March 29, 2014 — press release — photo courtesy INDYCAR — St. Petersburg, Fla. – Gabby Chaves will start from the pole position for tomorrow’s St. Petersburg 100, the first Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires race of the season which will be held on the streets of St. Petersburg.
The Miami, Fla.-based Colombian, who finished a close second in last year’s Indy Lights title-chase, achieved the feat without turning a lap this afternoon after a severe storm warning caused the scheduled half-hour qualifying session to be canceled.
Officials instead decided to form the grid for Round 1 using combined times from the previous two practice sessions.
Ohio’s Zach Veach, who in common with Chaves is contesting his second season of Indy Lights, will line up on the outside of the front row for Andretti Autosport.
Chaves, 20, driving the #5 Marca Colombia/Coldeportes entry for Belardi Auto Racing, set the fastest time in both practice sessions. His time of 1:09.3707 on Friday afternoon bettered Veach by 0.2407, and while both contenders improved their times this morning, Chaves’ time of 1:08.4529 proved 0.2538 faster than Veach’s #26 RePLAY XD/The Young Marines/Ads IT Solutions/Zakosi Data Back Up Dallara.
“I’m very happy for myself, with the first pole of the year, but I’m also happy for the team since it’s their first pole in the series,” Chaves said following the qualifying rain-out. “We’re starting where we need to for tomorrow; now we need to control the race from the start.”
“I was a rookie here last year, so your expectation is a little different – you’re trying to absorb and learn as much as you can and you really don’t know what to expect. When you come back for a second year and you have the experience, your mindset is to capitalize on everything you learned the first year and be the fastest every time. That’s my mindset going into the weekend and it’s worked out so far. Yes, we lost the qualifying session to the weather, but we’ll focus on the good stuff – that we were fastest in both sessions, have good pace and are very confident in the race car.”
A pair of impressive rookies will share Row 2 of the grid – Veach’s teammate Matthew Brabham (#83 MAZDASPEED/United Fiber & Data) and Team Moore Racing’s Vittorio Ghirelli (#22 TMRArt Sports & Management-XTreme).
Brabham, 20, is looking to continue a remarkable run of success that has netted championship titles on the first two rungs of the Mazda Road to Indy – the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda and the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires – in the past two years. Ghirelli, 19, from Fasano, Italy, won the 2013 Auto GP World Series crown and this weekend is making his American racing debut.
USF2000 and Pro Mazda graduate Scott Anderson also impressed during the two practice sessions and will start fifth in Fan Force United’s strikingly liveried #24 Laser Nail Centers of Colorado/Foot Surgery Center of Northern Colorado/Metasurg entry. Anderson’s best lap of 1:09.4814 narrowly edged out Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammates Jack Harvey (The Racing Steps Foundation), from England, and Luiz Razia (Lucas Oil SPM w/Curb-Agajanian), from Brazil.
The green flag for the St. Petersburg 100 is slated for 12:45 p.m. ET tomorrow, Sunday, March 30, just prior to season-opening race of the Verizon IndyCar Series. 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 4:00 pm ET on April 4.