by Mary Champion
It was Carb Day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This is the second-busiest day of the month, surpassed only by race day itself.
The day consisted of a final hour of IndyCar practice, the Indy Lights 40-lap. 100-mile Indy Lights race, and the IndyCar pit stop competition, plus a concert after the racing action was over.
The Indy Lights race turned out to be the highlight of the day. As the race ended, Dean Stoneman was victorious over Ed Jones by 0.0024 of a second. This was the closest finish in Indy Lights history as well as in the history of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The box scored indicated that there were only three lead changes between the pair, but those were recorded at the start/finish line. They swapped the lead position several times in the middle of laps as they consistently ran side-by-side on the track.
The 16-car field was lined up by points as yesterday’s qualification session was rained out. The first lap was run under the yellow due to debris on the track.
The green that came out on the second lap was short-lived as Kyle Kaiser, who started third, hit the wall coming out of Turn 4 on Lap 2 and slid along the outside wall, coming to a stop about one-third of the way down the frontstretch.
When the green came back out on Lap 7, the racing action was hot and heavy as the field was running two and three wide throughout the field.
At Lap 15 Stoneman led, followed by Jones, Shelby Blackstock, Juan Piedrahita and Dalton Kellett.
As the laps went by, the field settled down somewhat into a long line of closely spaced cars.
The second yellow came out again on Lap 30 after Santiago Urrutia spun in Turn 2.
The green flag waved again on Lap 32 and the two and three-wide racing action resumed throughout the field until the final yellow came out on Lap 36 when Heamin Choi spun and stalled the car in Turn 2.
The final yellow lasted until the green and white flags were shown, indicating there was but one lap of the frenetic action remaining. Jones grabbed the lead from Stoneman as the pair took the green, but Stoneman was not to be denied and the pair ran side by side around the track on the final lap. Jones took one last shot at getting the win, but fell just short as Stoneman went under the checkered flag almost imperceptively in front of Jones. The human eye could not detect the victor and it took electronic scoring to determine who actually won the race.
Kellett finished third, while Blackstock came home fourth and Scott Hargrove rounded out the top five.
Before the Indy Lights race, the final IndyCar practice before Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 was held.
The 33 cars ran a total of 1,368 laps in the one-hour session with the fastest speed turned in by Tony Kanaan at 226.280 mph. Carlos Munoz was second quickest at 224.772 mph. He was followed by Scott Dixon at 224.606 mph. Will Power was fourth on the speed chart at 22,384 mph, while Ryan Hunter-Reay rounded out the top five at 224.327 mph.
There was one incident in the session when Pippa Mann did a quarter-spin and made right rear contact with the SAFER Barrier in Turn 4, coming to rest on the frontstretch with damage to the rear of the car.
“I’m perfectly fine,” Mann said. “I just feel really sorry for the crew. I was trying to find some clean air in the pack running there. Got a little too low on the inside. Dropped the ball and gave them some work to do overnight.”
Following the Freedom 100, the annual Indy 500 Pit Stop Challenge was held. Helio Castroneves’ team won the Challenge for the eighth time, earning the $50,000 prize. To help his team celebrate, Castroneves climbed the fence in front of the Tower Terrace. His team defeated that of Mikhail Aleshin of Schmidt Peterson with Team Pelfrey in the final round.
A newly designed car for the USF 2000 Series, the first rung on the Road to Indy, was unveiled this morning. The new car, know as the Tatuus USF-17, will be used in the series in 2017. The rolling chassis is less expensive than the current chassis. Thirty chassis are scheduled to be delivered by December and an open test will be held in 2017.
The only on-track activity tomorrow is some demonstration laps by vintage cars. The ceremonial drivers meeting will be held, as will a memorabilia show and an autograph session.
Sunday is the big day that has been 100 years in the making, the 100th Indianapolis 500. The sold-out race is scheduled to take the green flag at12:21 p.m. EDT.