By Tony DiZinno
As the Indy Pro 2000 Championship presented by Cooper Tires descended on Elkhart Lake’s Road America, the question on offer was whether anyone could stop Louis Foster and Exclusive Autosport’s win streak.
With Juncos Hollinger Racing locking out the front row, it looked good for either Reece Gold or Enaam Ahmed to snap it. But it all went away on the first lap, Foster found an opening into Turn 5, and went on his way to secure his third consecutive victory. The win is the first for Michael Duncalfe’s Exclusive Autosport program at Road America and the 14th for the team in the series.
The 15-lap race opened with temps at 68 ambient and 74 track, overcast with the potential of more sprinkles or heavier rain following NTT INDYCAR Series qualifying.
The Juncos Hollinger Racing pair of Reece Gold and Enaam Ahmed led the 16-car field to green ahead of points leader Louis Foster (Exclusive Autosport), riding the strength of back-to-back wins at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park oval, and Braden Eves in the Jay Howard Driver Development car.
The field made it through cleanly through Turn 1, but there was contact and chaos into Turn 5 that jumbled the order for the rest of the race.
Lindsay Brewer lost the rear of her Exclusive Autosport entry at Turn 5 and that brought out a full-course caution. A couple other cars ran wide as Ahmed was outside into Turn 5 behind Foster and Gold.
In the first run through the corner, Foster moved to the lead, ahead of the JHDD pair of Salvador De Alba and Braden Eves, Josh Green in fourth in his Turn 3 Motorsport entry and Jack William Miller in fifth with Kiko Porto in sixth. The JHR pair fell to seventh and eighth with Gold ahead of Ahmed, then Jonathan Browne and Colin Kaminsky completing the top 10.
The reason the JHR cars fell back: Gold and Ahmed both went way wide at Turn 5, as did a handful of other cars out of frame.
After the full-course caution, the race resumed at the start of Lap 3.
The field made it single-file through Turn 1. Green tried around the outside of Eves into T5, but lost momentum on exit, which allowed Miller to come through.
Porto sustained some front wing damage and Gold fell back as well, down three more spots to ninth by the end of Lap 3. In his debut with Exclusive Autosport after moving from JHDD, Wyatt Brichacek also brought his car to pit lane on the same lap.
Foster’s gap to De Alba was 0.8981 of a second with Eves third, Green fourth and Miller fifth.
Green advanced two spots on Lap 5 to get past both JHDD cars and move the Turn 3 Motorsport car up the order.
Foster’s gap to Green was 2.3949 on Lap 6. Both JHR cars advanced this lap; Ahmed passed Miller for fifth and Gold passed Kaminsky for eighth.
Miller pitted on Lap 7, which took him out of contention. He needed a new front wing.
Ahmed staged a strong recovery drive. He was back by Eves on Lap 10 and then worked to get by De Alba shortly after that. It was a great battle among the four cars from JHR and JHDD for third through sixth.
Foster took the white flag with a gap of 3.7638 over Green, and without any further issues took the checkered flag by a gap of 3.6090 seconds. Ahmed capped off his comeback in P3.
On the podium, Foster explained how the path opened for him to get past the JHR cars for the lead and eventual win.
“It was decently wet, especially for slicks. There was surface residue,” said the driver of the No. 90 Copart.com/Novara Technologies Tatuus.
“It was quite tricky. I went into Turn 5, wasn’t really pushing it. They went side by side. As they went in, they went straight off. I hd to push to get away from Braden, then saw Josh get past Braden. Can’t thank the team enough. They pulled the car apart after issues in quali.”
Foster’s win extends his points lead, unofficially, to 28 points over Gold (215-187). Nolan Siegel, who had a quiet race, sits third with 177 points. Ahmed is fourth on 165, Green now fifth on 164.
Tomorrow’s second race of the weekend and 10th of the season is at 8:30 a.m. CDT and local time.
Cooper Tires Grand Prix Of Road America Powered By Elite Engines – Indy Pro 2000 Race #1 Unofficial Results
|1||90||Louis Foster||Exclusive Autosport||15||LAP 15|
|2||3||Josh Green||Turn 3 Motorsport||15||3.6090|
|3||47||Enaam Ahmed||Juncos Hollinger Racing||15||8.0093|
|4||6||Salvador De Alba||Jay Howard Driver Develpment||15||8.5468|
|5||4||Braden Eves||Jay Howard Driver Development||15||10.1126|
|6||55||Reece Gold||Juncos Hollinger Racing||15||10.5438|
|7||27||Colin Kaminsky||Pabst Racing||15||12.1256|
|8||2||Jonathan Browne||Turn 3 Motorsport||15||12.5979|
|9||19||Jordan Missig||Pabst Racing||15||13.3921|
|10||18||Yuven Sundaramoorthy||Pabst Racing||15||14.3819|
|11||8||Nolan Siegel||DEForce Racing||15||20.9913|
|12||83||Charles Finelli||FatBoy Racing||15||59.3001|
|13||40||Jack William Miller||Miller Vinatieri Motorsports w/Exclusive Autosport||14||1 LAPS|
|14||1||Kiko Porto||DEForce Racing||14||1 LAPS|
|15||92||Wyatt Brichacek||Exclusive Autosport||3||Contact|
|16||93||Lindsay Brewer||Exclusive Autosport||—||Contact|