Colton Herta held off Pato O’Ward and Dalton Kellett to spearhead an Andretti 1-2-3 in a ferocious Indy Lights Freedom 100 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Friday.
The race was defined by action: regular three-wide running, five race leaders, and 20 lead changes; more than double the previous record of nine. At one point, six consecutive laps featured a different driver at the head of the pack. Helped by a full run under greens, the race also broke a new speed record: 191.422mph, up from 184.679mph.
Herta took the lead on the final lap, but in keeping with recent Freedom 100 tradition, the deal was settled by a drafting match out of the final corner. He crossed the yard of bricks less than half a car length — just 0.0281 of a second — ahead of O’Ward.
“I passed under the flag stand on the last lap and saw the white flag and honestly I didn’t know it was the white flag,” said Herta, who also earned a two-race sweep at the IMS Grand Prix road course circuit two weeks ago. “It was a very late move but it all worked out.
“I knew it would be a tough race, it was a hot one and the tires were going off so much at the end.”
O’Ward, meanwhile, was left ruing his car placement over the final few corners
“I knew we would get a run at the end of the straight but coming up to the first corner Colton positioned himself real well and I washed up to the wall,” he said.
“I wish we got that one. We missed it by a wing. I know the finishes in the Freedom 100 are always like that, but it’s just a bummer. Everybody raced really well, but it’s just a bummer we didn’t get the win. The team gave me an awesome car, we just didn’t position ourselves properly at the end of the race. “
Kellett, who’d started from pole and led a race-high 17 laps, completed the Andretti rout. The Canadian had been right in the mix during the opening laps, but sat back during the middle of the race to save his tires before surging back toward the front in the final two laps.
“I had a good run though Turn 4 but Pato came up and I got a bit of air wash and that was that,” he said. The result marks the third time he has finished third at this race. “I think I’m the Carlos Munoz of the Freedom 100,” he said.
His place on the podium came at the expense of Santi Urrutia, who was very much a factor until the final couple of laps. Victor Franzoni was also in the hunt early on, but his hopes were ended when he was forced to pit with a tire problem after 18 laps.