INDIANAPOLIS – Welcome to victory lane at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Matheus Leist.
The 18-year-old Brazilian captured the Freedom 100 with a commanding flag-to-flag outing from pole in his seventh Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires start and first on an oval.
“I think we had just a perfect car today,” said Leist, driver of the No. 26 Carlin Mazda/Dallara IL-15.
“I thought that I would have the hardest race, definitely. We managed it throughout the whole race and now very happy. The car was perfect throughout the whole race, so we managed to keep in front.”
Leist’s first Indy Lights win pushes the Brazilian up to sixth in the championship standings, 30 points behind series leader Kyle Kaiser.
“I definitely changed all my career when I decided to come to the USA, so everything here is new to me,” said Leist, who won by 0.7760 of a second over Belardi Auto Racing’s Aaron Telitz.
Leist, the 2016 British Formula 3 champion, fended off numerous challenges throughout the 40-lap race on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval, but none more than the No. 9 Soul Red Mazda of Aaron Telitz. On Lap 34, Telitz, who had charged from sixth on the grid, went to the outside of Leist heading into Turn 1. The duo remained side-by-side thru the short chute and past Turn 2 until Leist gained the edge in a drag race down the backstretch.
Telitz lost momentum and faded to third place before rebounding to edge Andretti Autosport’s Dalton Kellett for second at the finish line on the last lap. Telitz was pleased with the podium finish, his first since the season opener at St. Petersburg.
“Definitely great to get some momentum back on my side,” said Telitz, driver of the No. 9 Belardi Auto Racing Mazda. “After coming out of the box strong in St. Pete and having such an awesome opening weekend, we trailed off and had some really rough weekends at Barber (Motorsports Park) and here at the Indy GP, where we just didn’t have the pace or a lot of good things happen. But today, definitely righting the ship and we’ll carry some good momentum into my home race at Road America next month.”
Kellett was fortunate to finish, considering he was nearly collected by teammate Colton Herta, who spun and crashed into the Turn 2 SAFER Barrier on the opening lap. Kellett snuck past with light contact, but another teammate, Ryan Norman, couldn’t avoid Herta and had his day end as well. Neither Herta nor Norman was injured.
Leist’s win was especially sweet to team owner Trevor Carlin, who lost the Freedom 100 last year by 0.0024 of a second with Indy Lights champion Ed Jones.
“We got so close last year of winning the race,” said Carlin. “After qualifying we had a quick car, but it’s such a competitive race, we didn’t really expect to win today. So for Matheus to do what he did, keep his cool and drive so smoothly, calmly and lead every lap is unheard of.
“I’m very thankful to be here. I’m very thankful to Matheus, who did this in his first-ever visit to Indianapolis and his first Indy oval race. So it’s quite incredible what he’s achieved.”