Robert Megennis picked perhaps the perfect place to claim an emphatic first Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires victory: the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
He did so in style, too.
Megennis, from New York, N.Y., began his day by securing the pole position for the Indy Lights Grand Prix of Indianapolis, and though he was briefly headed in the 30-lap race by Andretti Autosport teammate – and championship leader – Oliver Askew, Megennis fought back with a decisive maneuver in Turn 4, then edged clear of Askew to secure a hard-earned and well-deserved victory.
Askew found some extra pace in the closing stages to set the fastest race lap at 1m15.6953s, an average speed of 115.997 mph, narrowly beating the old track record set by current NTT IndyCar Series driver Felix Rosenqvist in 2016. Askew, from Jupiter, Fla., thereby cemented second place ahead of his closest championship rival, Dutchman Rinus VeeKay (Juncos Racing).
Cool, crisp conditions ensured the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course was in good shape for Friday afternoon’s fifth race of the Indy Lights season, and Megennis made good use of his pole position to get a jump on the field. By contrast, outside front row qualifier VeeKay got heavy wheelspin and instantly slipped back into the pack.
Askew put the pressure on Megennis through the first couple of laps before using the extra horsepower offered by the AER turbo engine’s push-to-pass feature down the long front straight and slipping through into the lead at Turn 1. But Megennis fought back, pulling off a very similar maneuver at Turn 4 just two laps later to regain the lead.
Megennis then inched away from his rival, setting a string of fastest race laps to extend his margin to as much as 2.7 seconds. Askew discovered a little more speed in the closing stages but it was too little, too late as Megennis crossed the finishing stripe just over two seconds to the good.
Askew instead had to settle for second, a new lap record, a slightly increased championship lead and the Tilton Hard Charger Award.
VeeKay, after slipping from second to fourth at the first corner, fought his way back past Ryan Norman (Andretti Autosport) to reclaim third on lap 6. David Malukas (BN Racing) also snuck past Norman but began to struggle for speed in the late stages and fell back behind Norman and Zachary Claman (Belardi Auto Racing) down to sixth.
A second qualifying session will take place Sunday at 8:30 a.m. EDT, with the green flag for Round 6 slated for 1:25 p.m., immediately before the IndyCar GP headline event.