Nolan Siegel (center) during at track walk of the 1.8-mile, 14-turn St. Petersburg street circuit (Photo credit: Gavin Baker Photography/Road to Indy)

By Steve Wittich

If the first Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires practice session of the 2022 season is any indication, the battle for the scholarship to Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires is going to be an entertaining one.

The top four drivers, led by Nolan Siegel’s 70.4350-second lap, were separated by one-hundredth of a second. Slotting in just behind the DEForce Racing rookie was fellow freshman Louis Foster (Exclusive Autosport) and Christian Brooks (Exclusive Autosport), and veteran Enaam Ahmed (Juncos Racing).

The top eight drivers were within three-tenths of Siegel, and 14 of the sixteen were within one second.

The first red flag of the season came 15-minute into the lone Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires practice before qualifying bright and early at 7:45 am on Friday.

The AMR INDYCAR Safety Team got the No. 2 of Turn 3 Motorsport newcomer Jonathan Browne from Turn 8, and the session quickly went back to green with Eves holding the top spot. The veteran pilot of the Jay Howard Driver Development No. 4 was followed by Porto, Gold, Siegel, and Missig.

Brown was able to get back out on the track, completing 21 laps.

At the two-thirds point of the session, Eves was still quickest and the only driver under 71 seconds.

As the Cooper Tire rubber began to adhere to the 1.8-mile, 14-turn street circuit, the times started to fall, with first Gold and then Brooks jumping up the timing screens.

With ten minutes remaining in practice, Ahmed went quickest, just ahead of Siegel, Brooks, Gold, and Eves.

With five minutes remaining, Siegel went to the top of the timing screens, holding off last lap flyers by Exclusive Autosport rookies Foster and Brooks.

The 16-drivers completed 345 circuits in 45 minutes.

Indy Pro 2000 Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Presented By Andersen Interior Contracting practice results

1 8 Nolan Siegel DEForce Racing 1:10.4350 —— 22
2 90 Louis Foster Exclusive Autosport 1:10.4391 0.0041 22
3 91 Christian Brooks Exclusive Autosport 1:10.4398 0.0048 22
4 47 Enaam Ahmed Juncos Hollinger Racing 1:10.4461 0.0111 21
5 55 Reece Gold Juncos Hollinger Racing 1:10.6434 0.2084 22
6 3 Josh Green Turn 3 Motorsport 1:10.6569 0.2219 20
7 4 Braden Eves Jay Howard Driver Development 1:10.6701 0.2351 22
8 5 Wyatt Brichacek Jay Howard Driver Development 1:10.7419 0.3069 21
9 40 Jack William Miller Miller Vinatieri Motorsports 1:10.9564 0.5214 23
10 1 Kiko Porto DEForce Racing 1:10.9660 0.5310 22
11 27 Colin Kaminsky Pabst Racing 1:11.0729 0.6379 23
12 19 Jordan Missig Pabst Racing 1:11.3970 0.9620 20
13 6 Salvador De Alba Jay Howard Driver Develpment 1:11.4079 0.9729 22
14 92 Matt Round-Garrido Exclusive Autosport 1:11.4232 0.9882 22
15 2 Jonathan Browne Turn 3 Motorsport 1:11.6278 1.1928 21
16 18 Yuven Sindaramoorthy Pabst Racing 1:12.0665 1.6315 20