Indy notes: Leist sets Indy Lights track record, wins Freedom 100 pole

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INDIANAPOLIS – Matheus Leist set an Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires track record in qualifying today at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with a two-lap average of 199.198 mph that puts him at the front of the 14-car field for Friday’s Freedom 100.

Driving the No. 26 TMA Mazda/Dallara IL-15 for Carlin, Leist broke the two-lap record set in qualifying two years ago by Ethan Ringel (197.684 mph). Leist’s first lap on the run, 199.268 mph, also established the single-lap standard on the 2.5-mile oval previously set in last year’s race by Neil Alberico (198.008).

“It feels amazing,” said Leist, the 18-year-old Brazilian who won the British Formula 3 championship in 2016. “It was my first oval qualifying and it’s my first oval race as well. I’m very happy. The team gave me a very nice car and I felt confident driving it. My first pole and first pole on an oval and my first time ever on an oval. Quite happy for this.”

“Now I have my first pole. Hopefully tomorrow I can get my first win.”  

Practice and qualifying were delayed until late afternoon by persistent morning rain, Leist posted a lap of 201.032 mph in practice, but only laps recorded in qualifying or a race are considered official.

Colton Herta qualified second in the No. 98 Deltro Energy Mazda for Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing, with a two-lap average of 198.648 mph. Qualifying in the second row were Andretti Autosport teammates Dalton Kellett (198.011) and Ryan Norman (197.697). All four of the top qualifiers exceeded Ringel’s former track record.

Kyle Kaiser, the current Indy Lights points leader for Juncos Racing, qualified 11th.

The 15th annual Freedom 100 starts at 12:30 p.m. ET Friday and airs live on NBCSN.

100th Indianapolis 500 named Event of the Year at Sports Business Awards

The 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil added another accolade to an already stellar resume Wednesday night, taking home 2016’s Event of the Year honor at the 2017 Sports Business Awards in New York. The annual event hosted by the SportsBusiness Journal and SportsBusiness Daily recognizes the top events, leagues, partners and executives in the sports world.

“The 100th running was both a fitting tribute to our remarkable history and a bold move toward an even brighter future for both the Indy 500 and the Verizon IndyCar Series,” said Mark Miles, Hulman & Company president and CEO. “It was an honor to accept last night’s award on behalf of the Hulman-George family, our entire team and the many corporate and community partners who fueled such a tremendous effort last year. The 101st running is just a few days away and we can clearly see the impact of last year’s race both in this year’s ticket sales and in the sustained levels of engagement and interest throughout the state.”

Other nominees included the 2016 World Series, 2016 Ryder Cup, 2016 Copa America Centenario Knockout Round, World Cup of Hockey 2016 and Pilot Flying J Battle at Bristol. Among many firsts, the 100th Indy 500 achieved the only sellout in Indianapolis Motor Speedway history and was broadcast live on local television for the first time in more than 50 years.

‘Walking Dead’ actor Morgan to drive Indy 500 pace car

Actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who has played major roles in hit television series such as “The Walking Dead” and “Grey’s Anatomy,” will drive the 2017 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport Pace Car to lead the starting field of the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil to the green flag on Sunday.

Morgan plays “Negan” in the smash hit AMC series “The Walking Dead,” which returns for its eighth season this fall. He received a Critics’ Choice Television Award for Best Guest Performer in a Drama Series and an MTV Movie & TV Award for Best Villain in 2017 for the role.

“We’re honored to welcome Jeffrey Dean Morgan to IMS to drive the 2017 Corvette Grand Sport Pace Car,” said Doug Boles, Indianapolis Motor Speedway president. “He’s used to playing the ultimate villain in ‘The Walking Dead,’ but he’ll be an envied hero to millions of race fans around the world when he gets to lead the field to the green flag of the 101st Indianapolis 500 in such a beautiful Corvette.”

This is the 14th time a Corvette has served as the official Indy 500 pace car, starting in 1978. No other vehicle has served as the pace car more than the Corvette. This is the 28th time a Chevrolet has led the field, dating to 1948 when a Fleetmaster Six convertible paced the race.

Ruoff Home Mortgage to sponsor Sato in Indy 500

Ruoff Home Mortgage, headquartered in Fort Wayne, Indiana, has partnered with Andretti Autosport to brand the No. 26 Honda driven by Takuma Sato in the 101st Indianapolis. The Ruoff Home Mortgage Honda will make its debut during Friday’s Miller Lite Carb Day practice.

"Like Andretti Autosport, Ruoff Home Mortgage thrives on speed, technology, innovation and precision to make us the No. 1 mortgage lender in Indiana which makes this an ideal partnership," said Mark Music, Ruoff president and CEO. "We are thrilled to be a part of the Indy 500 tradition."  

Sato will make his eighth Indy 500 start Sunday from the inside of Row 2.

“I consider Andretti Autosport to be a family business, and as such we are proud to partner with another Indiana-based family company, Ruoff Home Mortgage,” said Michael Andretti, the team’s CEO. “Having a home-state partner join us for the Indy 500 is truly something special.”  

Of note

The Tony Stewart Foundation announced that Jim Beam Bourbon, the world's No. 1 bourbon, would sponsor the No. 77 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda for driver Jay Howard in the Indianapolis 500. The Lucas Oil/Team One Cure Honda will carry the iconic Jim Beam logo. … Lazier Racing announced the return of StalkIt, the company that makes surfboards, skateboards snow boards and skis as a sponsor for Buddy Lazier’s No. 4 Chevrolet for the Indianapolis 500. … Four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Rick Mears and legendary chief mechanic Karl Kainhofer were inducted into the Team Penske Hall of Fame today, joining team owner and founder Roger Penske and the team’s first champion, Mark Donohue, as the first four members of the historical group.

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