PALMETTO, Fla. – All three levels of the Mazda Road to Indy series travel this week to Barber Motorsports Park near Birmingham, Ala. Americans Zach Veach, Spencer Pigot and RC Enerson have grasped early advantages in their racing series. They’ll be looking to maintain their momentum as each series host a pair of Verizon IndyCar Series support races.
The development ladder offers opportunities for drivers to graduate from the sport’s grass roots to the Verizon IndyCar Series with MAZDASPEED scholarship prizes at every stage. The levels – beginning with the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship and progressing through the Pro Mazda Championship to Indy Lights – have attracted drivers from around the world. Sixteen different nations will be represented among the three series this weekend.
Indy Lights Field Is Close After Two Races
The Legacy Indy Lights 100 comprises the first doubleheader of the season for the Indy Lights series. Veach, 19, from Stockdale, Ohio, and 20-year-old Colombian-American Gabby Chaves, from Miami, Fla., have shared the honors from the opening two races.
Chaves, driving for Belardi Auto Racing, started from the pole in St. Petersburg (Fla.) after qualifying was canceled due to inclement weather and the grid was decided by practice times, but it was Veach who grabbed the lead for Andretti Autosport and held on to win.
Veach won the pole at Long Beach, but Chaves dominated the race and took the victory.
“Long Beach is considered as one of the most important races of the season, and to have my first win of this season there was incredible,” said Chaves, who finished second in Indy Lights points last year and also was runner-up in the Pro Mazda standings in 2012. “My goal for this year is to win as many races as I can. If I can do that, the championship will come naturally to me.”
Veach holds a one-point advantage over Chaves in series standings.
Another man to watch will be third-generation racer Matthew Brabham, who is chasing an unprecedented third straight Mazda Road to Indy title after winning the USF2000 championship as a rookie in 2012 and sweeping the Pro Mazda title, also at his first attempt, in 2013. The Florida-born, Australia-raised 20-year-old posted the fastest time at Barber in February, driving a second Andretti Autosport entry.
Who Can Challenge Pigot in Pro Mazda?
After finishing a close second in the USF2000 points table both in 2011 and 2012, Spencer Pigot intends to set the record straight in Pro Mazda. The 20-year-old from Orlando, Fla. won once during his rookie campaign in 2013.
Pigot comfortably won the four-race preseason Cooper Tires Winterfest mini-series – and was fastest in every single session at Barber Motorsports Park – then began the regular season in fine style by winning twice at St. Petersburg.
“Winning both races at St. Pete was extremely important and the perfect start to the season,” said Pigot. “It’s great to have the points on the board so early. It gives everyone on the team a lot of confidence going into Barber. But there are still lots of races left so we’ll keep working hard to stay on top.
“Barber is a pretty difficult track but a ton of fun to drive,” he added. “You’ve got a good mix of fast and slow corners with a lot of elevation change which is exciting. I think qualifying will be key because it’s a hard track to pass on. We were fast there at the Winterfest so I’m feeling good about our chances this weekend.”
Americans Enerson and Eidson at the Front in USF2000
Drivers from nine different countries will contest the third and fourth rounds of the USF2000 series, which will be making its regular-season debut at Barber Motorsports Park.
RC Enerson, 17, from New Port Richey, Fla., holds the lead for Team E Racing after finishing second in the season opener at St. Petersburg, then winning the second race. Enerson also won at Barber in February to secure the preseason Cooper Tires Winterfest mini-series crown.
Brazilian rookie Victor Franzoni (Afterburner Autosport) claimed the other race victory in Florida.
American Jake Eidson ranks second in points. The 18-year-old has three Skip Barber Racing titles and the 2013 F1600 Championship Series in addition to a coveted Team USA Scholarship. Eidson, who earned a fourth and a second from the first two races, drives for Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing which has won the past three USF2000 crowns.