LONG BEACH, Calif. – A thrilling 40-minute qualifying session on Saturday for tomorrow’s Long Beach 100, round two of the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, ended with first-round winner Zach Veach vaulting from fourth to first on the very last lap.
Veach, 19, from Stockdale, Ohio, had been lying in third for the most of the session behind first-round polesitter Gabby Chaves and rookie Alex Baron, but after his Andretti Autosport team made a few small tweaks to the setup of his No. 26 RePLAY XD/The Young Marines/Ads IT Solutions/Zakosi Data Back Up Dallara, Veach stepped up his game and laid down a flyer to claim the second pole of his Indy Lights career. Coincidentally or not, the first also came in Southern California – at the 2013 season finale at Auto Club Speedway.
Veach’s final lap stopped the clocks in 1:15.0074, an average speed of 94.455 mph around the 1.96-mile street circuit.
Chaves, 20, from Bogota, Colombia, and now a resident of Miami, Fla., had set the fastest lap during practice earlier this morning and continued to set the pace in the early stages of qualifying with Belardi Auto Racing’s No. 5 Marca Colombia/Coldeportes entry, only to be eclipsed by French teammate Baron after 22 minutes.
Baron’s best of 1:15.0863 remained fastest until the final minute, when Chaves jumped to the top on 1:15.0349. Moments later, both were eclipsed by Veach. Andretti Autosport teammate Matthew Brabham also improved on the final lap, jumping to third on 1:15.0349.
Chaves will therefore start tomorrow’s Long Beach 100 from the outside of the front row, with Brabham third on the grid. Baron? Well, he will start fourth after clipping the wall on the exit of turn one with a few minutes remaining and damaging his car’s right-side suspension. The top four contenders were separated by a scant 0.078 of a second.