Wade Cunningham held off Charlie Kimball by 0.4368sec to become the first three-time winner of the Firestone Freedom 100 on Carb Day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“The car was great in the draft and it was pretty easy for me to pass Charlie, and both times he got in front I didn't panic because I knew in a couple of laps I'd be back in front,” said Cunningham, the 2005 series champion, who started second in the No. 77 Lucas Oil/BSS/Sam Schmidt Motorsports entry. “I never gave him the chance to get by.”
James Hinchcliffe, winner of the Long Beach race in mid-April, finished 2.3 seconds back in the No. 2 TMR-Xtreme Coil Drilling car. Dan Clarke, driving the No. 40 Wasteco Deans Knight Special for Walker Racing, posted the highest finish in his three Firestone Indy Lights races (advancing six positions from 10th), and Martin Plowman finished fifth in the No. 27 Automatic Fire Sprinklers/KEP Printing entry.
The victory was the 28th in Firestone Indy Lights and the fifth in the eight-year history of the race for Sam Schmidt Motorsports.
“It's been a dream week,” said team owner Sam Schmidt, whose car through a partnership with Chip Ganassi Racing will start 10th in the Indianapolis 500 with driver Townsend Bell. “Wade is just a consummate professional and he just loves this place. He hand-worked on that car for a week to make it ready for this race. He never left the shop, and it showed today.”
Kimball, driving the No. 26 Levemir FlexPen car for AFS Racing Andretti Autosport, grabbed the point on lap 33, and it turned into a two-car sprint to the finish. Cunningham regained the lead on lap 35 but never had more than a two car-length advantage to the checkered flag. It was the fourth-closest finish in the 40-lap race.
It was the third consecutive runner-up finish for Kimball, who closed to five points of J.K. Vernay in the championship standings through four races.
“The setup wasn't exactly where we wanted it to be," Kimball said. "I ran out of tools about midway through the race. I had to get the car down almost all the way down to the apron just to get it to turn, and it's a ride down there. But it's what it took to challenge for the win.”
The goal of being the first female winner at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was dashed for Pippa Mann on lap 3 when the back end of the No. 17 Team E car driven by veteran Jeff Simmons swung out enough in Turn 1 to collect Mann's No. 11 Sam Schmidt Motorsports car. She was the first female to start on the pole at the Speedway and the second in Firestone Indy Lights competition.
The incident created the only caution period in the race. Rookie Philip Major, driving the No. 49 Sam Schmidt Motorsports car, finished a season-high sixth and Stefan Wilson in the No. 28 Bryan Herta Autosport entry recorded his third top 10 in seventh.