Harvey leads title fight to Milwaukee
The newest specification of car on the Mazda Road to Indy development ladder heads to the oldest race track in North America, the Milwaukee Mile oval, this weekend for the Grand Prix of Milwaukee, Round 11 of Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires.
The 16-race schedule has reached a critical juncture with three drivers – Jack Harvey, Spencer Pigot and Ed Jones – separated by just 23 points as they chase a top prize of a guaranteed entry in three rounds of the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series, including the historic 100th Indianapolis 500.
The highest rung on the acclaimed Mazda Road to Indy has been grooming up-and-coming drivers for the pinnacle of American open-wheel racing for 30 years since its introduction as the American Racing Series in 1986. Indy Lights has been rejuvenated in 2015 with the introduction of the state-of-the-art Dallara IL-15 chassis matched to the turbocharged 2.0-liter Mazda MZR-R engine. Track records have fallen at every venue, and the quality of competition has been intense.
Jack Harvey, from Lincoln, England, currently leads the championship chase by just 11 points over Orlando, Fla.’s Spencer Pigot, while Dubai-based Briton Ed Jones lies only a dozen points further adrift with 10 races in the books.
Harvey, 22, has been a model of consistency this year for seven-time championship-winning team Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian, winning two races and failing only twice to finish among the top two – at Long Beach where he fell victim to a rival’s mistake and in the second road course event at the Indianapolis Grand Prix circuit where his car was slowed with a mechanical problem less than a mile from the finish line while running second. Harvey also posted the fastest time, an average speed of 147.791 mph, during an exclusive Indy Lights test session at Milwaukee on May 28.
Juncos Racing’s Pigot, 21, has won more races, four, than any other driver this season. He has momentum on his side, too, after sweeping both races last month on the streets of Toronto, Canada, and knows how to win at Milwaukee after leading the way home in last year’s Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires race en route to the series crown.
Jones, 20, faces a steeper learning curve with his Carlin team. Both are newcomers to the American racing scene, although they began on a tear by winning the first three races of the season. Results since then have been mixed, highlighted by a pair of podium finishes but also including his only DNF (did not finish) of the year during his first-ever oval race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May.
Other drivers to watch include RC Enerson (Schmidt Peterson), who holds fourth place in the points chase after stepping up directly from the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda; Pro Mazda graduate Kyle Kaiser (Juncos Racing), who snagged a third-place finish last time out in Toronto and was second-quickest at the Milwaukee test; Scott Anderson (Schmidt Peterson), who made his first appearance on the podium following the Freedom 100 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway; teammate Ethan Ringel, who qualified on the pole at Indy with a record average speed in excess of 197 mph; and Belardi Auto Racing’s Felix Serralles, who posted the fastest race lap at Indianapolis.
A condensed schedule this weekend will begin with official practice from 4:00-4:45 p.m. CDT on Saturday, July 11, followed by qualifying at 6:30 p.m. A 30-minute warmup at 10:15 on Sunday, July 12, will give drivers a final opportunity to prepare themselves for the 100-lap race which will start at 2:00 p.m., directly before the Verizon IndyCar Series feature event.