It’s Mid-Ohio Weekend!!! Next to Indianapolis, the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course is my favourite track to visit. The IndyCar weekend is filled with activity and the circuit is never quite. Between the IndyCar Series, the Indy Lights, Pro Mazda, USF2000, and the SCCA Pro Pirelli World Challenge, there’s always someone circulating and there’s a variety of racing machines to enjoy. One of the biggest battles during the weekend will be the fight for the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires 2014 Championship. Belardi Auto Racing’s Gabby Chaves and Andretti Autosport’s Zach Veach. After his win at Pocono and his podium finish at Toronto, Chaves carries a 21-point lead over Veach into this weekend’s double-header at Mid-Ohio. It’s an uphill battle for Veach, as not only does Chaves have the points lead, he’s also the defending champion of this race.
“I’m extremely excited to be making it back to Ohio for my home race! We made a lot of progress and some changes from what we learned at Toronto, and we’re looking forward to putting them to good use Thursday when we get to test on the track. It’s crunch time for the championship and we’re ready to make every lap count!” — Zach Veach, #26 Andretti Autosport
Schmidt Peterson Motorsport’s Jack Harvey is close, trailing Veach by 27 points, but it’s going to take consistently strong finishes on his part and some struggles on the part of Veach and Chaves to make a serious run at the title in Sonoma.
I’ll be lurking around the photo holes around the circuit all weekend. If you see me, wave me down and let’s talk motorsport! And don’t forget to have a fried bologna sandwich.
Official Release from Indy Lights – Mid-Ohio Indy Lights Doubleheader Crucial for Title Contenders
Dallara IL-15 Set to Make Public Debut at Mid-Ohio Test
Palmetto, Fla. – This weekend’s Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio, August 1-3, will comprise a pair of races at the scenic and challenging Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio, at a critical stage of the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires title-chase. Just five races remain this season, and with well over 100 points available and the top four contenders currently separated by just 62 points, every position gained could carry huge significance.
Colombian-American Gabby Chaves, 21, currently holds a 21-point margin over his nearest challenger on the strength of four wins, including a pair of victories and one second-place finish from his last three starts with Belardi Auto Racing’s #5 Marca Colombia/Coldeportes entry. Such consistency should stand him in good stead, especially since Chaves also holds the advantage of having claimed his first Indy Lights victory in last year’s race on the undulating 2.258-mile road circuit.
Ohio Native Veach Looking to Bounce Back on Home Turf
Zach Veach, 19, from Stockdale, Ohio began the season on a tear, winning the opening round at St. Petersburg, Fla., finishing second at Long Beach, Calif., and then adding a second victory at Barber Motorsports Park, Ala. A third-place finish at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and a second – from the pole – at Pocono Raceway has kept the Andretti Autosport driver well in the mix, but Veach is anxious to bounce back from a disappointing race two weeks ago on the streets of Toronto, Ont., Canada, where he was restricted to a distant fifth-place finish in the #26 RePLAY XD/The Young Marines/Ads IT Solutions/Zakosi Data Back Up entry.
Harvey, Brabham on a Charge
Indy Lights rookies Jack Harvey and Matthew Brabham have been consistently fast in recent events and are keen to keep the pressure on both Chaves and Veach during the Mid-Ohio double-header.
Harvey, 21, from Lincoln, England, has yet to win a race this season in Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian’s #42 Racing Steps Foundation entry but the former British Formula 3 champion has been a model of consistency with nine straight top-five finishes and six visits to the podium. Harvey lies third in the overall standings, 48 points out of the lead.
Brabham (Andretti Autosport), who trails Harvey by just 14 points, has plenty of experience on the 13-turn layout after claiming a third-place finish on his debut in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda in 2012 and then dominating both Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires races last year en route to his second successive Mazda Road to Indy championship crown. Brabham already has one Indy Lights win to his credit, in May on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
Scott Anderson (Fan Force United) also has visited victory circle at Mid-Ohio – in 2012 when he claimed the first of his two wins in the USF2000 series.
Jefferies and Simpson Join Mid-Ohio Grid
One year ago, Zimbabwe’s Axcil Jefferies made his Indy Lights debut at Mid-Ohio, claiming a solid seventh-place result for Bryan Herta Autosport. He also finished an impressive fifth later in the year at Houston. Jefferies, who took part in the first two GP2 races this season, will return to the Indy Lights ranks this weekend with Belardi Auto Racing, driving the same #4 machine with which Alex Baron scored an impressive breakthrough victory two weeks ago in Toronto.
Indianapolis racer Jimmy Simpson also has concluded a late deal to join Canadian Zack Meyer in a second Team Moore Racing entry. Simpson, 21, who has raced extensively in USAC midgets, made his Indy Lights debut in the Freedom 100 at Indianapolis in 2013, finishing seventh. This year he has won two races in the Atlantic Championship Series and currently lies second in the points table behind USF000 regular Daniel Burkett.
Californian Ryan Phinny, who returned to the fray in Canada after a three-year hiatus, will continue with Bryan Herta Autosport/JMM with Curb-Agajanian in preparation for an expected graduation into the Verizon IndyCar Series next year.
Dallara IL-15 Set for Public Debut
The brand-new, state-of-the-art Dallara IL-15, which will be introduced for the 2015 season and provide a fresh impetus for Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, will make its public debut and begin its final development phase at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course next Monday, August 4. The prototype chassis will be driven by rising American star Conor Daly, who won the Pro (Star) Mazda Championship in 2010, earned an Indy Lights victory at Long Beach during a partial campaign in 2011, and last weekend scored his first championship points in the European-based GP2 Championship in support of the Formula 1 Hungarian Grand Prix.
The new car features a turbocharged, four-cylinder, 2.0-liter AER engine producing 450 horsepower and the very latest safety innovations, and a driver’s seat that is directly interchangeable with the current Dallara DW12 Indy car. Daly will conduct a shake-down test with the IL-15 today at Putnam Park.
The Dallara will be tested extensively over the next two months, prior to being put into full-scale production. The first examples of the IL-15 are set for delivery to Indy Lights teams in late October. Daly and Tristan Vautier – the 2011 Pro Mazda champion, 2012 Indy Lights champion and 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year – will handle the bulk of the testing duties.
Indy Lights represents the penultimate step on the Mazda Road to Indy ladder system which leads from karting through USF2000 and Pro Mazda to the Verizon IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500. After a pair of test sessions on Thursday, July 31, the Indy Lights competitors will take to the track just once on Friday for a 40-minute practice. Qualifying will take place on Saturday, August 2, at 9:00, with the opening 40-minute “sprint race” set to take the green flag at
3:25 p.m. Sunday’s 60-minute “feature race” will start at 11:55 a.m.
Live commentary on the IndyCar Radio Network, plus timing and scoring, will be available via the series’ website at http://indylights2014.com/live-timing/. The race will be broadcast on the NBC Sports Network with same day coverage at 6:00 pm ET.