MRTI RACE REPORT: FREEDOM 100
In their banner race, the Freedom 100, it was an up and down day for the Andretti Autosport Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires team at The Brickyard.
Getting the team’s second taste of an oval this year, it was the first opportunity for rookies Colton Herta, Nico Jamin and Ryan Norman to race around Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s oval in an Indy Lights Dallara IL-15. For second-year Indy Lights driver Dalton Kellett, it was an exciting return, looking to best his highest finish in the series after crossing the yard of bricks third in last year’s Freedom 100.
Weather seemed to be both an issue and the theme of the weekend, delaying Freedom 100 practice and qualifying Thursday due to rainy conditions. After a shortened 20-minute practice session, the drivers took the oval to qualify. Heading out second, Kellett laid down a two-lap average of 198.011 mph, briefly setting the provisional Indy Lights track record. After Matheus Leist and teammate Colton Herta took their turns, Kellett lined up to start third in Friday’s race, with the two taking over Kellett’s accomplishment. Herta, after his qualifying attempt, bested his teammate by 0.637 mph to start second after his two-lap average of 198.648 mph.
Ryan Norman, who’s first time turning laps on an oval came at preseason testing at Homestead-Miami Speedway, seemed to be happy and comfortable racing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for his first time. Running strong during Monday’s testing and Thursday’s practice and qualifying sessions, qualifying run at The Brickyard, saw him starting fourth with his two-lap average of 197.697 mph.
Nico Jamin, who already saw success at Indianapolis in May after winning the Indy Lights Grand Prix of Indianapolis, looked to continue success for the Freedom 100. Due to engine issues Monday in testing, the team changed motors but continued to struggle Thursday. Qualifying with a two-lap average of 195.661 mph, Jamin was set to start 13th.
Taking the green flag on Carb Day, Herta and Norman saw an early end to their day after making contact with each other before Lap 1 was complete. Both unhurt from the contact and walking away, they were unable to continue and retired early from the race.
Settling in for the 40-lap event, Jamin did the best he could to advance, finishing the race in 10th with his sixth top-10 of the season. While Kellett also settled in, he did what he could to fight his way to the front of the field. While not quite having enough to overtake leader Matheus Leist, he and second-place runner Aaron Telitz battled it out with the race coming to a close. Crossing the finish line third, Kellett ties his highest career finish in Indy Lights.
The four roll on to Road America for Rounds 8 and 9, taking on the 4.014-mile, 14-turn road course in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, June 23-25. Coverage from Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, airs Sunday, June 25, at 11:30 a.m. ET on NBC Sports Network.
Dalton Kellett – No. 28 K-Line Insulators USA Mazda
Started: 3 // Finished: 3
“It feels great. This is definitely the place where you want to be up front. Obviously, I wanted to cross the finish line first, but Carlin did a great job this weekend and [Matheus] Leist was hard to catch. It just showed that they were able to beat us, but we brought the car home third. Unfortunately, Ryan [Norman] and Colton [Herta] got caught up on Lap 1, but the first lap is usually hectic. I want to build on this finish and keep the momentum up on ovals. I know we have a strong car on ovals, so I’m looking forward to Iowa soon. We’ve got to work a little bit on our road course set up, so I’m looking forward to testing and working on that at Road America this week.”
Nico Jamin – No. 27 DuraMAX Powered by RelaDyne Mazda
Started: 13 // Finished: 10
“Overall, it was the wasn’t the best race of the season for me. We qualified in the back, and we were three miles per hour down in qualifying. The car in traffic wasn’t too bad, and I was able to pass Shelby [Blackstock]. I think 10th was the best I could do today, and there wasn’t much more in the car. When we were in no-tow and the leader was in no-tow as well, we were five miles per hour down on a lap, so there’s not much we could do. The good news Kyle Kaiser finished right ahead of me, so we’re still second in the championship, and now it’s back to a road course. I know we’ll be good there.”
Colton Herta – No. 98 Deltro Energy Mazda
Started: 2 // Finished: 13
“I didn’t really get a good look while I was spinning to know exactly what happened, but I guess somebody was on my inside and we made contact. I’ll have to look at the video. We were quick and had a really good race car and that’s the most important thing so we’ll move onward.”
Ryan Norman – No. 48 Flip Side Mazda
Started: 4 // Finished: 14
“I was going through Turn 2 when I saw Colton spin and come up the track – I kind of had nowhere to go. I’m really disappointed, this was our highest qualifying position all year so we were looking forward to a good result. We’ll pull together and get back at it at Road America.”