The No. 22 of Manuel Sulaiman on the pit road at Barber Motorsports Park during Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires spring training (Photo Courtesy Of Andersen Promotions)

By Steve Wittich

If the final Indy Pro 2000 practice is any indication of just how entertaining the series could be in 2021, fans are in for a lot of fun.

Manuel Sulaiman led the way with a lap of 77.3783 seconds. Still, the bigger story is that the following four drivers – Braden Eves (Exclusive Autosport), Enzo Fittipaldi (RP Motorsport), and Kyffin Simpson (Juncos Racing) were all within one-tenth-of-a-second (0.1) of the top spot. The top eight drivers were all within a half-second of Sulaiman.

With 50 minutes left in the final Indy Pro 2000 session of spring training, the red flag came out for the No. 51 of Jacob Abel, who was off course in Turn 8.

When the green flag came back out with 45-minutes remaining in the session, only seven of the 17 drivers had turned laps. The quickest of the bunch was DEForce Racing rookie Shields.

After missing the last session due to damage obtained in the third session, Sulaiman could get back out on track and quickly jumped to the top of the timing screen.

At the halfway point of the session, four drivers were still in the pit lane. Like we explained in the last USF2000 report, that’s not unusual when tires are at a premium. You don’t learn anything useful running around on tires that have more wear than they would ever get during a race.

Sulaiman was still the quickest driver, laying down a lap at 77.8003 seconds. That was only three-hundredths quicker than DEForce Racing rookie Cameron Shields. Also within a tenth-of-a-second of the top spot were Gold, Simpson, and Roe.

A new name, Exclusive Autosport’s Braden Eves, who is back on track officially for the first time since a scary incident at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course last year, turned a lap at 77.4410 seconds, over three-tenths-of-a-second ahead of Sulaiman.

With 20-minutes left in the session, the top seven drivers were all within a half-second of Eves and a tenth-of-a-second within Sulaiman in second.

Eves still held the top spot with 15 minutes remaining, followed by Juncos Racing teammates Sulaiman, Petrov, and Simpson in the top five.

With 13-minutes remaining in Road To Indy spring training, Simpson, who was on his 18th lap, moved to within one-tenth-of-a-second of Eves.

With ten minutes remaining, Sulaiman grabbed the top spot back from Eves. Also moving up was RP Motorsport rookie Fittipaldi, who moved into fourth.

Displacing the third-generation driver in the fourth spot with less than five minutes left in the test was the No. 55 Juncos Racing machine piloted by Gold.

Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires spring training at Barber Motorsports Park test session #5 timesheet.

1 22 Manuel Sulaiman Juncos Racing 1:17.3783 0.000 21
2 91 Braden Eves Exclusive Autosport 1:17.4410 0.0627 22
3 74 Enzo Fittipaldi RP Motorsport USA 1:17.4473 0.0690 31
4 21 Kyffin Simpson Juncos Racing 1:17.4635 0.0852 23
5 55 Reece Gold Juncos Racing 1:17.6740 0.2957 21
6 42 Artem Petrov Exclusive Autosport 1:17.8061 0.4278 15
7 3 James Roe Turn 3 Motorsport 1:17.8145 0.4362 22
8 7 Cameron Shields DEForce Racing 1:17.8373 0.4590 23
9 77 Enaam Ahmed RP Motorsport USA 1:18.0180 0.6397 27
10 11 Hunter Yeany Velocity Racing Development 1:18.1912 0.8129 23
11 51 Jacob Abel Abel Motorsports 1:18.2090 0.8307 25
12 40 Jack William Miller Miller Vinatieri Motorsports 1:18.5075 1.1292 29
13 20 Flinn Lazier Legacy Autosport 1:19.0799 1.7016 15
14 1 Christian Rasmussen Jay Howard Driver Development No Time
15 5 Wyatt Brichacek Jay Howard Driver Development No Time
16 18 Hunter McElrea Pabst Racing No Time
17 27 Colin Kaminsky Pabst Racing No Time

The middle rung of the Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires will be officially back on track on Thursday, April 15, for testing at Barber Motorsports Park. The first race of the 2021 season is set to get the green flag on Saturday, April 17, 2021, at 11:10 am (central)

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

A note about our presenting sponsor. 

Once again, a huge thank you to Cooper Tires for coming back to be the presenting sponsor of TSO Ladder for the fourth season. Without them, we would not be able to bring you our extensive Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires coverage. If you require tires, I highly recommend them. Our family has the Discover ® AT3 4S  on our SUV and CS5 Grand Touring on our car.

Cooper Tires 2021 Spring Promotion runs through April 12 and has some great bargains. Click here to learn more and find out where to purchase your Coopers.