by Mary ChampionSpeedway, Ind., May 26 – Matheus Leist, a rookie in the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires Series race led every lap to claim the win in Friday’s 40 Lap Freedom 100 Indy Lights race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Leist started on the pole after setting both the 1 Lap and the 2 Lap average track records in qualifying, breaking both records set by Ethan Ringel on May 21, 2015.
At the start, Leist jumped ahead of fellow front row starter, Colton Herta.
As the field entered Turn 2 on the race’s opening lap, the only incident of the race occurred when Herta spun and collected fourth starting Ryan Norman.
Neither driver was injured but both cars were out of the race.
The green came back out as the field began Lap 5 with Leist leading, Zachary Claman De Melo, who started fifth in second, Neil Alberico third, Dalton Kellett fourth and Aaron Telitz rounding out the top five.
On Lap 9, Telitz passed Alberico for fourth. The next lap the field was beginning to spread out Leist held a 1.5 second lead.
Most of the field was spread out along the front straightaway in a single line by Lap 14. Leist was maintaining his lead with Kellett second and Telitz third. As Leist continued to lead a battle for second was developing between Kellett and Telitz. They ran side-by-side for some time with Telitz eventually claiming second.
At the half-way point of the race, Leist continued to lead with Teitz running second, while Kellett was third with Alberico fourth and Claman De Melo rounding out the top five.
The next lap, Telitz started to close on Leist and by Lap 32 the pair was side-by-side. On the next lap, Telitz attempted to pass Leist on the outside but he couldn’t pull it off, went high, and Kellett slipped past him into second, dropping Telitz to third.
The top five remained in the same order with Leist in the lead, Kellett second, Telitz third, Alberico fourth and Santi Urrutia fifth until the field was coming onto the front straightaway on the way to the checkered flag when Telitz passed Kellett for second, just as the pair crossed the finish line.
At the finish, Herta and Norman were the only two cars out of the race. The remaining 12 cars all finished on the lead lap.
For Kellett, it was déjà vu all over again, as he also finished third in last year’s Freedom 100.
“Seriously, we did a great job. The team worked really hard. We came off the truck quick. Went right out in the first session, qual sim (qualifying simulation) and I was really confident coming back here. I think it speaks to the work the Andretti crew has been doing all year,” said Kellett.
Leist’s win was especially impressive as he is a rookie in the series, this was his first race ever on an oval, and his first win in Indy Lights.
In the post-race press conference, Leist almost seemed surprised by his dominant victory in the race.
“This is such a big place and important place. A lot of big drivers have won here. The best drivers in the world have won here. So yeah, I think today it is a big goal that I had. So yeah, I’m quite happy. This is a dream that came true, but I’m still looking forward to the next round, so we have a long championship ahead of us. We still have two more ovals in the championship. So yeah, (I’m) looking forward for these and hopefully we can get more wins.” he said.
Telitz was happy and disappointed at the same time with his second place finish.
“I’m obviously disappointed I didn’t get first. I think you come to Indianapolis, and you don’t care where you finish unless it’s first place. That’s what we came here for. A little disappointing but still, honestly, a great day, especially in terms of the championship. A lot of the contenders didn’t have great days, so I made up a lot of points on the other guys,” he exclaimed.