The start of the Indy Pro 2000 race at World Wide Technology Raceway At Gateway in 2019 (Photo Courtesy Of Andersen Promotions)

Previewing the Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires action at World Wide Technology Raceway At Gateway.

Close battle for the Indy Lights advancement scholarship.

Devlin DeFrancesco parlayed a successful oval debut at Lucas Oil Raceway into a larger championship lead in the chase for the Indy Lights advancement scholarship. The Andretti Steinbrenner Racing pilot made a pair of passes in the final five laps. The waning lap passes of his two closest title rivals, Sting Ray Robb and Danial Frost means the 20-year-old could extend his season-long championship lead over Robb and Frost to seven and nine points, respectively.

Indy Pro 2000 points leader Devlin DeFrancesco on track at Lucas Oil Raceway (Photo Courtesy Of Andersen Promotions)

“Leading the championship gives everyone a confidence boost, which is really nice,” explained the Toronto, Ontario born driver. “But we still have to take it race by race, we can’t get complacent just because we’re leading the championship.

“There’s still work to be done to be able to maintain that lead. It’s hugely satisfying to be in this position at this point in the season, but I’m still staying grounded.

“The level of competition is really high. The other guys are more used to oval racing than I am, they know the tracks better than I do, so we can’t slip up at any point. Luckily, I’ve got a great team in Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport.

“They’re a group that has a lot of experience racing and winning on these tracks. I really couldn’t ask for a better team of people around me. So, we’re just going to keep working like we’re working and move forward and find more and more speed.”

2020 Indy Pro 2000 points through Lucas Oil Raceway

1 Devlin DeFrancesco 136
2 Sting Ray Robb 129 -7
3 Danial Frost 127 -9
4 Artem Petrov 118 -18
5 Braden Eves 115 -21
6 Hunter McElrea 104 -32
7 Manuel Sulaiman 103 -33
8 Parker Thompson 89 -47
9 Colin Kaminsky 83 -53
10 Moisés de la Vara 70 -66
11 Antoine Comeau 69 -67
12 Nate Aranda 52 -84
13 Sabre Cook 47 -89
14 Bob Kaminsky 46 -90
15 Kody Swanson 46 -90
16 Charles Finelli 43 -93
17 Jacob Loomis 41 -95
18 Kory Enders 36 -100
19 Jacob Abel 14 -122

Juncos Racing drivers Robb and Artem Petrov should have plenty of confidence as they head to the season’s second oval event. The Speedway, Ind. based squad, has been the team to beat at the good on the 1.25-mile, four turn egg-shaped oval.

The Ricardo Juncos lead team has two wins, four podiums, and led 93 laps, leading all of those categories.

Robb finished fifth at Gateway last year and will be making his fourth start at the Madison, Ill. track. Petrov’s oval debut came at Gateway last year when he started fifth and finished seventh.

The 2019 race at Gateway was the first oval event for Turn 3 Motorsport, giving them data to work from. Then, Frost was driving for Exclusive Autosport, started seventh last year, but made up three spots to finish fourth.

Reigning USF2000 champion Braden Eves is in fifth in the championship, only 21 points behind DeFrancesco. The Exclusive Autosport rookie will have to find a little more oval pace out of his Road To Indy/Cooper Tires/MDRN Livery/Huston Insurance sponsored No. 1, if he wants to make inroads to the drivers in front of him.

Last weekend at Lucas Oil Raceway, Eves finished seventh after starting eight and turned in the race’s sixth quickest lap.

The only drivers to make up ground on DeFrancesco last weekend were Hunter McElrea and Manuel Sulaiman, who both stood on the podium. Pabst Racing rookie McElrea used his second straight second-place finish to move from 41 points to 32 points behind DeFrancesco.

DEForce Racing Manuel Sulaiman also had a successful Lucas Oil Raceway event. The Mexican started on the pole, led 40 laps, turned the quickest lap of the race, and finished in third, gaining six points on DeFrancesco.

With 45 points on the line for a victory this weekend, Parker Thompson (DEForce Racing) and Colin Kaminsky (Pabst Racing) can quickly jump back into contention with a win.

Two in a row?

He might not be in the title fight, but that doesn’t mean Kody Swanson won’t have plenty of eyes on him this weekend. The 32-year-old led 50 laps and drove away from the field to take home the win in the Freedom 90, his first-ever race in a formula car.

UCAS regular Kody Swanson will try to make it two-for-two in Indy Pro 2000 oval starts (Photo Courtesy Of Andersen Promotions)

Unlike the rest of the Indy Pro 2000 field, the five-time USAC Silver Crown Champion has been very busy since the Freedom 90 received the checkered flag, racing four-times across three different United States Auto Club (USAC) divisions.

Later on Friday night, the Kingsburg, Calif. native started from the pole in the Dave Steele Carb Night Classic and ended up finishing in tenth.

On Saturday night, Swanson was back in action at Lucas Oil Raceway for some pavement midget and sprint car action in the “Night Before The 500.”

Swanson started on pole in the midget race but was passed by eventual winner and fellow pavement guru Bobby Santos at the start of the race. His night ended with a cut tire, and a disappointing 18th place finish.

Things went much better for Swanson in his Nolen Racing prepared sprint car. Swanson started on the pole and led all 40 laps to win the special event.

Sunday night, Swanson started sixth in his Nolen Racing #20 on the one-mile dirt oval at the Indianapolis Fairgrounds, where he was looking for his fifth Hoosier Hundred win. It wasn’t meant to be though, as Swanson tangled with a few other drivers, flipping and ending up with a disappointing 26th place finish.

“I was familiar with the Road to Indy,” related Swanson during the run-up to his second Indy Pro 2000 start. “And while I’ve known people in the sport and the series, it was never intimately enough to make a break to drive in it myself. But I know how the ladder system works, that it is a path to Indianapolis for someone like me.

“Although I’ve been to World Wide Technology Raceway before, the Legacy (Autosport) guys have talked to me about the importance of the draft – and while the Silver Crown cars can draft there and I’m familiar with the idea, it’s not to the level that it’ll play in these cars. I obviously have more experience now, I know a little bit about how the car reacts, but still, it’s a whole new set of challenges to learn and a bunch of good drivers and experienced teams to try to have to learn that against. I’m looking forward to the challenge and finding out where we stack up.

“We had a great night last week and while there’s still pressure to perform this weekend, I’m just focusing on the opportunity to gain more experience at a new speed and a new type of racetrack, and continue to move forward.”

Swanson is no stranger to the 1.25-mile, four turn egg-shaped Gateway oval, collecting two top-five finishes in a pair of USAC Silver Crown starts in 2013 (2nd) and 2014 (5th).

The difference between a USAC Silver Crown Car and PM-18 goes well beyond one having the engine in front of the driver and the other having the engine behind the driver.

The Silver Crown weighs approximately 1650 pounds and has over 800hp derived from an 8-cylinder engine. The PM-18 weighs approximately 1100 pounds and makes approximately 275hp from a four-cylinder engine.

The speed difference at a track like Gateway? The two cars are surprisingly close. The last time the USAC Silver Crown series visited Gateway in 2014, Tracy Hines won the pole with a lap speed of 144.356mph. Last year in Indy Pro 2000, the fastest lap in qualifying was a lap by Rasmus Lindh with a speed of 143.102mph.

A few other tidbits

  • The Indy Pro 2000 champion has been the race winner at World Wide Technology Raceway At Gateway in the three seasons the series has raced at the 1.25-mile, four turn egg-shaped oval.
  • In three Indy Pro 2000 races at World Wide Technology Raceway At Gateway, the winner has never come from the pole. The average starting position of the winner is 5.3, but that is a little skewed. Kyle Kirkwood won from 12th on the grid last year.
  • The average finishing position for the pole sitter is 2.3.
  • DEForce Racing was quick at World Wide Technology Raceway At Gateway last year, with Kory Enders standing on the podium and setting the fastest race lap.
  • The track record was set in qualifying last year by Juncos Racing’s Rasmus Lindh, who turned in a lap at 143.102mph.
  • The first two Indy Pro 2000 races at Gateway had zero DNF’s. Last year, two cars failed to finish.
  • Last year’s 0.8679-second victory by Kirkwood over Lindh was the closest in the three Indy Pro 2000 races at Gateway. In 2018, Rinus VeeKay beat Robert Megennis to the checkered flag by 8.5507 seconds.
The remainder of the schedule for the Indy Pro 2000 Oval Challenge Of St. Louis Presented By Cooper Tires looks like this (all times are central):
11:30am – 12:15pm —> Test Session #2
2:15pm – 3pm —> Test Session #3
5:30pm – 6pm —> Qualifying
9:15am – 9:35am —> Practice
1 pm – 1:50 pm —> Indy Pro 2000 Oval Challenge Of St. Louis Presented By Cooper Tires (55 laps)


First Indy Pro 2000 test session notes and results

The first of three 45-minute Indy Pro 2000 test sessions got underway with Danial Frost (Turn 3 Motorsport) being the first driver to take to the 1.25-mile, four turn egg-shaped oval.

With 30-minutes left in the session, the yellow flag came out for a track inspection. At that point in the session, Frost had turned the quickest lap at 140.346mph. He was joined in the top five by Moisés de la Vara (DEForce Racing), Parker Thompson (DEForce Racing), Sting Ray Robb (Juncos Racing), and Manuel Sulaiman (DEForce Racing).

The track remained green for practice until the yellow flag came out for a spin by Fatboy Racing! driver Charles Finelli, with just over six minutes remaining.

When the track went back to green, Juncos Racing driver Artem Petrov was the first to improve on his time, breaking the 32-second barrier with a lap 141.037mph. The Russian’s time at the top of the timesheet didn’t last long, with Frost once again going fastest with a lap at 142.005mph.

Points leader Devlin DeFrancesco (Andretti Steinbrenner Racing) had the third fastest lap time and turned a total of 38 laps. Braden Eves (Exclusive Autosport) and Colin Kaminsky (Pabst Racing) were the busiest drivers, each 62.5 miles (50 laps) of running.

Test session #1 results – Indy Pro 2000 Oval Challenge of St. Louis Presented by Cooper Tires.

1 68 Danial Frost Turn 3 Motorsport 142.005 38
2 42 Artem Petrov Juncos Racing 141.037 46
3 17 Devlin DeFrancesco Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport 140.559 38
4 7 Kory Enders DEForce Racing 140.238 46
5 8 Manuel Sulaiman DEForce Racing 139.928 45
6 2 Sting Ray Robb Juncos Racing 139.667 44
7 1 Braden Eves Exclusive Autosport 139.540 50
8 6 Moises de la Vara DEForce Racing 138.927 44
9 9 Parker Thompson DEForce Racing 138.511 46
10 18 Hunter McElrea Pabst Racing 138.378 49
11 19 Colin Kaminsky Pabst Racing 138.198 50
12 51 Jacob Abel Abel Motorsports 137.757 45
13 20 Kody Swanson Legacy Autosport 137.706 40
14 3 Antoine Comeau Turn 3 Motorsport 135.472 46
15 83 Charles Finelli FatBoy Racing 129.509 47