SPEEDWAY, Ind. – Colombian-American Gabby Chaves made amends for a heartbreaking second-place finish last year by scoring a close victory in Friday’s Freedom 100 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Third-generation racer Matthew Brabham led 28 of the 40 laps around the 2.5-mile oval for Andretti Autosport, but had to be content with second place by just 0.005 seconds – the third closest margin in Indy Lights history.
Chaves’ third win of the season for Belardi Auto Racing vaulted him into the points lead by a scant one point.
Zach Veach, who finished third – a mere 0.1446 seconds behind the winner – dropped to second in points.
“I’m speechless,” Chaves said. “It hasn’t really sunk in yet. I feel like I’m going to wake up in the next minute, discover it’s a dream and I have to go do it all over again. “I’m slowly starting to understand what just happened. Early in the race, I was just trying to get myself into a position where I could have a good shot at it on the last lap. Once I was in the top three, I knew I didn’t have to make any moves.”
In 2013, Chaves used the draft on the outside line to draw alongside previous leader Carlos Munoz at the exit of turn four, and looked set for the victory until Irishman Peter Dempsey took an even higher line and edged Chaves to the line by six inches.
This time around, driving the same Belardi car, Chaves pulled the identical move on Brabham to snatch the victory. The winning maneuver earned Chaves the RePlay XD Move of the Race Award.
On Lap 15, the action was interrupted by a ferocious accident when Chase Austin lost control of Belardi Auto Racing car in Turn One and made heavy contact with the inside retaining wall.
Austin, making his sixth Indy Lights start but his first since last year’s Freedom 100, was extracted from the wreck and evaluated at the infield care center before being transported, awake and alert, to Methodist Hospital with a fractured left wrist.
Chaves moved from third to first soon after the restart, on Lap 24, only to slip from first to third a handful of laps later following a thrilling moment in Turn One when Chaves, Veach and Brabham were virtually three abreast.
Andretti teammates Brabham and Veach led Chaves when the white flag flew at the end of Lap 39, but it was Chaves who emerged in front when it mattered most to claim the biggest win of his career to date.
Teammates Luiz Razia and Jack Harvey exchanged places numerous times in the closing stages before crossing the line fourth and fifth. Mexico’s Juan Pablo Garcia, in a third Schmidt Peterson car, finished sixth.