The Road to Indy Begins Here - The Firestone Indy Lights Freedom 100 Race Primer

INDIANAPOLIS - MAY 21: Alex Tagliani driver of the #77 Bowers & Wilkens/Sam Schmidt Motorsports Dallara Honda celebrates winning the pole position with team owner sam Schmidt during qualifying for the the 95th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 21, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

Update Midnight 5/27/2011: Qualifying for the Indy Lights Freedom 100 has been rained out, Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials announced on Thursday.

The starting grid for the Freedom 100 will be determined by entrant points. Lights rookie Bryan Clauson, a Noblesville native, will make his series debut on the pole in the race. Clauson is driving the No. 77 Sam Schmidt Motorsports car normally driven by Conor Daly, who currently sits atop the points standings.

As the Greatest Spectacle in Racing prepares for its 100th anniversary celebration on Sunday, the Firestone Indy Lights Series will set the tone for the weekend with the ninth-annual Freedom 100 from the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Rain could easily change the outcome of today's race. We've seen it all May long - a flurry of showers that come out of nowhere and dissipate as quickly as they first appeared.

Weather could easily mess with pit strategies and determine the winner of this race.  The current forecast calls for a 20 percent chance of rain - whatever that means.

Simply put, it's best for the contenders to try to lead as many laps as possible. There's no guarantee of when the finish will occur. This makes track position paramount.

The pole sitter has won six of eight Freedom 100s from his front row starting spot, with the event's most recent sweep accomplished by Wade Cunningham and Sam Schmidt Motorsports in 2009. The winner of the Firestone Freedom 100 has come from the front row in all eight previous races.

Read about the 2011 contenders after the jump!

 

Schmidt enters the 2011 Freedom 100 as a heavy favorite once again with drivers Bryan Clauson, Josef Newgarden, Esteban Guerrieri, and Victor Carbone rounding out his stable.

SSM has won two of the last three Freedom 100s and has hired former winners Cunningham and Alex Lloyd as driver coaches for the 2011 team. Schmidt is bringing a wealth of Indy track data to the table if nothing else.

Andretti Autosport may have the most versatile Indy Lights program with Stefan Wilson and James Winslow. Wilson was fastest during the open test but acknowledged that he may have been helped by a tow.

The brother of IZOD IndyCar Series race winner Justin Wilson eventually concluded that most practice times were enhanced and has entered Friday morning feeling highly confident.

Spain's Victor Garcia (Team Moore) could be Friday's surprise contender.

Garcia is undoubtedly a road course-specialist, picking up his only win of the season in April at Barber Motorsports Park. And yet, the Spaniard is adjusting to ovals at an exceptional pace. Garcia earned his oval license just three weeks ago at Chicagoland Speedway but hasn't looked back since. He had the third-fastest time of the open test at 189.70 and should maintain that pace entering Friday's race.

Willy T. Ribbs, The first African-American to race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has returned as an Indy Lights owner alongside rookie driver Chase Austin.

The 21-year old struggled to find speed throughout both practice sessions but his pedigree suggests that it could be just a matter of time for the North Carolina-native.

At 15 years old, Austin was the youngest-ever driver to sign a Hendrick Motorsports development contract. By 2007, he was driving for Rusty Wallace, making several starts in both the NASCAR Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series.

Will his obvious talent translate to open-wheel and IMS? Find the answer to this and more on Friday afternoon.

The Firestone Freedom 100 will be held at IMS during Miller Lite Carb Day on May 27 with the VERSUS television broadcast starting at 11:00 a.m. EST.

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