By Steve Wittich
With a trio of wins at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course last week, Sting Ray Robb became the third driver to lead the Indy Pro 2000 point standings in 2020. The Juncos Racing veteran holds a 16 point advantage headed to Mid-Ohio, the track at which he scored his first career win.
“I’m glad to see Mid-Ohio back on the schedule having won my first race there last month,” said Robb. “I’m sorry Braden won’t be racing; we had some really good battles last month. I’m excited to be in the championship lead and to be in a position to challenge for the wins every race. I’m more prepared as a driver, but I think that started last year when I was challenging at the front in the last few races. We carried that into 2020 and we’re seeing the full-season effect of that preparation.
“Honestly, I want to dominate this season, but the field is so stacked that there’s no way that will happen, but I’m excited and ready for the challenge of battling it out. There are so many drivers who can win any given race, I’m really enjoying it.”
The 19-year-old has made ten previous Indy Pro 2000 starts at Mid-Ohio and has never finished outside of the top ten. Robb has one win and three podiums in his last four starts at the central Ohio circuit. When the Indy Pro 2000 series visited the circuit in July, he scored 64 points, the most of any driver.
Indy Pro 2000 points in three previous 2020 races at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course
|Sting Ray Robb
|Moisés de la Vara
After leading the championship after the previous five rounds of the championship, rookie Devlin DeFrancesco now trails Robb by only 16 points as the series heads back to Mid-Ohio for a pair of races. The Canadian born driver scored 61 points in the series first visit to the tricky circuit the first time they visited. That was tied for the second-most points over the three races, but he thinks that both he and the team can improve in their second visit to the flowing road course.
“Generally, I know that we need to improve in sectors two and three,” explained DeFrancesco. “I think we made progress, both myself and the team, in getting on top of those issues during the last weekend we were there. I’m really excited to get back there and see what results we can get and how we’ve improved since July.
“It’s also just a great track. The undulation of the track is really nice and the blind corners make it incredibly exciting as a driver to race at. There’s no margin for error there either.
“That, combined with the low grip, makes a good lap around there so exciting. And, we get the fans back this weekend! Even without it being a full house, it makes the atmosphere that much more enjoyable and I can’t wait to put on a show for the fans.
The Andretti Steinbrenner Racing driver is coming off his worst result of the year; an eighth-place finish in race #3 on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. The 20-year-old’s average finish over the first ten races of the championship is 3.7, which is just behind the Robb, who’s average finish of 3.4 is the leader in that category.
One place that DeFrancesco can make up some ground is by scoring more bonus points.
One bonus point is awarded for winning a pole, turning the fastest race lap, and leading the most laps. Robb, who scored eight of the nine bonus points in the IMS triple header, currently leads DeFrancesco by a nine to four margin.
Robb’s Juncos Racing teammate Artem Petrov, currently trails him by 49 points. Petrov, a 20-year-old from St. Petersburg, Russia, won the second race in the series first visit to the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in July.
His 61 points over those three Mid-Ohio races are the second-most points scored in the series earlier visit.
Danial Frost, who led the championship after the first four rounds, trails Robb by 57 points. The three-time Indy Pro 2000 winner and hisTurn 3 Motorsport crew led by Peter Dempsey, will need to find the pace they had earlier in the season.
Throughout the first five races of the season, all natural terrain road course races, including three races at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, the Singaporean teenager’s average quickest lap of the race was a series best 2.2. That included the fastest lap on one occasion and the second-fastest lap in another three races. At the three IMS Road Course races, that average dropped to 5.3, resulting in disappointing results.
“I’m looking forward to being back at Mid-Ohio this weekend,” said Team Owner Peter Dempsey, who had a second-place Indy Lights finish at Mid Ohio. “With Indy Pro 2000 being a support series to IndyCar, I know the drivers are all excited to be racing alongside the NTT IndyCar Series as well. Danial and Antoine had some strong races here a few weeks back, so hopefully we can return to the course this weekend challenging for wins and podiums.”
Frost has made ten previous USF2000, Indy Pro 2000, and Formula Regional Americas Championship powered by Honda starts on the 2.258-Mile, 13-Turn Mid-Ohio Road Course. His results include one podium and six top-ten finishes.
There have been six different race winners in the first 10 of 17 rounds of the 2020 Indy Pro 2000 championship, with at least three other drivers that could easily stand on the top step of the podium.
The first of those is 2019 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship vice-champion Hunter McElrea, who has stood on the second step of the podium in four of the last six races.
When the series first visited Mid-Ohio six weeks ago, the Pabst Racing rookie entered the event 16th in points. Since that time, the American-born Kiwi has moved to fifth place in the standings. The 20-year-old trails leader Robb by 76 points and will need to go on a winning streak to have a chance to claim the advancement scholarship and seat in Indy Lights that goes with it.
McElrea has five previous Road To Indy starts at Mid-Ohio, with one win, two poles, and three podiums to show for it.
With 15 previous Road To Indy starts at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, DEForce Racing veteran Parker Thompson is the most experienced driver in the field. The 22-year-old Canadian’s Mid Ohio results include one win, one pole, five podiums, and 12 top-five finishes. Thompson.
With an 86 point deficit to championship leader Robb, Thompson will need to start winning races this weekend.
Other drivers we’re watching this weekend are Thompson’s DEForce Racing teammate Manuel Sulaiman and McElrea’s Pabst Racing teammate Colin Kaminsky.
Sulaiman ran into some bad luck at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but was quietly consistent in the series visit to Lexington, Ohio five weeks ago, finishing with fourth, fifth, and sixth place results.
Homer Glen, Ill. based driver Colin Kaminsky had a forgettable visit to the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in July but did score a pair of podiums here in USF2000.
Rounding out the field are:
- Jacob Abel (Abel Motorsports) will be making his first Indy Pro 2000 road course starts of the season. The 19-year-old Butler University student has made 15 starts across USF2000, Indy Pro 2000, Formula Regional Americas, and the F4 United States Championship Powered By Honda at Mid-Ohio. He qualified a season-best fourth at this circuit in last year’s Indy Pro 2000 Race #1.
- Nate Aranda (Juncos Racing), a series rookie that will look to continue his steady improvement as the series visits the undulating road course for a second time.
- Antoine Comeau (Turn 3 Motorsport), who made his series debut at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in 2019, had his best finish of the season during July’s visit to the circuit.
- Moisés de la Vara (DEForce Racing), who is coming off his best back to back performances of the year, a sixth and seventh-place finish in Speedway, Ind.
- Kory Enders (DEForce Racing), who had made eight previous starts at Mid-Ohio, including a season-best fifth-place finish in Race #3 in July.
- Bob Kaminsky (Pabst Racing), who continues to get quicker as he gets back into race shape.
- Charles Finelli (Fatboy Racing!), who, with the team principal Brendan Puderbach, is responsible for new sponsor Surgere to the sport. The supply chain solutions company is all in on sponsorship this weekend. The Cleveland, Ohio based company is sponsoring Indy Pro 2000 drivers Finelli and Thompson and serving as the title sponsor for the pair of Indy Pro 2000 races. They are also the primary sponsor on the No. 98 Honda driven by Marco Andretti in the pair of NTT INDYCAR® SERIES races.
Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires championship standings.
|Sting Ray Robb
|Moisés de la Vara
Indy Pro 2000 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course
- The pair of Surgere Indy Pro 2000 Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio races will be the 23rd and 24th visits the middle rung on the Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires has made to the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
- Only twice, in 2006 and 2014, has a race winner at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course not gone on to win the Star Mazda/Pro Mazda/Indy Pro 2000 championship.
- Cape Motorsports and Juncos Racing are tied with five wins each. Other entered teams with wins at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course are Andretti Autosport (3) and Exclusive Autosport (1)
- The pole-sitter has won 16 of the previous 22 races and has an average finishing position of 2.0.
- The lowest starting position of a race winner is fifth. That feat has happened twice. In 2004 with current NASCAR Cup Series driver Michael McDowell and in the last race at the track five weeks ago, when Sting Ray Robb won from the fifth starting spot.
- Juncos Racing leads all teams with four starts from the inside of the front row at Mid-Ohio. Active teams Andretti Autosport (2) and Exclusive Autosport (2) also have poles at the circuit.
- The pole sitter’s average finishing position is 2.8, and they have stood on the podium in 16 of the previous 22 races.
- The worst finishing position for a pole winner happened in the last race at Mid-Ohio in July, when Jacob Loomis was disqualified.
- Only two of seven Indy Pro 2000 races since the introduction of the PM-18, have gone caution-free.
- Race #1 in July saw Braden Eves cross the line 0.3024 seconds ahead of Danial Frost, the second closest Indy Pro 2000 finish in the history of the circuit. Current Cape Motorsports driver coach Matthew Brabham crossed the finish line only 0.155 seconds ahead of Diego Ferreira in 2013 Race #2.
A few milestones this weekend
- Jacob Abel will be making his 25th Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires start this weekend.
- Colin Kaminsky will be making his 50th Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires start this weekend.
- Parker Thompson will be making his 90th Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires start this weekend.
Braden Eves will not be racing in his home event this weekend, but the New Albany, Ohio native, will be in attendance to support his partners and team.