WARNING: Today’s Firestone Indy Lights Grand Prix of Houston from the MD Anderson Cancer Center Speedway at Reliant Park will be broadcast tomorrow at 4 p.m. ET on the NBC Sports Network. If you don’t want to know who won the penultimate round of the 2013 Lights championship until tomorrow, we advise that you do not read any further.
American driver Sage Karam took a major step toward claiming the 2013 Firestone Indy Lights championship with a wire-to-wire victory over Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammate Gabby Chaves this afternoon at Houston’s Reliant Park.
With his third win of 2013 in the bag, Karam now holds a 16-point lead in the standings over Chaves going into the season finale on Oct. 20 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.
Karam appeared set to face an early challenge from Chaves, but on Lap 10, the Colombian briefly got sideways while going through a corner. He managed to keep his car off the wall but lost valuable momentum, as Karam proceeded to rebuild his lead to about two seconds.
Chaves was able to again cut the lead down a bit before Juan Pablo Garcia went into the Turn 3 tire barriers at Lap 18. That bunched up the field for a restart at Lap 22 but the yellow quickly emerged once more due to problems involving Matthew Di Leo in the Turn 3 runoff (he would eventually get back on his way and continue the race).
Shortly afterwards, Carlos Munoz’s car suffered an apparent mechanical problem under the yellow and came to a stop outside Turn 4. Munoz had entered Houston down just two points to Karam in the championship, but as a result of his DNF, he has fallen to fourth in the title race at 36 points behind Karam.
The extended caution made the 45-lap race a timed event, and Karam quickly extended his lead off the restart at Lap 27. As Karam ticked off the remaining circuits up front, Chaves was left to battle Peter Dempsey for the runner-up spot until the latter driver also came to a stop on track – bringing out the full course yellow on Lap 37 that effectively ended the race.
Also taking a big hit championship-wise was Jack Hawksworth, who suffered on restarts during the race and was then black-flagged at Lap 32 for a variety of issues – including contact with Zach Veach that spun out the Andretti Autosport pilot. Hawksworth is now 35 points down to Karam with one race remaining.