After a long break for the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda and a two-week break for the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, both Mazda Road to Indy championships will resume on the streets of Toronto this weekend.
The last outing for the F2000 drivers was all the way back in May, at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis for the Night Before the 500. Aaron Telitz took his first series victory in that event, while RC Enerson kept the points lead. Telitz is in the middle of a tight three-way battle for rookie honors, three points behind leader Victor Franzoni and 10 points ahead of Adrian Starrantino.
The only other street course the series has visited this year has been the season opener at St. Petersburg, which is a mixture of city streets and airport runways. Enerson and Franzoni split the wins on the opening weekend.
Gabby Chaves is the Indy Lights points leader and most recent winner after dominating the Pocono 100 at Pocono Raceway. It was the fourth win of the season for the Colombian, who was second in the 2012 Pro Mazda Championship.
“I really believe we were the car to beat,” said Chaves. “It definitely showed in the race. We set a faster lap time than we did in qualifying and we were really consistent. We almost improved every lap until the last lap of the race so you can’t be much happier about that because the team gave me a great car and I was able to use it to perform to my top level.”
Chaves’s closest title rival is Zach Veach, also a second-year Indy Lights competitor. Veach took the pole at Pocono, but Chaves got by him and Luis Razia as the two battled side by side on lap 7, making it a three-wide affair. After that, he reeled off lap after consistent lap and moved away from the field for the next 33 laps.
“I knew that I had the better car so I knew I had to make my move early and make it count so when Luiz [Razia] got a run on Zach [Veach] and they went almost two wide in Turn 3, I was able to just have a clear run through there and have a much better exit than they did off of 3. Luiz gave me enough space but there wasn’t much more because we were already three wide, so I just managed to squeeze by and grab the lead there. The safety car came out shortly after but I knew if I could keep the lead on the restart, we would be good,” he said.
Chaves showed well at Long Beach, taking the win over Veach and reversing their order from St Pete, so he has a good opportunity to extend his points lead, which currently sits at 11 points, in Toronto. Jack Harvey is 33 points behind Veach, and 2013 Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires champion Matthew Brabham is another 10 back from Harvey.
The first of two USF2000 Championship races goes off at 6:15 p.m. Saturday, after the first Verizon IndyCar Series event. The second race, along with the Indy Lights event, will be Sunday morning.