Indy Lights: Herta wins Freedom 100 thriller

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The Freedom 100 was its usual thrill-ride for the Firestone Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires championship, though this year proved to be a little more intense than usual. Frantic, three-wide racing was the name of game from the outset and saw five different drivers swap the lead a record 20 times, obliterating the previous record of nine.

In the end, Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing’s Colton Herta held off Andretti Autosport stablemates Pato O’Ward and Dalton Kellett to take the victory, his first on an oval, and complete a sweep of the Indy Lights events at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway – he also won both races on the IMS Road Course earlier this month.

An elated Herta was beside himself after scoring a victory on the 2.5-mile oval.

“It’s so cool. I didn’t really realize how cool it was until I got to kiss the bricks. Both my dad’s IndyCar wins, I held off here because I didn’t deserve it. Now I finally deserved it. Damn, that’s so cool,” he declared in the post-race press conference.”

The final lead change came at the white flag, with Herta passing Santi Urrutia in a three-wide move that also saw O’Ward go to the outside of Urrutia and take second.

From there, Herta needed to fend off a late challenge from O’Ward and Dalton Kellett, and who worked his way up to third on the final lap.

Herta just barely managed to do so, winning by half of a car-width at the end.

In describing the final pass, Herta also revealed that he had no idea they were starting the final lap when it happened.

“I didn’t even know it was the white flag until I pulled out, the guy was waving the white flag. (I passed them on the last lap and held it,” he added.

Second place finisher O’Ward described that his No. 27 Dallara IL-15 got in the aero wash of Herta’s No. 98 machine exiting the final corner, which forced O’Ward to lift, and that proved to be all the difference in the run to the checkered flag.

“I tried to position myself the best I could for the last lap. But I just got the wash coming out of turn four. My car was facing directly towards the wall. I had to lift. Dalton was behind me. I got a nice little tow from Colton. It just wasn’t enough to get him at the line. We barely missed it by a wing,” O’Ward detailed.

Kellett rounded out the podium, followed by Urrutia, Ryan Norman, Aaron Telitz, Davey Hamilton Jr., and Victor Franzoni, who finished two laps down after a pair of unscheduled pit stops for tire problems.

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Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10-3 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 7 p.m. to USA Network. Peacock will have flag-to-flag coverage.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III