By Steve Wittich
The top two rungs of the Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires were in action yesterday at the 1.25-mile World Wide Technology Raceway At Gateway oval in preparation for their races next weekend.
A total of eight Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires and a dozen Indy Pro 2000 drivers took part in three test sessions (a total of 165 minutes) each.
Championship leader Oliver Askew turned in the quickest laps during the first two test sessions, but it was a pair of HMD Motorsports drivers who ended up on top of the combined timesheet when the test ended.
Yes, you read that correctly, HMD Motorsports. The team formerly known as BN Racing has moved from Chicago, Ill. to Brownsburg, Ind. and experienced USF2000 team owner, IndyCar team manager, and one-time Team Penske crew chief John Cummiskey has joined the team that also added championship-winning engineer Geoff Fickling at the Road America rounds.
Sowery’s fastest lap during a qualifying simulation on his last lap in the last session of the day was clocked at 159.086 mph, just a little quicker than Colton Herta’s pole lap of 159.075 mph from last year.
“We were comfortable right out of the box,” said Sowery, who finished fourth in the Freedom 100 presented by Cooper Tires, his first-ever race on an oval. “Most every track I’ve been to this year has been new, so you can’t let that bother you. Ovals are new to me as well, but in some ways, there’s less to an oval than a road course, and the concept applies from one to another. You basically know what to expect, so it’s all about having faith in the car and knowing what it’s capable of. We had a car that allowed us to push fairly easily without taking any risks.
“I’m quietly optimistic going into the race weekend – I don’t want to jinx it, because I really do want that first series win, but I think we’ve got the car under us, it’s just a matter of putting all the pieces together.”
The 23-year-old’s HMD Motorsports teammate needed a confidence boost after a hard crash ended his first Indy Lights oval experience at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on the fourth turn of the first lap.
The Chicago, Ill. driver turned a total of 181 laps during the three sessions, the most of any driver. “This is the most confident I’ve felt since I started Indy Lights,” said Malukas.
“I’m still new to ovals, to preparing passes, and I didn’t have a teammate last year in Indy Pro 2000 to work with, said the 17-year-old after the test. “I won’t lie, I was a bit nervous getting back into the car, since the last time I was on an oval I had a big incident. I went in not expecting much, but we’ve made a lot of changes to the team and this was a fresh start. I was expecting to take my time getting up to speed, but we were up to pace right away in the first session.
“It’s quite difficult to pass here, as opposed to Indy, so getting practice in passing is really important, and it went really well. We put it in P1 doing a quali sim early in the third session and went back to race runs, since that’s where I struggle the most. We found a really good race setup but we were out of fuel and couldn’t compete with Toby over those last few laps, but congrats to him. All that matters is the team effort – to be one-two at the top, we’re all really happy going into the race weekend.”
Freedom 100 presented by Cooper Tires pole-sitter Robert Megennis ended the day with the third quickest time, just ahead of his teammate Askew, who worked on race runs in the final one-hour session.
None of the drivers made contact with the wall, but Andretti Autosport veteran and winner at World Wide Technology Raceway At Gateway had a big “oh sh*t” moment that he shared on social media.
— Ryan Norman (@FlyinRyanNorman) August 15, 2019
Combined Indy Lights Time Sheet
|RANK||CAR NO||DRIVER||TEAM||FASTEST LAP (MPH)||DIFFERENCE (MPH)||TOTAL LAPS|
|1||2||Toby Sowery||HMD Motorsports||159.086||156|
|2||79||David Malukas||HMD Motorsports||158.617||-0.469||181|
|3||27||Robert Megennis||Andretti Autosport||158.101||-0.985||162|
|4||28||Oliver Askew||Andretti Autosport||157.947||-1.139||152|
|5||48||Ryan Norman||Andretti Autosport||157.828||-1.258||108|
|6||21||Rinus VeeKay||Juncos Racing||157.574||-1.512||147|
|7||5||Lucas Kohl||Belardi Auto Racing||156.386||-2.7||174|
|8||67||Dalton Kellett||Juncos Racing||155.207||-3.879||110|
Kyle Kirkwood’s hot streak continued into testing for the second oval event of the Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires season. The reigning Cooper Tires USF2000 Champion used final session lap clocked at 142.241mph to wipe out a rough start to start to the day that had the RP Motorsport driver in eighth after the first session.
The Italian team went back to the same set-up they used last year when Harrison Scott grabbed the pole, and that allowed Kirkwood to go to the top of the combined timesheet.
Kirkwood’s quickest lap was significantly faster than Scott’s qualifying effort of 139.738mph last year.
“We had some issues in the first session, but we went back to the team’s baseline from last year’s pole-winning car in the second session,” said the 20-year-old who is on a three-race winning streak. “In the third session, we put fresh tires on and were able to get a quick lap there at the end, though I think there’s plenty of room for improvement. The team has confidence coming into the race weekend after their performance here last year, and since this is the second oval of the year.
“This is very different from Lucas Oil Raceway, as there are fewer reference points and you’re not running up high the entire time, and we’re going a lot quicker. This is the first time I’ve been on a ‘real’ oval so it was a good experience. I think we’ll be strong next weekend.”
Championship leader Rasmus Lindh, like fellow title-leader Oliver Askew, led the first two sessions. The Juncos Racing rookie ended the day with the second quickest time and with the team’s past success on the 1.25-mile oval, has confidence headed into the race weekend.
“This is my first time on an oval like this and it was a good experience,” said Lindh who finished third in the first oval event of the year at Lucas Oil Raceway. “You can work more with your driving here because you can run more of a normal line in the middle of the corner, rather than having to run a high line. It took a few laps to get used to it. It’s more difficult to find time on an oval like this, but if you’re in the top three, running here feels quite easy.
“Rinus did well here last year and we were P1 in the first two sessions so we’re very confident that we have a good baseline going into the race weekend. We focused on race runs in the final session and we’re very happy with the car. We have to be careful, as Kyle is catching us a bit, but I feel as though this will be a good race weekend for us.”
Ending the day with the third and fourth quickest laps were DEForce Racing teammate Kory Enders and Moisés de la Vara.
Danial Frost, the winner of the first oval race of the year finished the day with the tenth quickest time, and the Exclusive Autosport crew will have some work to do, if they want to win again on an oval.
Making his Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires debut with RP Motorsport was Artem Petrov. The 20-year-old from St. Petersburg, Russia spent two years in F4, finishing fifth in the 2017 Italian F4 Championship. Last year, Petrov contested the FIA Formula 3 European Championship and has driven in Euroformula Open Championship with RP Motorsport this year.
Petrov ended up with the ninth quickest time.
There were no significant incidents, but the No. 83 Fatboy Racing! machine piloted by Charles Finelli expired, losing substantial fluid and causing a delay during clean-up.
Combined Indy Pro 2000 timesheet
|RANK||CAR NO||DRIVER||TEAM||FASTEST LAP (MPH)||DIFFERENCE (MPH)||TOTAL LAPS|
|1||28||Kyle Kirkwood||RP Motorsport||142.241||122|
|2||10||Rasmus Lindh||Juncos Racing||142.116||-0.125||119|
|3||7||Kory Enders||DEForce Racing||141.452||-0.789||123|
|4||6||Moisés de la Vara||DEForce Racing||141.404||-0.837||100|
|5||2||Sting Ray Robb||Juncos Racing||141.200||-1.041||150|
|6||51||Jacob Abel||Abel Motorsports||140.654||-1.587||159|
|7||8||Parker Thompson||Abel Motorsports||140.031||-2.21||99|
|8||3||Antoine Comeau||Turn 3 Motorsport||139.904||-2.337||135|
|9||5||Artem Petrov||RP Motorsport||139.067||-3.174||139|
|10||68||Danial Frost||Exclusive Autosport||139.032||-3.209||152|
|11||90||Nikita Lastochkin||Exclusive Autosport||138.945||-3.296||163|
|12||83||Charles Finelli||Fatboy Racing!||136.186||-6.055||91|