Story by Patrick Reynolds. Photo courtesy Indycar.
INDIANAPOLIS – The Freedom 100 is known as one of the closest and most competitive races that is held each season. The 2019 version lived up to the hype.
Oliver Askew passed Ryan Norman after the field exited turn four and edged Norman by .0067- about the distance of the front wings, for the victory.
Askew said, “My mindset was to just stay in the top-three, to stay in clean air to save the tires. To be honest I thought we were in a bit of trouble early in the race. I was having a really hard time in dirty air. The car became neutral and performed better at the end.
“My mindset was to make sure I was (in the) top-two, top-three on the last lap. On the last lap I drove by three cars on the back straightaway while they were battling it out. If that opportunity didn’t happen I might have been stuck in fourth place,” said Askew.
Norman was disappointed but said of his Andretti Autosports teammate, “(I’m) proud of him. He drove a great race and timed everything (the winning pass) very correctly there.”
David Malukas and Chris Windom crashed hard on lap two. Malukas spun on the entry to turn number three and as the back of the car slid up the track, Windom crashed into and then climbed on top of Malukas. Both machines then hit the outside retaining wall with Windom riding on top of the barrier. Neither Windom nor Malukas were injured.
Windom also crashed the previous night at the Indiana State Fairgrounds during the USAC Silver Crown Hoosier 100. He is planning on racing again this evening at Lucas Oil Raceway in another USAC race.
“Gotta keep going,” said Windom.
Toby Sowery bumped into the left rear of polesitter Robert Megennis with 29 laps complete, sending Megennis spinning. Sowery then hit Megennis’ left front with his nosecone and straightened both cars with minimal damage. The caution did wave as Sowery and Megennis continued on. Sowery was assessed a penalty and restarted last with eight laps remaining.
The frequent slingshot passing and position swapping among the top five continued through the conclusion. Norman took the lead on the final lap down the backstretch only to have Askew upset Norman’s victory as the pair charged under the checkered flag.
To give example of the Freedom 100’s pedigree, this race was still only the fourth closest finish in the race’s history.
Typical multi-groove and frequent drafting passes were made. Askew only led three laps in the race but led the most important one.
“Ryan anticipated that I was going to go high, but I decided to go low and had the clean air and I didn’t lift (off the throttle). That was key. If I had to lift in (turn) four, he would have won the race,” Askew said.
Freedom 100 Notes
• A morning rainstorm delayed the start of on-track activities.
• Aaron Telitz pitted before the race took the green flag with a broken half shaft. He finished the race in ninth, five laps down… the five that it took to repair with an assist from the Malukas-Windom crash red flag.
• Jarrett Andretti began the race in 11th and spun on the race’s parade laps into the infield grass. He continued on, rejoined the field, and finished sixth.
Final Indy 500 Practice
Tony Kanaan led final Indy 500 practice with speed of 225.517 mph. He will begin Sunday’s 500 from the 16th position driving for A.J. Foyt, the race’s first four-time winner. Kanaan’s teammate Matheus Leist was 30th quick in the session and will grid 24th in the 500.
“Every single guy, at the start of this race, thinks they can win this race,” Kanaan said.
Kanaan was unhappy with his car in Monday’s practice session however was pleased with the car today and the changes the team made.
“When I drove the car, I was looking for the same car that I had last year, which I didn’t have. I think we do now,” said Kanaan
“I have a consistent car in traffic and able to stay behind people and be able to pass some cars and then stay up front all day,” Kanaan said. “I think we’ll see more passes than last year.”
Kanaan shares row six with Graham Rahal and Scott Dixon. “We won’t be there long,” said Kanaan.
“The track picks the winner. Hopefully she picks me again.”
Indycar Pit Stop Competition
Former Formula 1 driver Marcus Ericsson for Schimdt-Peterson Motorsports beat 2008 Indy 500 winner Scott Dixon driving for Chip Ganassi in the best-of-three competition. This marked the first time in 15 years that neither a Penske or Ganassi team has not won the pit stop competition.
Patrick Reynolds is a former professional NASCAR mechanic who hosts Speedway Report live on Facebook Mondays 7:30 pm ET/ 4:30 pm PT and uploaded on http://speedwayreport.wpengine.com/ . Follow on Twitter @SpeedwayPat.