Mario Romancini of RLR/Andersen Racing led flag-to-flag in the 100-lap Firestone Indy Lights Series event today at The Milwaukee Mile, scoring his first series victory. This is his sixth start and third on an oval, the first on a short, flat oval less than 1.5 miles.
"I was able to make a good start, and I was confident we had a good car," Romancini said. "We had pretty much the same balance all day. I have to say thanks to all the team."
J.R. Hildebrand, who delivered RLR/Andersen's only previous victory at Kansas in 2008, finished second with Sebastian Saavedra third. Those two compete for AFS/Andretti Green Racing.
Romancini didn't need to perform the theatrics as he had in Indianapolis when he started 18th in the 22-car field and drove his way to third making a number of bold outside and inside passes.
He led every lap from pole and only had Hildebrand close when encountering traffic.
"Here it is much more difficult to pass side-by-side," Romancini said. "You can't use the draft and it's much more difficult to run right behind another car. I don't know if J.R. had a problem trying to pass me."
Hildebrand got as close as two-tenths of a second behind Romancini in green- flag conditions, but lost contact with the Brazilian hitting traffic at the wrong points.
In any event it was hard to pass given the two had similar race cars and Hildebrand was the only car remotely within striking distance of Romancini all day.
"The traffic fluctuated," Hildebrand said. "Certainly late in the race, we cut the gap at a couple spots. We were pretty evenly matched, and we were basically running the same laps."
Saavedra's progress was thwarted from fourth on the grid when he was stuck behind a spinning Jonathan Summerton on lap six. Summerton spun coming to a green flag on the first restart and fell from third to 15th in the 16-car field and later crashed out in turn two. Saavedra dropped to eighth.
"I was not lucky in the first restart, when Jonathan Summerton spun in front of me which cost me five or six positions," Saavedra said.
Saavedra had a couple hairy moments en route to fighting back through the field. He nearly collided with James Hinchcliffe going for sixth and then nearly took the grass to avoid hitting James Davison on lap 85 for fifth.
Towards the end of the race he was dicing with his countryman from Colombia, fellow series rookie Gustavo Yacaman of Sam Schmidt Motorsports.
Following the final restart on lap 92, Saavedra was on the inside of Yacaman as they diced side-by-side for the final podium position. He finally got by on lap 99 to secure his third podium finish.
Yacaman still had his best result in Indy Lights finishing fourth, best of the three-car Schmidt brigade. James Davison stayed out of trouble to earn his first top-five of 2009, finishing fifth for Vision Racing.
Completing the top ten were Yacaman's teammates Wade Cunningham and Hinchcliffe, then Andrew Prendeville, Pippa Mann and Charlie Kimball.
Martin Plowman stopped on track to cause the first caution on lap two, with Summerton and Daniel Herrington also unable to keep their cars out of the fence causing the other two yellow flag periods.
Hildebrand leads teammate Saavedra in the standings by ten points, 198-188, with Romancini now third on 179. Cunningham and Summerton complete the top five. The series resumes in three weeks' time at the Iowa Speedway.