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Day By Day: 2013 Indianapolis 500 – Race Weekend

Peter Dempsey celebrated in Victory Circle at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Friday after winning the Firestone Indy Lights Freedom 100 at the Speedway. It was Dempsey's first win in the series, and the second closest finish in series history. [Russ Lake Photo]

Peter Dempsey celebrated in Victory Circle at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Friday after winning the Firestone Indy Lights Freedom 100 at the Speedway. It was Dempsey’s first win in the series, and the second closest finish in series history. [Russ Lake Photo]

Helio Castroneves posed with his crew and the $50,000 check they collected for winning the Indy 500 Pit Stop Challenge Friday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. [Russ Lake Photo]

Helio Castroneves posed with his crew and the $50,000 check they collected for winning the Indy 500 Pit Stop Challenge Friday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. [Russ Lake Photo]

 

Friday, May 24 – The Freedom 100 Firestone Indy Lights race was the featured event of the day, and WOW! What a race it was.

The margin of finish was just .0026 of a second as Peter Dempsey led only the last lap of the race by just that much to claim his first Firestone Indy Lights Series win.

The top four, Dempsey, Gabby Chaves, Sage Karam and Carlos Munoz were four wide at the finish line and were separated by just .O443 of second.

It was an extremely competitive race with just one caution period, however, the first incident of the event occurred on the second parade lap when Jimmy Simpson spun in Turn 1 but continued on and caught up to the field before the green was thrown.

At the start of the race, polesitter Karam jumped into the lead. Dempsey, who started third, passed Munoz, who started second, in Turn 1 but gave the position back to Munoz in Turn 4.

As the field came out of Turn 4, Kyle O’Gara, who had started ninth, got below the white line in Turn 4 while trying to take third from Dempsey. He then did a three-quarter spin, put the nose of the car into the outside SAFER Barrier and then hit the wall with the right front on the car. He was able to continue to the pits but was out of the race.

Under the yellow the top six were Karam, Munoz, Dempsey, Chaves, Zach Veach and Jack Hawksworth.

When the track went green on Lap 6, Karam led the field into Turn 1 holding a slim lead over Munoz.

By Lap 11, Karam led Munoz by .0701 of a second while Chaves was third 1.0370 seconds behind.

On Lap 13, Munoz, who had been right on Karam’s tail, went for the lead on the outside as the pair went through Turn 1, and completed the pass in Turn 2. He led Karam by .0642 of a second at the line.

On Lap 14, Hawksworth made slight contact with the Turn 2 wall. He continued to the pits and was out of the race with suspension damage. There was no caution with the incident.

On Lap 17, Chase Austin made contact with the Turn 1 wall but continued on in the race as Munoz led Karam at the line by .0655 of a second.

On Lap 20, the halfway point of the race, Munoz led Karam by .0766 of a second. Chaves was third, followed by Dempsey and Veach. The top five were separated by just .9788 of a second.

As the laps ticked off, Karam continued to run literally on Munoz’ tail and the top three to five ran in very close formation.

On Lap 32, Munoz led Karam by .0833 of a second, while Chaves was in third, .2180 of a second behind.

The top three continued to run very close together, while Dempsey, who was in fourth began to close in on the trio.

On the final lap, Karam and Chaves got past Munoz and were side by side, racing for the lead on the backstretch. They were joined by Munoz in Turns 3 and 4 to make it three wide for the lead. As the trio approached the front straight, they were joined by Dempsey, who came up on the outside to make it four-wide as they came onto the frontstretch and to the checkered flag.

Almost unbelievably, the quartet came across the finish line four-wide with Dempsey taking the win over Chaves by just .0026 of a second, and the top four separated by just .0443 of a second.

Following the race, all four of the drivers were in high spirits and knew it had been a great finish.

Munoz, who ended up fourth, was very philosophical about the race and was happy to finish fourth and retain the point lead.

“I’m feeling okay. I’m not disappointed at all. I gave everything I had on the track. It is kind of tough on the ovals, you have to expect that to happen,” he said.

“I’m more happy because I’m the championship leader, and though it is really nice to win here in Indianapolis, I have to think more in the championship than any one race,” he added.

Following the win, Dempsey said, “If you’re going to win your first Indy Lights race, there’s not one place that could be any better in the world than the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

(About being four wide.) “It was tight. I was just hoping they weren’t going to move, because if they moved, there would have been a huge crash. Hats off to the other three drivers. They gave me the respect, they gave me the room. I might have snuck up on them a little late, maybe a little too late to see me, but they gave me just enough room,” Dempsey added.

Although the Freedom 100 was the highlight of the day, there was plenty of other action at the track.

The day began with two groups of vintage cars taking laps on the track. Highlighting the display was a number of beautifully restored 1950’s and early 1060’s roadsters that often ran in groups of three or more.

Next up on the Carb Day schedule was the final hour of IZOD IndyCar Series practice prior to Sunday’s Indianapolis 500.

All the qualified cars were on the track and more laps were turned than would be turned in a normal Carb Day practice due to the much colder weather today than on qualifying days. Race day is also expected to be cool so the teams were changing their set-ups to accommodate the weather conditions.

Takuma Sato summed up the general feeling about today’s practice session when he said, “It’s important to feel the car in traffic today because it is our final practice before the race. It was very cool today, which makes the car a lot faster. All felt positive, but we need to tune it up a little bit – massage it. ”

Simon Pagenaud was fastest in the practice session in the #77 Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports Honda with a speed of 225.827 mph.

Although he was fastest in practice today, Pagenaud will start 21st in the race. Alex Tagliani, who will start 11th on Sunday, is the fastest Honda in the “500” field.

There were several minor incidents today.

In the first minute of practice, Sato went to the pits with a small fire in the rear of the car, which was quickly extinguished by the team.

The yellow came out 35 minutes into the session when Ana Beatriz stopped at the pit entrance with light damage to the front wing and a flat tire after she hit the rear of Carlos Munoz’s car, causing light damage to the rear of his car.

Just as the session ended, Ryan Briscoe cam to a stop in the deceleration lane in Turn 4 with the rear of the car on fire due to a blown engine. The fire was quickly extinguished by the Holmatro Safety Team.

Due to the changing weather conditions, a total of 1,305 laps were turned today, a very high number for Carb Day practice. Teams turned a cumulative total of 15,221 practice laps during practice for the Indianapolis 500.

Following the Freedom 100, the finals of the Indy 500 Pit Stop Challenge were held. Team Penske and driver Helio Castroneves defeated Dario Franchitti and Target Chip Ganassi Racing to claim the $50,000 prize. It was the 14th victory for Team Penske and the sixth victory for Castronevers in the Pit Stop Challenge.

The very busy day was rounded out by an infield concert by the band “Poison.”

Tomorrow will be the traditional ceremonial Drivers Meeting, an autograph session with the qualified drivers, special autograph sessions featuring retired drivers, a memorabilia show and a special on-track exhibition of 33 roadsters led by Parnelli Jones.

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