Gabby Chaves is now a well-deserved Firestone Indy Lights race winner following a perfect flag-to-flag run this past weekend (August 3-4) at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. The Schmidt Peterson Motorsports rookie star made the most of his inaugural series pole position to capture the Round Nine victory, and with the performance moves into second place in the hard-fought title fight with three races to go.
Chaves has been a driver to watch throughout his first Indy Lights campaign with multiple champion Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, challenging for top honors race after race. With six podium finishes to date, the No. 7 Coldeportes/Marca Colombia/RedServi/Tecpro racer traveled to Ohio poised to yet again battle for the win.
While things got off to slow start in the opening two practice runs – which featured mixed conditions – with Chaves struggling to find the right balance for the technical Mid-Ohio road course, both he and the team were confident heading into the lone qualifying session on Saturday.
Chaves promptly re-established his position as a series front-runner during the timed run in ideal sunny conditions. As expected, the fight for the pole came down to the final few minutes. The ‘Take 5 To Stay Alive. Don’t Text & Drive’ spokesperson and Safety Ambassador of the FIA Institute for Motor Sport Safety and Sustainability racer timed his best run to perfection, attacking the track on his final tour to grab his first Indy Lights pole just as the checkered flag waved.
“I knew I had the car from the first lap,” said Chaves. “We struggled in the practice, but we just kept our heads down and focused. Really, when my engineer told me ‘one lap to go, this is it,’ I put everything I had down on the table.
“We’ve yet to get on the front-row for qualifying, so this is the first. For it to be a pole position and to get the first place on the starting grid for tomorrow, hopefully we’ll go for our first victory.”
Returning to the driver’s seat one day later, the goal was simple for Chaves…get a good start and run a mistake-free race. The skilled up-and-comer did just that, holding off the expected challenge when the green flag waved, prior to building a multi-car advantage on his nearest pursuer. While some tire wear and a late-race caution and subsequent re-start provided some entertainment for the large crowd present, Chaves never relinquished the top spot, scoring his first Indy Lights win.
“I crossed the finish line and I didn’t have words. I was just screaming,” commented Chaves. “The feeling of winning, especially when it was so hard, when you come so long and worked so hard to get here, makes it so much more special.”
With the win, Chaves now sits second in the championship standings and leads the Rookie of the Year fight.
Next up for Chaves is Round 10 of the Firestone Indy Lights campaign on August 31-September 1, on the streets of Baltimore.
Photo by Ron Bijlsma.