By Steve Wittich
The Anatomy of an Indy Pro 2000 Champion is Part One of a multi-part preview that will get you ready for what is sure to be an exciting battle for the $718,065 scholarship and a seat in Indy Lights and one step closer to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES.
You can read the Indy Lights – Anatomy of a Champion here —> 2021 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires preview – Part #1 – The Anatomy of a Champion
Since 1998, the 23 Star Mazda/Pro Mazda/Indy Pro 2000 champions averaged 5.3 wins, 8.9 podiums, 5.1 poles, 0.6 did not finishes (DNFs) and 180.2 laps led (since 2012).
Since the inception of the Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires in 2010, those averages are 7.0 wins, 10.8 podiums, 6.4 poles, and 0.6 DNFs.
In 2013, Matthew Brabham (Andretti Autosport) won 13 of the 16 races contested, four more trips to victory lane than the next winningest champion, Kyle Kirkwood, in 2019. Brabham’s win percentage during his championship-winning season was an astonishing 81.3%
No Indy Pro 2000 driver has won the championship without winning at least two races, and the last time that happened was in 2006 (Adrian Carrio).
The last five champions have averaged 7.2 wins.
Since 1999, the winningest driver has been the season-long champion in 16 of 22 seasons (72.7%). The last champion that didn’t win the most races during a season was Aaron Telitz in 2016.
While starting on the inside of the front row during a season won’t guarantee you the Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires championship, it is a reasonably reliable indicator of who will be in championship contention.
The last time a champion wasn’t the driver who at the very least tied for starts from the pole was Victor Franzoni in 2017.
81.8% (18 of 22) of eventual champions since 1999 was the driver that started from the pole more than their competitors.
Jack Hawksworth, who started from the inside of the front row 11 times in 2012, is the champion with the most poles in a season.
Watch Hawksworth’s impressive pole lap on slicks from a damp Barber Motorsports Park:
Ian Lacy’s (1998) pole-winning percentage of 76.9% (10 of 13 races) is the highest among the 23 champions since 1998.
The lowest pole total for an eventual champion is two. The last time that occurred was in 2015 when Team Pelfrey’s Santi Urrutia started from the pole in only two races.
Similar to Indy Lights, the best indicator to aid in determining an eventual champion is not standing on the top step of the podium; it’s standing on any step of the podium.
Nineteen of the 22 (86.3%) of champions since 1999 was the driver that stood on the most podiums.
Kyle Kirkwood (2019), Spencer Pigot (2014), and Tristan Vautier (2011) all won the Indy Pro 2000 championship without leading the podiums category.
Matthew Brabham, who collected 15 podium hats in 2013, is the Indy Pro 2000 champion with the most podiums during his title season.
The American-born Aussie is one of seven Indy Pro 2000 champions to stand on at least 80% of the possible podiums during their title-winning season. That list includes:
- Victor Franzoni (2017) —> 100% (12 of 12 races)
- Matthew Brabham (2013) —> 93.8% (15 of 16 races)
- Conor Daly (2010) —> 92.3% (12 of 13 races)
- Bernardo Martinez (2000) —> 87.5% (7 of 8 races)
- Joey Hand (1999) —> 83.3% (5 of 6 races)
- Aaron Telitz (2016) —> 81.3% (13 of 16 races)
- Michael McDowell (2004) —> 80% (8 of 10 races)
TSO’s laps led data is only reliable going back to 2012, so all of the analysis below is for the last nine seasons.
In that time frame, the champion has led the most laps in six of nine seasons. Victor Franzoni (2017), Aaron Telitz (2016), and Santi Urrutia (2015) are the Indy Pro 2000 champions that have not led the most laps.
Matthew Brabham led 359 laps on his way to the 2013 Pro Mazda Series title, the most of any championship-winning driver since 2012.
Those 359 laps led equated to Brabham leading 81.2% of the laps contested in 2013. It is also the only season since 2012 that the champion has led over 50% of the season’s laps.
Only one driver has led less than 100 laps on the way to an Indy Pro 2000 championship. In 2015, Santi Urrutia led only 50 laps on the way to winning the scholarship.
Mirroring Indy Lights, crossing the finish line, and avoiding DNFs are crucial to bringing home the big trophy and scholarship that goes with it.
Since 1999, the series champion has averaged a minuscule 0.5 DNFs during their title season.
Seven champions: Sting Ray Robb (2020), Victor Franzoni (2017), Aaron Telitz (2016), Tristan Vautier (2011), Conor Daly (2010), Adam Christodoulou (2009), Raphael Matos (2005), Michael McDowell (2004), Luis Schaivo (2003), Guy Cosmo (2002) and Scott Bradley (2001) were all still running at the end of every race during their championship seasons.
The most DNFs by an eventual champion is two. 2019 Indy Pro 2000 champion Kyle Kirkwood’s two DNFs in the first and last races of the season were balanced by nine wins and 11 podiums in the other 14 races.
A driver doesn’t have to complete every lap of a season to become champion, but finishing at least 90% of the laps contested does help.
Completing every lap will go a long way to aiding a driver in taking home the Indy Pro 2000 title.
Over half of the champions in the 22 seasons since 1999 have been running at the end of every race. That includes 2020 scholarship winner Sting Ray Robb.
Only twice – Santi Urrutia (85.9% in 2015) and John Edwards (85.1% in 2008) has the Indy Pro 2000 champion not completed at least 90% of them during their championship season.
Age and Experience
As of this writing, the 16 confirmed pilots for the 2021 Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires season is rookie heavy, with only five veterans.
Statistically speaking, the five veterans – Jacob Abel (Abel Motorsports), Braden Eves (Exclusive Autosport), Colin Kaminsky (Pabst Racing), Hunter McElrea (Pabst Racing), and Artem Petrov (Exclusive Autosport), have a better chance of winning the scholarship at the end of the season, but it is close. Since 1999, veteran drivers make up 59.1% of the previous champions, with 40.1% of the titles being collected by freshman drivers.
Strictly by the numbers, rookie drivers have won 9 championships, second-year drivers have won 11 times, third-year drivers have won one title, and one fourth-year Indy Pro 2000 pilot won the championship – Sting Ray Robb last season.
That last rookie driver to win the championship was Kyle Kirkwood in 2019. Victor Franzoni (2017) was the most recent second-year driver to take home the title, while Luis Schiavo (2003) was the lone third-year driver to win the season-long battle.
In 2020, Robb was 19-years-old when his championship season came to a close in St. Petersburg, Fla.
That is younger than the 20.1 average age of the Indy Pro 2000 champions since 1999.
The age range for championship-winning drivers ranges from 17-years-old – Rinus VeeKay (2018), John Edwards (2008), and Adrian Carrio (2006) – to 25-years-old – Guy Cosmo (2002) and Scott Bradley (2001).
Edwards, the youngest of the trio of 17-year-old champions, was 17 years, seven months, and seven days when the 2008 season wrapped up WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
Number of wins by the Indy Pro 2000 champion (1998 to present)
|2020||Sting Ray Robb||7|
Number of poles by the Indy Pro 2000 champion (1998 to present)
|2020||Sting Ray Robb||5|
Number of podiums by the Indy Pro 2000 champion (1998 to present)
|2020||Sting Ray Robb||11|
Number of laps led by the Indy Pro 2000 champion (2012 to present)
|2020||Sting Ray Robb||152|
Number of DNFs by the Indy Pro 2000 champion (1999 to present)
|2020||Sting Ray Robb||0|
Percentage of laps completed by the Indy Pro 2000 champion
|YEAR||DRIVER||% LAPS COMPLETED|
|2020||Sting Ray Robb||100.0%|
Age of Indy Pro 2000 champions
|2020||Sting Ray Robb||19|
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