The Firestone Freedom 100 Indy Lights race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Friday for Carb Day was won by Rookie JOSEF NEWGARDEN/No.11 Copart/Score Big/Robo-Pong/Sam Schmidt Motorsports. He was gridded second based on entrant points, after qualifying and most of the first practice was rained out Thursday. Newgarden led four times for 30 laps, including the first lap, fourth, and twelfth laps, as well as the final 25. The race finished under caution.

Newgarden also won the season’s opener race. This victory gives team owner SAM SCHMIDT, his sixth Freedom 100 victory in nine races, three of them back to back – a record. Newgarden is from Tennessee, making him the first American to win the race since ED CARPENTER won the inaugural race.

Newgarden’s spotter was DAVID REININGER, veteran spotter and motorsports broadcaster. Reininger also spots for IndyCar driver, TONY KANAAN/No.82 KV Racing Technology – Lotus.

Newgarden was elated after the race. “This is unbelievable. This race means a lot to Sam, and I am grateful to give him the victory. This is the biggest win I think I’ve ever had. To win the Firestone Freedom 100 in front of this crowd at this famous racetrack is incredible.”

Esteban Guerrieri's car
Esteban Guerrieri's car

Second was Rookie ESTEBAN GUERRIERI/No.7 Lucas Oil/Sam Schmidt Motorsports, setting another record – first 1-2 Indy Lights finish by one team. Third through fifth were Rookie VICTOR GARCIA/No.22 TMR-Xtreme Coil Drilling; second-year Lights driver, STEFAN WILSON/No.5 Andretti Autosport; and Rookie/pole sitter, BRYAN CLAUSON/No.77 Mazda Road to Indy/CURB Records/Sam Schmidt Motorsports

Clauson had the pole based on entrant points. He finished fifth. Young Clauson, the 2010 USAC National Champion, has been very busy this weekend. Thursday night he was scheduled to race Sprint cars in Terre Haute, but it was rained out. Friday night he will race a Silver Crown car at the county fairgrounds; and Saturday night he’ll be in a Midget for the annual Night Before The 500 Race at O’Reilly Raceway Park.

While he has lots of oval experience, this is Clauson’s first race in a Firestone Indy Lights car. “This is huge (to finish fifth). It’s a whole new experience for me, from starts to the restarts, to the draft, shifting in the middle of a race — that’s unheard of for me. it was a lot wilder than I expected, but it was a lot of fun.” Clauson got some coaching from IZOD IndyCar driver, DARIO FRANCHITTI/No.10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing. “We did stock car stuff together with Ganassi in 2008.”

Clauson has done some Indy Lights testing, but the first three races of the year the car was raced by CONOR DALY, who then turned the car over to Bryan, as Daly – who had been commuting to Europe for GP3 tests – moved to Europe to run the full GP3 season with Formula One races. Daly will be back for selected races which don’t conflict with his GP schedule, and he is here at the Indy 500.

Bryan Clauson
Bryan Clauson

Is it just me, or at certain angles, does anyone else think Clauson looks like a young VALENTINO ROSSI, seven-time MotoGP champion?

Rookie CHASE AUSTIN/No.75 Willy T. Ribbs/Starting Grid, Inc,/BAR made his debut. With no entrant points, he started seventeenth, and worked his way up to finish ninth, on the lead lap. He is the first African-American to race in the Firestone Indy Lights Series.

Behind Newgarden there were four crashes involving eight cars. Two drivers were transported to Methodist Hospital for evaluation and released: GUSTAVO YACAMAN/No.2 TMR-Tuvacol-Xtreme Coil Drilling complained of back pains – crash in Turn Two; and JORGE GONCALVEZ/No.4 Belardi Auto Racing Special, who was awake and alert-crash in Turn One, which caused the race to end under the yellow flag. Both drivers will be re-evaluated Saturday for further racing activities. The other six drivers are alright.

Wilson thought time was wasted behind the pace car from the last crash. “It looked like a really bad accident (one driver transported to hospital). There was debris everywhere. In my opinion, they should have red-flagged it and taken time to clean the track. Instead, we just drove around wasting time. The fans didn’t come out here to watch a parade of cars. They wanted to see a race, and we never got to do it. Traditionally, this race has been won in the last ten laps.”

There were six lead changes among four drivers – STEFAN WILSON/No.5 (one lap), ANDERS KROHN/No.9 Liberty Engineering Racing Special, (seven laps); and Guerrieri (one lap).

BRANDON WAGNER/No.32 Davey Hamilton Racing, one of the three non-Rookies in the 18-car field, turned the fastest race lap time of 192.301mph/46.8017 seconds, on Lap 17. He failed to finish, being one of those caught up in an accident with Rookie DUARTE FERRARI/No.28 Bryan Herta Racing. Both drivers are alright.

There were four cautions for 22 laps, more than half the 40-lap race. Ten drivers finished the race, all on the lead lap. Eight retired due to contacts in four accidents. Three crashes were in Turn Two, and one was in Turn One.

The other six were evaluated and released by the IU Emergency Medical Center, cleared to drive: VICTOR CARBONE/No.3 Nevoni/Sam Schmidt Motorsports; Ferreira, JUAN PABLO GARCIA/No.12 Freightliner Team Jensen, Krohn, Wagner, and JAMES WINSLOW/No.26 Andretti Autosport.

Victor Carbone's car repair
Victor Carbone's car repair
ROOKIES Carbone and DAVID OSTELLA/No.16 Global Precast Team Jensen had an accident in the half-hour practice earlier in the day. Both teams thrashed and got the cars to the race grid, in the nick of time. Ostella finished eighth.

Newgarden’s car is one of four that SAM SCHMIDT runs in the Indy Lights Series. All four are Rookies. The other three are Carbone, Guerrieri; and polesitter Clauson.

Schmidt, a quadriplegic, owns the pole sitting teams in both series. His IZOD IndyCar team No. 77 Bowers & Wilkins is raced by ALEX TAGLIANI of Canada, who will start the Centennial Indianapolis 500 race from the pole position. SSM is also involved with two other IndyCar teams – TOWNSEND BELL/No.99 Sam Schmidt Motorsports; and JAY HOWARD/No.88 Sam Schmidt-RHL Racing.

Newgarden now leads the Firestone Indy Lights standings, with 151 points. His teammate, Guerrieri is second with 125, and Wilson is third – 121.

So much for the forecast 65 degrees F temperature. It never got any warmer than 59 degrees F, and trust me those six degrees make a difference – at least to me. However, there’s something to be said for the day being dry with no hurricane-force winds. Saturday is supposed to be 77 degrees F. We’ll see.