Pocono 100 set for Saturday
The battle heats up this weekend as the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires contenders head to Pocono Raceway for Saturday's Pocono 100. The level of intensity is high as Colombian-American Gabby Chaves and Ohioan Zach Veach (in photo) are tied in points at the halfway mark in the season, with Brazilian Luiz Razia just seven points behind.
The trio, who all drive for different teams, will continue their battle for supremacy at the challenging and super-fast, 2.5-mile, three-cornered "oval" - renowned as "The Tricky Triangle" - set deep among the Pocono Mountains near Long Pond, Pa.
Miami, Fla.-based Chaves is the nominal series leader, breaking the points tie by virtue of his third win of the season - by a minuscule 0.0050-second margin - aboard Belardi Auto Racing's #5 Marca Colombia/Coldeportes car in the Freedom 100 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May. Chaves finished third at Pocono last year, posting the fastest lap of the race at 188.052 mph, and will be chasing an early birthday present. He turns 21 next Monday.
Veach, 19, who drives the #26 RePLAY XD/The Young Marines/Ads IT Solutions/Zakosi Data Back Up entry for Andretti Autosport, has won twice this season, at St. Petersburg and Barber Motorsports Park. Both Chaves and Veach are in their second year of Indy Lights.
Razia is a rookie but has amassed plenty of experience in Europe, including several years in GP2, the primary feeder series for Formula 1. The 25-year-old Brazilian earned his first Indy Lights win at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis road course in May. He also claimed pole position for his very first oval race, the Freedom 100 at Indianapolis, with his #7 Lucas Oil entry fielded by four-time defending champion team Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian.
Veach's teammate, Matthew Brabham, who has won back-to-back championships in USF2000 and Pro Mazda, made his first visit to an Indy Lights victory circle at Indianapolis, while Razia's teammate and fellow rookie, Englishman Jack Harvey, has been knocking on the door after finishing among the top five in all seven of his Indy Lights races to date. Harvey currently lies fourth in the championship, only 27 points adrift of Chaves and Veach, and just five ahead of Brabham, who led for 28 of the 40 laps in the Freedom 100 before being edged at the finish by Chaves. Fifty points are on offer to the winner of each race, plus bonus markers for pole, the fastest race lap and leading most laps.
The battle for top honors in the team championship is equally as intense with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports holding only a five-point margin over Andretti Autosport (197 to 192) with Belardi Auto Racing a further 15 points adrift.
Indy Lights is the third and final step on the Mazda Road to Indy after the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda and the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires. This weekend's eighth round of the 14-race series will be held in conjunction with the Verizon IndyCar Series' Pocono INDYCAR 500 Fueled by Sunoco.
The Indy Lights field will benefit from no less than six hours of testing on Friday, July 4, followed by a 45-minute practice session on Saturday starting at 9:00 a.m. ET. Single-car qualifying will commence at 12:30 p.m., and the 40-lap race is scheduled for a green flag at 3:45 p.m., immediately prior to IndyCar Series qualifying.