By Steve Wittich
In the best of weather, the track surface at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course is continually evolving; add some moisture to that, and ‘anything’ can happen.
This time, ‘anything’ suited 20-year-old Juncos Racing driver Artem Petrov, after grabbing the lead on Lap 7, drove away from the chaos that unfolded behind him.
The win is the second time that Road To Success / Bell/ 226ers No. 42 has visited victory lane in 2020. The win is the fourth victory at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for Juncos Racing, with Petrov joining Victor Franzoni and Rinus van Kalmthout (VeeKay) as winners in Ohio for the Speedway, Ind. based team.
Coming second for the second time this season was Andretti Steinbrenner Racing rookie Devlin DeFrancesco, who gained most of the six spots from his eighth starting spot as the track got slicker with moisture.
The “most eventful” race award goes to Petrov’s Juncos Racing teammate Sting Ray Robb. The Idahoan started on the outside of the front row, fell to sixth, moved back to fourth, fell to sixth again, and ended up with his ninth career Indy Pro 2000 podium.
Danial Frost (Turn 3 Motorsport) and Braden Eves (Exclusive Autosport), who led the first six laps of the race, had late issues, dropping them to eighth and ninth place, making an already title fight even tighter.
Only 15 points separate the top five in points after the first four Indy Pro 2000 races of 2020.
Danial Frost (Turn 3 Motorsport)- 90
Artem Petrov (Juncos Racing) – 87
Devlin DeFrancesco (Andretti Steinbrenner Racing) – 85
Braden Eves (Exclusive Autosport) – 82
Sting Ray Robb (Juncos Racing) – 75
The front row of Eves and Robb slowly brought the field to the green flag. Eves got a great start, and Robb had to defend against Frost.
As the field went into Turn 4, Petrov, Hunter McElrea (Pabst Racing), and Devlin DeFrancesco (Andretti Steinbrenner Racing) were three-wide, with the Juncos Racing Russian driver holding fourth.
The running order after the first lap was: Eves, Robb, Frost, Parker Thompson (DEForce Racing), Petrov, McElrea, DeFrancesco, Colin Kaminsky (Pabst Racing), Manuel Sulaiman (DEForce Racing), Nate Aranda (Juncos Racing), Moisés de la Vara (DEForce Racing), Antoine Comeau (Turn 3 Motorsport), Sabre Cook (BN Racing with Team Benik), Bob Kaminsky (Pabst Racing), Charles Finelli (Fatboy Racing!), Jacob Loomis (BN Racing with Team Benik) and Kory Enders (DEForce Racing).
On the second lap, Petrov able to move back to his fourth starting spot.
On the next lap, Petrov gained another position going by Frost for the final spot on the podium. Further back, DeFrancesco, Sulaiman, and de la Vera also made up spots.
Robb planted himself right on the gearbox of Eves, putting immense pressure on Eves.
As the field started Lap 5, the lead was a slim 0.4 seconds, but things were about to get heated.
Eves, Robb, and Petrov went into the braking zone of Turn 4 three-wide. Robb grabbed the lead briefly through “Madness” but got loose, letting Eves retake the lead and allowing his teammate Petrov to move into second.
On Lap 6, Robb, Frost, and Thompson went three-wide into The Keyhole, with Thompson moving past the two drivers in front of him to grab the podium’s last spot.
On Lap 7, Petrov went to outside Eves going into Turn 4, getting the pass completed before they got to the corner. Right behind them, DeFrancesco went to inside Robb, moving past the Juncos Racing veteran to move into the top five.
The yellow flag came out on Lap 8, bringing a brief reprise in the hectic action. The cause of the caution was the Slick Locks sponsored No. 19 of Colin Kaminsky, who had an incident in Turn 4 while running in ninth place.
The running order when the field got the green flag to start lap 10 was: Petrov, Eves, Thompson, Frost, DeFrancesco, Robb, Sulaiman, McElrea, de la Vera, Cook, Aranda, Comeau, Kaminsky, Finelli, Loomis, Kaminsky and Enders.
Lap 12 was a busy one with Frost getting by Thompson for the last spot on the podium. Also, making passes for position was Robb and McElrea.
Petrov’s lead to start Lap 15 was 1.8 seconds. Behind the leader, Eves was being pressured by Frost, Thompson, and Robb. Further back, McElrea was right on the gearbox of DeFrancesco.
On Lap 17, Frost looked to the outside of Eves in Turn 2 and Turn, but the Ohio born driver was able to hold onto the second step of the podium.
On the next lap, Robb made an aggressive pass around the outside of Thompson to move back into fourth place. Robb’s spot in fourth didn’t last long as he fell back two spots on the next lap.
Further back in the field, Cook had her hands mirrors full of Aranda and Comeau for the final spot in the top 10.
With five laps remaining, Petrov’s lead had grown to 3.7 seconds over Eves. Frost was still pressuring Wednesday’s winner.
The skies started to get darker, and a light rain began to make an already slick 2.258-Mile, 13-Turn Mid-Ohio Road Course even more treacherous.
Eves, from second, was facing immense pressure as the field streamed towards the Keyhole; the Race #1 winner had an issue in the famous 180-degree corner, falling to ninth in the running order. That moved the European trained DeFrancesco into second, while Frost remained in third. Robb and Thompson rounded out the Top 5.
On Lap 23, Robb moved back onto the podium, making a clean pass of Frost in Turn 4.
As the white flag flew, moisture started falling from the sky, and the track was getting slick. Frost tried to pass Robb in Turn 5, but the two made contact with the points leader Frost dropping to eighth.
Petrov pulled away to an impressive 8.2-second win with DeFrancesco crossing the line second and Robb staying on track after the contact to grab a podium.
With the Race #3 grid set by Race #2 lap times, Loomis, Kaminsky, and Enders, all had early race issues, and all put on fresh rubber to earn a good starting spot.
It was an excellent strategy for all three drivers as they will start in the top three spots for the final Indy Pro 2000 race of the event.
Loomis, with a lap of 78.091 seconds, will start on the pole with Kaminsky starting outside of him and Enders starting right behind him. Frost shall begin on the second row with Enders with the Juncos Racing teammates of Robb and Petrov starting in the third row.
Indy Pro 2000 Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio Presented by Cooper Tires Honoring First Responders Race #2 Unofficial Results.
|1||42||Artem Petrov||25||25 laps|
|3||2||Sting Ray Robb||25||-8.9821|
|7||6||Moises de la Vara||25||-12.0864|
|15||19||Colin Kaminsky||24||-1 LAPS|
|16||36||Jacob Loomis||19||-6 LAPS|
|17||7||Kory Enders||15||-10 LAPS|