WEST ALLIS, Wis. – official release — Al Steinberg photo — The three-way battle for Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires title honors tightened up a fraction Saturday afternoon during qualifying for Sunday’s Milwaukee Mile 100.
Ohio’s Zach Veach, who arrived at the historic Milwaukee Mile placed third in the standings, gained one point for claiming pole position aboard Andretti Autosport’s No. 26 RePLAY XD/The Young Marines/Ads IT Solutions/Zakosi Data Back Up Dallara and moved to within 23 points of series leader Gabby Chaves with tomorrow’s 100-lap feature event and two more races next weekend at Sonoma Raceway in California remaining.
Veach, 19, from Stockdale, Ohio, was fastest during testing yesterday but struggled to match the pace-setters during two practice sessions earlier today. He bounced back impressively by posting by far the fastest lap of the weekend, 25.686 seconds, an average speed of 142.258 mph, on his first flying lap around the 1.015-mile oval, then backed it up with a second lap at 25.769 (141.798 mph) for a two-lap average of 142.058 mph.
“Overall, I am just very, very thankful for today,” said Veach after securing his fourth pole of the season. “The Andretti Autosport guys did one heck of a job putting the car under me. We struggled a little bit this morning and threw a lot of things at it going into qualifying and it just stuck. It was a scary ride for two laps and I don’t think I breathed once but I am just very thankful to get my second pole here at Milwaukee and my first one here in an Indy Lights car.”
Chaves, who was last to run aboard Belardi Auto Racing’s No. 5 Marca Colombia/Coldeportes car, was the only other driver to top 142 mph – 142.005 mph on his second lap – but his first lap was significantly slower at 141.136 mph. The Colombian-American will start second with an overall two-lap average of 141.569 mph.
“Qualifying went well considering where we started in our first test session,” said Chaves. “We made some really big improvements. I am a little bit disappointed because I feel like I could have done a little bit better job and maybe pushed a little bit more and gotten the pole but, to really look at it, it is a great effort by the team and myself and we are in a really strong position to win the race and extend our points lead.”
Rookies Matthew Brabham (Andretti Autosport) and Luiz Razia (Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian) will share row two of the grid. Brabham rued a speed-sapping slide on his first qualifying lap but bounced back with a significantly faster second circuit to snag the third best average speed at 140.733 mph, a scant 0.001 mph faster than Razia’s 140.732 mph average.