LEXINGTON, Ohio -- In eight Firestone Indy Lights races, Gabby Chaves' strong showing included three runner-up finishes and three third-place results. He finally stood on the top step of the podium at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
Chaves led every lap of the Mid-Ohio 100 after earning the Sunoco Pole Award to win his first Firestone Indy Lights race. Chaves, driving the No. 7 Schmidt Peterson with Curb-Agajanian car, held off Peter Dempsey throughout the 40-lap race, including a restart on Lap 36 following the lone full-course caution, to win by .3508 of a second.
"I crossed the finish line and I didn’t have words. I was just screaming," said Chaves, 20, who vaulted to second in the championship standings. "That’s all I was doing, just screaming. The feeling of winning, especially when it was so hard, when you come so long and worked so hard to get here, makes it so much more special."
Click it: Mid-Ohio 100 box score
Dempsey's No. 5 Belardi Auto Racing car was 1.6 seconds behind Chaves the lap before the yellow flag flew for the No. 6 Belardi Auto Racing car of Giancarlo Serenelli, making his series debut, slid off course in Turn 12. On the three laps following the restart, Chaves increased the margin from .2735 of a second to .5741 of a second on the white flag lap.
"I knew Peter was coming," Chaves said. "I burned down my left-front tire and I had no grip anywhere. I knew I just had to keep him behind me. It’s a pretty tricky place, especially around Turn 1 which is very high speed, and then that leads up to one of the only passing opportunities here on the track. So I knew if I just had a good line through (Turn 1) and a good exit off of (Turn 2), there’s no way he could pass me."
Jack Hawksworth, who won at Toronto in the previous race, finished third after a spirited battle with Carlos Munoz. Zach Veach finished fifth.
"I think after Friday, coming into the race, we thought we had a good chance of winning," said Hawksworth, who picked up his fifth podium finish. "We just didn’t have the pace in qualifying. I’m glad we got the podium still. I thought at the end we had a chance to win when the safety car came out. It’s just one of those that we didn’t have the chance to win so we just have to collect points."
Munoz charged from running 11th after his No. 26 Dialy-Ser car for Andretti Autosport and the No. 77 Schmidt Peterson with Curb-Agajanian car of Hawksworth made slight contact on Lap 3, which sent Munoz sliding across the grass in Turn 2.
Munoz strengthened his championship points lead from nine over Sage Karam, who placed eighth, to 15 over Chaves, who moved to second with 334 points. Karam is third at 333 and Hawksworth is fourth with 309 points heading to the streets of Baltimore on Labor Day weekend.
“In the beginning, I touched with Jack Hawksworth and spun, and after that I just pushed the whole race, every lap to catch up," said Munoz, who notched his seventh top-five finish. "I think I did a good job overtaking, but I feel sorry for the team because of the mistake I made. I had such a great car to win this race for sure. I’m happy I’m still leading the championship."