10 October 2009
Romancini edges Lights finale.
Mario Romancini edged new champion JR Hildebrand by 0.0057secs - the second-closest margin in Indy Lights series history - to win the season-ending Homestead-Miami 100 for his second victory of the year.
The #5 RLR-Anderson entry pulled alongside Hildebrand exiting turn four on the final lap, winning a drag race down the front straightaway after Hildebrand had led 30 successive tours. Sebastian Saavedra finished third, four tenths adrift, as Romancini and Hildebrand played out the closest finish since Logan Gomez edged Alex Lloyd by 0.0005secs in the 2007 finale at Chicagoland. The Brazilian rookie came from tenth on the grid, the lowest starting spot for a winner this season, beating Daniel Herrington's ninth-place start en route to victory at Chicagoland.
"I lost my voice screaming on the radio!" Romancini admitted later, "I tried JR one lap before and couldn't get him in turn one, so I knew my last chance would be coming out of four and at the start-finish line on the last lap. I got him by a couple of inches - it was an amazing race!
"It was my best race ever. We had a bad qualifying - I don't really know why, but we just didn't have a good set-up - but it doesn't matter where you qualify on an oval if you have a good car for the race, and my car was really good. I got a really good start, and was up with the leaders by the second or third lap. We were running very close, but I didn't have any contact with anybody.
"My car was very good on the high line, but JR and I had very similar cars. I tried and I tried, but I couldn't pass him. I was hoping that we would push each other and pull away from the other cars, and that's what happened near the end of the race. It is really good to end the season in a good way, especially since the problems we had off and on this year."
Hildebrand's second place was his tenth podium finish of the season, and headed a 2-3 for AFS/Andretti Green Racing.
"It was a good way to cap [the season] off," he said, "We had some crazy runs on the mile-and-a-half ovals, but it's a good way to end it. I can't be more thankful to Michael Andretti and everyone on the team. Hopefully,  holds a really fast IndyCar season - we'll see what we can get."
Saavedra finished third for the seventh podium of his rookie season, while veteran Mike Potekhen finished a season-best fourth, ahead of pole winner James Davison, who continued a trait of polesitters failing to convert P1 in qualifying to P1 in the race.. The only pole winner to win the race was Travis Gregg in 2005.
"What a fantastic race," the Australian enthused nonetheless, "We qualified on pole, led a ton of laps and overcame a huge amount of pressure to get a good result. Romancini was helping Hildebrand to get a run on me midway through the race and, in the middle of turns one and two, my car snapped loose and it was about the closest thing to crashing as I could have imagined.
"I just kind of tracked up and we touched in the middle of the turn, and I had to correct the car again and lost a whole bunch of momentum and ended up dropping back to fifth. But, ultimately, the main priority was to maintain second place in the points in our first season back to Indy Lights competition since 2005, and we did that."
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