WATKINS GLEN — Zach Veach made the move of the race, before the field even reached the chicane on lap 1, to win Saturday’s Mazda Grand Prix of Watkins Glen.
Veach made a daring move from his fifth starting spot to move up two positions entering the 90, made a gutsy outside maneuver in the esses to catch the leader and then drafted off the pole sitter to make the winning move entering the bus stop. He wasn’t challenged again for his sixth career Indy Lights victory, leading all 25 laps and, midway through the race, held as much as a six-second lead.
“Honestly is was just being at the right place at the right time,” said Veach, a 21-year-old from Ohio. “We didn’t get the qualifying (lap) that we wanted, but I don’t know if we had enough speed to catch (Santiago Urrutia), but we had a top 3 car regardless. We kept getting lucky, people put me in the right position to get through it and I caught (Urrutia’s) draft going into the bus stop and that allowed me to kind of get around him. From then on, all we had to think about were the tires, so I knew I had to build some kind of gap.”
Ed Jones moved up one spot from his starting position to finish second - 3.6 seconds in arrears - while second place starter Andre Negrao settled for third place.
Urrutia took pole position Saturday morning, but as soon as the green flag dropped his day just got miserable. The 20-year-old from Uruguay surrendered the lead down the backstretch on the opening lap and began fading, quickly. Under pressure from Jones for 10 laps, Urrutia fell back to third and then his left front tire failed going uphill in the esses. Urrutia placed 12th of 12 starters.
“I could see (Urrutia) sliding the car around a lot, which works at places like Mid-Ohio, but not on a smooth surface like this,” Jones observed.
Veach’s day started with a broken clutch and an ailing starter, which made him late for lining up on the grid. The inauspicious beginning to the 25-lapper belied how dominate he would be during the running. In the middle-to-late stages of Saturday’s race, Veach was using his push-to-pass button solely to maintain his advantage, without using up his tires.
With no caution flags, the race lasted less than 41 minutes for an average speed of 126.273 mph. Veach joins the likes of Jeff Simmons, Wade Cunningham, Alex Lloyd, Raphael Matos and J.R. Hildebrand as Indy Lights winners at The Glen.