Arie Luyendyk Jr Blog: Freedom 100
Going into the weekend our team had high expectations after a great performance in the Kansas 100 a few weeks earlier. The Freedom 100 takes place at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the festivities of "Carb Day" for the Indianapolis 500, obviously this is the event everyone wants to win. Targus Fly and Feather, a leading company in fishing products came on board as our major sponsor for the rest of the year so I was excited to perform well in the big race.
The first practice session went really well and the car performed was great to drive. I could work though traffic really well and I ended the session 4th in the competitive field of 27 cars. The second practice we set the car up for qualifying trim and fell to 12th in the time sheets but it was hard to judge where we stood as many of the drivers set their time following other cars in the draft and I was in clean air. Qualifying was a major disappointment for the team and I as there was a mistake made on the set-up that caused the car the scrub a lot of speed during the run and my two lap average of 186.232 m.p.h. was only good for 18th spot. I was really deflated after this because we had run so well in the opening practice and it was my worst qualifying effort in my 51 starts in the Indy Lights series. I just knew we needed a good car going into the race to be able to get to the top 5.
Race day was delayed a day because of rain so the race was run on the Saturday before the "500". Racing at Indianapolis is always intimidating, it has so much history and it's never an easy place even in the Indy Lights car. Seeing all the cars in front of me on the grid I knew I was in for a fun race, many of the front-runners in the Championship had hard luck in qualifying so the stage was set for an exciting event.
The green flag dropped and the car in front of me bobbled and a few cars got the jump going into turn one. I fell to 20th and shortly after there was a caution. During the caution I apologized to the team and tried to think of how I could time the next re-start. The green flag dropped again and I moved up a few spots and the field settled in. It was a tough race for me, I had lots of great passes but the car wasn't competitive and didn't seem to pull out of the corners like it should. I was suffering from so much understeer (push) that at one point it forced me to turn the wheel 109 degrees to not hit the wall coming out of turn 2. I was doing everything I could to adjust the car with the roll bar setting and weight jacker that we have in the car to change the balance, but the overall feeling was the car was slow in a straight line and had too much understeer. After some three wide battles and one lap being forced on the grass I ended the day a disappointing 14th. After the race on the data we found the car had a major fuel pressure problem which affected our top speed so at least we have some answers as to why our performance was suffering compared to the first four rounds of the Championship. My teammate Rafa Matos finished the day 10th after starting 5th so we as a team need to sit down and study what went wrong this weekend and re-group for the next race.
After the Freedom 100 I now sit 6th in the Championship with 119 points. 60 points back from Championship leader Richard Antinucci. Next race is the Milwaukee 100 held next weekend, I hope we can bounce back and make up ground in the Championship hunt!
-credit: arie luyendyk jr