By Steve Wittich
Championship leader Sting Ray Robb only needed 26 laps of testing to prove that catching him in the scholarship hunt won’t be easy.
The Juncos Racing veteran had an engine expire early in the first test session, which forced him to miss the second session. Once Robb got on track, he was able to show his speed, turning the quickest lap of the day late in the third session with a lap timed at 72.2447 seconds.
Devlin DeFrancesco (Andretti Steinbrenner Racing), Robb’s closest competition in the title fight, turned in the second quickest time of the day. DeFrancesco and fellow Canadian Parker Thompson (DEForce Racing) were the only drivers in the top five in all three sessions.
The quickest lap, timed at 72.9274 seconds, in the first of three Friday Indy Pro 2000 test sessions, was completed by DEForce Racing rookie and 2020 race winner Manuel Sulaiman.
Only Sulaiman, along with Artem Petrov (Juncos Racing), Parker Thompson (DEForce Racing), and Devlin DeFrancesco (Andretti Steinbrenner Racing), were within one second of the top spot on the timing screens.
The 12 entries completed 223 laps of the Thunderbolt Raceway at New Jersey Motorsports Park. DEForce Racing veteran Kory Enders was the busiest of the drivers, completing 24 laps.
Championship leader and Juncos Racing veteran Sting Ray Robb was only able to turn seven laps after having an engine expire early in the 45-minute test session.
The second session was led by DEForce Racing again, but this time, it was veteran Thompson with a lap timed at 72.6398 seconds that went quickest.
Petrov, DeFrancesco, Sulaiman, and the third DEForce Racing driver, Kory Enders, were all within one second of Thompson at the top of the timing screens.
Unfortunately, Robb was unable to turn any laps in the session.
Robb and the Firehouse/Goodheart Animal Health Centers sponsored No. 2 was able to turn 19 laps in the final test session, and his lap at 72.2447 seconds was the quickest of the day and session.
Robb’s closest championship competitor, DeFrancesco, had the second quickest lap of the session.
The 12 drivers turned a total of 251 laps on the Thunderbolt Raceway at New Jersey Motorsports Park.
Combined Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship results from New Jersey Motorsports Park (three test sessions)
|RANIK||CAR NO.||DRIVER||TEAM||FAST LAP||DIFFERENCE||TOTAL LAPS|
|1||2||Sting Ray Robb||Juncos Racing||72.2447||26|
|2||17||Devlin DeFrancesco||Andretti Steinbrenner Racing||72.5282||-0.2835||51|
|3||9||Parker Thompson||DEForce Racing||72.6398||-0.3951||53|
|4||8||Manuel Sulaiman||DEForce Racing||72.9274||-0.6827||68|
|5||42||Artem Petrov||Juncos Racing||72.9625||-0.7178||64|
|6||19||Colin Kaminsky||Pabst Racing||73.0471||-0.8024||59|
|7||18||Hunter McElrea||Pabst Racing||73.1196||-0.8749||58|
|8||7||Kory Enders||DEForce Racing||73.4248||-1.1801||71|
|9||68||Danial Frost||Turn 3 Motorsports||73.4340||-1.1893||57|
|10||3||Antoine Comeau||Turn 3 Motorsports||73.7585||-1.5138||62|
|11||51||Jacob Abel||Abel Motorsports||74.8542||-2.6095||65|
|12||83||Charles Finelli||Fatboy Racing!||77.6304||-5.3857||66|
It took 49 Indy Pro 2000 starts for Sting Ray Robb to grab his first win, but since that win at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in July, Robb has stood on the top step of the podium four more times.
Over that time-frame, the Payette, Idaho native has moved from fifth in points into a 49 point lead in the chase for the championship and a ride in Indy Lights. He leads the series in wins (five), podiums (7), top fives (10), and laps led (98).
Wins would certainly help DeFrancesco, but what he really needs to find is the same incredible run of consistency he early in the season. In the first nine races of the season, the 20-year-old had one win, five podiums, and finished no worse than seventh. Over the past three races, DeFrancesco’s average finish is a less than ideal 11.0.
Petrov and Danial Frost (Turn 3 Motorsport) are currently 63 and 64 points behind Robb. They will need some mistakes from Robb and DeFrancesco to work themselves into a position that they can fight for the scholarship in the finale at St. Petersburg, Fla.
Sitting fifth and sixth in points are Hunter McElrea and Parker Thompson, both drivers that are long overdue for a win during the 2020 season.
DeFrancesco currently holds a 38 point margin to McElrea in the tussle for the Rookie Of The Year. Over the last five races, McElrea has outscored DeFrancesco by a 26 point margin. A further 22 points adrift is Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course race winner Sulaiman.
Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires points standings with five races remaining.
|1||Sting Ray Robb||306|
|2||Devlin DeFrancesco – R||257||-49|
|5||Hunter McElrea – R||219||-87|
|7||Manuel Sulaiman – R||197||-109|
|8||Braden Eves – R||163||-143|
|9||Colin Kaminsky – R||161||-145|
|11||Moisés de la Vara||142||-164|
|14||Nate Aranda – R||85||-221|
|15||Jacob Loomis – R||76||-230|
|18||Kody Swanson – R||60||-246|
|19||Sabre Cook – R||47||-259|
- The Indy Pro 2000 portion of the weekend will include a trio of Cooper Tires Indy Pro 2000 Grand Prix at NJMP 25 lap races.
- New Jersey Motorsports Park, located in Millville, New Jersey, opened in 2008, and is billed as “Motorsports Entertainment Complex” and features two independent road courses, a karting facility, and VIP garages.
- The Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires, will be utilizing the Thunderbolt Raceway at New Jersey Motorsports Park, a 2.25-mile, 12-turn road course.
- Other series that have used New Jersey Motorsports Park include open-wheel categories and other racing categories.
- Open-wheel categories: F1600 Championship Series, F2000 Championship Series, F4 United States Championship Powered By Honda, Formula Atlantic, Formula BMW, and Formula Regional Americas Championship Powered By Honda and Skip Barber National Series.
- Other racing categories: Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series, ARCA Racing Series, NASCAR K&N Series, Trans-Am Series, and American Superbikes.
- Indy Pro 2000 (Star Mazda at the time) has raced at New Jersey Motorsports Park six times previously. John Edwards (AIM Autosport), Peter Dempsey (Andersen Racing), Conor Daly (Andersen Racing), Richard Kent (Andersen Racing), Caio Lara (JDC Motorsports), and Tristan Vautier (Andersen Racing) have all won races on the Thunderbolt Raceway at New Jersey Motorsports Park.
- The team owned by Dan Andersen, the New Jersey-based Road To Indy promotor, leads all Indy Pro 2000 teams in wins (four), poles (three), and podiums (nine) at New Jersey Motorsports Park.
- Current NTT INDYCAR® SERIES driver Conor Daly leads all drivers with three poles at New Jersey Motorsports Park.
- Only two Garden State tracks have played host to the Road To Indy, New Jersey Motorsports Park, and the Meadowland Sports Complex street circuit, which hosted Indy Lights for six seasons.
- Unfortunately, DEForce Racing’s Moisés de la Vara will be missing out on the weekend’s festivities. We wish him a quick recovery.
Indy Pro 2000 Saturday Session
- Practice at 10:45am
- Qualifying at 1:45pm
- Race #1 at 4:35pm