Matt Brabham has ended the opening Indy Lights race of 2015 with a new lap record after a bruising encounter on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.
After qualifying eighth, Brabham had his Andretti Autosport machine up to the brink of the top five - however was forced to pit early for a damaged front wing, which was sustained during the course of an opening lap skirmish.
Compounding his troubles, officials handed Brabham a drive through penalty for his role in the incident.
The Andretti Autosport team used the unscheduled stop to strap a new set of Cooper Tires to Brabham's machine in a strategy effort to improve his starting position for race two.
Re-joining, he was able to use the clear air and the new Indy Lights package to his advantage, setting a new lap record some 0.8 seconds faster than Sebastian Saavedra’s previous marker.
Replacing the nose on the car and the penalty cost Brabham and the Andretti Autosport team two laps and he came home 11th.
Nevertheless, the strategy gamble paid off and the 21-year-old will start race two tomorrow from sixth position.
Tomorrow, a second Cooper Tires Indy Lights race will take place in preparation for the Firestone INDYCAR Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
Carlin Motorsport’s Ed Jones took the win in race one.
QUOTEBOARD - MATT BRABHAM:
“It is great that we’ve come away from today with a new lap record, we’ve been able to get a handle on this new car fairly quickly,” said Brabham.
“The other teams have had several days testing where I drove the package for the first time on Monday.
“Andretti Autosport and my engineer Dave Seyffert have worked over time to get the car to the point where it is competitive, so it is unfortunate that we had to have that wing replaced early in the race and copped the penalty as well.
"The strategy the team employed to get us up the grid tomorrow has worked and I'm feeling pretty comfortable.
“Tomorrow’s another day. We know we have the pace on board, we just have to start moving forward and stay out of trouble and we can hopefully gain a top result to end the weekend and use that to build on for the remainder of the season.”
INDY LIGHTS ST. PETERSBURG SCHEDULE (All times US Eastern):
Sunday, March 2912:45-13:55 - Race 2
TELEVISION:Indy Lights will be carried in the US on the NBC Sports Network; throughout South America on ESPN International; Sportsnet in Canada and Sky in New Zealand.
LIVE RADIO:Live radio broadcasts of each session as per the above times will be available through www.indycarradio.com.
LIVE TIMING:Live timing will be available for each session through www.indylights.com.