For the second time this year, the Road To Indy will be conducting a mid-week race ‘weekend.’
Since 2014, the Indy Pro 2000 series has contested a baker’s dozen races on 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course, with only two eventual champions, Santi Urrutia (2014) and Victor Franzoni (2017) winning a race at iconic facility.
Devlin DeFrancesco, a Andretti Steinbrenner Racing rookie had a seven point championship lead as the middle rung of the Road To Indy visited St. Louis and their second straight oval at World Wide Technology Raceway At Gateway.
The 20-year-old DeFrancesco, started from the pole, and led every lap on the way to his first victory after moving back stateside this year.
The win propelled the Italian-Canadian to a 25 point championship lead as the series headed east on Interstate 70 and back to central Indiana.
The 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course will provide a new challenge for DeFrancesco, and for the first time this season, he will not have the luxury of having extended test time at the circuit the series is racing at.
With only one 30-minute practice, before qualifying and a race on Thursday, he will have to get up to speed quickly.
“This weekend will be really tough,” acknowledged DeFrancesco. “It’s a new track for me and we only have 30 minutes of practice before qualifying. So, we need to be realistic and keep our feet firmly on the ground.
“Do I think we’re going to be fast? Absolutely yes, I don’t have a doubt in my mind about that. But, I don’t want to go in with super high expectations outside of doing the best we can and see what comes of it.
“The entire Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport team is just fantastic. I get to work with some of the best engineers and mechanics in the entire Road to Indy on this program. Their experience is especially useful on weekends like this one when we don’t have much time to practice and I, personally, don’t have experience at the track. While I’m not expecting that we go there and dominate right out of the gate, don’t count us out!”
Sting Ray Robb, who trails DeFrancesco by 25 points, has plenty of experience on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course to fall back on.
Robb, whose 19th Birthday is on Thursday, has made six previous starts at IMS, finishing on the podium twice and in the top ten five times.
The Idahoan’s team Juncos Racing is the winningist Indy Pro 2000 team at IMS. Their five wins include two last year by Rasmus Lindh.
“IMS has been a good track for Juncos Racing, so while I know we’ll have a good setup, it seems this year that having historically fast setups is not good enough,” said Robb. “We have to keep investing in and developing the car all season, given all the teams that are right there with us. It’s been fun, to adapt and learn new things about the car on the engineering side, and it’s been good to have a fast teammate.
“It’s so tight at the front, but that makes it fun. Every week, you don’t know where you’ll be, since there are six teams at the front of the pack. We just need to take it to the next level to beat Devlin. He’s been so consistent, so we have to work on getting the wins – that’s what it’s going to take to win this championship.”
A strong late race charge at World Wide Technology Raceway At Gateway moved Braden Eves (Exclusive Autosport) into third place in the championship, trailing DeFrancesco by 29 points.
The reigning USF2000 champion won both of his races on the IMS Road Course last year. If he can stand on the top step of the podium a couple of times this week, the Ohioan will find himself in the middle of the title fight.
“I’m ready to get back to Indy,” said Eves. “It’s one of my best tracks historically, so I’m very excited for the week. The racing is always good and with three races, there’s an opportunity to make a huge dent in the championship standings. Devlin’s been so consistent but our pace on road courses has been so good. I was quickest in a couple of sessions last year at the Chris Griffis Test in this car, so I’m feeling good.”
In a pair of Indy Pro 2000 starts on the IMS Road Course last year, Danial Frost had a third and fourth place finish.
The 18-year-old is currently 30 points behind DeFrancesco, but the Turn 3 Motorsport driver and his DEN-JET sponsored No. 68, have been quick on the natural terrain road course so far. Frost had the quickest and second quickest laps in races at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, and twice had the second quickest lap at Road America in July.
Artem Petrov, like DeFrancesco, who he trails by 32 points, will be making his first visit to the IMS Road Course. Like his teammate Robb, he should be buoyed by the team’s past success at the track.
Petrov is also the only driver with two trips to victory lane this season, winning once at each of the natural terrain road course the series has visited.
Don’t be surprised to see Manuel Sulaiman (DEForce Racing), Hunter McElrea (Pabst Racing), Parker Thompson (DEForce Racing) or Colin Kaminsky (Pabst Racing) play spoiler at least once during the triple header event.
Sulaiman, a 20-year-old from Mexico City, Mexico, was quick in a pair of USF2000 starts on the same circuit last year, collecting a podium in Race #1.
McElrea, who has shined in each of his Chris Griffis Memorial Test appearances on the IMS Road Course, led his first Road To Indy laps in the 2019 USF2000 event, that included a second and third place finish.
If he makes all three starts, Parker Thompson will tie fellow Canuck and current NTT INDYCAR® SERIES driver Dalton Kellett with the most Road To Indy starts on the IMS Road Course.
In his 10 starts to date at the iconic facility, Thompson has two wins, three podiums and seven top five finishes.
McElrea’s Pabst Racing teammate Colin Kaminsky, has three top tens, including a fourth place last year.
2020 Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires points standings
|2||Sting Ray Robb||158||-25|
|11||Moisés de la Vara||79||-104|
Turning Left and Right
After completing the two scheduled oval races, the rest of the Indy Pro 2000 schedule consists of natural terrain and road course races.
In the first five road course races of the 2020 season, championship leader Devlin DeFrancesco has scored the most points, but not by much. The Canadian born driver has total 107 points, but is still looking for his first win on a twisty.
The next four drivers, Sting Ray Robb, Braden Eves, Danial Frost and Artem Petrov are within 13 points of DeFrancesco’s road and street course total and each of them has a win on a road course.
DeFrancesco, Robb and Frost each have three podiums on road courses, Petrov has a pair of podiums and Eves, has a single podium.
Where Andretti Steinbrenner Racing rookie DeFrancesco has stood out on the road course so far this season is his consistency. His worst finish is a seventh place at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and his average finish over five road course races is 3.3. His fellow championship contenders average finish over the same five races is 4.2 (Robb), 5.0 (Frost) and 5.6 (Eves and Petrov).
Some quick facts:
- Nine of the thirteen winners have started on pole.
- The average starting position of the winner is 1.7.
- Parker Thompson, who started on the outside of the third row in Race #2 in 2018, is the furthest back a winner has started.
- Juncos Racing leads all teams with five wins on the IMS road course.
- The average finishing position of the pole sitter is 2.3.
- The lowest finishing position of a pole sitter is Spencer Pigot’s eighth place finish in Race #2 in 2014.
- Juncos Racing leads all teams with seven poles on the IMS road course.
- Juncos Racing leads all teams with 141 laps led.
- The qualifying track record is held by Rasmus Lindh, who turned a lap at 78.9953 seconds last year.
- Kyle Kirkwood, with a lap timed at 79.3332 seconds set last year, holds the race track record.
- The closest finish occurred in Race #1 in 2018 when Harrison Scott beat Oliver Askew to the finish line by 0.3834 seconds.
- The largest margin at the finish was Victor Franzoni’s 13.0798 second win over TJ Fisher in the second race in 2017.
- Six of the Indy Pro 2000 races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway have been caution free.
- Six of the Indy Pro 2000 races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway have had a first lap caution.
- Five races have had more than one caution.
Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires schedule (all times EDT)
- 9:45am – 10:15am – Indy Pro 2000 Practice
- 12:45pm – 1:15pm – Indy Pro 2000 Qualifying #1
- 3:35pm – 4:25pm – Indy Pro 2000 Race #1 (20 laps)
- 9:45am – 10:15am – Indy Pro 2000 Qualifying #2
- 1pm – 1:50pm – Indy Pro 2000 Race #2 (20 laps)
- 4pm – 4:50pm – Indy Pro 2000 Race #3 (25 laps or 50 minutes)
Don’t miss any of the Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires action:
- download the Road To Indy TV app from the Apple App Store or on Google Play to get video, audio, timing & scoring, news from TSO Ladder and much more – you can also get Road To Indy TV via Apple TV, Amazon Video, Roku or Microsoft Xbox One
- live timing – Road To Indy TV – Indy Lights – Pro Mazda – USF2000 – IndyCar Race Control
- on twitter – TSO Ladder – Team Cooper Tire – Road To Indy TV – Indy Lights – Indy Pro 2000 – USF2000
- on all social media channels via the #TeamCooperTire and #RoadToIndy hashtags