St. Pete Indy Lights: Brabham wins, heartbreak for Rasmussen

The opening round of the Indy Lights season saw a dramatic win for series returnee Matt Brabham after two Andretti Autosport teammates suffered heartache, including leader Christian Rasmussen running out of fuel on the penultimate lap.

Matthew Brabham, Andretti Autosport

Andretti Autosport’s polesitter Hunter McElrea held firm at the start, but the HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing car of Linus Lundqvist and Sting Ray Robb in the #2 Andretti car wrong-footed each other at Turn 1. That promoted two more Andretti drivers, Christian Rasmussen and series returnee Matt Brabham into second and third, with Benjamin Pedersen’s Global Racing Group w/HMD car into fourth.

McElrea seemed to have everything under control and had pulled a three-second lead until as he came off the final corner on Lap 11, he got crossed up and slid hard into the wall on the outside of the turn.

The race restarted successfully… until Kyffin Simpson of TJ Speed Motorsports nerfed Jacob Abel (Abel Motorsports) into a spin and stall, bringing out a brief full-course caution.

Rasmussen again kept his lead solid ahead of Brabham who smoked his tires into Turn 1 but held off Pedersen, Lundqivst and Robb. Behind them ran two more HMD cars, Danial Frost ahead of Manuel Sulaiman, while Trans-Am legend Ernie Francis Jr. had made some strong passes and stayed out of trouble to move his Force Indy machine from 14th up to eighth.

Rasmussen built up a three-second lead, before Brabham started whittling it down, even kissing the Turn 14 exit wall in his efforts, and drawing within 1.8sec of his quarry. But Rasmussen responded and by lap 43 of the 45 he had his margin back out to 3.3sec.

But that would be his final completed lap. The race was extended by five laps compared with last year, and Rasmussen’s fuel pressure dropped as surely as his heart on Lap 44, as his car sputtered to a halt on the back straight.

Brabham swept past to claim the lead and went on to score a surprising victory, eight years after his last Lights win. Pedersen came home two-and-a-half seconds back with Lundqvist claiming the final podium spot ahead of Robb, Frost, Sulaiman.

Francis came home seventh, having held off Antonio Serravalle and Christian Bogle.


P Name Laps Diff Gap Led ST Team Points
1 Matthew Brabham 45 LAP 45   2 6 Andretti Autosport 50
2 Benjamin Pedersen 45 2.4726 2.4726   4 Global Racing Group w/ HMD Motorsports 40
3 Linus Lundqvist 45 3.7179 1.2453   2 HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing 35
4 Sting Ray Robb 45 4.6470 0.9291   3 Andretti Autosport 32
5 Danial Frost 45 9.6321 4.9851   11 HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing 30
6 Manuel Sulaiman 45 14.4322 4.8001   10 HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing 28
7 Ernie Francis Jr 45 38.8998 24.4676   14 Force Indy 26
8 Antonio Serravalle 45 39.2926 0.3928   12 Abel Motorsports 24
9 Christian Bogle 45 40.4748 1.1822   8 HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing 22
10 Jacob Abel 45 46.6426 6.1678   9 Abel Motorsports 20
11 Kyffin Simpson 44 1 LAPS 60.3537   7 TJ Speed Motorsports 19
12 Christian Rasmussen 43 Contact   32 5 Andretti Autosport 20
13 James Roe Jr 31 Contact 1 LAPS   13 TJ Speed Motorsports 17
14 Hunter McElrea 11 Contact   11 1 Andretti Autosport 17



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