravel trap at Turn 1 to bring out a full course yellow and erase McElrea’s nearly 7 second lead, exactly the opposite of what the driver from Los Angeles needs to convert his strong qualifying runs to his first race victory of the season (and in the series).
The AMR INDYCAR Safety team pulled Roe out of the gravel trap, restarts him and he will rejoin the field 2 laps down.
The race will restart at the normal start/finish line at the end of Lap 25, and McElrea gets away clean, creating a sold gap to Brabham through Turn 1 and Turn 2.
Further back we see Ernie Francis, Jr trying to get by Kyffin Simpson down through Turn 4, and he gets that spot officially on Lap 26.
Rasumssen goes on the outside of Pedersen in Turn 4, which put him on the inside for Turn 5 and he makes that pass work to move to 4th position.
McElrea leads Brabham by .0894 at the end of Lap 27, with Lundqvist 3rd 1.1 back. Rasmussen is trying to keep closing an 0.8 second gap there for a podium spot. 5th is Pedersen, then Robb, Abel, Bogle, Serravalle, Simpson, Francis, Jr. Roe (-2 laps) and Frost is out.
Lap 30 completed has McElrea leading by 1.3 over Brabham, Lundqvist, Rasmussen, Pedersen, Robb is 6th with Abel close in 7th.
Lap 31, McElrea leads by 1.7.
Race control instructs James Roe – 2 laps down – let Ernie Francis, Jr., get around – which he does.
Lap 32, McElrea leads by 1.8 as Pedersen and Robb battle for 5th. Sting Ray Robb thinks he’s getting blocked and the team says they will have race control take a look.
Lap 33, McElrea slightly increases his lead to 1.9. The battle between Robb and Pedersen continues with Pedersen taking the inside line entering Turn 4 and Robb doesn’t dive for the outside this time.
Lap 34, McElrea still leads by 1.9 and Robb is on the overtake down the hill from Turn 2 to Turn 4 and they go side by side in Turn 4 with Pedersen locking his tires, but Robb can’t make the outside move work.
Hunter McElrea wins by 2.0 over Brabham, with Lundqvist 3rd and Rasmussen 4th.. Sting Ray Robb takes 5th with a bold move on the inside of Pedersen entering Turn 13. Seeing them side by side in front of him, Jacob Abel spins in to Turn 13 grass as the field takes the checkered.
This makes Hunter McElrea the 11th driver to win at all three levels of the Road to Indy, USF2000, Indy Pro 2000, and Indy Lights.
|1||27||Hunter McElrea||35||LAP 35||1||Andretti Autosport|
|2||83||Matthew Brabham||35||2.6826||4||Andretti Autosport|
|3||26||Linus Lundqvist||35||7.1228||2||HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing|
|4||28||Christian Rasmussen||35||8.5555||5||Andretti Autosport|
|5||2||Sting Ray Robb||35||14.0837||6||Andretti Autosport|
|6||24||Benjamin Pedersen||35||14.7419||3||Global Racing Group with HMD|
|7||7||Christian Bogle||35||14.9304||10||HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing|
|11||51||Jacob Abel||35||27.5768||7||Abel Motorsports|
|9||21||Kyffin Simpson||35||16.8589||12||TJ Speed Motorsports|
|10||99||Ernie Francis Jr.||35||24.5104||11||Force Indy|
|11||51||Jacob Abel||35||27.5768||7||Abel Motorsports|
|12||12||James Roe||33||2 LAPS||13||TJ Speed Motorsports|
|13||68||Danial Frost||3||Mechanical||9||HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing|