Veach, 19, from Stockdale, Ohio, arrived at the challenging and undulating 2.3-mile, 17-turn road course with a one-point advantage over recent Long Beach winner Gabby Chaves. His lead has now been stretched to two points after he made the best of a slippery track as temperatures reached toward the high 70s – and the track surface ran into the 115-degree range.
The pole was Veach's second in a row aboard the Andretti Autosport #26 RePLAY XD/The Young Marines/Ads IT Solutions/Zakosi Data Back Up Dallara.
Chaves, 20, from Miami, Fla., had been fastest for much of the 45-minute session, and improved to 1:17.614 when he ventured out on fresh Cooper tires with just 10 minutes remaining, only for his lap to be eclipsed almost immediately by Veach, who jumped to the top of the charts with a time of 1:17.3743. Chaves (Belardi Auto Racing) improved to 1:17.5905 on his very next lap, with around six minutes remaining in the session, but that was the best he could do.
Moments later, Belardi Auto Racing teammate Alex Baron jumped into second with a lap of 1:17.5252. It was enough to secure the first-ever front row start for Baron, who hails from Narbonne, France, and carries dual French and British citizenship, in just his third Indy Lights start.
Colombian-American Chaves will start third tomorrow ahead of Brazilian Luiz Razia, fastest of the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian contingent at 1:17.6632. Razia, who was fastest of all in the cooler morning practice session at 1:17.2144, actually topped the times briefly this afternoon in qualifying but was unable to improve his time of 1:17.6632 set very early in the session.
Teammate Jack Harvey, from Bassingham, England, will line up on the inside of Row Three of the grid with a time of 1:17.8060, fractionally faster than Matthew Brabham's 1:17.8990 in the second Andretti Autosport entry.
The Schmidt Peterson pair of Juan Pablo Garcia and Juan Piedrahita, plus Zack Meyer (Team Moore Racing) also were within one second of Veach's pole-winning effort.
Round 3 of the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires will take the green flag tomorrow at 12:00 noon CT.
Zach Veach, #26 RePLAY XD/The Young Marines/Ads IT Solutions/Zakosi Data Back Up (Andretti Autosport): "I am ecstatic to get my second Indy Lights pole of the season. We are off to a great start. We really struggled in practice yesterday and this morning but we put our heads together and thought 'what haven't we changed yet' and threw some things at the car and it really was the right call. Credit to my engineer Doug Zister and my team, Andretti Autosport, for giving me a great ride in the qualifying session."