Indy Lights lap record decimated as Ethan Ringel takes pole for Freedom 100
Mazda's debut as an engine manufacturer at the hallowed Indianapolis Motor Speedway resulted in a rewriting of the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires record book as Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian's Ethan Ringel snared the pole position for tomorrow's Freedom 100.
The 20-year-old from Orlando, Fla., shattered the old two-lap qualifying mark of 190.177 mph (set by Wade Cunningham in 2009) with a new standard at 197.684 mph. Ringel also eclipsed the old single-lap mark (established with the assistance of a draft during the 2011 race by Brandon Wagner at 192.301 mph) with the first of his two laps at 197.866 mph.
After average speeds soared to almost 200 mph in the draft during practice earlier today, headed by Sean Rayhall (8Star Motorsports) at 199.452 mph, it was clear the track record would fall during qualifying. Felix Serralles, from Ponce, Puerto Rico, second fastest this morning at 199.318 mph, drew first in the order. It came as no surprise to see the ex-European Formula 3 racer break the existing mark with two laps at an average of 195.427 mph for Belardi Auto Racing, which has won the past two Freedom 100s with Peter Dempsey in 2013 and Gabby Chaves in 2014.
Next out was Englishman Jack Harvey, whose Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Dallara-Mazda IL-15 has been among the fastest cars all week long. Sure enough, Harvey, who currently lies just six points out of the Indy Lights championship lead, eclipsed Serralles with a pair of laps averaging 197.551 mph. Harvey's effort remained good enough for a position on the outside of the front row for tomorrow afternoon's race.
This morning's star performer, Rayhall, who scored a surprise victory two weeks ago on the Indianapolis Grand Prix course, couldn't quite match the two Schmidt Peterson cars but still did enough to annex third on the grid with a two-lap average of 197.111 mph. The fastest three cars all posted speed-trap figures in excess of 202 mph heading into Turn One.
Scott Anderson, from Fort Collins, Colo., will start on the outside of Row Two (196.329 mph) for Schmidt Peterson, with teammate RC Enerson, from New Port Richey, Fla., just a few ticks slower at 196.237 mph.
Rookie Kyle Kaiser ensured there will be five American drivers in the top six starting positions for Juncos Racing, followed by Carlin teammates Max Chilton and series leader Ed Jones.
The green flag for tomorrow's Freedom 100, part of the #MRTI FreedomFest activities during the lead up to Sunday's 99th Indianapolis 500, will fly at 12:30 p.m. EDT. The race will be broadcast live on NBCSN. Live timing and commentary will be available on the new Mazda Road to Indy App and at indylights.com.