By Steve Wittich
Both series basics
Lucas Oil Raceway, a six-mile drive west of the main gate at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Crawfordsville Road opened in 1960. Planned as a multi-use motorsports park, the 300-acre facility featured a ¼-mile drag strip, a 2.5-mile road course and the 0.686-mile oval.
The first major event at the facility colloquially known locally as IRP (Indianapolis Raceway Park) was the 1961 “Pre-500 Speed-O-Rama.” Like this year’s Carb Night Classic, that event also served as a warm-up for the Indianapolis 500.
A.J. Foyt led 29 of 30 laps on what was then a 0.625-mile dirt oval, on the way to an Untied States Auto Club (USAC) Sprint Car victory. Two days later, “Super Tex” would win his first of four Indianapolis 500 titles at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Whether it was called Indianapolis Raceway Park, O’Reilly Raceway Park, or Lucas Oil Raceway, the Road To Indy and it’s forerunners have a long history of spending the days prior to the Indianapolis 500 at the 0.686-mile oval. That history dates back to 1979 and a USAC Mini-Indy Super Vee 100 lap race won by Ken Nichols. Nichols was joined on the podium by fellow Indy car drivers Dennis Firestone and Geoff Brabham.
The SCCA version of Super Vee also raced on the Lucas Oil Raceway Oval between 1985 and 1989.
You can watch the 1988 SCCA Bosch/Volkswagen Super Vee Series race here:
Important points implications
We’ll review the current points situation for each series below, but wanted to remind Road To Indy fans that the points on offer are increased for the all oval races.
Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires oval points chart
The middle rung on the Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires, the Indy Pro 2000 series, heads to the 0.686-mile Lucas Oil Raceway oval for the 11th time since 2010. The Cooper Tires Freedom 90 is the first of two ovals the Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires series will visit in 2021.
Five different teams – Andretti Autosport (3 wins), Exclusive Autosport (2 wins), Juncos Racing (2 wins), Team Pelfrey (2 wins) and Legacy Autosport (1 win) – have collected victories at Lucas Oil Raceway.
Only twice in ten seasons has the Indy Pro 2000 race winner gone on to also claim the championship. Conor Daly in 2010 and Matthew Brabham in 2013 won on the Lucas Oil Raceway Oval while also winning the advancement scholarship.
Indy Pro 2000/Pro Mazda/Star Mazda winners at Lucas Oil Raceway
|2020||Kody Swanson||Legacy Autosport|
|2019||Danial Frost||Exclusive Autosport|
|2018||Parker Thompson||Exclusive Autosport|
|2016||Patricio O’Ward||Team Pelfrey|
|2015||Weiron Tan||Andretti Autosport|
|2014||Garrett Grist||Andretti Autosport|
|2013||Matthew Brabham||Andretti Autosport|
|2012||Connor De Phillippi||Juncos Racing|
|2011||Connor De Phillippi||Team Pelfrey|
|2010||Conor Daly||Juncos Racing|
A pair of USF2000 champions – Braden Eves (2019) and Christian Rasmussen (2020) are currently separated by only three points with just over one-third of the season’s points distributed. On the line is a $718,065 scholarship and a seat in Indy Lights, one step closer to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES.
Exclusive Autosport sophomore Eves has been the model of consistency this season, with his average starting and finishing spots being an identical 2.7, with both being the series best.
Rookie Rasmussen (Jay Howard Driver Development) has stood on the top step of podium three times, while Eves has visited the top step twice. Both drivers have had five stood on the podium five times.
Where Eves has the advantage over his new rival is avoiding poor results. The Ohioan is one of three drivers to complete all 180 laps this season and his worst finish of the season is a sixth in St. Petersburg, Fla. Conversely, Rasmussen has finished off the lead lap twice, resulting in dissapointing 13th and 9th place finishes.
Eves has a slight oval experience advantage from a personal and team standpoint. The 22-year-old made one oval start in USF2000 in 2019 and a pair of oval Indy Pro 2000 starts last year. At Lucas Oil Raceway in USF2000, Eves started 12th, and gained seven spots to finish fifth.
He had less success at that same track in his first Indy Pro 2000 appearance, starting eighth and finishing seventh. At World Wide Technology Raceway At Gateway last year, the Ohioan had the best car late in the 55-lap race, starting fifth, finishing second and turning the quickest lap of the race while pressuring Devlin DeFrancesco for the win.
Rasmussen is making his third oval start and his third at this track. As an USF2000 rookie, the Dane started his first oval race from 15th; putting in an impressive drive over 75 laps and finishing in sixth. Last year, the 20-year-old started from the pole and drove away from his competitors for a 6.5 second win.
From the team point of view, Eves’ Exclusive Autosport squad the past success of wins in 2018 and 2019 on the 0.686-mile Lucas Oil Raceway oval to fall back on. Jay Howard Driver Development won the USF2000 race at the short oval last year but is making their first Indy Pro 2000 start.
Eves and Rasmussen aren’t the only championship contenders in the Indy Pro 2000 field stacked with Indy Lights level talent. The next three drivers – Artem Petrov (Exclusive Autosport), Reece Gold (Juncos Racing) and Hunter McElrea (Pabst Racing) are still within 50 points of the tops spot, with the top 10 still within 100 points of Eves.
Petrov will be making his second Indy Pro 2000 start at Lucas Oil Raceway and his fourth Indy Pro 2000 oval start. The Exclusive Autosport veteran’s best finish is third at World Wide Technology Raceway At Gateway last season.
Gold and McElrea finished second in their respective races at Lucas Oil Raceway in 2020, Gold turning the quickest lap of the race in USF2000 and McElrea having the quickest car on the short oval at the end of last year’s 90 lap Indy Pro 2000 race.
Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires points table after seven races
|1||Braden Eves||Exclusive Autosport||171|
|2||Christian Rasmussen – r||Jay Howard Driver Development||168||-3|
|3||Artem Petrov||Exclusive Autosport||144||-27|
|4||Reece Gold – r||Juncos Racing||137||-34|
|5||Hunter McElrea||Pabst Racing||125||-46|
|6||Enaam Ahmed – r||RP Motorsport||100||-71|
|7||Colin Kaminsky||Pabst Racing||91||-80|
|8||Manuel Sulaiman||Juncos Racing||90||-81|
|9||Kyffin Simpson – r||Juncos Racing||88||-83|
|10||Jacob Abel||Abel Motorsports||87||-84|
|11||Wyatt Brichacek – r||Jay Howard Driver Development||67||-104|
|12||Jack William Miller – r||Miller Vinatieri Motorsports||67||-104|
|13||James Roe – r||Turn 3 Motorsport||63||-108|
|14||Cameron Shields – r||DEForce Racing||43||-128|
|15||Flinn Lazier – r||Legacy Autosport||37||-134|
|16||Hunter Yeany – r||Velocity Racing Development||34||-137|
|17||Enzo Fittipaldi – r||RP Motorsport||20||-151|
Enaam Ahmed (RP Motorsport), James Roe (Turn 3 Motorsport) and Kyffin Simpson (Juncos Racing) are making their first ever oval starts this weekend.
“I’m looking forward to the Cooper Tires Freedom 90,” said James Roe. “It’s a big race in Indianapolis given it’s during the Indy 500 weekend. It’ll be my first time racing an oval which is naturally going to bring its own challenges and require a lot of quick thinking throughout the race. We did an oval test at Lucas Oil Raceway last week which went really well, and I settled in very quickly. The test gave the team a good idea on which way we want to roll out with the car. I’m ready for the challenge and excited to get on track.”
A driver winning their first ever oval start at Lucas Oil Raceway is not as uncommon as one might think. Weiron Tan (2015) and Danial Frost (2019) won their very first oval races and last year Kody Swanson won in his first appearance in a rear-engine race car on an oval.
Qualify well, finish well
The ten Indy Pro 2000 winners on the Lucas Oil Raceway Oval have all started on the front row, with eight of them beginning the race on the pole.
Only twice has the pole-sitter failed to win an Indy Pro 2000 race at the Clermont, Ind. oval. In 2010, pole-sitter Mikael Grenier finished second and last year, pole-sitter Manuel Sulaiman ended up on the final step of the podium.
Miscellaneous Indy Pro 2000 notes from Lucas Oil Raceway
- Six different teams have had a driver start from pole at Lucas Oil Raceway. Andretti Autosport leads the way with a trio of pole starts. Active teams with poles starts are Exclusive Autosport (2), DEForce Racing (1) and Juncos Racing (1).
- Ten different teams have had podium finishers on the 0.686-mile Lucas Oil Raceway oval. Juncos Racing, with 10 podium finishes leads all teams. Active teams with podiums include Juncos Racing (10), Exclusive Autosport (2), DEForce Racing (1) and Pabst Racing (1).
- Half of the ten Indy Pro 2000 races at Lucas Oil Raceway have gone caution free, including last year’s Freedom 90.
- There has only been one first lap caution in the ten races.
- The 2013 race featured two cautions and 21 laps run under yellow; highs for the event.
- In 2013, Matthew Brabham crossed under the checkered flag 6.254 seconds ahead of Spencer Pigot, the largest margin of victory in a Indy Pro 2000 race at Lucas Oil Raceway.
- The closest margin of victory occured in 2018, when current Road To Indy TV host Parker Thompson finished 0.2213 seconds ahead of Carlos Cunha.
The 2021 Cooper Tires Freedom 75 will be the 19th USF2000 held on the 0.686-mile Lucas Oil Raceway oval.
Greg Tracy, for Primus Racing, won a 40 lapper in 1992. The Californian was joined on the podium by a pair of familiar names and the champions of the USAC Formula 2000 East Championship Series and the USAC Formula 2000 West Championship Series.
On the second step of the podium was the East champion Chris Simmons, an NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship winning engineer with Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon. On the final step of the podium was the West champion and five time Indy car race winner Greg Moore.
USF2000 race winners at Lucas Oil Raceway
|2020||Christian Rasmussen||Jay Howard Driver Development|
|2019||Cameron Shields||Newman Wachs Racing|
|2018||Kyle Kirkwood||Cape Motorsports|
|2016||Anthony Martin||Cape Motorsports|
|2015||Jake Eidson||Pabst Racing|
|2014||Aaron Telitz||ArmsUp Motorsports|
|2013||Neil Alberico||Cape Motorsports|
|2012||Spencer Pigot||Cape Motorsports|
|2011||Petri Suvanto||Cape Motorsports|
|2010||Patrick McKenna||Cape Motorsports|
|2002||Tom Dyer||John Walko Racing|
|2001||Piero Rodarte||Roquin Motorsports|
|2000||Aaron Justus||Cape Motorsports|
|1995||Memo Gidley||Cape Motorsport|
|1993||Clay Collier||Cal-Met Racing|
|1992||Greg Tracy||Primus Racing|
$401,305 on the line
The Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship series heads to the lone oval event of the year at the Lucas Oil Raceway Oval with a new points leader. A pair of wins and three podiums by Pabst Racing’s Yuven Sundaramoorthy on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, combined with an unfortunate disqualification* for Christian Brooks, leaves Sundaramoorthy with a 13 point lead over DEForce Racing sophomore Kiko Porto and a 16 point advantage over Brooks and Pabst Racing teammate Josh Pierson.
Of the four main championship contenders, Brooks has had the best finish on the 0.686-mile Lucas Oil Raceway oval last year, starting fifth and finishing fifth. Sundaramoorthy finished ninth, Porto finished 14th and Pierson finished 19th.
From a team perspective among the top four in the championship, Sundaramoorthy and Pierson should have a slight advantage. Their Pabst Racing squad has one win (Jake Eidson), one pole (Colin Kaminsky) and five podiums at Lucas Oil Raceway.
Interesting note: Augie Pabst, Jr., the founder of Pabst Racing and father of current team owner Augie Pabst III, won the first road race on the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Raceway Park road course. The renowned sports car driver won a 40 lap USAC Road Racing Championship event in the iconic Scarab.
Michael d’Orlando, a Cape Motorsports pilot, is currently fifth in points, only 37 points behind fellow veteran Sundaramoorthy. The 19-year-old is the returning driver with the best finish at Lucas Oil Raceway in 2020. He started fourth and finished fourth in his only career oval start.
There are currently 12 drivers within 100 points of leader Sundaramoorthy, with four of them rookies. The current rookie points leader is Spike Kohlbecker (Ignite Autosport w/Cape Motorsports), who has a slim ten point lead over Cape Motorsports teammate and Canadian Thomas Nepveu. The St. Louis, Mo. based Kohlbecker has been incredibly consistent so far during his rookie campaign, finishing sixth or seventh in six of the seven races this season.
Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship points table after seven races
|1||Yuven Sundaramoorthy||Pabst Racing||154|
|2||Kiko Porto||DEForce Racing||141||-13|
|3||Christian Brooks||Exclusive Autosport||138||-16|
|4||Josh Pierson||Pabst Racing||138||-16|
|5||Michael d’Orlando||Cape Motorsports||117||-37|
|6||Prescott Campbell||DEForce Racing||101||-53|
|7||Spike Kohlbecker – r||Ignite Autosport w/Cape Motorsports||97||-57|
|8||Josh Green||Turn 3 Motorsport||91||-63|
|9||Thomas Nepveu – r||Cape Motorsports||87||-67|
|10||Billy Frazer – r||Exclusive Autosport||74||-80|
|11||Matthew Round-Garrido||Exclusive Autosport||57||-97|
|12||Jace Denmark – r||Pabst Racing||56||-98|
|13||Nolan Siegel||DEForce Racing||49||-105|
|14||Dylan Christie – r||Turn 3 Motorsport||46||-108|
|15||Myles Rowe – r||Force Indy||43||-111|
|16||Erik Evans – r||Velocity Racing Development||43||-111|
|17||Jackson Lee – r||Jay Howard Driver Development||39||-115|
|18||Grant Palmer – r||Exclusive Autosport||38||-116|
|19||Ely Navarro – r||DEForce Racing||36||-118|
|20||Andre Castro – r||Legacy Autosport||27||-127|
|21||Simon Sikes||Legacy Autosport||27||-127|
|22||Peter Vodanovich – r||Jay Howard Driver Development||23||-131|
|23||Michael Myers||Michael Myers Racing||23||-131|
|24||Kent Vaccaro – r||Miller Vinatieri Motorsports||13||-141|
|25||Evan Stamer – r||Ignite Autosport w/Cape Motorsports||12||-142|
|26||Trey Burke – r||Joe Dooling Autosports||12||-142|
|27||Bijoy Garg||Jay Howard Driver Development||6||-148|
Champs at Lucas Oil Raceway
Of the 20 season that the current Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Series or it’s successors visited the 0.686-mile Lucas Oil Raceway oval, 20% of the winners on the short oval have gone on to win the season long championship. Those are:
- 2020 – Christian Rasmussen
- 2018 – Kyle Kirkwood
- 2016 – Anthony Martin
- 2011 – Petri Suvanto
- 2000 – Aaron Justus
The average finishing position of the 20 champions that race at Lucas Oil Raceway is 4.8.
A dozen of the eventual champions finished on the podium on the short oval. Only twice – Steve Knapp (1996) and Chris Simmons (1993) – in 20 races has the eventual champion failed to finish a race at Lucas Oil Raceway during his championship season.
A pair of USF2000 drivers are going to keep themselves busy this weekend by racing in multiple series and giving themselves a chance to match Kody Swanson’s 2020 feat of winning in a rear-engine and front-engine open-wheel car on the same night.
Trey Burke will be contesting the Cooper Tires Freedom 75 and the 30-lap Brown’s Oil Champion Midgets race.
Nathan Byrd will be making his USF2000 debut with Legacy Autosport and will also be contesting the Brown’s Oil Champion Midget Race and USAC Silver Crown Series Race during the Carb Night Classic.
Byrd, who grew up in a racing family – think Byrd Racing and their extensive Indianapolis 500 and open wheel history- has compiled an impressive amount of seat time so far in 2021. The 21-year-old has contested 21 races across late models (with Rick Ware Racing), trucks, F4/Skip Barber Formula Car Series, modifieds, Focus midgets, F1000, and winged midgets.
Byrd, who made his national midget debut on the 0.686-mile Lucas Oil Raceway oval last year, will take part in 13 total sessions at the Carb Night Classic, including ten of the twelve sessions on Friday.
“I did a test in the USF2000 car last August, putting in about 200 laps,” said soon to graduate Grand Canyon University senior. “I have about 300 laps there in the Silver Crown car. This will be my race debut there in both cars.
“There is a super talented group of drivers this year who have several races under their belts already. Even with my laps at LOR, it will be a huge challenge coming in, but I feel great with Legacy, they have had great laps in the past here.
“The Road To Indy is the best developmental platform to get to IndyCar and the Indy 500 and Legacy is a natural fit because of our families’ shared legacies. The Meyer family has such a legendary history in the sport. They have a winning formula at Lucas Raceway, so we are excited to partner up together with them, Tilson and Speed Sport to make some more history.”
The Cooper Tires Freedom 75 is a home race for a pair of Hendricks County residents and USF2000 rookies. Jackson Lee and Michael Myers are coming off their best finishes of the season.
Jay Howard Driver Development rookie Jackson Lee grabbed his first top ten of the season in the third race on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course the last time the Avon, Ind. was on-track two weeks ago. The 18-year-old is making his first formula car oval start, but isn’t a complete newcomer to only turning left. Lee was a two-time USAC at Mini Indy champion in quarter midgets.
Michael Myers, a rookie who calls Lizton, Ind. home, drives for his family run Michael Myers Racing, finished the third race on the road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in a career best 11th place. The 19-year-old who is enrolled in Harvard web development courses will be making his first career oval start.
Carb Night Classic Friday Schedule
|3pm – 3:25pm||USAC Midget Practice|
|3:30pm – 3:55pm||USAC Silver Crown Practice|
|4:05pm – 4:20pm||USF2000 Practice|
|4:25pm – 4:45pm||Indy Pro 2000 Practice|
|4:50pm – 5:15pm||USAC Midget Practice|
|5:20pm – 5:45pm||USAC Silver Crown Practice|
|5:50pm – 6:20pm||USAC Midget Qualifying|
|6:25pm – 6:55pm||USAC Silver Crown Qualifying|
|7:05pm – 7:50pm||USF2000 Race – Cooper Tires Freedom 75|
|8:05pm – 8:55pm||Indy Pro 2000 Race – Cooper Tires Freedom 90|
|9:05pm||USAC Midget Race|
|9:35pm||USAC Silver Crown Race|
* Exclusive Autosport’s Christian Brooks No. 44 was disqualified for violation of Rule 14.7.3 & 14.7.4.
Rule 14.7 from the USF2000 Rule Books states:
- 14.7. Underwing
- 14.7.1. The rear diffuser must be utilized at all Events and remain in the location and configuration as designed by the chassis Manufacturer.
- 14.7.2. Not Applicable
- 14.7.3. The underwing height as measured from the reference plane is 50mm +/- 5mm).
- 14.7.4. The diffuser exit height is 90mm (+/- 5mm).
- 14.7.5. Other than clear coat, no painting, tape, silicon, adhesive film, or any other substances are permitted on the bottom surface of the underwing except for filling or covering holes.
Don’t miss any of the Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires action:
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- on twitter – TSO Ladder – Team Cooper Tire – Road To Indy TV – Indy Lights – Indy Pro 2000 – USF2000
- on all social media channels via the #TeamCooperTire and #RoadToIndy hashtags
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.