Motorsports rising star Gabby Chaves ended his return season of North American junior formula car action in superb fashion on Saturday (October 19) at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. Returning to the cockpit of his Schmidt Peterson Motorsports entry, the standout rookie finished second in the Firestone Indy Lights season-finale, giving the highly-regarded racer a series-high 10 podium finishes, and second in the championship fight.
Entering the season-ending 12th race on the 2013 Indy Lights schedule, Chaves was one of only two drivers still in contention for the championship crown and the prestigious Mazda Road to Indy scholarship to advance up to the IndyCar Series in 2014.
Given the No. 7 Coldeportes/Marca Colombia/RedServi/Tecpro racer had earned a trip to the post-race podium at the previous six races, including an inaugural win at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, the stage was set for another run at top honors.
Aware that car set-up is key on an oval, the talented Schmidt Peterson Motorsports focused on fine tuning Chaves’ racing steed in the lead up to qualifying and the 50-lap race.
Chaves, having turned the third best time during single-car qualifying, got the green flag on Saturday from row two. Needing to lead the most laps and score the win in order to come home as the series champion, the ‘Take 5 To Stay Alive. Don’t Text & Drive’ spokesperson and Safety Ambassador of the FIA Institute for Motor Sport Safety and Sustainability driver wasted little time moving up to second and challenging for the lead. While Chaves continually pressured the race leader, he was unable to make a pass for position, ultimately taking second place, a mere 0.9966s behind at the checkered flag. When combined with a third place finish by his championship-winning teammate, Chaves ended the year as the 2013 Indy Lights runner-up.
“It’s disappointing,” stated Chaves. “We fight with our hearts every time, and sometimes it goes your way, and sometimes it doesn’t. Today wasn’t my day. I did everything that I could. I knew I had to lead the most laps, and tried to go around Carlos [Munoz] many times. I couldn’t do it.
“Great job to the team, to Sam [Schmidt], and a big thank you to everyone who has helped me, including my engineer Chris [Finch], all the mechanics, the whole Schmidt Peterson Motorsports crew, Al Lewis, and PitFit Training. Congrats to Sage [Karam] and my team for the championship, and we’ll see what comes next. I’ll definitely keep pushing hard, because it’s not over. We lost this championship, but there’s still plenty to come.”
Chaves was a title contender throughout his rookie Indy Lights season. The most consistent front-runner, he secured a series-high 10 top-three finishes in 12 races, scoring one win and five seconds.
With second in the 2013 Indy Lights title fight, the up-and-comer has finished as a champion or runner-up five times since 2007. Chaves has enjoyed success both in North America and abroad, highlighted by the 2008 Skip Barber Southern Regional Series title, 2009 Formula BMW Americas championship crown, 2010 Campionato Italiano Formula 3 Rookie of the Year award, and second in the 2012 Star Mazda Championship.
Chaves is currently preparing for the 2014 season, and excited for the opportunities it might bring.
Next up for Chaves is a return to his racing roots…karting. The skilled 20 year-old will contest both the prestigious Robo-pong 200 at New Castle Motorsports Park in Indiana, and the 17th edition of the renowned SuperKartsUSA! SuperNationals in Las Vegas.
Photo by Chris Jones.