Starting from the pole position, Andretti Autosport’s Zach Veach led all 30 laps in today’s Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires event at Barber Motorsports Park and won by a margin of 3.8 seconds over GP2 veteran Luiz Razia of Brazil.
Gabby Chaves, who won the most recent Lights race two weeks ago at Long Beach, started alongside Veach on the front row but instead made contact with Belardi Auto Racing teammate Alex Baron in Turn 1 and sent the latter off track.
Both cars kept going after the incident but Chaves was never the same as he ultimately slipped to a sixth-place finish. Meanwhile, Baron shook off his first-lap run-in and charged all the way to fifth at the checkered flag.
“We were very happy to use our pole to an advantage, as we didn’t get that opportunity in Long Beach,” Veach said to the IMS Radio Network. “But it was a great car to drive.
“I really didn’t know what was going on [in Turn 1]. I saw a lot of things moving around in my mirrors and I just kind of prayed that I didn’t get swept up into it. But this car was easy to drive, it was really consistent, and I’m excited to [run another race] tomorrow.”
As for Razia, he was able to secure his first Lights podium after finishing fifth in the season’s first two events. Following Long Beach, he taped pictures of that race’s group of podium finishers – Chaves, Veach, and Andretti’s Matthew Brabham – on a mirror for motivation.
Schmidt Peterson Motorsports was able to get two of their men on the podium, with Razia’s runner-up and Jack Harvey’s third-place finish (he was five seconds off of Veach’s pace). Brabham was fourth, 9.5 seconds behind Veach.
Veach now holds a 26-point lead in the Lights championship over Chaves going into tomorrow’s second race at Barber. That race will start at 1 p.m. ET and will be shown on NBCSN at 5:30 p.m. ET following coverage of the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama for the Verizon IndyCar Series.
Chase Sexton stumbled in San Diego and Eli Tomac had a hard fall in Anaheim 2, but the Monster Energy Supercross numbers for Houston suggest they will continue to be the ones to beat in Houston. To do so, they will have to turn back challenges from another pair of riders who have swept the top five in the first three rounds and another with a worst finish of sixth.
There are reasons to believe Webb and Roczen can keep those streaks alive.
Webb is the only multiple winner at Supercross’ current Houston stadium. His pair of wins came in 2019 and 2021, the same year he won his two 450 championships.
Clinton Fowler points out this week, that Webb has carried that strength into 2023. Webb had a late surge in Anaheim 1, advancing from fifth to second in the final six laps. In San Diego, he set his ninth fastest lap with two to go and his eighth fastest on the final lap. He posted his fastest lap of Anaheim 2 on Lap 12 while the rest of the field did so on Lap 6 on average.
By comparison, Tomac set his 14th fastest lap on the final circuit in route to winning the Main at San Diego while he was trying to keep Webb at bay.
With a sixth at San Diego, Dylan Ferrandis barely missed sweeping the top five in his first three races as did Tomac with a sixth last week at Anaheim 2.
This will be the 46th year Supercross has visited Houston and with 55 races the city is tied for the second-most with Detroit.
Webb won most recently in 2021 in the final race of three held there that year as the series executed a strategy of racing in residencies to limit travel during height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tomac and Justin Barcia also won in Houston in 2021.
Two privateers have started the season on a high note.
Joshua Cartwright and Joshua Varize have each made the last two Mains. Cartwright finished 18th in San Diego and 21st last week in Anaheim 2 – all while working fulltime as a Business Intelligence Analyst at the University of Texas, Dallas. Varize earned a top-15 (12th) in San Diego and was 21st in Anaheim 2 in his third season on a 450.
The numbers show none of the active 250 Supercross East riders have won in Houston, so no matter who steps on top of the box, there is going to be a fresh face. That is not surprising since most of the top competitors have not raced at this venue yet.
Michael Mosiman has a pair of top-fives there, however. His best finish was a second in the second 2021 race. Garrett Marchbanks scored a top-10 in his rookie season of 2019 in Houston.
In the 250 East division, Hunter Lawrence is one of the favorites to win the title now that Christian Craig has moved to 450s. Last year he had four wins and nine podiums, but failed to set a fast lap in a race.