By Steve Wittich
For the fifth time this season, Reece Gold will start an Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires race from the inside of the front row. However, the Juncos Hollinger Racing rookie is still looking for his first win of the season.
Gold joins Conor Daly and Sting Ray Robb as pole winners for Juncos Hollinger Racing on the 2.14-mile, 12-turn New Jersey Motorsports Park Thunderbolt road course, moving the Speedway, Ind. based team to lead in Indy Pro 2000 pole wins at the Millville, N.J. track.
Indy Pro 2000 Grand Prix Presented by The Andersen Companies Race #1 will mark the 59th time that a driver from Ricardo Juncos’ stable will start an Indy Pro 2000 race from the pole.
Gold enters the penultimate Indy Pro 2000 weekend 71 points behind championship leader Christian Rasmussen (Jay Howard Driver Development), who will start directly behind the 16-year-old Gold.
Hunter McElrea (Pabst Racing) will start on the outside pole, the sophomore’s fifth front row start of the season.
James Roe (Turn 3 Motorsport) will roll off from the grid’s fourth spot, the Irish driver’s best qualifying effort on a street and road course.
Last weekend’s winner at World Wide Technology Raceway At Gateway, Braden Eves, is 32 points adrift of championship leader Rasmussen and will start directly behind the Danish driver in fifth.
Starting outside of Eves is Jack William Miller (Miller Vinatieri Motorsports).
With precipitation possible, the ten drivers quickly got to business, jockey for clean race track on their out laps.
After five minutes and two laps, McElrea held the provisional pole by a significant three-tenths-of-a-second.
Like, USF2000, drivers set their quickest laps on their first or second lap on sticker Cooper Tires.
After only four laps, most drivers made the trip to pit lane to make adjustments and mount fresh Cooper Tires for a second run. McElrea was the quickest on the first set of tires, followed in the top five by Rasmussen, Gold, Jack William Miller (Miller Vinatieri Motorsports), and Braden Eves (Exclusive Autosport).
The first driver to improve their lap time was the provisional pole sitter McElrea, who went a tenth of a second quicker on each of his next two laps, lowering the provisional pole to 73.5323 seconds.
That left the American-born Kiwi with a half-second advantage of Rasmussen and Gold.
With eight minutes remaining, reports of a light mist were reported around the track.
The following drivers to improve were the Juncos Racing rookie duo of Kyffin Simpson and Reece Gold. The Ticket Clinic No. 55 went quicker on his seventh and eighth laps, grabbing the provisional pole away from McElrea with five minutes remaining in the session.
Also improving on their final runs was World Wide Technology Raceway At Gateway pole-sitter Roe, who moved into fourth.
In the second half of the 20-minute session, Petrov was stuck on pit road, getting back on track with three minutes to go, allowing him two laps to improve from tenth on the grid. However, the Russian could not go any quicker and should be fun to watch as he attempts to come through the field.
Indy Pro 2000 Grand Prix Presented by The Andersen Companies Qualifying #1 results
|RANK||CAR NO.||DRIVER||TEAM||FAST LAP||DIFFERENCE|
|1||55||Reece Gold||Juncos Racing||1:13.3965||——|
|2||18||Hunter McElrea||Pabst Racing||1:13.5423||0.1458|
|3||1||Christian Rasmussen||Jay Howard Driver Development||1:13.7685||0.3720|
|4||3||James Roe||Turn 3 Motorsport||1:13.7700||0.3735|
|5||91||Braden Eves||Exclusive Autosport||1:13.8896||0.4931|
|6||40||Jack William Miller||Miller Vinatieri Motorsports||1:14.0695||0.6730|
|7||21||Kyffin Simpson||Juncos Racing||1:14.1100||0.7135|
|8||51||Jacob Abel||Abel Motorsports||1:14.1800||0.7835|
|9||5||Wyatt Brichacek||Jay Howard Driver Development||1:14.3086||0.9121|
|10||42||Artem Petrov||Exclusive Autosport||1:14.3905||0.9940|
The first Indy Pro 2000 race of the weekend gets the green flag at 4:30 pm.