This weekend's Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio will comprise a pair of races at the challenging Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course at a critical stage of the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires title chase. Five races remain this season, and with more than 100 points available and the top four contenders currently separated by just 62 points, every position gained could carry huge significance.
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Gabby Chaves, 21, currently holds a 21-point margin over his nearest challenger on the strength of four wins, including a pair of victories and one second-place finish from his last three starts with Belardi Auto Racing. Such consistency should stand him in good stead, especially since Chaves also holds the advantage of having claimed his first Indy Lights victory in last year's race on the 2.258-mile road circuit.
Ohio native Veach looking to bounce back
Zach Veach, 19, from Stockdale, Ohio, began the season on a tear, winning the opening round at St. Petersburg, Fla., finishing second at Long Beach, Calif., and then adding a second victory at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama. A third-place finish at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and a second - from the pole - at Pocono Raceway has kept the Andretti Autosport driver well in the mix, but Veach is anxious to bounce back from a disappointing race two weeks ago on the streets of Toronto, where he was restricted to a fifth-place finish.
Harvey, Brabham on a charge
Indy Lights rookies Jack Harvey and Matthew Brabham have been consistently fast in recent events and are keen to keep the pressure on both Chaves and Veach during the Mid-Ohio doubleheader.
Harvey, 21, from Lincoln, England, has yet to win a race this season in Schmidt Peterson Motorsports car but the former British Formula 3 champion has been a model of consistency with nine straight top-five finishes and six visits to the podium. Harvey lies third in the overall standings, 48 points out of the lead.
Brabham, driving for Andretti Autosport, trails Harvey by just 14 points and has plenty of experience on the 13-turn layout after claiming a third-place finish on his debut in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda in 2012 and then dominating both Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires races last year en route to his second successive Mazda Road to Indy championship crown. Brabham already has one Indy Lights win to his credit, in May on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
Scott Anderson (Fan Force United) also has visited victory circle at Mid-Ohio - in 2012 when he claimed the first of his two wins in the USF2000 series.
Jefferies and Simpson join Mid-Ohio grid
One year ago, Zimbabwe's Axcil Jefferies made his Indy Lights debut at Mid-Ohio, claiming a solid seventh-place result for Bryan Herta Autosport. He also finished an impressive fifth later in the year at Houston. Jefferies, who took part in the first two GP2 races this season, will return to the Indy Lights ranks this weekend with Belardi Auto Racing.
Indianapolis racer Jimmy Simpson also has concluded a late deal to join Canadian Zack Meyer in a second Team Moore Racing entry. Simpson, 21, who has raced extensively in USAC midgets, made his Indy Lights debut in the Freedom 100 at Indianapolis in 2013, finishing seventh. This year he has won two races in the Atlantic Championship Series and currently lies second in the points table behind USF000 regular Daniel Burkett.
Californian Ryan Phinny, who returned to the fray in Canada after a three-year hiatus, will continue with Bryan Herta Autosport/JMM with Curb-Agajanian.