Baron Returns to Podium at Indianapolis
 May 14, 2014| 
  • Team News

French rookie overcomes challenging weekend with strong third place finish

INDIANAPOLIS, IND. – When you’re a rookie, every visit to a new facility presents its own unique challenges, such as starting behind the established drivers when it comes to track knowledge. During his first trip to the newly re-designed road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 8-10 for the fifth and sixth rounds of the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires championship, freshman Alex Baron found himself on a level playing field with his fellow series competitors, as it was the first time that the program would compete on the layout. Despite being on-par with his competition, Baron would still need to fight through a number of issues before finding his way to the prestigious IMS podium, including a blown motor in practice, braking issues in qualifying, and seriously challenging weather conditions. Baron overcame all these hurdles to post a pair of top-five results, capped by an impressive run to third in the 40-lap Feature race on Saturday.

“It was a hard weekend for me and the team, as we had many issues with the car during practice and qualifying ending up not having the results we expected,” commented Alex, who continues to improve with each and every session. “I think that to finish on the podium on Saturday was a relief for the team. We managed to get third place and that put a smile on everyone’s face before the Freedom 100. I am really looking forward to racing the full oval here at Indianapolis.”

Baron was quick out of the gate during the opening practice session on Thursday (May 8), timing in fourth while his veteran teammate Gabby Chaves topped the chart. Heading into the second practice, the team made changes to his car and Alex was looking to advance up the order, but there was no chance of that as engine problems sidelined him after just six laps. In Friday morning qualifying, he was ‘flying blind’ in a sense, as he had not been able to gauge the success of the chassis adjustments that were made for Practice #2. In the timed run, which would set the grid for Race #1, Alex quickly jumped to third, but brake issues were hampering his overall speed and he retired from the session having run just 14 laps. The standard late-race new tire runs pushed three drivers past Alex in the final minutes and as a result, he fell to sixth in the order, which put him on the outside of row three for the first of two races in the doubleheader.

The 30-lap Sprint race on Friday afternoon began in a downpour, and the rooster tails and spray from the field made it virtually impossible to see heading into turn one. Baron managed this lack of vision expertly, avoiding the turn one excitement to come out in the second position. The teams were already on grid with the rain came for the rain, so they were not able to make many adjustments for the wet, and Baron’s set-up was far from ideal. As a result, he moved steadily backwards, eventually holding off Juan Pablo Garcia for fifth. The track went from full wet to a dry line during the race, and the treaded rain tires were degraded rapidly, forcing Alex to use all his talent to maintain his position. All in all, it was a very positive result.

In the longer Feature race on Saturday, Alex got another strong start and emerged in third, a spot that he was maintain for the entire duration, despite having to hold back the advances of Race #1 winner Matthew Brabham. The pair of top-five finishes, which included his second career Indy Lights podium, have put him sixth in the championship standings. The young driver continues to make gains personally, and with his team engineer as well.

Alex will now look forward to the Freedom 100 on May 24, when he’ll get his first opportunity to race wheel-to-wheel on the famed 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval.

About Alex Baron:
Alex Baron is a 19-year-old racing car driver whose resume includes top-level competition karting, French Formula 4 and Formula Renault experience. In 2013, he debuted in North America running two weekends and four races in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, winning at both the Grand Prix of Houston and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca with Afterburner Autosport. Baron has advanced to the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires program for 2014, where he is campaigned for Belardi Auto Racing.

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