SPEEDWAY, Ind. – 19-year-old Brazilian Matheus Leist converted his record-setting pole into a victory during Friday’s Freedom 100 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, leading from start-to-finish in his first-ever oval appearance.
Driving for Carlin Racing, Leist got the jump on the initial green flag and never looked back from there, scoring his first-career Indy Lights win in just his seventh series start.
Leist said in victory lane that the magnitude of winning at Indianapolis Motor Speedway was massive.
“It was a tough race, you know? But we had the pace and this is incredible,” Leist explained. “I am very happy. The car was just amazing. It was just an amazing race and to win at Indianapolis in my first race on an oval … I couldn’t be happier.”
Leist joins a list of Brazilian nationals that includes three-time Indianapolis 500 champion Helio Castroneves and 2013 champion Tony Kanaan as a winner at IMS.
Asked whether he has modeled himself after that duo over his young career, Leist replied, “It’s tough to say, you know, but what I do know is that this was only my first win in the Lights and it’s still a long, long journey. I hope to be winning here in the Indy 500 one day like they have.”
The win by Leist also completed a tale of redemption for team owner Trevor Carlin, who came agonizingly close to winning last year’s Freedom 100 with Ed Jones before Jones lost out to Dean Stoneman in the closest finish in track history (0.0024 seconds).
Only one caution slowed the pace during Friday afternoon’s festivities, but the incident that precipitated it was a massive one.
In Turn 2 on the opening lap, second-generation rookie Colton Herta came down on Andretti teammate Dalton Kellett in a battle for third, after Herta had fallen back from his front-row starting spot.
Herta came across Kellett’s nose wing and the two made contact, with Herta spinning out of control and up into the outside SAFER Barrier at the exit of the corner, where he was pummeled by fellow Andretti team car Ryan Norman as Norman came up the outside lane.
Both cars were eliminated, with Herta being scored 13th and Norman 14th after the checkered flag had waved.
After racing resumed on lap six, the remainder of the distance ran caution-free, with Leist’s biggest challenge being a pair of pass attempts by American Aaron Telitz with seven laps to go.
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