Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tire – Freedom 100 preview

What: The Freedom 100 presented by Allied Building Products

Where: The 2.5 mile oval at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

When: 12:30pm (E.T.) on Friday May 22, 2015

Details: 40 laps race for the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tire Mazda powered Dallara’s

Track Records: 192.301mph (race) set by Brandon Wagner in 2011 and 190.456 (qualifying) set by Wade Cunningham in 2009.


For the first time in history a race car powered by a Mazda engine will compete on the 2.5 mile oval at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  Twelve drivers have been confirmed for 13th annual Freedom 100 presented by Allied Building Products. (see full entry list below).

That last two Freedom 100’s have featured a plethora of passing and spectacular finishes (see videos below), and a pole-sitter hasn’t won the race since Wade Cunningham pulled of the feat in 2009.

Ed Jones, the current Indy Lights points leader, got his first taste of an oval at Homestead-Miami Speedway in January and also took part in the rookie test at Chicagoland Speedway last week.  The 20 year old got his first look at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during an Indy Lights test on Monday where he turned 117 laps and turned in the fourth quickest speed (194.821mph).

“It has been amazing to finally get to drive on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway”, said Jones. “Getting on track is very different to what I have experienced before. On Monday I just tried to learn as much as possible and worked on the car with my engineer. I feel really confident going into the race weekend that we can be right up the front.”

It’s not easy for a rookie to win at Indianapolis.  Josef Newgarden, in 2011, was the last Freedom 100 first timer to “kiss the bricks”.  Dillon Battistini (2008), and Jaime Camara (2005) are the other rookies that have won in their first try on the historic 2.5 mile oval.  Jones will have to rely on the experience of his engineer, Geoff Fickling, who went to victory lane with Gabby Chaves in 2014.

Jack Harvey, an Indy Lights sophomore driving the Racing Steps Foundation/Curb Records backed No. 42 for SPM with Curb-Agajanian will be looking to improve on his Freedom 100 result from 2014 when he finished his first ever oval race in 5th place.

The 22 year-old is locked in a tight championship fight with Jones and Spencer Pigot and will look to use his experience on the big ovals to create distance between himself and his main championship rivals.    The Briton got of to a good start of accomplishing that by topping the time charts at 195.981mph during Monday’s test.

“Winning at Indianapolis is so important,” said Harvey, who finished second to last year’s Freedom 100 winner Gabby Chaves in the 2014 title-chase. “Winning the Grand Prix was one of the proudest moments in my career, so I can imagine that winning the Freedom 100 would be even bigger, definitely a career highlight.

“I raced in the Freedom 100 last year (finishing fifth) but this is the first time we’ll run the new car here. We’re already going nine miles an hour quicker than the pole time last year, which takes us even closer to IndyCar, where most of us are hoping to get to. It’s a big step forward in every way.”

For the second straight season Spencer Pigot is coming off a rough Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis weekend.  Last year it was in Pro Mazda, and this season it is in Indy Lights.

In 2014, the Indianapolis based driver who is currently third in the points standings rebounded with a podium at the next event at Lucas Oil Raceway and will hope that his experience and success on ovals in Pro Mazda and USF2000 will transfer to the bigger, more powerful Indy Lights cars.  In six previous oval races, the 21 year-old has one win and two wins and five podiums (his worst finish was fourth at Lucas Oil Raceway Park as an USF2000 rookie in 2011).

“Indianapolis is the most famous track in the world, so to finally get to race on it will be a great experience,” said Pigot, who will look to add his name to the list of winners who have gone on to find success in the 500. “I think we will be good on the ovals. We were very quick in pre-season testing at Homestead and I think that if we just continue where we left off, we’ll be alright. The first test on Monday was really exciting, hopefully we can find some more speed.”

Belardi Auto Racing will be looking for a Freedom 100 three-peat with either veteran Juan Piedrahita and rookie Felix Serralles.

The No. 5 has won the previous two Freedom 100’s and this year it will be 22 year-old Piedrahita, who will be making his second Freedom 100 start that looks to take the cherry red car to victory.

His teammate, Serralles is a rookie on ovals, but if oval test days are indication, he will have the speed to race up front.  The 22 year-old led the rookie testing at Chicagoland Raceway and had the third quickest lap at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during Monday’s testing.  He will have to learn oval race-craft quickly if he wants to compete for the win.

Max Chilton, Carlin’s second driver will have a have to prove a quick study on ovals if he wants to continue his string of six straight top five finishes.  The former Formula 1 driver missed the test day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Monday due to testing commitments with the Nissan GT-R LM Nismo program.  The 24 year-old did take part in rookie testing at Chicagoland Speedway and also tested on the oval at Homestead-Miami Speedway in January.

Rookie RC Enerson has limited experience on ovals, and shouldn’t be expected to contend at IMS, but he also wasn’t expected to contend for podiums this year and already has two, so…

In two previous USF2000 races on the oval at Lucas Oil Raceway his best finish was seventh, but the 18 year-old has shown he is a quick study, scoring the third quickest laps at Chicagoland Speedway and the quickest “no-tow” lap at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in testing on Monday.

Ovals were one of the lone bright spots for Scott Anderson during his difficult rookie Indy Lights campaign with the Fan Force United team.  But with his experience and backing of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, the 26 year-old from Fort Collins, Colorado should be expected to contend for a podium at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Carb Day.

Juncos Racing rookie Kyle Kaiser has four oval races under his belt in the Pro Mazda presented by Cooper Tire series, with a best finish of seventh at Lucas Oil Raceway in 2013.   He was sixth in the test sessions at Chicagoland and Indianapolis and a top six finish should be considered a win and a great learning experience for next year.

Shelby Blackstock and the gang at Andretti Autosport have struggled to find the pace so far this season.  Will a trip to an oval be what cures them?   Blackstock scored a podium in his last visit to an oval at The Milwaukee Mile in a Pro Mazda Car and at testing at Chicagoland Speedway he did have the third quickest time, however being second last in testing at IMS, likely left them scratching their heads again.

For the first time this season SPM with Curb-Agajanian rookie Ethan Ringel led a practice session  The 20 year-old ended up with the second quickest speed of the day during testing at IMS on Monday.  The GP3 grad who took almost two full years off of racing has slowly been making gains on the time sheets and a good result at IMS could bring a much needed boost to his confidence.

Sean Rayhall’s first visit to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in an Indy Lights car turned out to be magical, but it remains to be seen if the 20 year-old can repeat his two podiums from the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis on the 2.5 mile oval.  The Georgia native does have a some experience racing on ovals, competing successfully in Legends cars on the short tracks of Georgia and South Carolina.  IMS is entirely different animal and the 8Star Motorsports driver should be happy turning all forty laps while learning about oval race craft in an open wheel car.

Seven of the 12 Freedom 100’s have been won by drivers from the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports stable.  Wade Cunningham, with three victories is the only driver to have won the race multiple times.

The entry list:


4 — Felix Serralles — Belardi Auto Racing

5 — Juan Piedrahita  — Belardi Auto Racing

7 — RC Enerson — SPM with Curb-Agajanian

8 —  Sean Rayhall — 8Star Motorsports

11 — Ed Jones — Carlin

12 — Spencer Pigot — Juncos Racing

14 — Max Chilton — Carlin

18 — Kyle Kaiser — Juncos Racing

42 — Jack Harvey — SPM with Curb-Agajanian

51 — Shelby Blackstock — Andretti Autosport

71 — Ethan Ringel — SPM with Curb-Agajanian

77 — Scott Anderson — SPM with Curb-Agajanian

Some videos for your viewing pleasure:

Final lap of the 2014 Freedom 100:

Final lap of the 2013 Freedom 100:

RePlay XD Move of the Race Awards winners for the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis.

Race 1 – RC Enerson wins his second award of the season for this move on teammate Scott Anderson heading into Turn 1.

Race 2 – Points leader Ed Jones wins his first award of the season fir this impressive outside pass on Juan Piedrahita in Turn 7.