By Steve Wittich

Exclusive Autosport Indy Pro 2000 sophomore Artem Petrov on track at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Photo credit: Gavin Baker Photography/Road to Indy

The command to fire the Indy Pro 2000 engines was given by race control at 7:46 am. The skies were cloudless, and the ambient temperature was a brisk 45mph.

Customarily, the bottom two rungs of the Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires only have one pace lap, but because of the chilly temperatures, the baker’s dozen drivers were given an extra lap behind the pace car to get some heat in their Cooper Tires.

As the field was coming to the start, Race #1 race winner Christian Rasmussen came to pit road with a mechanical issue from his third starting spot. The Jay Howard Driver Development crew was able to get the No. 1 back on track but was two laps down and finished ninth.

Eves quickly ducked in behind the pole-sitter Gold before popping to the outside of the Juncos Racing rookie.

Both drivers locked up, missing the 90-degree right-hander. Gold touched the grass at the corner exit, spinning his Ticket Clinic sponsored No. 55. Eves was forced to use the escape road, rejoining the field mid-pack.

Gold kept his 2.0L powerplant running but got stuck in the wet grass, necessitating a yellow flag to get him back on the pavement.

During that chaos, Juncos Racing rookie Kyffin Simpson grabbed the lead from his fifth starting position.

The running order under yellow after one lap was: Simpson, Artem Petrov (Exclusive Autosport), Hunter McElrea (Pabst Racing), Enaam Ahmed (RP Motorsport), Eves, James Roe (Turn 3 Motorsport), Manuel Sulaiman (Juncos Racing), Jack William Miller (Miller Vinatieri Motorsports), Jacob Abel (Abel Motorsports), Gold, Rasmussen and Wyatt Brichacek (Jay Howard Driver Development).

Just before the yellow flag came out, Brichacek had an issue in Turn 7 on the opening lap and was forced to retire.

The green flag came back out to start lap three with Simpson leading the way across the ”yard of bricks.’

Simpson, Petrov, and McElrea were three-wide as they reached the braking zone to Turn 1. McElrea smartly backed out. Petrov was able to out-brake Simpson and complete a pass to the outside of the right-hander.

Petrov built a 1.2-second lead over Simpson, but the yellow flag came out just after they started Lap 4.

James Roe and Colin Kaminsky made contact in Turn 9. The Slick Locks sponsored No. 27 of Kaminsky ended up stranded in the wet grass outside of Turn 9. Roe was able to make it back to pit road and the Turn 3 Motorsport crew. It appeared that he had damage to his left rear suspension. He was able to continue but was two laps down.

While the field was circulating under yellow and about to go back to green, the No. 22 of Sulaiman ground to a halt in Turn 12. That necessitated another lap under yellow.

The running order as the field took the green flag for a Lap 8 restart was Petrov, Simpson, Eves, McElrea, Ahmed, Miller, Abel, and Gold. Those eight drivers were the only cars still on the lead lap.

Petrov got a great restart, while Simpson lagged behind him. Petrov’s teammate Eves also got a good start, passing Simpson before they got to Turn 1.

Petrov and Eves both locked up going into Turn 1, with the Russian holding onto the top spot.

Petrov led Lap 9. Behind the Exclusive Autosport duo up front, McElrea missed Turn 1 and the exit road. The Kiwi remained on the lead lap but fell from fifth to ninth and was over 25 seconds behind Abel.

On Lap 12, Gold utilized an outside pass in Turn 1 to get by Ahmed and move to fourth. The pole-sitter fell to 11th after his first lap, first turn spin, but still had an opportunity to get back on the podium.

Petrov received the cross flags to signify the halfway point of the 25 lap race a half-second ahead of Eves. Simpson was within a second of Eves in the final podium spot. Gold, Ahmed, Miller, Abel, and McElrea were in positions four through eight.

Petrov’s lead was only 0.4 seconds with eight laps remaining, with the top four covered by only 1.5 seconds. Gold, who was fourth, was the quickest of the four and putting pressure on his teammate Simpson for the final spot on the podium.

Petrov’s lead two laps later was 0.7 seconds. The gap between the drivers in the second, third, and fourth positions was only one second.

Petrov held a steady lead over the last five laps, finishing 0.49 seconds ahead of his teammate.

Gold continued to put immense pressure on Simpson, with the teammates going side-by-side through Turn 13. Simpson held off Gold, but not by much, with the Cayman Islands driver finishing a slim 0.0122 seconds ahead of Gold.

One driver was able to make a last-lap pass. Abel was able to get around Miller to finish sixth.

Unofficial results of Indy Pro 2000 Race #2

1 42 Artem Petrov Exclusive Autosport ——
2 91 Braden Eves Exclusive Autosport -0.4919
3 21 Kyffin Simpson Juncos Racing -2.148
4 55 Reece Gold Juncos Racing -2.1602
5 77 Enaam Ahmed RP Motorsport USA -4.0246
6 51 Jacob Abel Abel Motorsports -10.3614
7 40 Jack William Miller Miller Vinatieri Motorsports -12.2096
8 18 Hunter McElrea Pabst Racing -27.6528
9 1 Christian Rasmussen Jay Howard Driver Development -2 LAPS
10 3 James Roe Turn 3 Motorsport DNF – Mechanical
11 22 Manuel Sulaiman Juncos Racing DNF – Mechanical
12 27 Colin Kaminsky Pabst Racing DNF – Contact
13 5 Wyatt Brichacek Jay Howard Driver Development DNF – Mechanical

The final race of the Indy Pro 2000 Grand Prix of Indianapolis Presented By Cooper Tires is set to roll off at 11:40 am.