Josef Newgarden, who started the Firestone Freedom 100 on the front row based on entrant points, earned Firestone Indy Lights race the victory under caution on Friday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
An incident on a lap 34 restart involving the No. 4 Belardi Auto Racing Special of Jorge Goncalvez and the No. 9 Liberty Engineering Racing Special of teammate Anders Krohn prevented the 40-lap race to be completed under green.
The cars were running three-wide with the No. 77 Mazda Road to Indy/CURB Records/Sam Schmidt Motorsports car entering Turn 1 of the 2.5-mile oval when Krohn's car, running on the bottom of the racetrack, spun and made contact with the outside wall. Goncalvez's car, in the middle of the pack, spun almost simultaneously and made initial right-side contact with the SAFER Barrier. It then darted across the track and made heavy contact with the inside wall. He was alert and transported to IU Health Methodist Hospital for evaluation.
"It's an unbelievable achievement for the team," said Newgarden, of Nashville, Tenn. "I'm so grateful, and I have to thank Esteban (Guerrieri) because he helped me the whole race. It's not really the way I wanted to win it, but I'll take it."
Guerrieri in the No. 7 Lucas Oil/Sam Schmidt Motorsports car finished second and Victor Garcia was third in the No. 22 TMR-Xtreme Coil Drilling car. Bryan Clauson, the reigning USAC National Drivers Championship title holder, finished fifth in his first Firestone Indy Lights start.
Newgarden, who also won the season opener on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., took over the championship points lead with 151. Guerrieri has 125 and Stefan Wilson, who finished fourth in the No. 5 Andretti Autosport car, has 121.
Bryan Clausen finished fifth in his series debut. The USAC regular had started from the pole by virtue of wntrant points after qualifying had been rained out.
"I fell back early there and really didn't really do my job there at the beginning. I had a hard time figuring it out for a little while," he admitted. "I didn't have enough green flag laps to make up for those mistakes early on. All the guys on the car did a great job; I had a great racecar. I made a lot of moves on the high line, but it just wasn't enough. It was a whole new ballgame, a lot different than anything I've ever done."
Also making his series debut was Chase Austin, driving for Willy T. Ribbs' new team. He finished ninth.
"It was pretty cool," he related. "We had little issues. The gearing was a little off, so I couldn't really pass anybody by myself. The only way I'd get to pass anybody is when they'd check up in the corner. I just kind of had to be more ballsy than they were, which worked out for the most part.
"The car started going away a little bit in the end before we took that right-rear tire. And just the cautions hurt us a lot on the restarts. But, besides that, I have to thank American Honda, because without them we wouldn't be here; Chris Miles and Willy T. for putting me in the car."