Sebastian Saavedra's results through the first four races of the season had been solid – like his qualifying efforts. Both, however, didn't get him to Victory Circle.
This time, the second-year Firestone Indy Lights driver put it all together.
Sebastian Saavedra, who started from the pole in the No. 29 William Rast/Bryan Herta Autosport car, held off Martin Plowman by 0.4820 of a second to win the AvoidTheStork.com 100 under the lights at Iowa Speedway.
It was the third career victory and first of the season for Saavedra, who gave Bryan Herta Autosport its second Firestone Indy Lights victory. Championship points leader J.K. Vernay of Sam Schmidt Motorsports finished 1.36 seconds back.
“The No. 29 car was amazing,” said Saavedra, who jumped into the title mix (32 points behind Vernay). “I'm very glad everything worked out this way. You couldn't imagine how good this car was. Those last 10 laps were crazy. I wanted to make the right decisions and not risk crashing. I saw the guys were coming fast, but we pulled through and I'm very happy.”
Saavedra was enjoying a 2.29-second lead with 15 laps remaining, but was closing fast on lapped traffic. Plowman, driving the No. 27 Automatic Fire Sprinklers/KEP Printing car for AFS Racing Andretti Autosport, began reeling in the Colombian. He cut the deficit from 2.2978 seconds with 10 laps left to .2299 of a second with two to go on the .875-mile oval.
“It was one of the most intense races I have had in my life,” said Plowman, who notched his fourth consecutive top-five finish. “For the first 30 or 40 laps it was just between me and Sebastian. We were pulling away from the field. Then the yellow flag came out (Lap 67 for debris) and that was a very unfortunate time because that was when I was going to start putting the pressure on him to get the lead.
“Sebastian got in traffic and I thought it may be my day, but at the end I just couldn't catch him. It was a great day for us and great for the points.”
Adrian Campos Jr. posted a career-best fourth (first top 10) in the No. 22 TMR-Xtreme Coil Drilling car.
“I was flat until the last corner,” he said. “I'm learning so much here on ovals. For my second race, finishing fourth isn't bad. We're improving and getting closer to the front every race. I did a good job on the restart and overtook two guys. I'm just so happy and grateful to the team.”
Teammate James Hinchcliffe advanced four positions to finish fifth and Philip Major equaled his season best of sixth in the No. 49 Sam Schmidt Motorsports car. Stefan Wilson, driving the other Bryan Herta Autosport entry, finished seventh.
Charlie Kimball took a significant step backward in the championship chase when the No. 26 Levemir FlexPen car for AFS Racing Andretti Autosport made contact with the Turn 2 SAFER Barrier on the first lap.
Kimball was coming off three consecutive runner-up finishes that put him five points behind Vernay in the standings through four of 13 events. He heads to Watkins Glen International 23 points back. Kimball had rebounded from a sub-standard qualifying by topping the chart in the final practice session.
“Starting in the back, I was trying to make a couple of moves early and see if I could get to the front,” he said. “Heading into Turn 1, I was running a little bit higher than I had earlier. I was way out of the gas and the back just came around. Maybe the tires were a little cold and I was just pushing a little harder. The No. 26 Levemir FlexPen car was going to be quick. It had been quick all day. We'll just see how much it's going to hurt us in the championship and move forward from here.”