By Steve Wittich

The middle rung of the Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires will be made their first appearance at Road America when Guy Cosmo won in 2002. The Cooper Tires Grand Prix of Road America Powered by Elite Engines doubleheader will be the 15th, and 16th Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires races held on the 4.014-mile, 14-turn natural terrain road course.

An always entertaining opening lap of Indy Pro 2000 action at Road America (Photo Courtesy Of Andersen Promotions)

Previous Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires winners at Road America

2018 Race #2 David Malukas BN Racing
2018 Race #1 David Malukas BN Racing
2017 Race #2 Anthony Martin Cape Motorsports
2017 Race #1 Victor Franzoni Juncos Racing
2016 Race #2 Aaron Telitz Team Pelfrey
2016 Race #1 Aaron Telitz Team Pelfrey
2010 Conor Daly Juncos Racing
2008 Peter Dempsey Andersen Racing
2007 Ron White Maxwell Racing
2006 Ron White Ross Smith Racing
2005 James Hinchcliffe AIM Autosport
2004 Michael McDowell Star Race Cars
2003 Michael McDowell Star Race Cars
2002 Guy Cosmo Racers Edge Motorsports

Despite only being five races old, the Indy Pro 2000 series has already visited three very disparate styles of tracks, and selecting a favorite for the advancement scholarship is no more straightforward than it was before the season started in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Parker Thompson (Abel Motorsports) dominated the season-opening event, winning twice on the tricky St. Pete street course. The second event of the season on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and this time it was Rasmus Lindh (Juncos Racing) that won twice. Finally, the series first of two oval events had Danial Frost run away with the 90-lap race.

It would make sense that the 17-year-old Lindh would be seeking some redemption as he returns to Road America for the second time in his Road To Indy career. The swift Swede started on the pole twice on the 4.014-mile, 14-turn natural terrain road course last year, but fell off the podium in both races.

Juncos Racing is the only Indy Pro 2000 team competing for this weekend that has won at Road America.

Exclusive Autosport rookie Frost returns to the track where he made his Road To Indy debut last year in USF2000 trailing Lindh by only eight points. The 17-year-old dominant winner of the previous race at Lucas Oil Raceway oval has podiums in his last four races, the longest current streak in the series.

Thompson, who started the year on a single event deal with Abel Motorsports returns to action with the Louisville, Kentucky team for the fourth round, in fourth place, only 27 points behind Lindh.

The Canadian will be a single entry this weekend with his teammate Jacob Abel opting to take part in the F3 Americas Championship Powered By Honda triple-header at Pittsburgh International Race Complex. Abel currently leads that championship after the first six races and, understandably, is choosing to chase that title.

The team has brought in experienced Road To Indy engineer Tom Knapp to look after the 21-year-old this weekend. Thompson has made six prevous starts at Road America; never finish lower than fifth or higher than third.

Two straight second-place finishes have helped Juncos Racing veteran Sting Ray Robb score 31 more points than Thompson over the last three races, moving him into third place in the championship.

The 17-year-old will be making his fifth and sixth start at Road America and will need to improve on his past qualifying efforts if he wants to extend his podium streak.

Last year at this time, Kyle Kirkwood a pair of wins allowed Kyle Kirkwood to put the USF2000 championship “on ice” at Road America. This year, the 20-year-old comes to Road America looking for a pair of wins to erase some of his 45 point deficit to Lindh. The reigning USF2000 champion has been the quickest driver in three of five races so far this year, but incidents both in and out of his control have led to a few sub-par results.

Returning as Kirkwood’s RP Motorsport teammate is Ian Rodriguez. The Guatemalan pilot had solid pace in his Indy Pro 2000 debut on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course but needs to stay out of trouble to reap a solid result.

Both of steady Exclusive Autosport veteran Nikita Lastochkin’s career Road To Indy podiums came at Road America in 2017, making the Russian a sold dark horse choice to once again stand on the podium at Road America.

The DEForce Racing duo of Moisés de la Vara and Kory Enders have shown flashes of podium pace but will need to use past experience at Road America to finish at the pointy end of the grid.

Family team JDL Racing and driver Jacob Loomis are back for another Indy Pro 2000 doubleheader. They might not have had the results they wanted in their debut on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course six weeks ago, but their pace in their first event was quicker than the results indicated.

The second family team and driver is looking to recover from a mechanical issue that ended their last race early. Pserra Racing’s Antonio Serravalle is making his second Indy Pro 2000 appearance at Road America and begins the weekend only 19 points out of fifth place, intending to move up the championship table.

“I am looking forward to being back at Road America,” Serravalle said. “Last year was my rookie season, and I feel that I have learned a lot throughout last year and the beginning of this season. I am confident that the Pserra Racing team and I can use this experience to begin seeing better results throughout the rest of the season, starting at Road America.”

Last, but never least is the Fatboy Racing! duo of Phillippe Denes and Charles Finelli.

Denes has been impressive in his return to the Road To Indy. The 20-year-old Californian has been consistent in the first five races of the season. He begins the weekend only 11-points behind Kirkwood for fifth in the championship.

Finelli made four previous starts at Road America with the best finish of being eighth in 2017.

Other Indy Pro 2000 notes

  • James Hinchcliffe is the only driver contesting Sunday’s NTT IndyCar Series race to win an Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires race at Road America.
  • The eventual champion has won a race at Road America in only five of the eleven seasons the middle rung on the Road To Indy ladder has raced at the iconic road course. Those champions include two of past three seasons, with Malukas’ double win last year serving as the lone exception.
  • Active team Juncos Racing, along with the inactive Team Pelfrey, BN Racing and Star Race Cars are tied with two wins and two poles each. Six other teams (none of them active) have one pole and one win each.
  • The pole sitter has won seven straight races dating back to Conor Daly in 2010. In the seven previous races, the pole sitter only one a single time. The average starting position of the winner is 3.4.
  • The average finishing position in the 14 previous Indy Pro 2000 races on the 4.014-mile, 14-turn natural terrain road course is 2.1. The inside front row starter has only finished off the podium on two occasions, and the worst of those was an eighth-place finish by Marco DiLeo in 2008.
  • All 14 races have finished under green flag conditions, and the closest finish came when Anthony Martin crossed the line only 0.1799 seconds ahead of Victor Franzoni in the second race in 2017.
  • At just over 3,600 feet long, the Moraine Sweep a run downhill from Turn 3 through a forest to Turn 5 is one of the quickest spots (not on an oval) that the drivers will experience all year. Sting Ray Robb’s trap speed just before Turn 5 in Race #2 last year was 158.685 mph.

Race weekend basics

Race name: Cooper Tires Grand Prix of Road America Powered by Elite Engines

Race #1 length: 15 laps or 40 minutes
Race #2 length: 15 laps or 40 minutes

Qualifying Record: 119.8151 seconds by David Malukas in 2018
Race Record: 121.2206 seconds by Toby Sowery in 2018

Each entry can utilize three new sets of Cooper Tire slicks as well as one set of used/scuffed tires from the race weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course.

Drivers failing to slow at least 15% in a timing sector with a local yellow will be subject to a two-place grid spot penalty

Drivers who fail to heed the checkered flag at the end of a session will receive a two-grid spot penalty

To avoid a red flag and penalty (see below) during qualifying, you must park your disabled vehicle in a safe area (determined by the race director)

Causing one red flag will result in a driver losing their fastest lap

Causing a second red flag will wipe out all of drivers laps, and be parked for the remainder of the session.

Driver points are distributed as follows: 30 – 25 – 22 – 19 – 17 – 15 -14 – 13 – 12 – 11 – 10 – 9 – 8 – 7 – 6 – 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 – an additional one point will be awarded to the pole sitter, to the driver who leads the most laps, and to the driver who turns the quickest race lap

Watch the 2018 Road America races:

Race #1

Race #2

Don’t miss any of the Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires action: