Carlos Munoz led flag-to-flag to capture the Firestone Indy Lights Series season finale at Auto Club Speedway for his second win of the year, while the major winner on the day was Sam Schmidt Motorsports' rookie Tristan Vautier who locked up the season championship.
Vautier finished fourth, behind Esteban Guerrieri in third. Guerrieri gained three points but was unable to make up the deficit of 11 markets going in to Vautier. Vautier's title is the sixth for Schmidt, the third in a row after J.K. Vernay and Josef Newgarden won successive titles in 2010 and 2011. Besides those three, Thiago Medeiros (2004), Jay Howard (2006) and Alex Lloyd (2007) won Indy Lights titles for Schmidt.
Vautier advanced to Indy Lights this season on the strength of winning the Star Mazda championship last year.
"I came over to the USA because of the Mazda Road to Indy," said Vautier. "I was struggling getting up the ladder in Europe and I knew that if I was coming over here and was able to win the Star Mazda Championships I would be able to get into the bigger cars. That was the goal. I won the championship last year. I cannot be thankful enough to Mazda for what they do for young drivers. Obviously, you have to earn it. You have to win championships. But it really rewards the winners, and you know, they don't pick you up because they like you the pick you up because you earned it. You have to win to get into this scholarship system so I'm really thankful to that, I wouldn't be here without them."
Schmidt knew Vautier had title potential from the get-go.
"I'm not sure where to start, but he said to me I haven't raised a lot of money and I said, 'Unequivocally, race where you can win, race where you can dominate.' With the scholarship he could compete here and step up with it. We had all the confidence in the world in him."
Guerrieri was diplomatic, if frustrated, with his second consecutive runner-up finish in the series championship.
"The numbers sound great but I wanted the championship," he said. "I'm obviously disappointed because we wanted more consistency this year. I knew consistency would be a key factor. Really, we were not quick enough in the last 2-3 races. We came here and thought the track would be harder on the tires. I thought I had a chance in overtaking Tristan; then they started to pull away. They had a better car than us. Congrats to Andretti, but big congrats to the team. I really felt confident for the championship win, but that's how it is. If there was one to deserve it, other than me, was him. I tried to do everything I could. We'll swallow this one and figure out next year."
Munoz took the win ahead of David Ostella, in a career-best second for Team Moore Racing, Guerrieri, Vautier and Victor Carbone.
"It was an awesome race from the beginning to the end. I could make a gap from the second or third-place guys," said Munoz. "It also was a shame that Sebastian had the mechanical problems in the first lap. But it's the best way to finish the season; it's been a learning process. I've had quite good racing the last two weeks, mechanical in Baltimore."
Stefan Wilson took Fan Force United's best finish of the season in sixth and Bruno Palli was seventh in his series debut for Juncos Racing.
Polesitter Sebastian Saavedra's quest for a 600-mile day between 100 in Indy Lights and 500 in the IndyCar race ended before it even began. The Colombian had a gearbox issue and never left the pit lane in this event.