Sebastian Saavedra knows exactly how important qualifying is on the rolling Barber Motorsports Park circuit.
With that knowledge he put his No. 27 Andretti Autosport Indy Lights car on pole position for the start of Round 2 at Barber Motorports Park.
In the race, Saavedra took full advantage of his starting position, never looking back during the 95.2-mile race on Sunday.
The 21-year-old Colombian driver led from start to finish on the 17-turn, 2.38-mile circuit. It was his first Indy Lights win since 2010 and fourth overall. The victory marked his first career Indy Lights win on a natural-terrain road course.
Saavedra graduated to the IndyCar Series in 2011 but returned to Indy Lights this season. He plans to run the Indy 500 and a few other IndyCar races in 2012 while pursuing a full-time ride again for 2013.
Despite leading the entire race Saavedra — like the rest of the field — had to deal with a slippery race surface and fading tires.
“Lots of loose car moments out there today,” he said during a post-race interview. “But we nailed it. A perfect weekend.”
Tristan Vautier, who won the season-opening race on the streets of St. Petersburg, finished runner up. Late in the race, it appeared as though Vautier would make a bid for the lead after taking care of his tires early, but a series of late-race caution flags hampered his chances. With 10-laps remaining Vautier had whittled Saavedra’s lead down to within 8/10s of a second. It was not to be, though.
Esteban Guerrieri rounded out the top-three and was the fastest driver on track over the final green flag laps, consistently lapping nearly a half-second faster than both Saavedra and Vautier. There was too much ground to make up, however, as the race would end under caution. Carlos Munoz was third early, but Guerrieri made the pass for the final podium spot on Lap 22. Munoz’ race would end with just three laps remaining when he lost control in Turn 12 on Lap 37.
“It was a tough race,” Guerrieri said. “Hopefully the fans enjoyed it because they got to see a lot of sliding around.”
Early in the race, the big mover was Victor Carbone. Carbone picked up six positions on cold tires during the opening lap, advancing from 15th to 9th, making most of his passes on the outside of the corner. He ended his charge in fifth. Series veteran Gustavo Yacaman was fourth.
Vautier holds an eight-point lead in the championship over Saavedra. The drivers return to action in Long Beach on April 15th.