Battistini holds on to take Freedom 100 win

Dillon Battistini won the Freedom 100 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, earning his second Firestone Indy Lights victory this season. Battistini was able to hold off a late race challenge, crossing the finish line 0.2458 seconds ahead of Richard Antinucci.

Dillon Battistini after crossing the finish line.
Photo by Andy Sallee.

Antinucci started sixth and made several outside passes to gain the runner up position. Once behind Battistini, Antinucci attempted to take the lead several times, trying both the high and low sides, but was never able to cleanly execute the maneuver.

Battistini's defensive tactics included moving to the white line down the back straight. Antinucci tried to counter that move with an outside pass. When Battistini enjoyed a car length or more over his opponent, he'd go back to offense, swinging wide into the corners to maintain top speed.

"Well, really, I was just focusing on going as fast as I could," Battistini said. "You can't help but look in the mirror a bit when you go through the corners. All I could see was lots of cars moving around behind me. They seemed to be taking turns at me every now and then."

Antinucci reported that, compared to Battistini, he had "a little less top speed." Able to get a good run in the draft, as soon as Antinucci pulled alongside, "we just died in the wind. It was a bit frustrating not getting another half car length on him."

Antinucci's second place finish places him atop the championship points standings. He now holds a 179-176 point advantage over Battistini.

Wade Cunningham, who officially led one lap and finished third, speculated that most of the field was running with increased downforce. That additional downforce allowed the drivers to engage in fierce wheel to wheel competition.

Cunningham participated in the early three-way battle for the lead with pole sitter Battistini and James Davison. Davison, who also led a lap, started second but his day was spoiled when his right rear tire made contact with the front of J.R. Hildebrand's car. Both drivers reported to the pits with less than ten laps to go, Davison with a flat right rear tire. Davison returned to the fray and finished on the lead lap in 17th position.

"It was a bit of a gamble on setup," said Cunningham. "We didn't do much running in practice and the conditions were a lot different, so I think we ran with a little too much downforce and that was pretty evident once I got into the lead. Dillon was pretty much able to pass me at will."

Richard Antinucci, J.R. Hildebrand, and James Davison.
Photo by Andy Sallee.

By the mid point of the race, the early three-way battle for the lead turned into a six-way clash at the front with two and three wide battles keeping the fans on their toes.

Robbie Pecorari sliced his way through traffic, picking up nine positions to finish fourth. "I knew we would get to the front. It was just a matter of time," said Pecorari. "It would have been nice to go a little more to get a podium finish out of it but besides that, I can't complain."

Pecorari admitted that at one point, "I got into the wall a little bit between one and two, but luckily I didn't damage the car at all. I just kind of sideswiped it a bit, but nothing too big."

The race was run at a torrid pace with Bobby Wilson setting the fastest lap of the race at 191.412mph. Ana Beatriz and Wilson were part of the battle at the front, finishing fifth and sixth, respectively. Both drivers reported having good cars.

With her third oval race under her belt, Beatriz said she might have been able to finish on the podium, but for right now it's all about "learning, learning, learning."

Wilson, who is used to finding himself close to the action said, "The race was pretty wild." The cars were going from "aero understeer to oversteer, guys were three-wide, four-wide at times, it was pretty wild.

Logan Gomez, Jeff Simmons, Andrew Prendeville and Raphael Matos rounded out the top ten.

Simmons will compete in Sunday's 92nd running of the Indianapolis 500. He will start 24th in an A.J. Foyt Racing entry.