While a Verizon IndyCar Series is just that, a rookie, out of the five drivers that will be making their first series start this weekend at Road America, three of which have actually not only raced on the 4.014-mile scenic road course before, but they’ve actually visited victory lane too.
Last year, Matheus Leist and Zachary Claman DeMelo won both races of the doubleheader weekend in Elkhart Lake. Leist, won the first race for his second career win while finishing fourth in Race No. 2. Claman DeMelo, finished 10th in the first race but grabbed the win in the second race No. 2 for his first career series victory.
In 2016, Zach Veach won race No. 1 and finished third in race No. 2. Between this trio of rookies, they’ve won three of the four Lights races in Road America since they came back to the track two years ago. Now, they’re all behind the wheel of an INDYCAR for Sunday’s Kohler Grand Prix (12:30 p.m. ET/NBCSN/INDYCAR Radio Network).
“Road America is a pretty cool track,” said AJ Foyt Racing’s Leist. “It is one of my favorite tracks in the world and my favorite track in the U.S. Last year, I had a great weekend there in Indy Lights, winning the first race as well as the pole position. Each time we work together as a team, we are developing the car and getting quicker. I think we might have a great car for this weekend and I’m looking forward to it.”
Leist, has had an up and down year so far in 2018, but he’s been very quick and should be once again this weekend.
Claman DeMelo, had a great run at Texas before being involved in a late crash with Will Power. Nevertheless, if he was running full time this season, the Dale Coyne Racing driver would certainly have been turning even more heads in his No. 19 Honda.
“Road America is one of my favorite tracks on the schedule,” said Claman DeMelo. “I have great memories racing there as it’s where I won my first Indy Lights race last season and it’s a circuit I’ve always done well at. We’ve made some great progress so far this year, but have not yet had the chance to show it with a good result aboard our No. 19 Paysafe car. Hopefully, we can change that this weekend and give the No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing crew the top result that they deserve.”
Veach, is hoping he can turn his recent string of solid races into a win. He finished fourth in April in Long Beach, was strong at Indy, ran very well in Detroit and charged hard in Texas before scrapping the wall and ending what could have been a solid result.
“Road America is a track that has been good to me in the past,” Veach said. “My last time there was in 2016 in an Indy Lights car. We set a track record, won the first race and finished third in Race 2. I’m hoping that speed helps us out in the Indy car this weekend. The last two weekends have been good for us, as far as progress as a rookie. We were super competitive at Detroit and ran in the top three at one point in Texas. Hopefully, we can capitalize on that momentum and have a strong finish at Road America to start the second half of the season off strong.”