Indy Lights preview

After a well-deserved break the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tire series drivers and teams will take to Milwaukee Mile for the 11th race of their 16 round championship.

After two memorable and lively races in Toronto, the championship battle is a three-way affair between Jack Harvey, Spencer Pigot and Ed Jones.  The three drivers representing three different teams have each led the championship at some point during the season and are separated by a slender 23 points.

The historic flat oval track that is the centerpiece of the Wisconsin State Fair Park hosted it’s first automobile race in 1903, and is recognized as the longest operating motor speedway in the world.  The Indy Lights series has been an important part of that history.  The 2015 Grand Prix of Milwaukee will be the 27th time that the Indy Lights cars will race alongside the “big cars.”

The first Indy Lights race in West Allis, Wisconsin took place in 1986.  Jeff Andretti stated on pole and finished third, while Mike Groff won the inaugural race from his third place starting spot.  Other notable names to take part in that first race were: Stan Fox, Tommy Byrne, and Billy Boat.  Other notable winners in the past two and half decades include: Paul Tracy, Adrian Fernandez, Bryan Herta, Greg Moore, Scott Dixon, Townsend Bell, Alex Lloyd, Tristan Vautier, and Sage Karam.

SPM with Curb-Agajanian sophomore pilot Harvey took over the points lead after the Freedom 100 in May and the two second place finishes he took home on the streets surrounding Exhibition Place in Toronto allowed him to maintain a slim 11 point championship margin over Pigot.  The 22 year-old Lincoln, UK native will be making his second career start in Milwaukee, after qualifying and finishing fifth in last years 100 mile Indy Lights contest.  The Racing Steps Foundation driver and team should be making the trek north full of confidence after dominating the first oval of the season at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and also leading an earlier test in Milwaukee.

“When we tested at Milwaukee earlier in the year, the No. 42 car was fastest at the end of the day,” said Harvey.  “Hopefully we can carry that form into this weekend and get a win.”

Hot on the heels of the British driver is red-hot American rookie Pigot, who will hope to duplicate his Pro Mazda presented by Cooper Tire win on the Milwaukee Mile in 2014.   After a “Month of May” to forget at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the 21 year-old rebounded by standing on the top step of the podium in both races in Toronto.

“It is great to come into the weekend with that kind of momentum,” said the Orlando, Florida native of his double in Toronto. “But this is of course a completely different kind of challenge on this oval. The Juncos guys keep learning about this new car and hopefully that translates well this weekend. We didn’t get the result we wanted to in our last oval race (Indy), but the car was still a blast to drive there and I think it is going to be a great show on Sunday.”

This year will mark the fourth time that the reigning Pro Mazda champion attempts to conquer the four flat corners in West Allis, Wisconsin.  A Pro Mazda win in 2014 was preceded by a third place Pro Mazda finish in 2013 and a sixth place USF2000 finish in 2011.

After a hot start to the season, Carlin’s Jones has run into a string of bad luck (Barber Motorsports Park and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway) and also a self admitted “quite too many mistakes” (Toronto).  That has left 20 year old only 23 points behind rival Harvey.  However, with the next two races on unfamiliar ovals, the Dubai, UAE has an uphill road to climb against his more oval experienced rivals.

“The hardest thing (about the season so far), has been the oval racing,” explained Jones.  “It’s quite different from what I expected it to be.”

While the top three in the Indy Lights championship have pulled a substantial gap over the rest of the field, the battle for fourth is a fierce on with only 41 points separating RC Enerson (4th) and Felix Serralles (11th).

Enerson has been one of the pleasant surprises this season.  After jumping straight to Indy Lights from USF2000, 2015 was expected to be a learning season for the 18 year-old rookie.  However, he has proved to be a quick study as indicated by two podiums and six top-five finishes.

Kyle Kaiser, a Juncos Racing rookie has had a very “rookie-like” season.  “Rookie-like” being defined as up-and-down.  The Santa Clara, California native has made some mistakes, but he has also exhibited that he has the speed to be a factor and fight for podiums.  If the 19 year-old can show a little more patience, a break-out race is right around the corner.

Sophomore Indy Lights pilot Scott Anderson is looking forward to coming back to the Milwaukee Mile.

“Milwaukee has been a good race for me the last couple of years. We had a solid test there and as a team, we gathered a lot of useful information that we can apply to the race weekend. We definitely have the potential to run up front and be fighting for a win here.”

The 25 year-old scored his best finish of the year (third) on the oval at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and his prior experiences in “Brew City” have yielded a fourth (Indy Lights in 2014) and a fifth (Pro Mazda in 2015) place finishes.

It wouldn’t be surprising if the Grand Prix of Milwaukee is a race that Juan Piedrahita has had circled on his calendar.  This year will mark the fourth time that the 22 year-old has contested an Mazda Road To Indy race on the flat one-mile oval and his results have been stellar.  His sixth place finish in the 2014 Indy Lights race was one of his best results of the season and were preceded by a USF2000 podium in 2011 and a Pro Mazda podium in 2013.

Ethan Ringel, pilot of the FamilyArtPrinting.com No. 71 will has been looking forward to returning to an oval.

“Finally another oval!” exclaimed the 20 year-old.  “Ever since my fantastic experience at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, I’ve been looking forward to my next oval race. It’s been a long, anxious wait until now and I’m hoping to make my first season win at the Milwaukee Mile.”

The Orlando, Florida resident scored his first career Indy Lights pole and podium on the 2.5 mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the only other oval the series has visited thus far this year.

Coming off their best performance of the year in Toronto, Andretti Autosport and the Shelby Blackstock will hope to recreate an impressive Milwaukee oval run from one year ago.  The 25 year-old started the Pro Mazda race in eighth place, but was able to race his way up to third.

Serralles will try to stem a run of bad luck that have seen him suffer on disqualification and three DNF’s in the past five races.  The Ponce, Puerto Rico native was quick on the oval at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where he scored the quickest lap of the Freedom 100 and was continually at the top of the time charts during practice.

Formula 1 veteran Max Chilton missed the Toronto rounds while contesting the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the Nissan GT-R LM Nismo.  As a series rookie, the 24 year-old Carlin pilot was already facing a steep oval learning that wasn’t helped by a mechanical issue on the starting grid that kept the English driver from taking part in the Freedom 100.

Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tire schedule (all times are local)

Saturday July, 11

  • 4pm-4:45pm — Indy Lights Practice
  • 6:30pm-7:15pm — Indy Lights Qualifying

Sunday, July 12

  • 10:15am-10:45am – Indy Lights warm-up
  • noon-12:30pm – Indy Lights autograph session

Don’t miss any of the action

———-

Indy Lights at Milwaukee nugget #1

Three winners of an Indy Lights race at Milwaukee have gone on to win an IndyCar race at “The Mile.”

Paul Tracy won the 1990 Indy Lights race, and went on to win IndyCar races in 1995, 1999, 2002 and 2005.

1995 Indy Lights winner Greg Moore had three top 5’s at Milwaukee and went on to score his first career IndyCar victory at the Miller 200 in June of 1997.

Milwaukee was one of six victories in the 2000 Indy Lights championship season for Scott Dixon, winner of the ABC Supply A. J. Foyt Indy 225 in 2009.

———-

Indy Lights at Milwaukee nugget #2 

11 of the 24 drivers entered in the 2015 edition of the ABC Supply Co. Inc. Wisconsin 250 at Milwaukee IndyFest have contested an Indy Lights races at The Milwaukee Mile.

Driver— (Number of Races) — [best finish]
Helio Castroneves — (2) — [11th – 1996]
Gabby Chaves — (2) — [3rd – 2014]
Scott Dixon — (2) — [win – 2000]
Tony Kanaan — (2) — [3rd – 1997]
Carlos Munoz — (2) — [2nd – 2013]
Sage Karam — (1) — [Win – 2013]
Charlie Kimball — (1) — [10th – 2009]
Jack Hawksworth — (1) — [8th – 2013]
Pippa Mann – (1) – [9th – 2009]
Josef Newgarden — (1) — [2nd – 2011]
Tristan Vautier — (1) — [Win – 2012]

———-

Long time Indy Lights team calls it quits

Some unfortunate Indy Lights news was released this afternoon when Team Moore Racing announced that they would be closing their doors.

The Pittsboro, Indiana based team made their Indy Lights debut at Homestead-Miami Speedway in March 2007 with co-owner Tom Wood at the wheel.  Over the next eight years, 24 different drivers would pilot the familiar yellow and white liveried cars in 168 races.

The teams first victory would come in August 2008 at Sonoma Raceway with Pablo Donso at the wheel, and Gustavo Yacaman scored their final victory in Toronto in August 2012.  In total, Donso (1), Victor Garcia (1), James Hinchcliffe (3) and Yacaman (3) scored a total of eight wins for the team.

Verizon IndyCar Series star Hinchcliffe would bring the team their highest championship finish in 2010 when the Canadian scored three victories and eight podiums to just miss out on the championship.  In 2012, Yacaman would finish third in the championship, ahead of fellow Colombians and current IndyCar drivers Carlos Munoz and Sebastian Saavedra.

The Mark Moore and Tom Wood owned team had purchased a new Mazda powered Dallara IL-15 but according to a statement from the the team they had signed a driver for 2015, but the sponsor’s driver did not make their contracted payment.  The team searched extensively for a new driver with full funding but a driver did not materialize.

Team Moore will be missed in the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tire series, as they provided an alternative to the “big” Indy Lights teams.   Their equipment was always well prepared, the engineering was always top notch and with the right driver they were able to hang with the best that SPM with Curb-Agajanian’s and Team Andretti had to offer.