By Steve Wittich
Eighteen. The number of Road To Indy wins by Christian Rasmussen after the Jay Howard Driver Development rookie won his sixth Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires race of the 2021 season.
The Dane led all 25 laps, holding off Artem Petrov (Exclusive Autosport), who stood on an Indy Pro 2000 podium for the 12th time in his career. Rounding out the podium was Jacob Abel (Abel Motorsports), who stood on the podium for the second event in a row.
The front row of the Rasmussen and Petrov brought the field to the green flag. Petrov immediately dropped in behind the pole-sitter, following him through the fast left-hander.
That allowed Petrov to get side-by-side on the run to The Keyhole, with the Russian going to the outside of the Dane. Rasmussen missed the apex, and the two just missed making contact. The battle between the front two allowed Abel, who started fourth, to make it three-wide on the run down to Turn 4.
The trio went side-by-side into the braking zone, with all three wisely falling into place, behind the front three, McElrea, who was on the inside of Sulaiman, pushing the Juncos Racing driver into the grass, with the No. 22 spinning and getting high-sided on the curbing.
That brought out the yellow flag, with the running order Rasmussen, Petrov, Abel, McElrea, Eves, Reece Gold (Juncos Racing), Kyffin Simpson (Juncos Racing), Wyatt Brichacek (Jay Howard Driver Development), James Roe (Turn 3 Motorsport), Hunter Yeany (Velocity Racing Development), Jack William Miller (Miller Vinatieri Motorsports) and Manuel Sulaiman (Juncos Racing).
The AMR INDYCAR Safety Team was able to get the Telcel/Infinitum/WBC/Inteligentus/Anahuac sponsored No. 22 quickly back on track, with the Mexican driver staying on the lead lap.
With the quick work by the AMR INDYCAR Safety Team, the yellow was the only lap, with the green flag coming back out to start Lap 2.
On the first lap back to green, McElrea got a better run off Turn 2, completing the difficult outside pass in Turn 4 for the final spot on the podium.
On Lap 3, Eves was warned for blocking.
After five laps of action, Rasmussen’s lead over Petrov was 0.7837 seconds. The pair out front had a 2.3 second lead over McElrea, who had Abel pushing him.
The race settled into a rhythm for the next five laps, with Rasmussen’s lead over Petrov growing to 1.3 seconds. McElrea, in third, was just over five seconds adrift of Petrov. However, the Kiwi was still facing pressure from Abel, a winner in Formula Regional Americas Championship Powered By Honda at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course last weekend.
Rasmussen’s lead when he saw the crossed flags signifying the halfway point of the 25 lap event was 1.9 seconds. Petrov, McElrea, Abel, and Eves rounded out the top five.
The best battle on the track with ten laps remaining was Abel, who was within a half-second of McElrea for the final spot on the podium. Further back, Eves, Gold, and Simpson were separated by only 1.5 seconds.
Rasmussen began Lap 17 with a 1.6 second lead over Petrov, turning almost identical laps. However, Petrov was nearly two-tenths of a second quicker on that lap, dropping the gap to 1.5 seconds.
The leading pair were the quickest drivers on track, with Roe, who was running eighth, turning the next fastest laps as the race approached the final five laps.
Rasmussen crossed the line 1.7 seconds ahead of Petrov with five laps remaining. Further back, a pair of drivers on one car teams – McElrea with Pabst Racing and Abel with Abel Motorsports – separated by only half a second.
With three laps remaining, Eves, Gold, Simpson, and Roe in fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth, were covered by only 1.6 seconds. Later in that lap, McElrea made a mistake in Turn 4, allowing Abel to move around McElrea for the final spot on the podium.
Rasmussen got the white flag 1.3 seconds ahead of Petrov. Further back, it was now only 1.3 seconds separating Eves, Gold, Simpson, and Roe. That quartet crossed the line in that exact order, separated by only 1.1 seconds.
Cooper Tires Indy Pro 2000 Grand Prix Of Mid-Ohio Race #1 Unofficial Results
|1||1||Christian Rasmussen||Jay Howard Driver Development||——|
|2||42||Artem Petrov||Exclusive Autosport||0.9675|
|3||51||Jacob Abel||Abel Motorsports||11.1979|
|4||18||Hunter McElrea||Pabst Racing||13.7779|
|5||91||Braden Eves||Exclusive Autosport||18.3795|
|6||55||Reece Gold||Juncos Racing||18.8830|
|7||21||Kyffin Simpson||Juncos Racing||19.2344|
|8||3||James Roe||Turn 3 Motorsport||19.5353|
|9||40||Jack William Miller||Miller Vinatieri Motorsports||23.4731|
|10||5||Wyatt Brichacek||Jay Howard Driver Development||26.5308|
|11||11||Hunter Yeany||Velocity Racing Development||30.4140|
|12||22||Manuel Sulaiman||Juncos Racing||67.7568|
Cooper Tires Indy Pro 2000 Grand Prix Of Mid-Ohio Race #2 will get the green flag at 9 am on Sunday.