Indy Lights — The 200 mph club & predictions for the Freedom 100

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Zach Veach wheeling his No 5 Belardi Auto Racing IL15 through Turn 2 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during a practice session for the 2016 Freedom 100.

Tom Sneva using his helmet to hold the 200 silver dollars that was his reward for breaking the 200 mph barrier during qualifications for the 1997 Indianapolis 500 Mile Race. -- Photo courtesy of IMS Photo.
Tom Sneva using his helmet to hold the 200 silver dollars that was his reward for breaking the 200 mph barrier during qualifications for the 1997 Indianapolis 500 Mile Race. — Photo courtesy of IMS Photo.
What do Zach Veach, driver of the No. 5 Indy Lights Dallara for Belardi Auto Racing, and Indianapolis 500 legend Tom Sneva have in common? They both were the first to break the 200 m.p.h. barrier in their respective series. Sneva set the 1-lap speed record, 200.535 mph, during his qualification runs for the 1977 Indianapolis 500 Mile Race in his No. 8 Penske Racing Norton Spirit McLaren M24/Cosworth. During the Indy Lights testing session late Monday afternoon, Veach ran a lap in his 450-hp IL15 at 201.455 mph. Topping 200 mph with only 450 hp just goes to show how far race cars have evolved over the decades.

Veach led the Monday testing session by nearly four mph over Andretti Autosport’s Dalton Kellett whose fastest lap was at 197.713 mph. This morning, the field of sixteen Indy Lights drivers had one more opportunity to practice before qualifications which were originally scheduled for the afternoon. Although no one was able to get above 197 mph, Zach Veach was still near the top of the time sheets with a 197.936 mph, just 0.021 mph shy of Juan Piedrahita. All in all, it was shaping up to be a good week for Zach who returns to Indy Lights after a year hiatus. Zach had been running near the front all season, scoring podium finishes at St. Petersburg and at Barber Motorsports Park, but never in a position to poise a strong challenge for a victory. This seemed to be his week to break through and jolt his season into high gear.

Team Pelfrey's Juan Piedrahita tops the time charts in Thursday practice.
Team Pelfrey’s Juan Piedrahita tops the time charts in Thursday practice.

This is Springtime in the Midwest, so weather is always an important factor, and today was no exception. A line of storms was steadily marching toward the Speedway, bringing what promised to be day-ending rains. Race officials decided to truncate the morning practice session and advance the qualifications to 1115 EDT. Unfortunately, they didn’t get the qualifications started early enough. After half of the field made it through their qualifying runs, and after Zachary Claman De Melo spun during his attempt, the rains began ending the day and ending any chance of qualifying the remaining seven drivers. With qualifications scrubbed, the starting grid for tomorrow’s Freedom 100 will be set by championship points. This was a huge blow for Veach.

Carlin Racing’s Ed Jones, who struggled for speed during the testing session, but had good pace for the morning practice session, will start on pole alongside his Schmidt Peterson Motorsports rival Santiago Urrutia. Veach will start on the inside of Row 4 in 7th. Patience will be a challenge, but with the right positioning, it is possible to come back from mid-field. Also working in Veach’s favor is his extensive experience on ovals and especially at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It’s unlikely that he’ll be able to claim a victory, but I do expect him to work his way back to the front. Ed Jones, having had a successful practice, is the favorite to take the win. Urrutia didn’t have strong pace either Monday or this morning, but starting from the front gives him a good chance to battle Jones.

The Freedom 100 has a history of offering close, nail-biting racing. Hopefully the rain stays away long enough to get the race in tomorrow. The green flag drops at 12:30 EDT, and you can follow the action at racecontrol.indycar.com.


Monday Testing Session Speeds

PosNoDriverTeamBestSpd
15Zach VeachBelardi Auto Racing201.455
228Dalton Kellett (R)Andretti Autosport197.713
37RC EnersonSchmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian197.390
414Felix Rosenqvist (R)Belardi Auto Racing197.191
555Santiago Urrutia (R)Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian196.828
651Shelby BlackstockAndretti Autosport196.669
727Dean Stoneman (R)Andretti Autosport196.568
84Felix SerrallesCarlin196.258
917Andre Negrao (R)Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian195.719
102Juan PiedrahitaTeam Pelfrey195.564
1122Neil Alberico (R)Carlin194.398
1218Kyle KaiserJuncos Racing194.216
133Scott Hargrove (R)Team Pelfrey193.504
1413Zachary Claman De Melo (R)Juncos Racing193.356
1577Heamin Choi (R)Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian193.196
1611Ed JonesCarlin192.419

Thursday Practice Session Speeds

PosNoDriverTeamBestSpd
12Juan PiedrahitaTeam Pelfrey197.957
25Zach VeachBelardi Auto Racing197.936
37RC EnersonSchmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian197.672
411Ed JonesCarlin197.651
54Felix SerrallesCarlin197.633
655Santiago Urrutia (R)Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian197.504
718Kyle KaiserJuncos Racing197.252
83Scott Hargrove (R)Team Pelfrey197.133
922Neil Alberico (R)Carlin197.087
1027Dean Stoneman (R)Andretti Autosport196.831
1151Shelby BlackstockAndretti Autosport196.669
1228Dalton Kellett (R)Andretti Autosport195.768
1317Andre Negrao (R)Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian195.554
1414Felix Rosenqvist (R)Belardi Auto Racing195.143
1513Zachary Claman De Melo (R)Juncos Racing193.954
1677Heamin Choi (R)Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian193.379

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