By Steve Wittich

The top three in the lone Indy Pro 2000 practice session for the Indy Pro 2000 Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio Presented by Cooper Tires Honoring First Responders were separated by less than two-tenths of a second.

Leading the way, with a lap timed at 77.513 seconds, was defending Cooper Tires USF2000 Champion and Exclusive Autosport rookie Braden Eves.

He was joined in the top three by fellow rookie Manuel Sulaiman (DEForce Racing) and sophomore Danial Frost (Turn 3 Motorsport).

The lone Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires practice session got started at 11:15 am. The temperature when the 30-minute session got started was 80F, and the wind was blowing briskly from the south.

The red flag came out with only six minutes gone in the session for a car that had come to a stop at pit exit and so that the AMR INDYCAR Safety Team could complete a track inspection.

At that point in the session, the quickest driver was points leader Frost at 79.635 seconds, but most drivers had not yet turned a lap at speed.

The car that had caused the red after dropping a bunch of gearbox fluid in Turn 4, 5 and 6, was the DAN-JET sponsored No. 68 of Frost. The problem was not terminal as the Singaporean driver was able to get back out on the track.

After a lengthy delay for clean-up, the session was extended, and when the green flag came back out, the time remaining clock read 25-minutes.

Frost quickly lowered the time-to-beat to 78.864 seconds, and for the first 20 minutes of the session was the only driver to break the 79-second barrier.

With just under 10-minutes left in the session, the time to beat was lowered again. Once again, it was Frost, who turned the first lap under 78 seconds.

In desperate need of a bounce-back weekend, Thompson spent quite a bit of time with the second quickest time and was the third driver to turn a lap under 78 seconds.

With five minutes left in the session, Frost and Eves were the only drivers with laps in the 77-second range.

With two minutes left in the session, Frost was finally knocked off the top spot by Eves in the Road To Indy/Cooper Tires/MDRN Livery/CCFI/Huston Insurance sponsored No. 1.

TSO was told that Eves was quick during the recent Road To Indy test at Mid-Ohio, but was having transponder issues. It’s always nice to know that a source was being honest.

Late in the session, pole sitter at Road America Sulaiman threw down a flier, that wasn’t quick enough to top Eves but did move him ahead of Frost with the second-fastest lap.

Another rookie, Pabst Racing’s Hunter McElrea, turned the quickest lap of the session on his final lap.

Qualifying for the first Indy Pro 2000 Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio Presented by Cooper Tires Honoring First Responders race starts at 2:15 pm.

Results of Indy Pro 2000 Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio Presented by Cooper Tires Honoring First Responders practice

1 1 Braden Eves Exclusive Autosport 1:17.513   19
2 8 Manuel Sulaiman DEForce Racing 1:17.655 0.1419 17
3 68 Danial Frost Turn 3 Motorsport 1:17.678 0.1650 18
4 18 Hunter McElrea Pabst Racing 1:17.798 0.2852 12
5 9 Parker Thompson DEForce Racing 1:17.814 0.3015 15
6 42 Artem Petrov Juncos Racing 1:18.216 0.7034 16
7 2 Sting Ray Robb Juncos Racing 1:18.511 0.9977 16
8 19 Colin Kaminsky Pabst Racing 1:18.646 1.1332 11
9 3 Antoine Comeau Turn 3 Motorsport 1:18.666 1.1535 18
10 6 Moises de la Vara DEForce Racing 1:18.703 1.1901 16
11 17 Devlin DeFrancesco Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport 1:18.784 1.2710 16
12 7 Kory Enders DEForce Racing 1:19.150 1.6372 17
13 36 Jacob Loomis BN Racing with Team Benik 1:19.241 1.4843 13
14 69 Nate Aranda Juncos Racing 1:19.520 2.0073 17
15 37 Sabre Cook BN Racing with Team Benik 1:19.605 2.0919 18
16 57 Bob Kaminsky Pabst Racing 1:21.742 4.2295 14
17 83 Charles Finelli FatBoy Racing 1:23.583 6.0700 16