Belardi Auto Racing’s Zach Veach rose to the occasion with just seconds remaining on the clock Friday to claim his first pole of the 2016 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires season. The driver of the No. 5 Mazda IL-15 will lead the 14-car field to the green flag Saturday in the first of two weekend races at the Grand Prix of Road America.
No. 55 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian driver Santiago Urrutia set the early pace in qualifying, battling with Ed Jones in the No. 11 Jebel Ali Resorts and Hotels entry for Carlin Racing. Veach, meanwhile, waited to go for the pole until he had a fresh set of Cooper tires as the session wound down. With 90 seconds to go, he rocketed to P1 with a lap of 1 minute 52.941 seconds (127.946 mph) on the 4.014-mile permanent road course to snatch the pole position.
The Stockdale, Ohio, native said the key to getting the pole was feeling the car out on older tires before making a run on a fresh set while changing his driving style.
“Most of the session, I was trying to figure out where the limits of the whole car were,” Veach said. “I believe that I was about 30 percent over that because we just couldn’t put it together. Finally, on that last set of new tires, I just said, ‘Well, I haven’t tried not pushing yet, so I calmed down and the laps just came to me and the car really dialed in to where I needed it to be.”
Urrutia held on for second with a lap of 1:52.9549 (127.931 mph), with Jones third at 1:52.9627 (127.922 mph). The first Indy Lights race is set for 1 p.m. ET Saturday, with the second race at 9:45 a.m. ET Sunday. Both will stream live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com.