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PREVIEW: Freedom 100

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After a thrilling start to the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires season with three different winners, everybody eyes are focused on the crown jewel – the Freedom 100 presented by Cooper Tires.

The history of Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the race being ran just days before the Indianapolis 500 has turned the event into a must-watch for fans every year. With every driver clawing at the victory knowing what the future beyond this weekend could hold, the finishes each year have proven close for the win.

Just ask Colton Herta, who beat his then-teammate Patricio O’Ward for the victory in 2018. He was able to cap the year off with a runner-up in the standings, landing a chance with Harding Steinbrenner Racing that he turned into his first career NTT IndyCar Series victory at the Circuit of the Americas.

The 17th edition of the event will see a new face in victory lane when the checkered flag is flown with no previous winners entered in Friday’s race. Additionally, only Dalton Kellett and Ryan Norman have competed in the Freedom 100 before.

Of the pair, Kellett has the most experience with three starts, with success in each of those with a third-place finish. A strong performance like that this weekend could be beneficial for momentum heading into the second half as he has started the season with no top-five’s in the first six races.

His teammate Rinus Veekay has been able to do the opposite, currently leading the standings by a single point over Oliver Askew following a pair of victories. The most recent series winner showed speed in testing, posting the second quickest lap in the second session on Monday. He was also solid last year at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indy Pro 2000, finishing fourth en route to his championship.

It won’t be easy for Juncos Racing to make it happen, though, as their title rival Andretti Autosport will be right there with them. Oliver Askew leads the squad into the weekend, having reached victory lane twice in 2019. He has oval experience, finishing sixth last year at Lucas Oil Raceway, and was third quickest in testing.

Meanwhile, his teammates Ryan Norman is one of three drivers to have experience at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, scoring a fifth-place finish in 2018. He enters this weekend with momentum after scoring his first top-five of the season in the first race on the IMS road course at the beginning of May.

But the Andretti Autosport entry to watch will be Robert Meginnis, as he led testing at IMS on Monday with a lap of 45.5202 seconds. The driver of the No. 27 enters this weekend with momentum after scoring his first career Indy Lights victory with the first race on the IMS road course at the beginning of May. He also posted a third-place finish in the Indy Pro 2000 event at Lucas Oil Raceway in 2018.

BN Racing / Team Pelfry competitor Toby Sowery will be looking to get back on the podium after doing so in both races as part of the season opener in St. Petersburg, Florida. Since then, he has posted a best finish of fifth on two occasions in the four races since. Sowery was sixth quickest in testing, but has yet to run an oval event in Road to Indy competition previously.

Interestingly, season opener winner Zachary Claman is not on the entry list for the Freedom 100. Instead, Belardi Auto Racing will look be entering Chris Windom and Lucas Kohl.

Windom will be looking to make his Indy Lights debut after winning the 2017 USAC National Sprint Car Championship and the 2016 USAC Silver Crown Championship.

Kohl, meanwhile, is a regular with the team, currently ranked eighth in the series standings following a season-best of seventh on two occasions. He was seventh quickest in testing.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularOpenWheel.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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Ashley McCubbin is currently studying journalism at the University of Guelph-Humber while writing for multiple websites. She also serves on the managing staff for a select few. Born in North York, Ontario, McCubbin currently lives in Bradford, Ontario and spends her weekend at the local short tracks in the area where she enjoys taking photos and working on websites.

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