Matthew Brabham won the first Indy Lights race of the weekend at IMS.
Speedway, Ind. - The Brabham family finally has a victory to its credit at the hallowed Indianapolis Motor Speedway after third generation racer Matthew Brabham made light of treacherous conditions to lead throughout this evening's fifth round of the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires. Brabham, who had qualified Andretti Autosport's #83 United Fiber & Data/MAZDASPEED entry on the pole earlier in the day, held off a race-long challenge on a rapidly drying track from Brazilian GP2 graduate Luiz Razia (#7 Lucas Oil with Curb-Agajanian) to score his first Indy Lights race win.
Brabham, 20, who was born in Florida and raised in Australia, now has added a race win at the highest level of the Mazda Road to Indy after winning back-to-back titles in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda and the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires.
The track was thoroughly soaked after a heavy rain shower immediately following the preceding Pro Mazda race, so every competitor had no choice but to start on grooved Cooper tires. Brabham, whose grandfather Sir Jack Brabham pioneered the rear-engined revolution at the Indianapolis 500 in the early 1960s and whose father, Geoff Brabham, made 10 Indy 500 starts of his own (with a best finish of fourth in 1983), led away from the pole but came under pressure almost immediately from Colombian-American Gabby Chaves, who had already won two races this season for Belardi Auto Racing.
Chaves slipped through into the lead at Turn One on the second lap only to later relinquish the lead once again to Brabham. Chaves' teammate, Alex Baron, moved up into second before quickly realizing his car's setup didn't work on a wet track as he fell immediately into the clutches of Zach Veach (Andretti Autosport) and Razia (Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian).
The opening stages of the 40-minute race were thoroughly entertaining as positions swapped and changed with regularity - albeit not for the lead as Brabham put his head down and led by as much as three seconds by Lap 9. By then a dry line had begun to emerge and, despite lingering dark clouds, there was no further precipitation.
As the track began to dry quite quickly, drivers started to seek damp patches on the road surface to prevent their wet-weather tires from overheating. Razia gradually whittled the deficit to Brabham to less than a second, but he was able to get no closer. Brabham managed the margin - and his tires - to perfection to claim a finely judged victory.
Razia had to be content with second - but did post a fine testimonial for the resilient Cooper tires and gain an additional bonus point for posting the fastest lap of the race on the very last lap - while teammate Jack Harvey charged hard to climb from seventh following an early miscue to third at the checkered flag.
Canadian Zack Meyer (Team Moore Racing) also drove a fine race to earn a career-high fourth, while Baron held on for fifth ahead of Mexican Juan Pablo Garcia (Schmidt Peterson).
Neither of the two main title protagonists, Veach or Chaves fared well. Veach struggled home a lapped ninth after damaging his car's right-front suspension early in the race, and Chaves retired after 17 laps with a rare blown engine.
Contingency awards included the RePlay XD Move of the Race Award to Harvey for a pass on Chaves on the outside of Turn 4 while working Lap 8, and a customized Race Energy BCM21 charger - the official battery of the ladder series - to the winning team of Andretti Autosport.
Indy Lights racing action will resume tomorrow with the green flag for Race 2 at 1:30 pm ET.
Matthew Brabham, #83 United Fiber & Data/MAZDASPEED (Andretti Autosport): "It was pretty crazy out there for sure. At the end, it was dry and we were running on the Cooper Tire wets. It was really sketchy in the fast corners but they did a really good job of holding up. They lasted until the end of the race and there was still grip there to make it around so I am very happy."
Road to Indy