After a rainy qualifying day which saw him claim the pole, Matheus Leist raced on to a flag-to-flag victory in Friday’s Freedom 100.
The Brazilian rookie faced pressure from multiple drivers during the 40-lap event, but was able to fend off all comers. Leist had a clean start once the green flew, which is more than his front row companion Colton Herta could say. After qualifying 2nd, Herta came under intense pressure from Dalton Kellet in turns one and two, and while trying to fend him off, Herta clipped Kellet’s wing, spinning himself up the track and into his other teammate, Ryan Norman. Kellet’s car was fine, but both Herta and Norman were forced to retire before the completion of even one lap.
After five laps of caution, Leist once again had a clean start and was able to slightly pull away from the rest of the field. Zachary Claman DeMelo followed in second, with the Carlin car of Neil Alberico behind in third, after a pass on Kellet.
A pattern quickly emerged, with Leist turning consistent laps out in front of the field. On Lap 13, Kellet was able to work his way back up into second with a pass on De Melo. The loss of momentum also allowed 2016 Pro Mazda champ Aaron Telitz to pass DeMelo, claiming third. On Lap 19, Telitz moved further up the field, passing Kellet for second while going in to Turn three.
The majority of the race would be ran under that order, with Leist leading laps in front of Telitz, Kellet, Alberico, DeMelo and Santi Urrutia.
Telitz put constant pressure on Leist, making a move on Lap 30 for the lead. Unfortunately for the Young American, Leist was able to rebuff him. Telitz tried again, and nearly succeeded a few laps later, only to lose all of his momentum, allowing Kellet to take the second position.
However, Kellet was never able to get close enough. On Lap 40, Leist took the double checkered flag, and claimed his maiden Indy Lights victory. At the start finish line, Telitz was able to just squeak by Kellet, claiming second. Alberico and Urrutia rounded out the top five.
The Indy Lights field will get a few weeks of much needed recuperation, until they return to action at the famed Road America, on June 23-25.