By Steve Wittich
So far, so good for Braden Eves in his home race. After leading the lone Indy Pro 2000 practice session, the Gahanna, Ohio native, grabbed his first Indy Pro 2000 pole with a lap of 76.434 seconds in the Road To Indy/Cooper Tires/MDRN Livery/CCFI/Huston Insurance No. 1.
The top eight drivers covered by a slim half-second margin and Eves was an even skinnier three-hundredths over current championship points leader Danial Frost (Turn 3 Motorsport).
Veterans Sting Ray Robb (Juncos Racing) and Parker Thompson (DEForce Racing) will start on the second row.
With an ambient temperature of 84F and feels like temperature of a humid 86F, the first of two Indy Pro 2000 qualifying sessions got underway with the 17 entries, all taking quickly to the 2.258-Mile, 13-Turn Mid-Ohio Road Course.
The first driver to complete a lap at speed was Sting Ray Robb in the Firehouse/Goodheart Animal Health Centers sponsored No. 2 Juncos Racing PM-18.
Robb also led after all drivers had completed their second laps, was quickly followed by Juncos Racing teammate Petrov.
Over the next few minutes, Parker Thompson and then Braden Eves grabbed the provisional pole, but all drivers were just getting their fresh Cooper rubber up to temperature.
Just before the halfway point, Devlin DeFrancesco led several drivers that came to the attention of their crews to make adjustments to their cars for the second half of qualifying.
At the halfway point of the session, 20 minutes of guaranteed qualifying time was Eves, one of two drivers with laps under 77 seconds. Frost, Hunter McElrea, Parker Thompson, and Artem Petrov made up the rest of the top five and were all within two-tenths of a second of Eves.
With nine minutes left in the 20-minute session, the top 11 drivers were within one second of eves.
It took a few laps to get the fresh rubber up to temperature before the lap times started to come down.
With just under five-minutes left qualifying, Robb jumped to the to provisional pole. That didn’t last long as Thompson, and then Frost quickly supplanted him.
At the 18 minute point of qualifying, drivers sector times were showing green, with the Pabst Racing duo of Colin Kaminsky and Hunter McElrea improved.
With one minute remaining, Eves turned in a flier that was only two-thousandths behind Frost.
The reigning USF2000 driver wasn’t done though, going quicker on his final lap and stealing the pole from Frost.
Indy Pro 2000 unofficial qualifying results
|RANK||CAR NO.||DRIVER||TEAM||QUICK LAP||DIFFERENCE|
|1||1||Braden Eves||Exclusive Autosport||1:16.434||–.—-|
|2||68||Danial Frost||Turn 3 Motorsport||1:16.474||0.0394|
|3||2||Sting Ray Robb||Juncos Racing||1:16.614||0.1795|
|4||9||Parker Thompson||DEForce Racing||1:16.704||0.2693|
|5||8||Manuel Sulaiman||DEForce Racing||1:16.747||0.3130|
|6||19||Colin Kaminsky||Pabst Racing||1:16.834||0.3993|
|7||18||Hunter McElrea||Pabst Racing||1:16.838||0.4040|
|8||42||Artem Petrov||Juncos Racing||1:16.942||0.5079|
|9||3||Antoine Comeau||Turn 3 Motorsport||1:17.230||0.7960|
|10||17||Devlin DeFrancesco||Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport||1:17.516||1.0818|
|11||6||Moises de la Vara||DEForce Racing||1:17.607||1.1722|
|12||7||Kory Enders||DEForce Racing||1:17.624||1.1893|
|13||69||Nate Aranda||Juncos Racing||1:17.637||1.2027|
|14||37||Sabre Cook||BN Racing with Team Benik||1:18.238||1.8038|
|15||57||Bob Kaminsky||Pabst Racing||1:19.501||3.0662|
|16||36||Jacob Loomis||BN Racing with Team Benik||1:19.680||3.2456|
|17||83||Charles Finelli||FatBoy Racing||1:20.528||4.0932|