INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Gabby Chaves lost by inches last year. He won by a couple feet this time around.
The young driver from Belardi Auto Racing atoned for a heartbreaking defeat last year by passing Matthew Brabham on the final lap Friday to win the Indy Lights race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in one of the closest finishes in the history of the track.
Chaves put the nose of his red No. 5 car ahead of Brabham's blue and white No. 83 as the two cars zipped across the famed yard of bricks. The official margin was 0.0050 seconds, or just about twice margin that separated Chaves from winner Peter Dempsey a year ago in the closest finish in Indianapolis history.
"The best way I can describe it is black and white, night and day," Chaves said. "You go from being first loser and feeling like there's so many things you could have done to being the winner, and it doesn't matter what else happens now. I won the race."
Chaves had spent the final five laps jockeying for second place with Zach Veach, who wound up third. All that jostling appeared to give Brabham some breathing room on the final lap, but Chaves pulled close down the back stretch and then moved high going through the final turn.
It was a drag race to the finish line, and for a moment, Chaves was not sure who had won.
"I looked up at the pylon and I still saw the 83 in first and thought, 'Aww, man,'" Chaves said. "It wasn't until I got to turn 1, the short chute, that everyone in the radio was screaming. I said, 'I don't know what you're saying but I'm pretty sure the message is clear.'"
Brabham was trying to win for the second time this month at Indianapolis — he won on the road course May 10. And he was trying to do it just days after his grandfather, three-time Formula One champion Sir Jack Brabham, died at his home in Australia at the age of 88.
Veach finished third, followed by Luiz Razia and Jack Harvey.
There was a lengthy caution early in the race when Chase Austin lost control exiting Turn 1 and shot through the short chute. He wound up backing into the point where the SAFER barrier and tire barrier comes together in the corner, his car exploding into pieces.
Austin was moving as he was removed from the wreckage, and a speedway spokesman said he had fractured his left wrist but was awake and alert. Austin was transferred to Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis for further evaluation.