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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F1: Max Verstappen provides late-lap thrills at U.S. Grand Prix

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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Leave it to Red Bull’s Max Verstappen to provide some late-race thrills at the U.S. Grand Prix.

Verstappen’s key block on Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton late in Sunday’s race denied Hamilton a chance to maybe chase down Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen to win. And it helped deny Hamilton’s bid for the season championship.

Verstappen’s defensive skills allowed the Red Bull driver to finish second, his best result yet at the U.S Grand Prix, his fourth podium in six races. By keeping Hamilton third, it kept the season championship alive, even if just another week to the Mexican Grand Prix.

Last season, Verstappen had surged past Raikkonen on a final-lap pass to finish third. It was the kind of aggressive move that earned him the “Mad Max” nickname. Before he could even reach the podium, race officials declared Verstappen’s move illegal and bumped an angry Verstappen down to fifth.

The Circuit of the Americas this week installed a new curb on the same corner, dubbed “Verstoppen,” to punish drivers who tried anything similar this year. It worked when Verstappen hit it hard enough in qualifying to knock his car out of the session with a damaged suspension and gear box. He started Sunday’s race 18th.

The Dutch driver launched a furious attack through the field and found himself in the thick of things late Sunday. His move to block Hamilton wasn’t on the same corner with the curbs, and it came with him playing defense instead of being the aggressor.

Verstappen had to make multiple moves to keep Hamilton behind him and finally drove the Mercedes wide, forcing Hamilton to finally concede the position and the race.

“I was trying to get close to Kimi but at the same time keeping an eye on Lewis in my mirror. It was close, but we managed to hang on,” Verstappen said. “It is safe to say today went a lot better than expected.”

Knowing Verstappen’s aggressive nature, Hamilton said there was too much at stake to risk a collision.

“The key to me was to make sure I finished ahead of Seb. I don’t care when you win a championship, just that you win,” Hamilton said. “”For Max, to come back from so far, he did a great job.”

Verstappen has been just as aggressive at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City.

In 2016, race officials ruled he improperly left the track to gain an advantage on Vettel to finish third and he was bumped from the podium. Last season, Verstappen’s strong start sent him into the lead out of the first turn, while Hamilton and Vettel bumped each other. The collision ruptured one of Hamilton’s tires.

Verstappen won the race while Hamilton limped home in ninth place, but still won the season championship.