Gabby Chaves did his best at St. Pete.
Belardi Auto Racing has started the 2014 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires season in fine style, with a trip to the post-race podium celebrations. Series star Gabby Chaves showcased his and the Indiana-based team's title intentions in race one of the campaign, coming home second on the Streets of St. Petersburg while rookie Alex Baron added to the points haul in Florida, taking home a top-10 result.
After an off-season of preparing, planning, and testing, everyone at Belardi Auto Racing was excited to get the Indy Lights championship fight underway in Florida. Given the performances in the lead up to the season-opener - first and second fastest throughout official testing - the stage was set to be immediately battling for top honors on the 1.8-mile St. Petersburg street circuit. Chaves promptly did just that in the two practice runs, placing the No. 5 Marca Colombia/Coldeportes racer at the top of the speedcharts. For Baron, however, things did not start quite as planned, as his opening stint was cut short following contact with one of the concrete retaining walls. Following repairs by the skilled Belardi Auto Racing crew, the French rookie made up for lost time in the second practice session, gaining valuable seat time via the eighth best lap.
While being quickest in practice is nice, and builds momentum, qualifying is the first real session of note, particularly on street circuits, where passing opportunities can be at a premium. That, however, proved not to be the case this time out, as severe weather in the area forced the cancellation of the timed run, setting the grid for the season-opener via the combined practice times. Chaves as a result secured the pole position for race one, with Baron earning a row four starting spot via the eighth best lap.
The Belardi Auto Racing duo was greeted to sunny clear skies, and a perfect dry track, returning to the cockpits one day later. In what turned out to be the decisive moment of the race, Chaves got away cleanly at the waving of the green flag, only to relinquish the top spot exiting the first turn. From that point forward, he continually tried to reclaim the top position, but in the end held second place throughout the 39-lap affair, taking home his first podium visit of the season.
Behind the lead duo, Baron was keeping the fans on hand entertained, involved in a spirited dice for positions among the top-five. The No. 4 Liberty Engineering/13th Avenue/Synova/Stand 21/Bell racer was in contention for a podium visit in his debut, until late race contact with another driver resulted in his early retirement, and a 10th place classification.
"I really enjoyed my first Indy Lights race," commented Baron. "It didn't start off the way I wanted, but in the end, we did a good job to catch up. I'm a bit frustrated by the final result, but I know that we will be very competitive in Long Beach and the races to come. Thank you to the Belardi Auto Racing team for the amazing job they did this weekend."
Belardi Auto Racing resumes its quest for Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires wins and a series title on April 13, with race two on the Streets of Long Beach in California. Highlights from the streets of St. Petersburg will be broadcast on NBC Sports on April 4, at 4:00-5:00 pm ET.
Additional information on Belardi Auto Racing can be obtained from their website @ BelardiAutoRacing.com or by contacting Brian Belardi at 317-456-2816 / firstname.lastname@example.org Keep up to date via Twitter @ Belardi Auto Racing and on Facebook page @ Belardi Auto Racing
Keep up to date with Alex Baron via Twitter @ AlexBaronPro and on Facebook @ Alex Baron
Keep more about Gabby Chaves at GabbyChaves.com and keep up to date via Twitter @ GabbyChaves and Facebook @ Gabby Chaves Videos also available on YouTube @ Gabby Chaves Racing
Belardi Auto Racing