Andretti Autosport’s Zach Veach and Belardi Auto Racing’s Gabby Chaves were tied for the lead of the IndyLights Presented by Cooper Tires 2014 Championship as the series headed to Pocono Raceway for their second oval race of the year. With six races left after Pocono, the outcome of last Saturday’s race wasn’t necessarily going to make or break Veach’s or Chaves’ chances at the title, but it would yield an advantage to the race winner, and a potentially large advantage if either driver had an incident. Schmidt Peterson Motorsport’s duo of Jack Harvey and Luiz Razia were well within striking distance if the leaders both had a bad day. The big difference between racing at the Tricky Triangle versus at the other superspeedway on the schedule, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, is that passing is far more difficult. A good qualifying run could be the difference between winning or being relegated to an also-ran.
Unfortunately, the series continues to struggle for participation, and this weekend the IndyLights grid only consisted of eight drivers. Fully half of the grid was the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports drivers of Luiz Razia, Jack Harvey, Juan Piedrahita, and Juan Pablo Garcia. The rest of the grid included the two drivers from Andretti Autosport Zach Veach and Matthew Brabham, Belardi Auto Racing’s Gabby Chavez, and Fan Force United’s Scott Anderson. Unfortunately, Zack Meyer of Team Moore Racing elected to not participate in the Pocono race citing personal reasons leaving the #2 machine at Pocono Raceway without a driver. The car count is disconcerting, but that’s a topic for another day.
The inexperience of Razia would end up biting him as the field came out of Turn 2. As his teammate Harvey moved to his outside, Razia remained a little too low on the track and put his left-side tires below the yellow stripe and onto the apron. That unsettled the car and caused him to hook the car into the inside barrier bringing out the only caution of the 40-lap race. On the restart, Veach pulled the same maneuver that Razia pulled on him on the race start to take the lead from Chaves in Turn 1. Mimicing the race start, Chaves reclaimed the lead in Turn 2, a lead he would retain for the remainder of the race.
With a second-place finish and qualifying on pole, Veach would minimize the damage done by that one mistake and Chaves’ win, but he still goes to Toronto 11 points behind his rival. Toronto is known for carnage, and the championship could turn in a heartbeat with one poorly placed wheel. Harvey, Brabham, and Razia aren’t within striking distance yet, but one bad weekend for the championship leaders like they had during the Indianapolis Grand Prix and they could be. Toronto could be the setup for a huge championship fight during the double-header weekend at Mid-Ohio. The field may be small, but the competition level in the IndyLights series is huge!