SONOMA, Calif. – official release — Al Steinberg photo — Less than nine hours after a major earthquake hit the Napa Valley region of Northern California, the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires contingent took to the nearby Sonoma Raceway road course for their eagerly awaited championship finale on Sunday.
Title rivals Gabby Chaves and Jack Harvey were separated by just a dozen points after 13 races. The 38-lap race might not have replicated yesterday’s action-packed closer to the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, but there was still plenty of drama as Harvey swept to another emphatic victory for Schmidt Peterson Motorsport with Curb-Agajanian.
The Englishman had done all he could in the No. 42 Racing Steps Foundation Dallara. His fourth race win of the season tied him on championship points and race wins with series leader Chaves (Belardi Auto Racing), but it was the Colombian-American who would take home the championship crown – and a $750,000 Mazda Road to Indy Scholarship to assist with the advancement to next year’s Verizon IndyCar Series – by virtue of his five second-place finishes to Harvey’s one.
Harvey, a 21-year-old from Lincoln, England, started from the pole for the second day running and his only moments of concern came even before the green flag fell as the first two attempts at a start were waved off due to a misalignment of the field. Harvey was adjudged to have anticipated the first attempt, while Chaves was at fault at the next go-round.
Harvey took advantage of his pole position to assume the lead heading up the hill, while Chaves slotted neatly into second. A fine start by Colombian Juan Piedrahita (SPM w/Curb-Agajanian) enabled him to jump fellow second row starter and teammate Luiz Razia for third, while the third title contender, Zach Veach (Andretti Autosport), somehow managed to work his way from eighth to fourth.
Harvey made an immediate break, setting what was to stand as the fastest lap of the race (worth one championship point) on lap six, then pulled away with every single lap. He ultimately finished a full 18.7018 seconds clear of Chaves, who nevertheless had achieved his goal. Second place was all he needed to clinch the championship.
Piedrahita held off a long train of cars for the majority of the race before making a couple of mistakes under braking for the Turn Nine chicane and sliding across the dirt. The second one cost him dearly, as both Veach and Razia had made their way past before Turn 11.
Veach held onto third in the face of intense race-long pressure from Razia, while Matthew Brabham finished fifth in the second Andretti Autosport entry.
Harvey’s victory and Razia’s fourth-place finish was enough to clinch the Team Championship for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian.