By Steve Wittich
First, thanks to Patrick for doing a great job with the Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires coverage this weekend, as I got called up to work for NBC this weekend.
A Cooper Tire guest gave an enthusiastic command to fire the Elite Engines 2.0L powerplants in the back of the Indy Pro 2000 field.
The front row of Foster and Porto lead the well-formed up field to the green flag on the front straight for the final race of a busy Saturday at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
It was the second time Foster started a race this season from the pole, and it was Porto’s best start this year.
Foster got to Turn 1 before Porto, but behind the lead group, the field was two and three wide. Somehow, they got cleanly through the fast right-hander.
Porto got a better run off Turn 1, making a textbook inside pass of the pole-sitter in The Keyhole.
After one lap of green flag action, the running order was Porto, Foster, Sundaramoorthy, Gold, Siegel, Ahmed, De Alba, Miller, Brichacek, Eves, Green, Missig, and Browne.
The reigning USF2000 champion quickly began to pull away, but behind them, Gold was putting tremendous pressure on Sundaramoorthy. However, the Pabst Racing driver could keep the Juncos Hollinger Racing veteran behind him.
On the second lap, Miller, who was pressuring De Alba for seventh, lost three spots, dropping to 11th.
Ahmed, who lost a spot to Siegel early, got that spot back on the third lap of the race.
After five laps, Porto’s lead was only a half-second, with the remainder of the field equally spaced and the top 12 separated by only 8 seconds.
Just after starting Lap 5, Brichacek had an off-track excursion at the exit of Turn 1. He continued but had to bring the Corpay sponsored No. 92 to pit road and the attention of Exclusive Autosport to inspect for damage.
On Lap 9, De Alba started his march forward, getting by Siegel for the sixth spot.
After ten laps, Porto held a 0.6724 second lead over Foster, with the top 12 still within ten seconds of the lead.
On his 11th lap of the race, Foster turned the quickest lap to that point and slowly reeled in the leader in by hundredths of a second per lap.
After 15 laps, the lead was under a half-second for the first time. But, showing how competitive the series is, the first dozen drivers were still within 12 seconds of the leader.
Further back, Gold was pushing hard for the final spot on the podium, locking up in Turn 4 on consecutive laps.
The gap between the leaders was under four-tenths of a second for the first time, as the points leader obviously wasn’t satisfied with second place.
Gold, with a potentially flat-spotted left front tire, lost a spot to his teammate Ahmed on Lap 18 and quickly had De Alba on his gearbox.
On Lap 19, Foster got a good run out of the keyhole, taking a look to the outside of leader Porto in Turn 4 before tucking back in behind the No. 1.
The gap between the front two was over a half-second with four laps remaining. That wasn’t the only battle on track, with five different contests separated by less than a second.
De Alba continued his run toward the front of the grid, going the long way around Gold in Turn 4 and quickly catching Ahmed in fourth. The Mexican rookie turned the quickest lap of the race on the next lap.
Porto’s lead when he got the white flag was just over a half-second. Further back, less than two seconds separated Sundaramoorthy, Ahmed, De Alba, and Gold in the battle for the final spot on the podium.
The running order remained static over the final circuit, with Porto crossing the line only 0.3423 seconds ahead of Foster, the fourth closest Indy Pro 2000 finish at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
The win is the first Indy Pro 2000 trip to victory lane for the Brazilian, who now has six total Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires wins. That total includes a Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship win at Mid-Ohio.
Foster, who now has eight podiums in his first dozen American starts, still finished ahead of his main title rivals. As a result, the 18-year-old travels north of the border with a relatively comfortable 49-point lead in the scholarship fight.
Cooper Tires Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio Race #2 unofficial results
|1||1||Kiko Porto||DEForce Racing||25 LAPS|
|2||90||Louis Foster||Exclusive Autosport||-0.3423|
|3||18||Yuven Sundaramoorthy||Pabst Racing||-4.6985|
|4||47||Enaam Ahmed||Juncos Hollinger Racing||-5.361|
|5||6||Salvador De Alba||Jay Howard Driver Develpment||-5.8609|
|6||55||Reece Gold||Juncos Hollinger Racing||-6.9697|
|7||8||Nolan Siegel||DEForce Racing||-8.81|
|8||4||Braden Eves||Jay Howard Driver Development||-11.566|
|9||3||Josh Green||Turn 3 Motorsport||-11.8732|
|10||19||Jordan Missig||Pabst Racing||-15.9949|
|11||2||Jonathan Browne||Turn 3 Motorsport||-16.5011|
|12||40||Jack William Miller||Miller Vinatieri Motorsports w/Exclusive Autosport||-24.1284|
|13||92||Wyatt Brichacek||Exclusive Autosport||-2 LAPS|
The series is back in action in two weeks for a double header at the always entertaining 1.786-mile, 11-turn Exhibition Place street circuit.