Gabby Chaves’ quest for both Rookie of the Year and Champion honors in the Firestone Indy Lights series was strengthened on Sunday (April 21) with a second consecutive visit to the post race podium. The Schmidt Peterson Motorsports rookie avoided a first lap incident, before running strong all the way to the checkered flag, finishing an impressive second in Round Three on the streets of Long Beach, Calif.
One of the highlights of the IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights calendar every year is the Long Beach Grand Prix. Widely regarded as one, if not the premier street races in North America, the historic event provides the opportunity for racers to showcase their talents on a demanding track in front of a large and enthusiastic crowd.
Chaves entered the third race on the 12-race schedule with lots of confidence and momentum, following a third place result at the previous race at Barber Motorsports Park. That being said, the southern California event presented a new challenge to the former Formula BMW Americas champion and Italian Formula 3 Championship Rookie of the Year, as he had never previously turned a lap on the concreted-lined 1.968-mile, 11-turn street circuit. Given that fact, the goal early on was to get acclimated to the track configuration and its unique characteristics, while working with his skilled Schmidt Peterson Motorsports crew to steadily fine-tune his No. 7 Coldeportes/Marca Colombia/RedServi/Tecpro racing steed.
After a second practice run early on Saturday morning, which allowed Chaves to continue to develop the ideal car setup, it was time for the lone qualifying session. Chaves, steadily finding more speed as the 45-minute session progressed, ultimately secured the fifth best time, a mere 0.19s behind the P2 driver’s best time.
Returning to the driver’s seat on Sunday morning for Round Three, the goal was simple for Chaves…avoid the expected early race incidents, and make the most of every opportunity to move forward. The start of the planned 45-lap encounter provided to be the crucial moment for the teenager, and most of the field. Charging down the front straight at over 140 mph, contact occurred between the second, third, and fourth place starters. Chaves, thanks to some quick reflexes, and a little luck, managed to avoid the three-car incident, taking over third place entering turn one.
As expected, the first-lap incident immediately resulted in a full-course caution. When the race resumed following the clean-up, Chaves set about going for the win. While the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports rookie never truly got within striking distance to pass for the lead, he swiftly moved into second and matched the pace of his more experienced counterpart out front, trading fastest race lap as he shadowed the four-time series race winner and new championship leader all the way to the checkered flag.
“I am happy with the result of the race,” stated the 19 year-old Chaves. “I made progress throughout the weekend. This being my first time on the Long Beach circuit, to achieve a solid second place is very good. The important thing was that I kept the same pace as the winner, who had raced here before. We traded fastest laps of the race multiple times, and ended with our fastest laps of the race within the same tenth of a second. I want to thanks the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports crew for all their hard work once again this weekend. I will keep working hard to shorten the distance to the more experienced drivers, and get the results needed to fight for the championship.”
With his second top-three finish, Chaves now sits fourth in title fight, just three points behind third place.
Next up for Chaves and the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports crew is oval racing and the highlight event on the 2013 race calendar, the Freedom 100 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Prior to the Carburetion Day (May 24) race as part of the prestigious Indianapolis 500 event, series testing will take place on May 2 at the famed 2.5-mile speedway to prepare for the ovals.
Those interested in supporting Chaves’ charge towards a career in the upper echelon of motorsports are encouraged to contact Chaves and/or his management team.