Belardi’s Chaves Maintains Indy Lights Point Lead Heading to Sonoma

Belardi Auto Racing's Gabby Chaves arrived at the Milwaukee Mile last weekend focused on sweeping all three oval races of the 2014 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires season. After winning at Indianapolis and Pocono, a victory on the historic speedway in West Allis, WI would stretch his lead atop the championship standings heading into the season finale doubleheader in Sonoma this coming weekend. Although he qualified on the front row for Sunday’s main event, Chaves' set-up was off slightly for the changing conditions, and he was forced to draw on all his experience and talent to bring the car home with a third place finish. The result in Milwaukee was enough to allow Gabby to maintain first place position at the top of the standings, and he will head to Sonoma Raceway this coming weekend with a seven-point lead.

Chaves looked good during the Friday test day and through Saturday’s practices on the famed Milwaukee Mile, running consistently in the top-three in lap times and focusing on developing a strong race set-up for the expected long run on Sunday. Blue skies, sun, warm temperatures and a northern wind were the characteristics on Saturday, as Chaves qualified his #5 Belardi Auto Racing entry in second, putting him on the outside of the front row alongside one of his championship challengers, Zach Veach. Sunday morning dawned much cooler, however, with overcast skies and a major shift in wind direction, which was now pushing the cars down the frontstretch into turn one. At the green flag, Veach got the jump and his teammate Matthew Brabham was able to slip through to second from third, as Gabby slotted into third to begin the 100-lap contest.

While his car was not conducive to aggressive attacks in the early laps, Chaves and the Belardi team were confident that they had a strong set-up for the expected long run of green flag laps. This proved not to be the case, as Chaves was fighting a car with a great deal of oversteer and he needed to stay on top of the steering input in each corner to maintain his third place running position. The 21-year-old Columbian-American turned in a performance worthy of his reputation and finished third in at the checkered flag, holding off the challenges of Luiz Razia throughout the race.

"We had a good car for qualifying, but struggled in the race,' Chaves admitted. "It's a positive that we were able to hang on for a podium finish and take the points lead into the season finale in Sonoma. Anything can happen now. I am 100% focused and determined on winning this championship, I deserve it and the team deserves it. I will go to Sonoma with one goal, and that is to race my heart out. My Belardi crew and team will give me the best race car to do it with, and I have all the confidence in the world that we are meant to be the champions."

Chaves and the Belardi Auto Racing squad will tackle Sonoma Raceway this coming weekend with the driver and team championships on the line. Gabby will be joined by Californian Ryan Phinny this weekend, as the rookie driver will drive the #4 Belardi entry in the final. Phinny has made two starts this season with Bryan Herta Autosport, running at both Toronto and Mid-Ohio, showing great speed despite focusing solely on gaining additional experience.

"I'm excited to run the Casamigos car with Belardi this coming weekend at Sonoma," Phinny commented. "They've had a great year so far and I'm looking forward to a strong finish for the 2014 season."

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