The Telcel sponosred No. 22 of Manuel Sulaiman had an adventurous third session of spring training. The Juncos Racing sophomore was the quickest driver but also sustained damage in final corner incident. (Photo Courtesy of on-site spy)

By Steve Wittich

After struggling to put a driver in the top ten on the first day of Indy Pro 2000 spring training, Juncos Racing racing returned to form for session number three.

The team that has won five driver’s championships, including three of the last four seasons, had the first, third, and seventh quickest drivers of the session.

Leading the way was double Indy Pro 2000 race winner in 2020 Manuel Sulaiman, who, with a lap timed at 76.8167 seconds, was one of nine drivers that bested Sunday’s quickest lap time. The sophomore had an eventful session, ending up clouting the wall at the exit of Turn 17 later in the session.

Sulaiman held a slim one-hundredth-of-a-second (0.01) advantage over reigning USF2000 champion Christian Rasmussen (Jay Howard Driver Development).

Also within a tenth-of-a-second (0.1) of the Telcel sponsored No. 22 was Sulaiman’s Juncos Racing teammate Kyffin Simpson.

Rounding out the top five were Kiwi Hunter McElrea (Pabst Racing) and Irishman James Roe (Turn 3 Motorsport).

The top six drivers on the timesheet were within three-tenths-of-a-second of Sulaiman, and the top 12 were with a-half second.

The third Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires test session of spring training began much how the first two sessions ended, with a Jay Howard Driver Development car topping the timing screens. For the first ten minutes, Rasmussen and Brichacek held the top two spots.

The first drivers to supplant the Jay Howard Driver Development pair were a duo of Juncos Racing pilots. Sulaiman and Simpson were the first drivers during the two-day, five-session spring training to turn a lap under 77 seconds.

With a lap at 76.8167 seconds, Sulaiman was the quickest driver at the quarter pole of the session and was joined in the top five by Simpson, Rasmussen, James Roe (Turn 3 Motorsport) and Enzo Fittipaldi (RP Motorsport).

At that early juncture of the session, the top five were within four-tenths-of-a-second, and 11 of the 17 drivers were within one second of Sulaiman.

The first red flag of the Indy Pro 2000 morning session was displayed, with just under 20 of the 60 minutes allotted having expired.

Track activity came to a halt for over five minutes when the session leading No. 22 Juncos Racing machine of Sulaiman had an incident in Turn 17. The 2020 Indy Pro 2000 race winner did moderate damage to the front and rear on the right side of his PM-18.

The green flag came back out with 35 minutes remaining in the session.

The track wasn’t green for long, with only one driver, Reece Gold (Juncos Racing), improving on his time before the red flag came out. This time, track activity came to a halt for Simpson, who came to a stop on track in Turn 14.

Once again, Gold got quickly to work, improving his lap time and moving into the top five. He was followed into the top five by McElrea, Rasmussen, and Petrov.

With 20 minutes remaining in the “go fast” session of spring training, the timing screen was lit up with green as drivers set and reset their best times of the session.

With 15-minutes remaining in the session, 15 of the 17 drivers were within one second of Sulaiman.

The only drivers to improve in the last five minutes of the session were Braden Eves (Exclusive Autosport) and Enaam Ahmed (RP Motorsport), who both moved to within a half-second of leader Sulaiman.

The 17 drivers completed 373 circuits of the 2.3-mile, 17-turn natural terrain road course. RP Motorsport rookie Ahmed was the busiest driver, turning 29 laps.

Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires spring training at Barber Motorsports Park test session #3 timesheet.

1 22 Manuel Sulaiman Juncos Racing 1:16.8167 0.000 10
2 1 Christian Rasmussen Jay Howard Driver Development 1:16.8310 0.0143 26
3 21 Kyffin Simpson Juncos Racing 1:16.8970 0.0803 24
4 18 Hunter McElrea Pabst Racing 1:17.0060 0.1893 20
5 3 James Roe Turn 3 Motorsport 1:17.0551 0.2384 21
6 42 Artem Petrov Exclusive Autosport 1:17.0624 0.2457 18
7 55 Reece Gold Juncos Racing 1:17.1619 0.3452 24
8 7 Cameron Shields DEForce Racing 1:17.1707 0.3540 22
9 74 Enzo Fittipaldi RP Motorsport USA 1:17.1984 0.3817 28
10 27 Colin Kaminsky Pabst Racing 1:17.2548 0.4381 20
11 91 Braden Eves Exclusive Autosport 1:17.2846 0.4679 24
12 77 Enaam Ahmed RP Motorsport USA 1:17.2999 0.4832 29
13 5 Wyatt Brichacek Jay Howard Driver Development 1:17.4264 0.6097 15
14 40 Jack William Miller Miller Vinatieri Motorsports 1:17.6680 0.8513 23
15 51 Jacob Abel Abel Motorsports 1:17.7921 0.9754 23
16 20 Flinn Lazier Legacy Autosport 1:18.1255 1.3088 26
17 11 Hunter Yeany Velocity Racing Development 1:18.3151 1.4984 20

The fourth Indy Pro 2000 spring training test session gets underway at 12:50 pm (central).

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