Belardi's Chaves Scores Two Podiums at Mid-Ohio
 August 6, 2014| 
  • Team News
Series sophomore extends championship lead, while Jefferies makes strong debut

LEXINGTON, OHIO – The championship stretch run of the 2014 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires schedule began at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course this past weekend, and Belardi Auto Racing’s driver duo of point leader Gabby Chaves and new recruit Axcil Jefferies turned in positive performances to help propel the team to the next event on the Milwaukee Mile in just two weeks time. With just five races remaining in the championship, Chaves made the most of the Mid-Ohio doubleheader by posting a pair of podium finishes to maintain his point lead. Jefferies was subbing for Frenchman Alex Baron, who was not able to attend due to visa issues, and the 20-year-old from Zimbabwe performed exceptionally well to finish in the top-six in both races.

Coming into the event, the Belardi Auto Racing squad was riding a wave of momentum, having won the last three races on the schedule (Indy, Pocono and Toronto). As a result, Chaves arrived at Mid-Ohio with a 21-point advantage over his competition and was focused on a solid points haul to strengthen his position atop the standings. The team worked hard to provide Gabby with a solid car for Saturday qualifying, focusing on improving straight-line speed, and he timed the #5 Belardi entry fourth in the field of 12. With rain having just cleared the area and leaving the drivers on Cooper slicks and a slightly damp track, Chaves started Race #1 on the outside of row two, but fell back to fifth immediately when the off-pole driver was slow in anticipating the green flag. Gabby began his march forward, methodically picking off cars until he made his way up to second, where he finished. It was his seventh podium finish of the year. On Sunday, in full dry conditions, he again started fourth and was able to work his way to third to add yet another podium result to his record and maintain the championship lead with just three races to go in the season.

“This weekend, it seemed like we were just lacking 2-3 tenths every session,” Chaves admitted. “We made some big improvements going into qualifying, which allowed us to be in contention for pole for most the session. In race one, I had made good overtaking moves that got us a P2 finish. And in race two, we held onto a podium finish, which allows us to keep a strong lead in points heading into the last three races of the championship!"

Jefferies proved to be a valuable addition to the team in Mid-Ohio, as the experienced driver returned to the Indy Lights series after making two starts in 2013 with another squad. This was his first outing with Belardi Auto Racing and he gelled quickly with the team and was never out of the top-seven on the timesheets. Axcil qualified sixth for the opening race, but was admittedly a little cautious at the start and dropped two positions. He would make up for it later in the race, pulling off two strong overtaking maneuvers on a course that is notoriously difficult to pass on, to finish sixth.  In Race #2, he was more aggressive on the start and was again able to slide past two of his competitors to finish a stunning fourth in the final tally.

“Overall, it was a great weekend and I would like to thank my sponsors American Honda and Sgi, and I am happy to have raced as a UNAIDS Ambassador. I think we can safely say we ‘Protected the Goal,'” Jefferies offered.  “The guys at Belardi have been fantastic and I have learned so much. The team really got behind me and gave me a fantastic car all weekend and I can’t thank them enough. I hope we will be in Sonoma and would love to be on the podium for Belardi.”

The Belardi Auto Racing team will now prepare for the third oval race of the season, which will take their drivers to the Milwaukee Mile on August 15-17 for Milwaukee IndyFest.  Chaves holds an 18-point lead in the standings heading into the event and will be focused on sweeping the speedway races on the 2014 schedule, having won at both Indianapolis and Pocono already. Alex Baron is expected to return to the team for this event as well.

About Belardi Auto Racing:
Belardi Auto Racing is an organization comprised of experienced individuals in the racing industry with an aggressive growth strategy and a strong commitment to finishing up front. No stranger to winning, team members having been achieving success in both the amateur and pro ranks for over a decade, winning numerous junior formula car races and championships. Based in Brownsburg, Ind., Belardi Auto Racing contests multi-car efforts in both the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires and Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda series. Goal-oriented and focused on developing the next stars of motorsports, Belardi Auto Racing won in both the Indy Lights and USF2000 Championships in 2013.
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