|Gabby Chaves scores his fourth win of 2014.|
The tense battle for Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires superiority between Gabby Chaves and Zach Veach continued with today's Pocono 100 at Pocono Raceway. Veach broke the points tie by claiming the pole position this morning for Andretti Autosport, but Chaves and Belardi Auto Racing played their trump cards during this afternoon's 40-lap race as the Colombian-American moved to the front on Lap 7 and never looked back.
Chaves' metronomic consistency with his #5 Marca Colombia/Coldeportes machine allowed him to inch clear of his rival with every lap on the 2.5-mile "Tricky Triangle" to score an emphatic victory – his fourth of the season from just eight races.
This afternoon's race initially featured a four-car battle at the front, with Veach maintaining his advantage from the start ahead of Brazilian Luiz Razia (Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian), Chaves and the second Schmidt car of Jack Harvey who slipped back a couple of positions after qualifying on the front row. Everything changed on Lap 7, however, as firstly Chaves pulled off a breathtaking three-wide maneuver into Turn One to take the lead and then, at the notorious Tunnel Turn (Turn Two), Razia lost control and crashed. The Brazilian was uninjured but his championship aspirations took a severe beating as a mere seven-point deficit to the series leaders turned into a 58-point hole by the end of the afternoon.
After a full-course caution to remove Razia's car from the track, Chaves took off into the lead and soon began to edge away from Veach. Harvey, in turn, couldn't match Veach's pace in the middle portion of the race. By Lap 25, the three leaders were each separated by a two-second gap.
Matthew Brabham (Andretti Autosport), bouncing back from a mishap during morning practice, held a distant fourth but under intense pressure from Juan Pablo Garcia who had exchanged places a couple of times with Schmidt Peterson teammate Juan Piedrahita.
As Chaves romped clear to a dominant victory, even posting the fastest lap of the race for good measure just two laps from the finish, Veach came under increasing pressure from Harvey. The two combatants ran nose-to-tail through the final 10 laps with Veach just holding onto second.
Brabham also narrowly held off the attentions of Garcia for fourth, only for the order to be reversed upon review by race officials for on-track conduct. The switch ensures that Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian maintains a slender four-point lead in the Team Championship, 224-220. Belardi Auto Racing currently lies third on 198. In the drivers' standings, Chaves leads Veach by 316 to 305. Harvey holds third on 272, followed by Brabham (262) and Razia (258) as the contenders head next to the streets of Toronto, Ont., Canada for Round 9 on July 20.
Chaves earned the RePlay XD Move of the Race Award for his move down the inside on Lap 7 while Razia and Veach were battling side-by-side to make it three wide and take the lead. Additional contingency awards included a customized Race Energy BCM21 charger – the official battery of the ladder series – to the winning team, Belardi Auto Racing.
Today's race will air on the NBC Sports Network tomorrow (Sunday, July 6) at 4:00 p.m. ET.
Gabby Chaves, #5 Marca Colombia/Coldeportes (Belardi Auto Racing): "Overall a great day of racing. We were really quick in practice but we missed our qualifying setup which was very disappointing because I really believe we were the car to beat. It definitely showed in the race. We set a faster lap time than we did in qualifying and we were really consistent. We almost improved every lap until the last lap of the race so you can't be much happier about that because the team gave me a great car and I was able to use it to perform to my top level.
"I knew that I had the better car so I knew I had to make my move early and make it count so when Luiz [Razia] got a run on Zach [Veach] and they went almost two wide in Turn Three, I was able to just have a clear run through there and have a much better exit than they did off of [Turn] Three. Luiz gave me enough space but there wasn't much more because we were already three wide so I just managed to squeeze by and grab the lead there. The safety car came out shortly after but I knew if I could keep the lead on the restart, we would be good. I definitely had an awesome car."
1. Gabby Chaves
2. Zach Veach
3. Jack Harvey
4. Matthew Brabham
5. Juan Pablo Garcia
6. Scott Anderson
7. Juan Piedrahita
8. Luiz Razia