The 2014 season of Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires reaches its climax this weekend with a pair of races comprising the Indy Lights Grand Prix of Sonoma at Sonoma Raceway. At stake is a $750,000 prize to the winner of the final step on the Mazda Road to Indy development ladder aimed at assisting graduation to the Verizon IndyCar Series in 2015.
Gabby Chaves, 21, holds the point for Belardi Auto Racing, although 19-year-old Zach Veach (Andretti Autosport), from Stockdale, Ohio, trails by only seven points following an impressive come-from-behind victory Aug. 17 at the Milwaukee Mile. This weekend will present an entirely different challenge for the title protagonists, who will square off for a 40-minute sprint race Aug. 23 followed by a 60-minute feature Aug. 24 on the demanding 2.385-mile, 12-turn natural terrain road course.
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Jack Harvey, driving for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian, also remains in the title hunt trailing by 23 points. Chaves has won four times this season, Veach three times and Harvey twice as the 21-year-old from Lincoln, England, dominated the two most recent road course events, at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, on Aug. 2-3.
A total of 105 points are up for grabs -- 50 to the winner of each race, plus one point for the fastest qualifier and single bonus points for leading most laps and the fastest lap in each of the two races.
"It's hard to believe we're already at the last two races of the year for us in Indy Lights," Veach said. "We have two more opportunities to take the lead and take home the championship this weekend at Sonoma. We'll be pushing as hard as we possibly can and will leave absolutely nothing behind deciding if we get to walk away as the champion or not."
Brabham and Razia aiming for victories, too
While most eyes will be focused on championship aspirants, several others also have designs on claiming some headlines from the Indy Lights Grand Prix of Sonoma. Prime among them will be Matthew Brabham and Luiz Razia.
Brabham, 20, from Boca Raton, Fla., looks likely to fall short in his unique quest to win all three championships on the Mazda Road to Indy in succession. He claimed the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda in 2012 as well as last year's Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, but the third-generation racer still has plenty of reason to be proud of his rookie Indy Lights campaign. He scored a maiden win at the Indianapolis road course in May and showed his versatility by leading most of the race at Milwaukee before being nipped at the end by Veach, his Andretti Autosport teammate.
Former GP2 race winner Luiz Razia has had no luck this year and has been involved in incidents during four of the last five races, but he, too, won at Indianapolis in May and is anxious to complete his maiden season in North America by returning to Victory Lane for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian.