For the second time this season, Andretti Steinbrenner Racing rookie Devlin DeFrancesco will start an Indy Pro 2000 race from the pole, but this one is likely a little more special than the first.
The 20-year-olds first pole, at Road America, came when a competitor’s pole-winning car was disqualified. Also, it’s only DeFrancesco’s second oval start, and he was able to improve on a sixth-place qualifying effort for the Freedom 90 at Lucas Oil Raceway.
“This is my first time here, so we ran through quite a few things today,” said DeFrancesco. “The morning was about getting up to speed, which I think we did quite quickly. We focused on longer runs and only did one qualifying simulation and I got blocked by traffic. But it was enough to know that we were in good shape. When Frost put that first lap in, I thought ‘that will be tough to beat but if he pushes any more it will be over the limit’ and he did. But I think we had a great balance and a great car. The Andretti guys really know their stuff on ovals – they know their stuff everywhere, but on ovals they really are masters. I can’t thank them enough. We look good for tomorrow.”
The single bonus point for winning the pole increases his lead over Sting Ray Robb to eight points headed into tomorrow’s 55-lap Indy Pro 2000 Oval Challenge Of St. Louis Presented By Cooper Tires.
Robb will start directly behind DeFrancesco on the inside of the second row, with his Juncos Racing teammate Artem Petrov, who only trails the points leader by 18 points, starting on the outside of the front row.
“I’m really happy with how the car handled with only two laps to get it right,” said Petrov. “The team gave me a great car, we worked hard all day on the balance and we were right there in every session. Now we need to make sure we have a good race car. The championship leaders are all together so it will be important to get a good start and get to the front.”
Rounding out the first three rows are Danial Frost (Turn 3 Motorsport), Braden Eves (Exclusive Autosport), and Freedom 90 pole-winner Manuel Sulaiman (DEForce Racing).
The first driver on track for the Indy Pro 2000 Oval Challenge Of St. Louis Presented By Cooper Tires qualifying was Jacob Abel (Abel Motorsports). The 2019 Indy Pro 2000 full-timer, who also contested the oval event at Lucas Oil Raceway, turned in laps at 136.049mph and 135.647mph, for a two-lap average of 135.848mph.
The next driver on track, DEForce Racing veteran Kory Enders, who stood on the podium at World Wide Technology Raceway At Gateway last year, could go substantially quicker than Abel. The 23-year-old turned in a two-lap average of 137.748mph, with his second lap his fastest at 128.256mph.
The fourth driver on track was the winner of the Freedom 90, Kody Swanson, who put together a local sponsorship package of St. Louis companies to return to the Indy Pro 2000 series for his second straight oval event.
Swanson, who qualified on the outside of the front-row at Lucas Oil Raceway, could not find the same pace on the 1.25-mile, four turn egg-shaped oval. His first lap was solid, at 135.297mph, but that dropped off to 133.893mph on his second lap.
The sixth car on track was Enders DEForce Racing teammate Moisés de la Vara, who was quicker than his teammate on both laps, grabbing the provisional pole—setting a two-lap average of 137.875mph as the speed to beat.
Pabst Racing rookie Colin Kaminsky was the first driver to go over 138mph on his first lap and go even quicker on his second lap, putting down the fastest lap of the qualifying session to that point at 138.726mph.
The eighth car on track was the third DEForce Racing machine piloted by Parker Thompson. The first lap for the Canadian was slower than Kaminsky, but he broke the 139mph barrier on his second lap to grab the provisional pole.
Freedom 90 pole sitter and the fourth DEForce Racing driver, Manuel Sulaiman was next car on the track, and he was able to break the 140mph lap mark, ending up with a two-lap average of 139.619mph and grabbing the provisional pole.
Hunter McElrea, coming off two straight second-place finishes, was the last of two Pabst Racing cars on track, beating teammate Kaminsky, but slotting in behind the two quickest DEForce Racing drivers.
The last five drivers on track, who were all within 25 points of points leader Devlin DeFrancesco, put in two consistent laps at 139.467mph and 139.794mph, to just go only 0.005 seconds quicker than Sulaiman over the two laps. The Exclusive Autosport driver’s first lap was the fastest of qualifying to that point.
Juncos Racing’s Artem Petrov was the first driver to turn in a first lap over 140mph and turn the first lap over 141mph on his second circuit, grabbing the provisional pole away from Eves.
Danial Frost was the next driver to take to the track. Frost’s first lap at 141.948mph was the quickest driver on his first lap, but had an issue in Turn 1 and Turn 2 on his second lap, dropping to 137.440mph on his second lap, falling in behind Petrov in the order.
The first two laps were pretty good,” said Frost. “We had a lot of pace but I just turned a bit too late (in Turn One) and over cooked it. I only have myself to blame. The team did a great job getting the car there. I just have to redeem it tomorrow and get the win for them, that’s the most important thing right now. At least we’re not starting so far back, but I’m still disappointed not to get that pole position; we had a ridiculous amount of speed. We’ll go to our race car setup so it can last long and be quick at the end of the race. I just have to focus on getting to the front in the early laps.”
The penultimate driver to take to the track was Petrov’s teammate Robb, who put in a two-lap average of 140.353mph, to grab the provisional outside pole.
As the championship leader, DeFrancesco was the 11th and final driver on the track. The Andretti Steinbrenner Racing’s pilot’s first lap was 141.317mph, and his second lap was 141.145mph, equating to a pole-winning two-lap average of 141.231mph.
Indy Pro 2000 Oval Challenge Of St. Louis Presented By Cooper Tires unofficial qualifying results
|RANK||CAR NO.||DRIVER||TEAM||QUAL AVG.||1st LAP||2nd LAP|
|1||17||Devlin DeFrancesco||Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport||141.231||141.317||141.145|
|2||42||Artem Petrov||Juncos Racing||140.924||140.559||141.292|
|3||2||Sting Ray Robb||Juncos Racing||140.353||139.980||140.727|
|4||68||Danial Frost||Turn 3 Motorsport||139.658||141.948||137.440|
|5||1||Braden Eves||Exclusive Autosport||139.630||139.467||139.794|
|6||8||Manuel Sulaiman||DEForce Racing||139.619||138.791||140.457|
|7||9||Parker Thompson||DEForce Racing||138.948||138.245||139.659|
|8||18||Hunter McElrea||Pabst Racing||138.921||138.299||139.549|
|9||19||Colin Kaminsky||Pabst Racing||138.530||138.334||138.726|
|10||6||Moises de la Vara||DEForce Racing||137.875||137.418||138.335|
|11||7||Kory Enders||DEForce Racing||137.748||137.244||138.256|
|12||3||Antoine Comeau||Turn 3 Motorsport||137.301||136.986||137.618|
|13||51||Jacob Abel||Abel Motorsports||135.848||136.049||135.647|
|14||20||Kody Swanson||Legacy Autosport||134.401||133.893||134.912|
|15||83||Charles Finelli||FatBoy Racing||132.392||132.096||132.691|