Firestone Indy Lights has become way of the future
By William Ladow Post-Tribune correspondent May 24, 2012 6:14PM
A group of cars practices for Friday's Firestone Indy Lights race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. | IMS Photo
INDIANAPOLIS — The Firestone Indy Lights (FIL) Series has become the “window into the future” of IndyCar racing.
This year’s Indy 500 features 11 veterans of the IndyCar-sanctioned Firestone Indy Lights competition in the field. They are Marco Andretti, Ana Beatriz, Ed Carpenter, Bryan Clauson, Wade Cunningham, JR Hildebrand, James Hinchcliffe, Charlie Kimball, Josef Newgarden, Graham Rahal and Sebastian Saavedra.
There are also five other drivers — Townsend Bell, Helio Castroneves, Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan and Oriol Servia — who had competed in Indy Lights before IndyCar sanction.
The race on Friday is the FIL series marquee event on their 12-race schedule.
On Friday, 19 entrants will battle through the 40-lap, 100-mile race that has catapulted several winners into the top-echelon of American open-wheel racing.
Ed Carpenter, Wade Cunningham and last year’s race winner Josef Newgarden have all taken the Firestone Freedom 100 checkered flag and will now take the green flag on Sunday for the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”
With a three-hour practice on Thursday followed by qualifying for the Firestone Freedom 100 to be run on Friday, at 11:30 p.m., the excitement for the race weekend is beginning to build.
What started as a controlled three-hour practice for FIL cars to ready themselves for qualifying, quickly became unleashed as cars began racing in packs of six, most of the time running two and three wide. Sebastian Saavedra, who is in both IndyCar races, was the fastest during practice.
Gustavo Yacaman took the pole in his No. 2 Team Moore Racing entry at a speed of 187.517 mph. This is Yacaman’s best start at Indianapolis in his fourth Freedom 100.
This race comes at a critical time in the schedule as the teams are just coming off a six-week break. Saavedra leads the point standings by a point over rookie Tristan Vautier of Sam Schmidt Motorsports with his teammate at Schmidt Motorsports, Esteban Guerrieri, just two points behind.
In the case of Saavedra, his Sunday race will be behind the wheel of Michael Andretti’s fourth car entered in this year’s Indy 500. Should Saavedra be able to complete the two races, he would be the first driver to have raced both on the same weekend twice. He completed the task in 2010 when he drove for Bryan Herta Autosport.