Colombian-American Gabby Chaves, 21, currently holds the point for Belardi Auto Racing, although 19-year-old Zach Veach (Andretti Autosport), from Stockdale, Ohio, trails by only seven points, 466-459, following an impressive come-from-behind victory on Sunday at the famed Milwaukee Mile oval. This weekend will present an entirely different challenge for the title protagonists who will square off for a 40-minute "sprint" race on Saturday followed by a 60-minute "feature" event on Sunday, August 24, on the demanding 2.385-mile, 12-turn natural terrain road course.
Englishman Jack Harvey, driving for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian, also remains in the title hunt with 443 points to his name. Chaves has won four times this season, Veach three times and Harvey twice as the 21-year-old from Lincoln, England, dominated the two most recent road course events, at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, on August 2/3.
A total of 105 points are up for grabs – 50 to the winner of each race, plus one point for the fastest qualifier on Friday afternoon and single bonus points for leading most laps and the fastest lap in each of the two races.
Brabham and Razia Aiming for Victories too
While most eyes will be focused on championship aspirants Chaves, Veach and Harvey, several others also have designs on claiming some headlines from the Indy Lights Grand Prix of Sonoma. Prime among them will be Matthew Brabham and Luiz Razia.
Brabham, 20, from Boca Raton, Fla., looks likely to fall short in his unique quest to win all three championships on the Mazda Road to Indy in succession – he claimed the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda in 2012 as well as last year's Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires – but the third-generation racer still has plenty of reason to be proud of his rookie Indy Lights campaign. He scored a maiden win at the Indianapolis road course in May and showed his versatility by leading most of last weekend's race at Milwaukee before being nipped at the end by Veach, his Andretti Autosport teammate.
Former GP2 race winner Luiz Razia has had no luck this year and has been involved in incidents during four of the last five races, but he, too, won at Indianapolis in May and is anxious to complete his maiden season in North America by returning to Victory Lane for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian.
Current Dallara to Make its Final Bow
This weekend marks the final two events for the current breed of V8-powered Dallara chassis which has been used exclusively in Indy Lights since its introduction in 2002. A total of 213 different drivers have contested at least one of the 167 races during that period. Englishman Alex Lloyd is the most prolific of the 58 different winners with 10 victories to his name. Chaves is the most successful of the current contenders with five wins.
The Sonoma double-header will represent the 361st and 362nd races since the championship made its bow in 1986, initially as the American Racing Series. Of the 120 different race winners to date, the late lamented Greg Moore is the most successful driver in Indy Lights history with 13 wins in 1994 and 1995.
The all-time stats for Indy Lights can be found here: http://indylights.com/teams-drivers/career-stats.
The exciting new Dallara IL-15, powered by a turbocharged, 2.0-liter, four-cylinder AER engine, is currently in the final stages of development and will replace the current car in 2015. Verizon IndyCar Series stars Scott Dixon and James Hinchcliffe will offer their input during a test at Indianapolis on September 5. Belardi Auto Racing last week confirmed it has purchased two of the new cars and are among nine teams that have already registered for the 2015 championship.
Over $2 Million to be Distributed at Season-Ending Banquet
All three levels of the Mazda Road to Indy will celebrate an extraordinarily successful year with a banquet to be held at the Jacuzzi Family Winery, close to Sonoma Raceway, on Sunday evening where over $2 million in prizes and awards will be distributed. The battle for the Team Championship is just as hotly contested as the drivers' title-chase. Schmidt Peterson, which has won the past four driver championships in a row with J-K Vernay, Josef Newgarden, Tristan Vautier and Sage Karam, currently leads the way on 332 points, but a 1-2 finish at Milwaukee enabled Andretti Autosport to close to within just nine points. Belardi Auto Racing also is firmly in the mix on 309 points. A total of 44 points are up for grabs at this weekend's double-header.
The packed agenda at Sonoma Raceway will begin with a pair of 45-minute test sessions on Thursday, August 21, then continue on Friday with a 45-minute practice at 9:45 a.m. and qualifying at 1:15 p.m. Race One will commence at 12:15 p.m. on Saturday, August 23. The green flag for the season finale will fall at 11:00 a.m. on Sunday, August 24. All times are PT.
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 by the NBC Sports Network with same day coverage at 7:00 pm ET.