By Steve Wittich
For the second time this season and in his Indy Pro 2000 career, Pabst Racing veteran Hunter McElrea will start from the pole. It’s the Kiwi’s seventh career Road To Indy (RTI) pole, and his third RTI pole at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
Exclusive Autosport’s Artem Petrov will start outside the front row, the same position he’ll start Race #1.
Race #1 pole winner Christian Rasmussen (Jay Howard Driver Development) and Kyffin Simpson (Juncos Racing) will start on the second row.
Juncos Racing rookie Reece Gold initially qualified fourth, but the 16-year-old went a lap after the checkered flag. The penalty for running afoul of Rule 8.5.7 is a two grid spot penalty, meaning he’ll start sixth.
Once again, it was a close Indy Pro 2000 qualifying session, with the top nine within a scant half-second.
The one dozen 2.0L engines powering the Indy Pro 2000 field served at an 8:20 am alarm clock for those campers still slumbering at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
The ball of fire we call the sun was bright in the eastern sky, and the conditions were perfect for making speed. The ambient temperature was a comfortable 63F, there was no humidity or wind, and the track temperature was 82F.
After drivers had completed two laps each, the early leader in the session was Rasmussen, who was followed closely by James Roe (Turn 3 Motorsport).
The majority of the field completed three or four laps on used Cooper Tires before hitting pit road for sticker Cooper Tires and adjustments for the inevitable evolution of the 2.258-Mile, 13-Turn Mid-Ohio Road Course.
At the halfway point of the 20-minute session, Rasmussen, with a lap timed at 80.8517 seconds, held the provisional pole. That lap was a slim 0.0166 seconds ahead of Juncos Racing rookie Kyffin Simpson. Jack William Miller (Miller Vinatieri Motorsports), Jacob Abel (Abel Motorsports), and Hunter Yeany (Velocity Racing Development) rounded out the top five.
The first drivers to go quicker on their new tires were the Exclusive Autosport duo of Braden Eves and Petrov. With a lap of 80.6034 seconds, Petrov jumped to the provisional pole with eight minutes remaining in the session.
With seven minutes left in the session, McElrea jumped to the provisional pole with a lap a slim three-hundredths of a second quicker than Petrov.
The first driver to go under 80 seconds was Petrov, but times were still quickly falling, as, on the next lap, McElrea turned a lap at 78.9989 seconds, the first under 79 seconds.
First, Rasmussen and then Petrov supplanted McElrea on the provisional pole with three minutes remaining. At that point of the session, the top six were within three-tenths of a second of the provisional pole.
With two minutes remaining, Rasmussen lowered the provisional pole again, getting within a second of his pole-winning time for Race #1.
Eves kept getting quicker and grabbing the provisional pole, but because he was penalized for qualifying interference (Rule 8.5.6) for impeding Rasmussen, he lost his fastest qualifying lap and dropping down the order. As a result, the Ohioan will start Sunday’s race from the outside of the fourth row.
Rasmussen went quicker on his next lap, but that wasn’t enough, with Petrov and then McElrea able to go quicker on their final laps.
Cooper Tires Indy Pro 2000 Grand Prix Of Mid-Ohio Race #2 qualifying results
|RANK||CAR NO.||DRIVER||TEAM||QUICK LAP||DIFF.|
|1||18||Hunter McElrea||Pabst Racing||1:18.1600||——|
|2||42||Artem Petrov||Exclusive Autosport||1:18.1717||0.0117|
|3||1||Christian Rasmussen||Jay Howard Driver Development||1:18.3328||0.1728|
|4||55||Reece Gold||Juncos Racing||1:18.4060||0.2460|
|5||21||Kyffin Simpson||Juncos Racing||1:18.4967||0.3367|
|6||51||Jacob Abel||Abel Motorsports||1:18.5123||0.3523|
|7||22||Manuel Sulaiman||Juncos Racing||1:18.5789||0.4189|
|8||91||Braden Eves||Exclusive Autosport||1:18.5977||0.4377|
|9||40||Jack William Miller||Miller Vinatieri Motorsports||1:18.6144||0.4544|
|10||3||James Roe||Turn 3 Motorsport||1:18.9427||0.7827|
|11||5||Wyatt Brichacek||Jay Howard Driver Development||1:19.1592||0.9992|
|12||11||Hunter Yeany||Velocity Racing Development||1:19.3755||1.2155|
The middle rung of the Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires will be back on track in less than two hours for Cooper Tires Indy Pro 2000 Grand Prix Of Mid-Ohio Race #1 at 10:50 am. Here is the starting line-up for race #1:
|RANK||CAR NO.||DRIVER||TEAM||QUICK LAP|
|1||1||Christian Rasmussen||Jay Howard Driver Development||1:17.5084|
|2||42||Artem Petrov||Exclusive Autosport||1:17.9272|
|3||18||Hunter McElrea||Pabst Racing||1:17.9937|
|4||51||Jacob Abel||Abel Motorsports||1:18.0186|
|5||91||Braden Eves||Exclusive Autosport||1:18.0277|
|6||22||Manuel Sulaiman||Juncos Racing||1:18.1034|
|7||55||Reece Gold||Juncos Racing||1:18.1882|
|8||21||Kyffin Simpson||Juncos Racing||1:18.2003|
|9||40||Jack William Miller||Miller Vinatieri Motorsports||1:18.3192|
|10||5||Wyatt Brichacek||Jay Howard Driver Development||1:18.3322|
|11||3||James Roe||Turn 3 Motorsport||1:18.3787|
|12||11||Hunter Yeany||Velocity Racing Development||1:18.5521|