Indy Lights cars competed on an earlier version of the Indianapolis road course from 2005 to 2007, but this week will mark the first time either Pro Mazda or USF2000 cars have raced at the venue, previously having only turned laps during the Chris Griffis Memorial Mazda Road to Indy tests in 2011 and 2012.
Veach and Chaves to Continue their Battle for Indy Lights Supremacy
Zach Veach and Gabby Chaves have each claimed two race wins this year in Indy Lights – the top rung of the Mazda Road to Indy development ladder – and have their eyes firmly set on a MAZDASPEED Driver Development Scholarship which will assist them in taking the final step into the Verizon IndyCar Series in 2015.
Veach, 19, from Stockdale, Ohio, took the series opener on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., in March for Andretti Autosport, while his Colombian-American rival, Chaves, 20, from Miami, Fla., evened the score two weeks later by winning for Belardi Auto Racing on the iconic Long Beach street circuit in Southern California. Last time out at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama, for the first double-header of the 14-race season and the first visit this year to a permanent road course, the score was level again as Veach (#26 RePLAY XD/The Young Marines/Ads IT Solutions/Zakosi Data Back Up) and Chaves (#5 Marca Colombia/Coldeportes) each won once.
The two rising stars are currently separated by nine points in the championship chase, primarily because Veach kept his podium streak alive in the second race at Barber while Chaves was involved in an incident during Race One which resulted in a sixth-place finish.
The battle for third place in the points table is even more closely contested with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian teammates Luiz Razia, from Sao Paulo, Brazil, and Englishman Jack Harvey tied on points after four races. Razia (#7 Lucas Oil), a former GP2 race winner, finished second in the opening race at Barber, while Harvey (#42 Racing Steps Foundation), a former British Formula 3 Champion and front-runner in last year's GP3 Series in Europe, has two thirds, a fourth and a fifth to his credit. The form displayed by both Indy Lights rookies in Alabama suggested they will be challenging for race wins very soon.
The respective rookie teammates of Veach and Chaves – Matthew Brabham (#83 United Fiber & Data/MAZDASPEED-Andretti Autosport) and Alex Baron (#4 Liberty Engineering/13th Avenue-Belardi Auto Racing) – also have displayed their capabilities. Baron finished a strong second behind Chaves in the most recent race, while Brabham, who finished third at Long Beach, is intent upon rediscovering the form which enabled him to win successive MAZDASPEED Scholarships in 2012 (USF2000) and 2013 (Pro Mazda).
The Indy Lights teams and drivers will gain their first experience of the new track layout with a pair of one-hour sessions during a Promoter Test Day on Wednesday, followed by two 45-minute practice sessions on Thursday, at 1:00 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Qualifying will take place on Friday, May 9, at 1:00 p.m., followed by the green flag for a 40-minute "sprint" race at 5:30 p.m. Saturday's 60-minute "feature" event will start at 1:30 p.m., immediately prior to the Grand Prix of Indianapolis.
Spencer Pigot Seeks to Maintain his 100 Percent Record in Pro Mazda
Twenty-year-old Spencer Pigot has taken this year's Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires by storm. After winning the preseason Cooper Tires Winterfest mini-series in dominant fashion, Pigot has proceeded to claim a maximum possible 130 points from the opening two double-headers of the "regular season" at St. Petersburg, Fla., and Barber Motorsports Park in Leeds, Ala., with the #7 Doug Mockett & Company/Rising Star Racing/Vitamin-D Pro App/California Scents entry fielded by Juncos Racing.
But there will be no shortage of potential challengers to Pigot's early season dominance at this week's Allied Building Products Grand Prix of Indianapolis. Juncos Racing teammate Kyle Kaiser (#18 InterVision/NetApp/Juniper Networks/Riverbed) finished second in the first two races, while last year's USF2000 champion Scott Hargrove (#3 MAZDASPEED/Analytic Systems/RaceEnergy/Metal Action Machining) mirrored that feat in the two most recent races.
Hargrove, from Vancouver, B.C., Canada, has stepped up from USF2000 with Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing, which, unsurprisingly, has not taken long to challenge the perennial Pro Mazda front-runners. Teammate Neil Alberico (#2 Bondurant School/eFormulaCarNews.com/J&M Trophy/SAFEisFAST.com), who won more races than any other competitor last year in USF2000, also showed good pace at Barber.
Other potential front-runners will include the Andretti Autosport pairing of Shelby Blackstock, from Nashville, Tenn., and Garett Grist, from Grimsby, Ont., Canada; Formula 3 veteran Pipo Derani (Team Pelfrey), from Brazil; and Indianapolis-born teammate Brandon Newey, who has every intention of using his local knowledge to its fullest effect. Watch out, too, for the remarkable Michael Johnson, 21, from Flint, Mich., who already has shown prodigious pace for JDC MotorSports, despite the fact he drives with hand controls after being paralyzed from the chest down following a motorcycle crash in 2005.
The Allied Building Products Grand Prix of Indianapolis weekend will commence with a pair of one-hour sessions during the Promoter Test Day on Wednesday, May 7, followed on Thursday by a pair of practice sessions at noon and 3:45 p.m. Qualifying will take place at noon on Friday and Race One will start later in the afternoon at 4:30. The green flag for Race Two will fly at 12:10 p.m. on Saturday, May 10.
Enerson and Team E Racing Lead the Way in USF2000
RC Enerson, 17, from New Port Richey, Fla., will lead an extremely competitive 23-car field when the USF2000 series makes its debut at the hallowed Indianapolis Motor Speedway this week.
In an era when well-established multi-car teams tend to lead the way, it is in equal parts surprising and refreshing to note that the Floridian has taken a commanding early lead in the battle for this year's championship – and the accompanying MAZDASPEED Scholarship to progress into Pro Mazda for 2015 – with a tight-knit, single-car operation run by his father, Neil Enerson. The youngster currently holds a 41-point advantage over his rivals after earning three wins and one second-place finish from the opening four rounds.
Of course, Team E Racing has a solid pedigree in the sport, having fielded a race-winning Indy Lights campaign in the late 2000s and possessing a wealth of experienced personnel to assist Enerson's learning curve. He has taken full advantage of those resources – and his own experience gained over the past two years – by clinching the preseason Cooper Tires Winterfest mini-series and beginning the "regular season" campaign so assuredly.
The high school student hasn't always been the fastest driver this year – he has claimed pole in only one of the four rounds held to date – but his racecraft and consistency aboard the #7 Peninsula Pipeline/Patriot Bank/Tampa Bay Rays/Bell Helmets/Sparco Van Diemen-Mazda have been exemplary.
There are plenty of equally accomplished rivals seeking to knock Enerson off his perch, including Round One winner Victor Franzoni (Afterburner Autosport), from Brazil; Frenchman Florian Latorre, who took the pole at Barber Motorsports Park, and Jake Eidson (Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing); Aaron Telitz (ArmsUp Motorsports), who finally capped his prodigious speed with a hard-earned podium finish – and fastest race lap – in the most recent race in Alabama; and Canadian Daniel Burkett (Belardi Auto Racing), who also has come on strong in recent weeks, gaining confidence with an impressive couple of Formula Atlantic race wins at Road Atlanta and securing a pair of fourth-place USF2000 finishes at Barber Motorsports Park.
A brand-new team headed by veteran IndyCar crew chief and team manager John Cummiskey will make its debut at Indianapolis, fielding a new Van Diemen-Mazda for two-time Canadian F1600 champion Nathan Blok, from Beachburg, Ont., Canada.
In common with the other two Mazda Road to Indy series, the 23-car USF2000 field will commence the weekend with a pair of one-hour sessions during a Promoter Test Day on Wednesday, May 7. After two more practice sessions on Thursday, qualifying will take place at 11:00 a.m. on Friday, May 9, followed by the first of two 40-minute races immediately after IndyCar Series qualifying at 3:30 p.m. Race Two on Saturday, May 10, will commence at 11:00 a.m.