By Steve Wittich
For the fifth time in his Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires career, Braden Eves stood on the top step of the podium. It’s the 23-year-old’s first win this season and his first with Jay Howard Driver Development.
Jack William Miller (Miller Vinatieri Motorsports) put pressure on Eves late in the race, but the second-generation driver had to settle for second place, his best Indy Pro 2000 finish.
Eves teammate Salvador de Alba held off a pair of Juncos Hollinger Racing drivers, grabbing his second podium of the 2022 season.
Enaam Ahmed (Juncos Hollinger Racing) gained a dozen spots after being disqualified from qualifying, finishing fourth to remaining in the championship conversation.
Louis Foster (Exclusive Autosport), the points leader headed to Road America, finished 13th after starting 12th and increased his points lead from 14 points to 19 points over Gold.
The top six in the title chase – Foster, Gold, Nolan Siegel (DEForce Racing), Ahmed, Eves, and Josh Green (Turn 3 Motorsport) – are within only 43 points.
After a lap behind the Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires pace car, the colorful front row of Green and Gold brought the eight rows to the green flag at the crest of the hill on the Road America Straight.
Turn 3 Motorsport rookie Green got a good jump, getting to the fast Turn 1 right-hander first. Behind him, Jay Howard Driver Development teammates Eves and De Alba swamped Gold, with Eves completing the pass and the Groupo Indi/Mecano/Sidral Aga sponsored No. 6 of Mexican De Alba falling into fourth. The shuffling continued on the first lap with running order after the first circuit of the 4.014-mile, 14-turn natural terrain road course as follows:
Green, Eves, De Alba, Yuven Sundaramoorthy (Pabst Racing), Gold, Miller, Jordan Missig (Pabst Racing), Colin Kaminsky (Pabst Racing), Kiko Porto (DEForce Racing), Nolan Siegel (DEForce Racing), Jonathan Browne (Turn 3 Motorsport), Louis Foster (Exclusive Autosport), Enaam Ahmed (Juncos Hollinger Racing), Wyatt Brichacek (Exclusive Autosport), Lindsay Brewer (Exclusive Autosport) and Charles Finelli (Fatboy Racing!).
De Alba had a non-functioning transponder and was scored manually during the 15-lap race.
Eves got a good run off Turn 3 and down the Morraine Sweep, peeking to the outside of Green in Turn 5 before tucking back in behind the pole-sitter.
Miller continued his hot start, moving by Gold for fifth on the second lap,
On the third lap, Eves got a great run up the front straight, taking the lead in Turn 1. Two turns later, Missig, running eighth, took an off-track excursion on the driver’s right, dropping to 16th.
Siegel, one of the quick drivers that started near the tail of the field, had gained six spots in the first three laps while also turning the fastest lap of the race.
The hot and heavy passing continued on the fourth lap, with Miller getting by Sundaramoorthy for fourth. Siegel and Ahmed continued their march forward, taking the seventh and ninth spots.
Eves, one of only two drivers to break into the 126-second bracket, built a two-second lead at the one-third mark of the 15-lap race.
Miller, who started seventh, continued his march forward, getting by De Alba for the final spot on the podium and Green for second and starting the chase after Eves.
On the sixth lap, the gap between Eves and Miller remained at two seconds as the front two had an almost six-second gap back to De Alba in third.
On the next lap, Gold got by Green for fourth. Ahmed continued his march forward from his 16th starting spot, crossing under the crossed flags to signify the halfway mark of the race in sixth.
The pilot representing Pakistan was facing immense pressure from Siegel but was still able to put pressure on Gold and Green, getting by both of them on Lap 9 and moving into the fourth position.
At the front of the field, Miller was consistently two or three-tenths of a second quicker than winnowing the lead to 1.6 seconds with five laps remaining.
Points leader Foster has moved to the tenth position, but on Lap 10, he lost three spots, dropping to 13th in the running order.
With four laps remaining, the gap between Eves and Miller was down to 1.2 seconds. De Alba was fighting hard to keep the charging Ahmed and Gold behind him.
With three laps remaining, the gap between the No. 4 and No. 40 was under a second.
On the next lap, Miller had a slight error in Turn 14, losing a half-second and crossing the line 1.4 seconds adrift of Eves.
Miller kept in touch with Eves, crossing the line 1.2 seconds ahead of the Patterson Dental/Blue Marble sponsored No. 40 of Miller.
Ahmed and Gold kept immense pressure on De Alba. The trio crossed the line within a half-second but over 14 seconds back.
Cooper Tires Grand Prix Of Road America Powered By Elite Engines Race #2 results
|1||4||Braden Eves||Jay Howard Driver Development||15 LAPS|
|2||40||Jack William Miller||Miller Vinatieri Motorsports w/Exclusive Autosport||-1.2538|
|3||6||Salvador De Alba||Jay Howard Driver Development||-14.4464|
|3||47||Enaam Ahmed||Juncos Hollinger Racing||-14.4465|
|4||55||Reece Gold||Juncos Hollinger Racing||-14.9743|
|5||3||Josh Green||Turn 3 Motorsport||-16.1427|
|6||8||Nolan Siegel||DEForce Racing||-16.4897|
|7||18||Yuven Sundaramoorthy||Pabst Racing||-17.9505|
|8||2||Jonathan Browne||Turn 3 Motorsport||-18.5925|
|9||27||Colin Kaminsky||Pabst Racing||-20.0931|
|10||92||Wyatt Brichacek||Exclusive Autosport||-20.7102|
|11||1||Kiko Porto||DEForce Racing||-21.1347|
|12||90||Louis Foster||Exclusive Autosport||-22.2216|
|13||93||Lindsay Brewer||Exclusive Autosport||-29.4541|
|14||19||Jordan Missig||Pabst Racing||-34.1042|
|15||83||Charles Finelli||FatBoy Racing||-61.7126|
The Indy Pro 2000 championship heads to another iconic road course – the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course – for some July 4th fireworks.