By Tony DiZinno
Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires veteran Braden Eves kept his head on a day when many others didn’t in a chaotic first Indy Pro 2000 race of the weekend on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
Starting 10th in the No. 4 Jay Howard Driver Development Tatuus PM-22, Eves shot to third on the first lap as multiple drivers collided ahead of him, then moved to the lead when polesitter Jonathan Browne was called to the pit lane for a penalty after contact.
The win is Eves’ fifth in Indy Pro 2000 and 11th in his Road to Indy career, and particularly special after suffering significant injuries at this track in a severe accident in 2020.
“I was so close to getting the win in race one last year and a late caution cost me,” Eves reflected on the podium. “This is one I really wanted to check off the box. The JHDD team gave me such an incredible car. Just the support this team, the fans have given me.
“Starting from 10th was so difficult! There was carnage in the race, but now hopefully (more) good stuff tomorrow. We’ve shown now we can do it, so let’s see how we can do it again.”
Completing a 1-2 for JHDD was Salvador De Alba in his No. 6 car, by far his best race of this young season. The young Mexican driver started 12th and advanced to second for his first series podium.
Yuven Sundaramoorthy continued the theme of start-to-finish improvement. The young Wisconsinite advanced from fifth to finish third in his No. 18 Pabst Racing entry, ahead of teammate Colin Kaminsky in fourth. Kaminsky flirted with the lead and a long overdue first win in his 68th career Road to Indy start. De Alba (previous best of eighth) and Sundaramoorthy (seventh) posted their first top-five finishes of the season.
Juncos Hollinger Racing teammates Reece Gold and Enaam Ahmed finished fifth and sixth. Gold’s race was one of recovery while Ahmed’s felt like a missed opportunity.
The theme of teammates either coming together or running and finishing close together was the theme of the 25-lap race on the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course.
Browne got the jump off the start to try to hold off second starting Louis Foster. Foster got a run on the exit of Turn 2, after trying to go around the outside of Browne on Turn 1. But they made contact right front to left rear, with Foster going back across the road prior to Turns 3 and 4.
Things went from bad to worse for Exclusive Autosport from there. Jack William Miller, the Miller Vinatieri Motorsports driver now in a technical alliance with Exclusive, sought to avoid the spinning Foster as he came back across the track. But by doing so, he wound up launching over the top of Foster’s car into the gravel. Miller’s gearbox attenuator landed on top of Foster’s halo; a testament to the safety enhancements on the Tatuus PM-22 this year that both drivers emerged unscathed. Gold, who’d taken to the gravel for evasive action, fell from sixth down to 14th but was at least able to keep running.
Under caution, Browne led Kaminsky, Eves, Siegel and De Alba in the top five. Ahmed was sixth ahead of Sundaramoorthy, Porto, Green and Missig in the top 10. Kaminsky and Eves shot up from eighth and 10th on the grid to second and third in the melee, respectively.
The restart occurred at the end of Lap 5 and Eves shot into second, with more contact occurring at Turn 1 further behind. Green had contact with another car and dropped to 14th and last. Kaminsky regained second from Eves in the same lap.
Browne was black flagged for avoidable contact on Lap 7, and would have to serve a drive-through that would take him out of the lead. Meanwhile Eves got back by Kaminsky again in the battle for second, net lead in this case.
On Lap 8 Eves now led from Kaminsky, Siegel, De Alba and Ahmed in the top five. Porto ran sixth ahead of the recovering Gold, now back to seventh, with Sundaramoorthy, Missing and Brewer in the top 10. Browne and Brichacek pitted this lap.
On Lap 11 the lead changed with Kaminsky moving to the point ahead of Eves. But that didn’t last long as Kaminsky overcooked his braking point into Turn 1 on Lap 12. He fell to sixth.
Eves returned to the lead on Lap 12 ahead of De Alba, now second, with Siegel third, Ahmed fourth and Porto fifth.
More positions changed on Lap 14, Ahmed briefly moving up to third ahead of Porto and Siegel with Sundaramoorthy, Kaminsky, Missig and Gold all covered by a blanket down to ninth.
The chaos continued with Siegel and Porto colliding exiting Turn 7, a pair of DEForce Racing drivers coming together while trying to shoot for the apex in the next corner. De Alba and Ahmed nearly collided at Turn 1 on the next lap battling for second.
With 10 laps to go on Lap 15, the new order was Eves, De Alba, Ahmed, Sundaramoorthy, Kaminsky, Missig, Gold, Porto, Brewer and Finelli in the top 10.
On Lap 20 with 5 to go, Sundaramoorthy got by Ahmed for third, and a lap later Kaminsky followed his Pabst Racing teammate through for fourth. Ahmed blew his braking point into Turn 1 on Lap 23, and cost himself fifth place. Gold jumped ahead of him to get back to fifth.
There were no further changes to the running order by the checkered flag.
Indy Pro 2000 GP of Indianapolis – Race #1 Unofficial Results
|1||4||Braden Eves||Jay Howard Driver Development||25||LAP 25|
|2||6||Salvador De Alba||Jay Howard Driver Develpment||25||5.5113|
|3||18||Yuven Sundaramoorthy||Pabst Racing||25||5.5997|
|4||27||Colin Kaminsky||Pabst Racing||25||6.2185|
|5||55||Reece Gold||Juncos Hollinger Racing||25||6.5466|
|6||47||Enaam Ahmed||Juncos Hollinger Racing||25||8.4788|
|7||1||Kiko Porto||DEForce Racing||25||10.0183|
|8||19||Jordan Missig||Pabst Racing||25||11.0322|
|9||93||Lindsay Brewer||Exclusive Autosport||25||12.5665|
|10||2||Jonathan Browne||Turn 3 Motorsport||25||31.6334|
|11||5||Wyatt Brichacek||Jay Howard Driver Development||25||33.3500|
|12||3||Josh Green||Turn 3 Motorsport||25||39.7713|
|13||83||Charles Finelli||FatBoy Racing||25||60.1862|
|14||8||Nolan Siegel||DEForce Racing||21||4 LAPS|
|15||90||Louis Foster||Exclusive Autosport||—||Contact|
|16||40||Jack William Miller||Miller Vinatieri Motorsports||—||Contact|