INDIANAPOLIS – Brazilian Luiz Razia is building a strong affinity for Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Two weeks after claiming the first pole and race win of his Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires career on the 2.439-mile road course, the veteran of GP2 Series competition in Europe returned to the fabled Brickyard. This time he was on the historic 2.5-mile oval and once again found himself on the top of the timing charts to win the Sunoco Pole Award for tomorrow’s Freedom 100.
Razia turned a two-lap average speed of 187.710 mph to claim one championship point and move to within just four points of series leader Zach Veach.
“This morning in practice, my engineer said to me, ‘You’ll go out, then pit and we’ll strip your tires, put new ones on, then you’ll do a qualifying run. So you’ll go out and go flat for three laps.’ I told him, it’s been three weeks since we tested here, you want me to go out and go flat straightway? He said, ‘Yes, trust me.’ So I did it. The car was behaving really well in those conditions and we were fast,” Razia said. “We saw some stuff in the telemetry that I could improve on, like shifts and steering, so I tried to do basically the same thing I did this morning. The car was really good from scratch. It’s good to be on the pole, especially at a place like this and especially since ovals are a new discipline for me. Tomorrow is big – I’ve watched the past five years of races here, so I know I just need to get a good car in traffic and see if I can play for the last five laps.”
The Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian team had been uncharacteristically quiet during the early stages of this season, but now seems to have rediscovered the form which has enabled it to win the last four Indy Lights championships in succession. Englishman Jack Harvey, who chased teammate Razia home to the checkered flag a couple of weeks ago, played second fiddle again this afternoon and will start alongside on the front row with an average speed of 186.573 mph.
Harvey and Razia also were the two fastest contenders in this morning’s practice session, with Harvey fastest of all at 188.269 mph and Razia right behind at 188.233 mph.
Speeds, as expected, were slower this afternoon, with cars running one at a time for qualifying and therefore unable to take assistance of the considerable draft that ensues from circulating in nose-to-tail formation.
Third-generation racer Matthew Brabham, who, in common with Razia, claimed his maiden Indy Lights victory during the recent road course double-header, was third fastest at 186.423 mph, followed by Andretti Autosport teammate and series leader Veach (186.259 mph).
Colombian-American Gabby Chaves qualified fifth for Belardi Auto Racing, which the won last Freedom 100 in a blanket four-abreast finish with Peter Dempsey leading the way. Teammate Chase Austin, making his first start of the year, will start seventh behind Mexican Juan Pablo Garcia.