Battistini wins pole for Freedom 100

Dillon Battistini captured the pole for tomorrow's 40 lap Firestone Freedom 100 race, with a two lap average speed of 188.397 mph. This is the first pole position for the rookie driver, and the seventh for Panther Racing. "It feels fantastic -...

Dillon Battistini captured the pole for tomorrow's 40 lap Firestone Freedom 100 race, with a two lap average speed of 188.397 mph. This is the first pole position for the rookie driver, and the seventh for Panther Racing.

"It feels fantastic - I don't know what to say," said Battistini who went out twelfth and had to wait for the rest of the 27 car field to complete their two-lap runs. "It was nail biting watching everyone try to knock me off. It started to get a bit colder, which worried me because the track could potentially get faster. But I hung on by the skin of my teeth.

"Obviously I'm in a really good position and I think the car is going to be good. We did a long run this morning and it was very consistent, so I'm really in a good position. This track is great to drive. It's the most challenging oval that I've been on, and you can really feel the speed."

The outside pole was taken by James Davison at a speed of 188.390 mph, less than a hundredth of a mile per hour slower than pole.

"The car was spot-on," Davison said. "I was just chipping away at it at the practice sessions, and I just got it great. All in all, it's a great race for myself and the team."

Davison, who is also a rookie in Indy Lights, is on a learning curve. "I guess I was just applying everything I've learned at Homestead and Kansas in terms of what to do in qualifying. I was just focusing on what Rick Mears told me to do. Just make sure you make the straightaways as long as possible and turn in as late as you can to release the wheel.

"I think it was a pretty strong run. It seems a lot of cars are having to shift or stay on the limiter, and these cars aren't the easiest thing in the world to do a clean shift. I did clean shifts, and I think my time is pretty strong."

The second row is filled by veteran Wade Cunningham and rookie Ana Beatriz, at 1880060 and 187.875 mph, respectively.

Cunningham was disappointed with his result. "We were the quickest car on the first timed lap," he said, but unfortunately we had a fuel surge coming out of Turn 2 on our second lap. It just killed our run so unfortunately we did not challenge for the pole."

Beatriz was more enthusiastic about her run. "I think it was pretty good," she said. "It's a big track, and it's different from all the others that I've been to. It's just amazing here. The wind has changed a little bit since our first practice run. It's a lot of wondering what gears to be in. We're just trying to be as fast as possible. It's just really fun to race here, and I hope to continue doing well in the season."

Rafael Matos and Richard Antinucci fill the third row, at speeds of 187.849 mph and 187.551 mph. Brent Sherman and Cyndie Allemann fill the fourth, at 187.533 mph and 187.310 mph.

Indy Lights is a development series, and it is telling that six of the first eight drivers in the lineup are rookies. A few drivers tried spinning the "It's just another race" yarn, but most had a tale of following the Indianapolis 500 since childhood. Being here was something they had dreamed of - and some dreamed of continuing on to the 500.

Sean Guthrie, son of 500 veteran Jim Guthrie, has been here before and is starting mid-pack, summed up the feeling, and what this event means to drivers. "It doesn't matter who you are or what you race, Indy's been special. It was special to the F1 guys, it's special to any IndyCar driver that you've ever met, so racing here is just awesome, just to be able to do it. It used to be that you could only race here if you were in the 500. Now I've got to do it three times. This will be my third start, and every time it's just more and more exciting."

Veteran Jeff Simmons, who is racing in both the Freedom 100 and the Indianapolis 500 this year, had insight about the differences between the two events. "This is a sprint race," he said, "so we've got to go after it a whole lot quicker. We've still got to go out there and feel out the car quickly, and then if there's a car in front of you, you pass him.

"The cars are actually quite different. When I went from the Lights to the IndyCar, I didn't notice the difference much, but now that I've gotten back into this car, it does feel a lot different. It feel lighter, and it feels like you can let if move around a lot more than you can an IndyCar. You can fit two of these cars into Turn 1 a lot easier than you can fit two IndyCars into Turn 1. You'll see a lot more side-by-side racing in this race than you will in the IndyCars."

The Firestone Freedom 100 takes the green flag tomorrow at 12:30 pm EDT. It will be telecast live on ESPN2.

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About this article
Series Indy Lights
Drivers Jim Guthrie , Rick Mears , Brent Sherman , Jeff Simmons , Richard Antinucci , Wade Cunningham , James Davison , Sean Guthrie , Cyndie Allemann , Ana Beatriz , Dillon Battistini
Teams Panther Racing