Esteban Guerrieri earned his second Firestone Indy Lights victory of the season, holding off Sam Schmidt Motorsports teammate Josef Newgarden in the first of a doubleheader weekend at the City Centre Airport circuit.
Guerrieri, driving the No. 7 Lucas Oil car, completed 36 of the scheduled 40 laps (race was on a 60-minute limit) because of three caution periods that totaled 25 minutes. Newgarden, the pole sitter and Firestone Indy Lights championship points leader by 26 over Guerrieri, finished 0.6524sec behind for his fifth top five of the season.
Guerrieri overtook Newgarden in Turn 5 of the first lap on the 2.24-mile, 13-turn circuit and was in command through the three restarts.
"Starting from the pole has been good, but not good enough for the wins," said the Argentinian, who has five Sunoco Pole Awards to his credit this season. "It's not that I didn't want to win the pole today, Josef was just a bit a quicker. We were both off to a very good pace from the beginning.
"The changes we made between practice and qualifying were done in a very short time. I saw my car 10 minutes before qualifying and it was in three pieces, so big thanks to the guys. Today was very much a team effort, finishing 1-2 with Josef. It was a good race but there's another race tomorrow so we'll do the best we can."
The final full-course caution was called on Lap 27 when the No. 26 Andretti Autosport car of Peter Dempsey touched tires with the No. 3 Nevoni/Sam Schmidt Motorsports car driven by Victor Carbone as they dueled for third exiting Turn 1. Dempsey was in the process of completing the pass, but his car's right-rear tire and the left-front of Carbone's car, which sent the on its left side and then upside down. Both drivers were checked and cleared to drive.
“I am just getting more comfortable in the car, and (the crash is) a shame because this by far is the best race for me so far this year," said Carbone, who qualified a season-high fifth. "I was fighting with Peter and I looked in my mirrors. I knew he was going to get a run on me. I went into Turn 1 as deep as I could because I knew he was going to try and match me. He got inside me. I was going to get a run on him on the outside coming out of one, and he didn't leave me any room and we touched. It is a shame.”
That opened the door for Oliver Webb in the No. 12 Jensen MotorSport car, who finished third in his series debut.
"This has been a crazy week for me," said Webb, 20, of Manchester, England, who competed in the Cooper Tires British Formula International Series in 2010. "We did a test at the beginning of the week and went from Manchester to Atlanta to Indianapolis and Vegas then ended up here all in five days, so it has been tight but I think I am learning a lot. The race was long so it gave me a change to overtake some cars and gain some positions that I needed after a bad qualifying (11th)."
Stefan Wilson, who earned his first series victory two weeks ago at Toronto in the No. 5 Andretti Autosport car, advanced from the 13th starting position to finish fourth. Bruno Andrade, making his second start in the No. 29 Bryan Herra Autosport car, finished fifth but was penalized for blocking. He switched positions with sixth-place Gustavo Yacaman in the No. 2 TMR-Tuvacol-Xtreme Coil Drilling entry.
Drivers take the green flag for the second race at 12:15 p.m. (ET) July 24, with the starting grid set by fastest laps from Race 1. Newgarden (1:22.9337) again will start on the pole and Guerrieri (1:23.0158) will be on the outside of Row 1.
"We had a really strong race, it just wasn't quite enough at the end," Newgarden said. "We have been saying points, points, points all along, so I think that is going to be the key for us to win the championship. We came off a disappointing result in Toronto (eighth) and we didn't want to see that result happen again. So coming into this weekend we had a very positive attitude still, but we are definitely focusing on points and what it takes to build those. It is definitely finishing in the top three and looking for wins along the way."