By Steve Wittich
The call to fire the AER 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder engines powering the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires drivers were fired at 12:05 pm.
After two laps behind the pace car front row of Lundqvist and McElrea brought the field across Korean War Veterans Memorial Bridge to get the 35-lap race underway. However, the lap count and clock began when they crossed the finish line in front of Nissan Stadium.
Lundqvist got the jump on McElrea with the front row drivers filing nose-to-tail through Turn 9. Behind them, the field was side-by-side with Abel (up two positions), Pedersen, and Francis, Jr. (up one position).
The running order after the first 14 corners was Lundqvist, McElrea, Robb, Matthew Brabham (Andretti Autosport), Benjamin Pedersen (Global Racing Group w/HMD Motorsports), Jacob Abel (Abel Motorsports), Christian Rasmussen (Andretti Autosport), Danial Frost (Andretti Autosport), Ernie Francis, Jr. (Force Indy), James Roe, Jr. (HMD Motorsports w/Dale Coyne Racing), Christian Bogle (HMD Motorsports w/Dale Coyne Racing), and Kyffin Simpson (HMD Motorsports w/Dale Coyne Racing).
On Lap 3, Abel lost two spots, dropping back to his eighth starting position.
On Lap 5, the No. 27 of McElrea got a better run off Turn 3 and gaining as they crossed the bridge to Turn 4. The Andretti Autosport rookie locked up the right front tire, almost making contact with the leader as they went through the tight Turn 5, 6, and 7 portions of the track.
After seven laps, two seconds covered the top four.
On the next lap, Francis, Jr, who was running ninth, tagged the wall, damaging the left-rear suspension. The Force Indy driver came to pit road for quick repairs. He got back out on the track, but was two laps down.
By Lap 11, Bogle had caught up with the back of the field, putting pressure on his new teammate Roe.
At the front of the field, Lundquist had a somewhat comfortable one-second lead over McElrea, who was facing pressure from his teammate Robb.
On Lap 14, Lundqvist turned the quickest lap of the race, growing his lead to over three seconds.
On Lap 18, Robb reported that his push-to-pass was not working, but on the next lap, he got a great run onto the bridge, going to the outside of McElrea and braking really late on the run down to Turn 4, but could not complete the pass.
At the halfway mark of the race, Lundqvist’s lead was 4.5 seconds over McElrea, with the rest of the running order Robb, Brabham, Pedersen, Rasmussen, Frost, Abel, Simpson, Roe, Bogle, and Francis, Jr.
On Lap 20, Rasmussen went outside Pedersen in the braking area of Turn 4, hitting a bump, getting sideways, and almost making contact with the Dirtfish sponsored orange and black No. 24.
That gave him a comfortable gap to the reigning Indy Pro 2000 champion.
On Lap 21, McElrea almost missed Turn 4, putting Robb right on his gearbox. The battle for the lead was five seconds up the road from the remainder of the field. Behind them, only three seconds separated Brabham in fourth and Abel in eighth.
On Lap 24, Francis, Jr., found the tire barrier in Turn 8, keeping the engine running and continuing.
With ten laps remaining, the championship and race leader was 6.3 seconds ahead of McElrea.
Behind the leader in that battle for seventh, Abel faked to the outside before diving inside Frost and completing an impressive pass in Turn 9.
On Lap 26, Pedersen and Rasmussen, who were running fifth and sixth, were both in the run-off after Pedersen on the inside, locked up in the braking zone of Turn 9. Danish driver Pedersen could not get stopped but didn’t make the corner, blocking his countryman in the process.
With seven laps remaining, Robb took another look to the outside of his teammate on the run to Turn 9 but wisely tucked back behind the driver in second.
With five laps remaining, Robb’s engineer Ron Barhorst implored the Idahoan to ‘get his elbows out.’
With five laps remaining, McElrea and Robb made front wing (Robb) to left rear wheel (McElrea) contact as the drivers made the run over the Korean War Veterans Memorial Bridge towards Turn 9.
Race control announced that the interaction was under review, announcing a while later that no action was necessary.
On Lap 33, Robb turned the quickest lap of the race but was too far back to make serious inroads to the lead.
For the second time in the 30-lap race, the drivers in fifth and sixth came together. This time, Frost made an optimistic move down the inside of Abel in Turn 4, with both drivers coming to a stop.
Frost was penalized for avoidable contact with the penalty marked as pending.
Indy Lights Music City Grand Prix results
|1||26||Linus Lundqvist||HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing||35 LAPS|
|2||2||Sting Ray Robb||Andretti Autosport||-7.2221|
|3||27||Hunter McElrea||Andretti Autosport||-10.3944|
|4||83||Matthew Brabham||Andretti Autosport||-16.3765|
|5||28||Christian Rasmussen||Andretti Autosport||-25.6394|
|6||24||Benjamin Pedersen||Global Racing Group with HMD||-41.4944|
|7||7||Christian Bogle||HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing||-41.9224|
|8||21||Kyffin Simpson||HMD Motorsports||-42.5055|
|9||51||Jacob Abel||Abel Motorsports||-72.8024|
|10||68||Danial Frost||HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing||– 2 LAPS|
|11||99||Ernie Francis Jr.||Force Indy||-4 LAPS|
|12||11||James Roe||HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing||-14 LAPS|