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Apr 10, 2014 - 05:55 PM
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Ohio Teenager Zach Veach has History on His Side in Indy Lights
Posted by: newsla on Apr 10, 2014 - 06:32 AM
IndyCar News
Ohio Teenager Zach Veach has History on His Side in Indy Lights


The Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires returns to the streets of Long Beach, Calif., with a new name in the title chase after 19-year-old Ohioan Zach Veach took the victory for Andretti Autosport at the season opener in St. Petersburg, Fla., two weeks ago over series veteran Gabby Chaves.

 

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Indy Lights represents the third and final step on the Mazda Road to Indy, one of the most successful driver development programs in the world which provides a unique, scholarship-funded path all the way from karting via the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda and the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires to the Verizon IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500.

Chaves took the first pole position of the season at St. Pete, but Veach darted inside the Miami-based Colombian in Turn One and never looked back, keeping Chaves and fellow pre-season favorite Matthew Brabham, both 20, in his rear view mirrors. Veach, who qualified third for the Indy Lights race at Long Beach last year, has insider knowledge in his hip pocket - team owner Michael Andretti is a two-time winner on the unforgiving streets.

"Long Beach has always been one of my favorite weekends," said Veach, who drives the #26 RePLAY XD/The Young Marines/Ads IT Solutions/Zakosi Data Back Up entry. "Going into the race as the winner from St. Pete and with the early championship lead, I feel we have a good amount of momentum and confidence. The track here is unlike any other; it's a very fast-paced street course that constantly keeps you on your toes, and who doesn't love the hairpin? We qualified third for the race last year, so I think we'll have a good chance to be in the fight to repeat St. Pete. This year it's all about being consistent, finishing every lap of every race and concentrating on keeping the points lead."

Veach leads a tight pack of Indy Lights drivers hungry to take that next step into the Verizon IndyCar Series. Chaves (Belardi Auto Racing) finished second at Long Beach last season and second in the Indy Lights championship. Veach's Andretti Autosport teammate, Florida-born-and-based, Australian-raised Brabham, who won the Pro Mazda title in 2013 and the USF2000 championship in 2012, is trying for the unprecedented triple - winning the three Mazda Road to Indy titles in successive years.

Potential front-runners also include highly rated Englishman Jack Harvey, who was a leading contender in last year's GP3 Series championship in Europe and finished third in St. Pete; Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian teammate and GP2 veteran Luiz Razia, from Sao Paulo, Brazil; Italy's Vittorio Ghirelli, the 2013 Auto GP World Series Champion (Team Moore Racing); Frenchman Alex Baron (Belardi Auto Racing), who burst onto the Mazda Road to Indy scene last fall by winning two of the four USF2000 races he contested; and Welshman Lloyd Read, driving for Bryan Herta (BHA/JMM with Curb-Agajanian). Herta finished third in the Indy Lights race at Long Beach in 1993 en route to the series championship.

As the Long Beach Grand Prix celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, Indy Lights makes its 19th appearance at the world famous street course. Interestingly, precisely 50 percent of previous Indy Lights winners in Long Beach have gone on to claim that season's championship: Paul Tracy (1990), Eric Bachelart ('91), Steve Robertson ('94), Greg Moore ('95), David Empringham ('96), Cristiano da Matta ('98), Scott Dixon (2000), Townsend Bell ('01) and, most recently, J.R. Hildebrand in 2009. (Indy Lights was absent from Long Beach from 2002-2008.)

Competitors will have two practice sessions - 12:15 to 1:00 p.m. PT on Friday and 7:45 to 8:15 a.m. on Saturday - with Sunoco Pole Award qualifying slated for 11:00 a.m. on Saturday. The green flag for Sunday's one-hour/45-lap Long Beach 100 race will fly at 10:15 a.m.

In addition to Timing & Scoring with commentary on the series website - IndyLights.com - the race will be carried live on the IMS Radio Network to Sirius XM Satellite Radio, Indycar.com, IndyCarRadio.com and the INDYCAR app from Verizon. The race will air on the NBC Sports Network at 11:30 am PT on April 13, just ahead of the Verizon IndyCar Series race coverage.


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