Lee Records an Eighth-Place Finish In First Foray into Firestone Indy Lights SYOSSET, N.Y., July 14 - Matt Lee now has two Firestone Indy Lights races under his belt, and is looking for further opportunities in the official development series of...
Lee Records an Eighth-Place Finish In First Foray into Firestone Indy Lights
SYOSSET, N.Y., July 14 - Matt Lee now has two Firestone Indy Lights races under his belt, and is looking for further opportunities in the official development series of IndyCar.
It was a pressurized indoctrination for the 18-year-old driver from Syosset, N.Y., who made his series debut in the Corning Duels doubleheader at Watkins Glen International in Watkins Glen, N.Y. on July 5. The event marked the first time in the series' history when more than one race was held on a single day. It was also Lee's first race at the historic upstate road course, and his first event as a member of Albuquerque, N.M.-based Guthrie Racing.
Despite the challenges, Lee completed both races and went home with one top-10 finish when he placed eighth in the second race.
He qualified 15th for the first race with a time of 1:40.2217 and an average speed of 121.052 miles per hour for the 11-turn, 3.37-mile road course. That put him right behind Guthrie Racing's lead driver, Sean Guthrie, for the start of the first race. Lee's qualifying time was only 0.1865 of a second off the time posted by Guthrie, who has been competing in the series for three years.
The first race didn't start well for Lee, however, as he spun on cold tires between Turns 7 and 8 on the warm-up lap. The car's gearing was such that he couldn't get up the next hill on the track from a dead stop, so he went down a lap right away.
Although his chances for a good finish were dashed by the early problem, Lee used the rest of the race to get experience with the car and the track. He ended up 16th in the final rundown.
The bulk of the starting grid for the second race was determined by the finishing positions from the first race, so Lee was again in Row 8 for the start of the second race. That put him one spot ahead of the point leader going into the weekend, three-race winner Dillon Battistini, for the drop of the green flag for Race 2.
He got an excellent start in that event, vaulting into 13th place by the end of lap one. He slid back to 15th on lap three, but then got back to 13th on lap five by passing Guthrie and Brent Sherman.
Bobby Wilson, one of the fastest drivers on the track at that point, passed him on lap six to push him back to 14th, but Lee regained 13th on the next lap and then moved into 12th with eight laps complete after Battistini and Wilson crashed in Turn 1.
Four laps later he took 11th by passing Mitch Cunningham, and then set his sights on the next driver ahead of him, Cyndie Allemann. She crashed in Turn 9 with 18 laps down, which gave Lee another position and propelled him into the top 10.
He then had a spirited battle with J.R. Hildebrand, the winner at Kansas Speedway. He advanced two more spots to move into eighth with five laps to go when he passed Hildebrand and Daniel Herrington ran into problems. Lee went on to take the checkered in eighth place, right behind the driver with the most career starts in the series, Arie Luyendyk Jr.
Lee ended up with the fourth-best finish among the 14 rookies in the race.
"It was my first time racing at the Glen; it's a fun track," Lee said afterwards. "It's a very high-speed, fast track. It's risky because there aren't many runoff areas, but it's fun."
Despite his experience in Formula BMW and the Atlantic series, it was the first time Lee had driven in two open-wheel races in one day.
"That was hard, because if you had any problems in the first race you didn't have much time to regroup for the second race," Lee noted. "I have to thank Steve Erickson, my engineer last year in Atlantics with Conquest Racing, who helped with the Indy Lights car at the Glen. He was a big help."
Lee said he's not sure when his next race will occur.
"We're looking for marketing partners and opportunities," he said.