Gabby Chaves is on a roll. The Miami resident 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 this weekend.
Chaves finished third last year on the 1.7-mile, 11-turn course at 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, who celebrated his 21st birthday last week, has won four races this year to Veach's two, and holds an 11-point margin after eight of the season's 14 races.
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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, 10 points markers behind fellow Indy Lights rookie Jack Harvey (Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian) 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, sits fifth in the standings after losing a lot of ground at Pocono when he crashed in the early stages.
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.
“Based on how we performed at Indy, I think Toronto is going to be a really good weekend and it could even result in my first podium,” Meyer said. “Any race is just as important but it sure does feel good to be a Canadian in the field and living only 20 minutes from the track itself. Representing Toronto is amazing.”
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.
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.