Indy Lights Title Chase Heats Up
PALMETTO, Fla. – Three races remain in this year’s 14-round Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires title chase.
Six drivers hold a mathematical chance of winning the championship, but in all probability the winner will come from among the current top three – Gabby Chaves, Jack Harvey and Zach Veach – who are separated by just 24 points going into Sunday’s final oval race of the season, the Milwaukee Mile 100 at the famed Milwaukee Mile in West Allis, Wis.
Each of them will be anxious to eke out a little breathing space prior to the title-deciding double-header one week later at the Sonoma Raceway road course in Northern California.
Colombian-American Chaves currently leads the way following an impressive sophomore Indy Lights season with Belardi Auto Racing’s #5 Marca Colombia/Coldeportes entry. The 21-year-old from Miami has won four times – including both previous oval races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Pocono Raceway – and holds an 18-point advantage, 431-413, over Harvey, with Veach just six markers further in arrears.
Prior to the pair of races two weeks ago at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, it seemed as though Chaves and Veach, a two-time winner this season, would be fighting it out for the title. Except no one told Harvey, a 21-year-old rookie, who swept both races in the #42 Racing Steps Foundation car to vault himself into the thick of the battle.
Harvey, from Lincoln, England, does not have the advantage of any prior experience on the historic Milwaukee Mile – the oldest permanent race track in the country dating back to the early 1900s – but he does have momentum on his side. The former British Formula 3 champion also can draw on the vast depth of knowledge of his team, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian, which has won each of the past three Milwaukee events with Sage Karam (2013), Tristan Vautier (2012) and Esteban Guerrieri (2011).
Veach, 19, from Stockdale, Ohio, has high expectations after displaying good form on the ovals, finishing third at Indianapolis and second at Pocono from the pole in the #26 RePLAY XD/The Young Marines/Ads IT Solutions/Zakosi Data Back Up car fielded by Andretti Autosport. Veach also enjoyed a strong run at Milwaukee last year, qualifying on the pole and leading a race-high 56 laps before having to settle for second place behind eventual series champion Sage Karam.
With his two wins and six additional podiums, Harvey currently holds an 88-point advantage in the Rookie of the Year standings over Andretti Autosport’s Matthew Brabham and a 101-point spread over teammate Luiz Razia – both race winners this year.
The Team Championship also is finely poised. Schmidt Peterson currently leads the way on 314 points, followed by Belardi Auto Racing on 291 and Andretti Autosport on 283. Schmidt Peterson has won the past four championships in a row through the efforts of J-K Vernay, Josef Newgarden, Vautier and Karam.