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Cunningham wins close Freedom 100.

Polesitter Wade Cunningham recovered from losing his advantage mid-race to claim his second Firestone Freedom 100 race win in five attempts, edging JR Hildebrand by just 0.1046secs in the closest finish in event history.

Kiwi Cunningham, swapped the lead with AFS/AGR duo Hildebrand and Sebastian Saavedra nine times during the 40-lap blue riband event before the Sam Schmidt driver made the decisive move entering turn three of the white flag lap and held under pressure to take the flag just millimetres in front. Cunningham became the first two-time winner of the Freedom 100, having also won the event from the pole in 2006, but his sixth career victory was, remarkably, his first since Watkins Glen in 2007.

The win was also the third in the Freedom 100 for Sam Schmidt Motorsports, which also won from the pole in 2004 with Thiago Medeiros and 2005 with Jaime Camara, and avenges Cunningham's narrow defeat at the hands of the latter, which 0.1319secs margin had been the previous closest ever. Cunningham is the fourth different race winner in five Firestone Indy Lights races this season, following Junior Strous, Hildebrand and Saavedra.

"The whole race was to-and-fro," the Kiwi admitted, "I got to the front early and knew I couldn't lead all 40 laps, so I fell back because I didn't want to be leading at the end. I knew I had a fast car, and it was a matter of being at the right place at the right time."

Hildebrand also admitted to not wanting to be at the front, but found himself caught in two minds as the pack headed into the final couple of laps.

"I really didn't want to be leading the race toward the end, but there were enough fast cars there in the front that I tried to keep it up there for as long as I could," he revealed, having nevertheless taken over at the head of the points, "Wade got a good run, and I thought, if nothing else, I could just work with him, maybe get by him there at the end. However, I just picked up too much understeer when I was back in traffic - I set the car so I would be quick up front but, once I got behind guys, I just couldn't adjust it fast enough."

Increasingly impressive Brazilian Mario Romancini claimed a second successive third-place finish, following his Kansas podium with a climb through the field from 18th that eventually saw the RLR/Andersen car finishing just 0.2821secs back.

"I'm speechless - I don't know what to say," a surprised Romancini admitted, "The team did a phenomenal job. We did not do well in qualifying yesterday but, today, I was able to pass guys. The car felt really good, I felt really comfortable in traffic, and I am very happy to be on the podium here. This is just my second oval race - my first was in Kansas - so I'm still learning every lap."

Britain's Jay Howard, having qualified sixth on borrowed kit after inking a late extension to his Team PBIR deal, finished fourth after also managing to overcome front row starter Saavedra.



Related Pictures

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Wade Cunningham (Sam Schmidt Motorsports) passes JR Hildebrand for the lead - and the win - at Indianapolis   [pic credit: IRL/Payne]
Scott Dixon sprays the champagne in Victory Circle following his win in the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma at Sonoma Raceway. (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Scott Dixon is congratulated by Dario Franchitti after winning the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series Championship. (Photo by: Shawn Gritzmacher for IndyCar Media)
Scott Dixon with a victory kiss from his wife, Emma, following clinching the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series Championship. (Photo by: Shawn Gritzmacher for IndyCar Media)
Scott Dixon celebrates his victory in the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma and the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series Championship. (Photo by: Shawn Gritzmacher for IndyCar Media)
Scott Dixon wins the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series Championship, his fourth series championship of his career. (Photo by: John Cote for IndyCar Media)
Scott Dixon, driver of the #9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet IndyCar V6, races to victory Sunday, August 30, 2015, winning the final Verizon IndyCar Series race of the season and the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series Driver`s Championship at Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, California. Chevrolet also wins its fourth consecutive Verizon IndyCar Series Manufacturer`s Championship. (Photo by Ernie Masche/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Scott Dixon (left), driver of the #9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet IndyCar V6, celebrates his victory Sunday, August 30, 2015, after winning the final Verizon IndyCar Series race of the season and the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series Driver`s Championship at Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, California. Joining him on the podium is Charlie Kimball, driver of the #83 Novolog Flexpen Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet IndyCar V6 who finished third. Chevrolet won its fourth consecutive Verizon IndyCar Series Manufacturer`s Championship. (Photo by Phillip Abbott/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Scott Dixon, driver of the #9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet IndyCar V6, takes the chequered flag Sunday, August 30, 2015, winning the final Verizon IndyCar Series race of the season and the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series Driver`s Championship at Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, California. Chevrolet also wins its fourth consecutive Verizon IndyCar Series Manufacturer`s Championship. (Photo by Perry Nelson/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Scott Dixon, driver of the #9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet IndyCar V6, races to victory Sunday, August 30, 2015, winning the final Verizon IndyCar Series race of the season and the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series Driver`s Championship at Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, California. Chevrolet also wins its fourth consecutive Verizon IndyCar Series Manufacturer`s Championship. (Photo by Michael L. Levitt/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Scott Dixon - 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series champion - Target Chip Ganassi Racing (Photo by: Bret Kelley for IndyCar Media)
Scott Dixon celebrates after winning the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma and clinching the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series championship at Sonoma Raceway (Photo by: Richard Dowdy for IndyCar Media)
Scott Dixon celebrates after winning the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma and clinching the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series championship at Sonoma Raceway (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Scott Dixon celebrates after winning the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma and clinching the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series championship at Sonoma Raceway (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Scott Dixon celebrates with team mates after winning the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma and clinching the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series championship at Sonoma Raceway (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Scott Dixon celebrates with Chip Ganassi after winning the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma and clinching the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series championship at Sonoma Raceway (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Scott Dixon celebrates after winning the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma and clinching the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series championship at Sonoma Raceway (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Scott Dixon celebrates with Chip Ganassi after winning the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma and clinching the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series championship at Sonoma Raceway (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)

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