Artem Petrov on the way to his first career Indy Pro 2000 pole with the iconic Indianapolis Motor Speedway Pagoda in the background (Photo Courtesy Of Andersen Promotions)

By Steve Wittich

For the first time in his Road To Indy career, Juncos Racing pilot Artem Petrov will start an Indy Pro 2000 race from the pole. The 20-year-old earns the all-important bonus point that goes with winning the pole.

It’s the eighth time that a Juncos Racing driver will start on pole in an Indy Pro 2000 on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course. Petrov joins Spencer Pigot, Timothe Buret, Victor Franzoni, and Rasmus Lindh as pole winners for the Speedway, Ind. based squad.

The Russian’s lap of 80.273 seconds was only 0.0647 seconds ahead of his teammate Sting Ray Robb, who will join Petrov in an all Juncos Racing front row.

Within five-thousandths of Robb is DEForce Racing veteran Parker Thompson, who will have Danial Frost starting beside him outside the second row.

Starting on the third row will be the top two 2019 USF2000 drivers, Pabst Racing’s Hunter McElrea and Exclusive Autosport’s Braden Eves.

A half-second separated the top seven drivers, and the top nine were within one second.

The start of Indy Pro 2000 qualifying, which was supposed to get rolling at 1:15 pm, was delayed a few minutes while the AMR INDYCAR Safety Team was cleaning up some water at the exit of Turn 7 after a sprinkler head broke off during a
Mazda Global MX-5 Cup Session.

The 14 drivers were warned to take it easy and test out that area on their first lap and to alter their plan of attack accordingly.

The field was given the green flag to begin the 20-minute session at 1:21 pm, with all of the 275 hp machines immediately taking to the 2.439-mile, 14-turn IMS road course.

The Firehouse/Goodheart Animal Health Centers sponsored No. 2 of Sting Ray Robb is pitted closest to pit out, and was he was the first driver to complete a lap at speed, coming within a tenth of a second of his quickest lap in the morning practice.

Robb went quicker yet on his next two laps, turning the event’s quickest lap to that point.

With 13-minutes remaining in the session, Robb came to pit road for adjustments and was quickly joined on pit lane by his teammate Petrov, who got a fresh set of Cooper Tire slicks.

At the halfway point of the 20 minutes session, Robb’s lap of 80.620 seconds held the provisional pole. Thompson, DeFrancesco, Petrov, and McElrea made up the rest of the top five.

After the halfway point, DeFrancesco led a slew of cars coming to the pit lane for adjustments and fresh rubber. Colin Kaminsky was the first driver to head back out with new rubber, but was quickly joined by the rest of the field.

Points leader DeFrancesco waited until six and half seconds were left in the session to go out for his final run.

With five minutes remaining, Robb was the first driver to go quicker, lowering the provisional pole time to 80.480 seconds, but it didn’t take long for the timing screen to start lighting up with green as drivers improved on their lap times.

Robb lowered the provisional pole one more time on his next lap, but over the last three minutes, that spot changed hands three times.

Thompson, looking for his third win on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, was the first, but he was quickly knocked off the provisional pole by Robb.

Robb was looking good to grab the pole but was just pipped by his Juncos Racing teammate Petrov.

Unfortunately, DEForce Racing rookie Manuel Sulaiman only turned one lap before taking his

The first Indy Pro 2000 race rolls off at 4:05 pm.

Cooper Tires Indy Pro 2000 Indy Grand Prix unofficial qualifying results

1 42 Artem Petrov Juncos Racing 1:20.273 –.—-
2 2 Sting Ray Robb Juncos Racing 1:20.338 0.0647
3 9 Parker Thompson DEForce Racing 1:20.343 0.0696
4 68 Danial Frost Turn 3 Motorsport 1:20.434 0.1609
5 18 Hunter McElrea Pabst Racing 1:20.437 0.1635
6 1 Braden Eves Exclusive Autosport 1:20.654 0.3804
7 19 Colin Kaminsky Pabst Racing 1:20.722 0.4490
8 17 Devlin DeFrancesco Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport 1:20.887 0.6138
9 36 Jacob Loomis BN Racing 1:21.205 0.9319
10 3 Antoine Comeau Turn 3 Motorsport 1:21.400 1.1274
11 6 Moises de la Vara DEForce Racing 1:21.535 1.2621
12 69 Nate Aranda Juncos Racing 1:21.630 1.3566
13 57 Bob Kaminsky Pabst Racing 1:23.306 3.0333
14 8 Manuel Sulaiman DEForce Racing 6:32.750 5:12.4765

The remainder of the Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires schedule (all times EDT)

Thursday, September 3, 2020
4:05pm – 4:55pm – Indy Pro 2000 Race #1 (20 laps)

Friday, September 4, 2020
9:45am – 10:15am – Indy Pro 2000 Qualifying #2
1pm – 1:50pm – Indy Pro 2000 Race #2 (20 laps)
4pm – 4:50pm – Indy Pro 2000 Race #3 (25 laps or 50 minutes)