Gabby Chaves is on a roll. The Colombian-American has won each of the past two Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires races – on the ovals at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Pocono Raceway – and now seeks to keep his streak alive as the series heads to the streets of Toronto, Ont., Canada, this weekend.
Chaves finished third last year on the 1.755-mile, 11-turn course that wends its way around Exhibition Place and is planning to use that experience to its fullest effect as he seeks to extend his championship lead over Ohio's Zach Veach. Chaves, from Miami, Fla., who celebrated his 21st birthday last week, has won four races this year to Veach's two, and currently holds an 11-point margin, 316-305, after eight of the season's 14 races.
Chaves' Belardi Auto Racing team will be back up to full strength in Canada as Alex Baron, who carries dual French and British citizenship, returns to action after missing the most recent round at Pocono. Veach, too, has the benefit of a teammate at Andretti Autosport, although Matthew Brabham has designs on a championship of his own after winning titles on the first two steps of the Mazda Road to Indy – the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda and the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires – in successive seasons.
Brabham currently holds fourth place in the standings, just 10 markers behind fellow Indy Lights rookie Jack Harvey (Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian), from England, and 54 shy of Chaves. A total of 53 points are available this weekend, including 50 for the race win and single bonus points for pole position, fastest race lap and leading most laps.
Harvey's teammate, Luiz Razia, also is in the thick of the rookie battle. The Brazilian, a veteran of GP2 competition in Europe, now sits fifth in the standings after losing a lot of ground at Pocono when he crashed in the early stages..
Canadians Looking to Make Their Mark in Hometown Race
Toronto's Zack Meyer, who finished a strong fourth on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in May, will return to Team Moore Racing for his home race. Meyer, who finished sixth in the Pro Mazda championship last year earning the year-end Quarter Master Hard Charger Award for most positions gained over the course of the season, narrowly missed the podium at Toronto in 2013 with a fourth-place finish. He will pilot the #2 TMR/DAMIS PARTNERS III/ Extreme Drilling entry.
Fellow Ontario native Matthew Di Leo, 19, from Barrie, will make his seasonal debut for the family run MDL Racing team after contesting a handful of races in 2013 with a best finish of fifth at Long Beach. Di Leo, a graduate of USF2000 who finished fourth in the 2012 championship, is the only owner/driver in the field and will pilot the #56 Solmar Development Corporation entry.
Ryan Phinny Returns to Action with Bryan Herta Autosport/JMM with Curb-Agajanian
Californian Ryan Phinny also will come back to the fold – after making a solitary start in 2011 – having joined Bryan Herta Autosport/JMM with Curb-Agajanian in anticipation of moving up to the Verizon IndyCar Series in 2015. George Clooney's Casamigos Tequila brand has aligned with Phinny as the title sponsor of the #28 entry. In addition to Toronto, Phinny will contest rounds at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and Sonoma Raceway.
Race Marks Anniversary of Andersen Promotions/Indy Lights Alignment
It was just over a year ago at Toronto that INDYCAR announced Andersen Promotions would be taking over the helm to license and operate Indy Lights beginning this season. Since that time the company has been on the fast track securing key partnerships with Cooper Tires, Dallara, Advanced Engine Research (AER), Motegi Racing Wheels, Performance Friction, Cosworth and others as well as unveiling the new state-of-the art Dallara IL-15 which will make its competition debut in 2015 and form the backbone of the rejuvenated Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires.
"It's been quite a year since the announcement," said Dan Andersen, owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions. "It is a pleasure to come back to Toronto knowing we made good on a lot of the goals we set out to accomplish. We have a terrific group of partners in place who are committed to re-establishing Indy Lights as a premier driver development category worldwide . We have a beautiful new car with the latest technology and safety enhancements about to begin testing, and we've expanded our marketing, advertising and promotional efforts and added RoadToIndy.TV.
"The effort is paying off with a lot of interest in the series for next season. The new car coupled with a new scholarship program where our 2015 champion is guaranteed a three-race Verizon IndyCar Series program in 2016 – including the Indianapolis 500 – is garnering a lot of attention. It's an exciting time."
The new Dallara IL-15 will make its public debut on August 4 at Mid-Ohio with Conor Daly handling driving duties.
The Indy Lights field will take to the track for the first time for a 35-minute practice from 3:00 p.m. on Friday, July 18, followed by a second session from 8:15-9:00 a.m. on Saturday. Qualifying will run from 1:30-2:05 p.m. The green flag for the Grand Prix of Toronto will fly at 10:45 a.m. on Sunday, July 20.
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 with same-day coverage on the NBC Sports Network at 6:00 pm ET.