Tuesday, May 20, 2014

LIGHTS: 2014 Freedom 100 primer

Otay, so it's been awhile now since I've done one of these, especially since after all Ryan of Junior Open Wheel Talent (JOWT) is the expert upon this subject...

But I got the wild-hair idea whilst actually watching my first Indy Lights race this year during that overly wet 3hr RAIN delay at thee Barber's - which I understand why they do I-T! That is the A-L-L Rainbows, Bunnies 'N Sunshine Tap-dance; BUTT!

Regardless of the progress being made, with the very positive news of a new Dallara IL15 chassis mated to an AER 4-cylinder turbo 'lump with paddle shifting being confirmed for the 2015 season; it's not an encouraging sign that the reigning champion DOESN'T have a Full-time B-I-G CARZ' ride, nee Indy Cars.

Nor the fact that the 2012 champion Tristan Vautier is "One-and-Done" in IndyCar's - now supposedly plying his trade in Sports Cars.

But at least 2011 Lights Champion Joseph 'STUD! Newgarden has kept his Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Gig' to-date and seems to be steadily improving - along with knocking on the door of his first IndyCar win.

Yet 2010 Champion Jean-Karl Vernay has disappeared from the American landscape, never even getting a chance in Indy Cars after having beaten some Dude known as thee "Mayor 'O Hinchtown" (James Hinchcliffe) for the title. Vernay has subsequently won the 2012 French Porsche Carrera Cup for Sebastian Loeb Racing and the 2013 Le Mans 24hrs GTE-AM class and will contest the Super GT500 in Japan this year.

While '09 Lights champion J.R. Hildebrand is struggling to rebuild his IndyCar career with a "One-off" ride as 'FAST EDDIE'S (Ed Carpenter) Wingman at Mother Speedway this May.

Reigning Lights champion Sage Karum is doing a Development Driver Dealio with Chip Ganassi and will make his IndyCar debut at Mother Speedway in a car out of the Dreyer & Reinbold Racing shops in conjunction with Kingdom Racing as Chip Ganassi's "5th Wheel" at Indianapolis this May...

And then there's last year's Freedom 100 winner Peter Dempsey totally absent from the scene after winning the closest finish in the Speedway's history with an unprecedented Four-Wide at the stripe, as the Irishman came somewhat virtually outta nowhere, being fourth going onto the front straight for the final time I believe, as it was amazing how the crowd went Berserk over that finish!

Thus, stating the obvious, below is the most likely candidates to win this year's Freedom 100 - which I may actually get to watch on thy Telie' for once this year! Although you never know who'll actually win, which after all is why they run the races, eh? Which Y'all can watch on NBCSN Friday May, 23rd, so check your local listings...

26) Zach Veach: Stockdale, Ohio;  USA (19)
83) R-Mathew Brabham: Boca Raton, Florida; USA (20)

It's great to see the diminutive Zach Veach blossoming into a championship calibre winning driver, as Veach has won his first two Indy Lights races this season along with a second and third place finish, being the only driver to podium in the first four races of the season and leading the championship points standings by nine over one of his fiercest rivals Gabby Chaves at that point.

Yet the Double Header on IMS's newly  renovated road course didn't go exactly to script, as Veach uncharacteristically finished after being lapped in ninth in race-1 and P7 in Race-2 and now clings to a five point lead over new second place contender Luiz Razia.

Yeah, that's the same Brabham name as in triple world champion Sir 'Black Jack (Grandfather) and Quadruple IMSA champion Geoff, (Father) as the young Mathew is actually having to work upon driving the heavier Lights car after running roughshod over the lower "Road-to-Indy" ladder series, i.e.; USF2000 and Pro-Mazda, both of which he won their respective titles in relative ease by crushing the competition.

Yet, seeking to emulate Veach's progression after struggling during his rookie Lights campaign Brabham has been victorious  much sooner as the third-generation racer won his debutant Lights race on the inaugural road course's Friday race at Mother Speedway - winning in just his fifth time out in a Lights car from Pole and moves into fifth place in the standings...

4) Alexander Barron: Narbome France (19)
5) Gabby Chaves: Bogota, Columbia (20)

This is pretty funny - since even WICKEDpedia' says: "Not to be confused with Alex Barron - Racing Driver;" Hya!

As the first thingy I thought of during the Barber Indy Lights race and hearing the name Alex Barron repeatedly was Huh? Wasn't he an ex-IRL driver who drove for "the Captain?" (Roger Penske) As I really don't know anything about the Frenchman, albeit I suppose he's trying to mimic J.K. Vernay, Tristan 'Turbo Vautier and "Symone Pagenoe's" (Simon Pagenaud) past successes as "Feeder" series champions, along with just having scored his first podium of the year, finishing third in Saturday's race.

Meanwhile, Gabby Chaves, who evoked memories of another long forgotten F1 racer, which I've previously noted, is  currently one of Zach Veach's closest title rivals at the moment, trailing current points leader  Veach by 14-points, having also won two races this season before an uncharacteristic engine failure during Friday's road race, along with a disappointing eighth the following day dropped him from second to third in the points standings.

7) Luiz Razia: Barreiras, Brazil (25)
10) Juan Pablo Garcia: Mexico City, Mexico (26)
42) R-Jack Harvey: Bassingham, England (21)

Luiz Razia is apparently a frustrated European single seater piloto trying to make his mark Stateside, as the Brazilian driver has tasted the champagne multiple times in both the now-defunct GP2 Asia series and the main  GP2 series, the final ladder rung to Formula 1 - of which Razia was a test driver for both the Virgin and Lotus F1 Teams prior to seeing his funding for his perceived 2013 Marussia F1 race seat not show up, hence losing the seat to Jules Bianchi.

Yet Razia served notice to the two main title protagonists to date: Veach & Chaves by having a stellar weekend at the Speedway, where first the young Brazilian finished a tantalizing runner-up to Brabham in Race-1 before scoring his maiden Lights win the following day - vaulting himself into the thick of the title fight...

Juan Pablo Garcia; NOT Montoya; Hya! Appears to be what's known in the trade as a "Journeyman" driver, as it appears he's been with multiple Lights teams since '09 with his career best season being last year's eighth-place finish.

Jack Harvey is a complete unknown to Mwah, albeit I suppose he's trying to emulate Schmidt-Peterson IndyCar graduate "Union Jack's" (Hawksworth) progression - as Y'all can never count out the mighty Sam Schmidt operation, as after all they're the BIG DAWGS' of Indy Lights, with the rookie Englishman notching his first Lights podium with a fine third place finish on Friday at Indianapolis, and giving SPM its first 1-2 finish of the season on Saturday while constantly harassing race leader Razia. As the two podium finishes at the Speedway sees Harvey move into fourth in the points standings...

24) Scott Anderson: Fort Collins, Colorado; USA (24)
27) Kyle O'Gara: Beach Grove, Indiana; USA (19)

Although I don't expect Fan Force United to be victorious at Mother Speedway, nevertheless, they're my personal favourite Indy Lights team, especially after briefly meeting 'N greeting team co-owner Tyce Carlson at Indianapolis last year during the Legends Day autograph session... As they actually became my favourites upon running 'Mean Jean Alesi at the Brickyard with veteran engineer "Dr. Who," aka the late Tim Wardrop - even if they knew it was an uphill battle in their "Slowtus!"

Was just informed by Ryan at JOWT that Scott Anderson is not related to series director Dan Anderson - as I know nothing about his racing prowess, albeit with Veach and Chaves playing "Argie-Bargie" with each other in the closing laps of the second road race at Indianapolis, Anderson was able to re-pass Veach to claim fifth place, his career best finish.

Meanwhile, part time team-mate Kyle O'Gara should be a familiar name since he's the younger brother of Andy, (O'Gara) who's married to SFHR IndyCar Co-owner Sarah Fisher.

Kyle made his Indy Lights debut last year at Indianapolis, albeit with less than stellar results, having crashed out early before finishing his first Lights race upon the Fontana Superspeedway last October, and is now set to return for his second run at Indianapolis.

As I'll have to dig out my #67 green Kyle O'Gara T-Shirt that I picked-up last year to wear on Carb Day... 

(After 6 of 12 races)
1) Zach Veach: 229
2) R-Luiz Razia: 224
3) Gabby Chaves: 215
4) R-Jack Harvey: 207
5) Mathew Brabham: 192