INDIANAPOLIS — Gabby Chaves lost by inches last year. He won by a couple of feet this time around.
Chaves atoned for his heartbreaking 2013 defeat 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 famed track's history.
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 the 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 five laps jockeying for second place with Zach Veach, who wound up third. All that jostling appeared to give Brabham some breathing room, but Chaves pulled close down the backstretch then moved high through Turn 4.
It was a drag race to the finish, and for a moment, Chaves was not sure who 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, born in Boca Raton, was racing days after his grandfather, three-time Formula One champion Sir Jack Brabham, died at his home in Australia at 88.
Chase Austin lost control exiting Turn 1 and hit the wall rear first; the speedway said he fractured his left wrist but was awake and alert.
NHRA: John Force broke Funny Car track records for time (4.021 seconds) and speed (318.84 mph) in qualifying at the Kansas Nationals in Topeka. J.R. Todd led Top Fuel and Vincent Nobile topped Pro Stock.