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.
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
|1||5||Zach Veach||Belardi Auto Racing||201.455|
|2||28||Dalton Kellett (R)||Andretti Autosport||197.713|
|3||7||RC Enerson||Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian||197.390|
|4||14||Felix Rosenqvist (R)||Belardi Auto Racing||197.191|
|5||55||Santiago Urrutia (R)||Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian||196.828|
|6||51||Shelby Blackstock||Andretti Autosport||196.669|
|7||27||Dean Stoneman (R)||Andretti Autosport||196.568|
|9||17||Andre Negrao (R)||Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian||195.719|
|10||2||Juan Piedrahita||Team Pelfrey||195.564|
|11||22||Neil Alberico (R)||Carlin||194.398|
|12||18||Kyle Kaiser||Juncos Racing||194.216|
|13||3||Scott Hargrove (R)||Team Pelfrey||193.504|
|14||13||Zachary Claman De Melo (R)||Juncos Racing||193.356|
|15||77||Heamin Choi (R)||Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian||193.196|
Thursday Practice Session Speeds
|1||2||Juan Piedrahita||Team Pelfrey||197.957|
|2||5||Zach Veach||Belardi Auto Racing||197.936|
|3||7||RC Enerson||Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian||197.672|
|6||55||Santiago Urrutia (R)||Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian||197.504|
|7||18||Kyle Kaiser||Juncos Racing||197.252|
|8||3||Scott Hargrove (R)||Team Pelfrey||197.133|
|9||22||Neil Alberico (R)||Carlin||197.087|
|10||27||Dean Stoneman (R)||Andretti Autosport||196.831|
|11||51||Shelby Blackstock||Andretti Autosport||196.669|
|12||28||Dalton Kellett (R)||Andretti Autosport||195.768|
|13||17||Andre Negrao (R)||Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian||195.554|
|14||14||Felix Rosenqvist (R)||Belardi Auto Racing||195.143|
|15||13||Zachary Claman De Melo (R)||Juncos Racing||193.954|
|16||77||Heamin Choi (R)||Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian||193.379|