Archives for 2021 Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires Coverage

Largest Indy Lights fields in over a decade expected in 2022

The Indy Lights field streams out of pit lane at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Photo Courtesy of Penske Entertainment)

By Steve Wittich

With fields expected in the upper teens, the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires championship will have its fullest fields in over a decade.

With four months remaining in the series ‘silly season,’ TSO Ladder counts eight teams and 16 drivers as expected, and five more cars as probable or possible.

The number includes four new teams – Abel Motorsports, Force Indy, Exclusive Autosport, and TJ Speed Motorsports.

Andretti Autosport had four cars at the recent Chris Griffis Memorial Test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with Matthew Brabham, Hunter McElrea, Christian Rasmussen, and Sting Ray Robb. Robb is already confirmed, and official announcements of the rest of the team’s pilots will come soon.

HMD Motorsports / Global Racing Group had five cars at the Chris Griffis Memorial Test, with one of those cars operated for Force Indy and driver Ernie Francis, Jr.

TSO Ladder understands that Force Indy has purchased an IL-15 of their own and will likely run the seven-time Trans-Am Series champion in 2022.

Global Racing Group and HMD Motorsports, who led this weekend’s test with Benjamin Pedersen, will be a four-car team, with a fifth car in the probable category. Also testing with the team this weekend was Christian Bogle, Danial Frost, and Manuel Sulaiman.

Ricardo Juncos told TSO Ladder that he expects Juncos Hollinger Racing to run a pair of Indy Lights cars alongside his Indy Pro 2000 and NTT INDYCAR SERIES programs. The team tested Rasmus Lindh and Matteo Nannini at the Chris Griffis Memorial Test.

TJ Speed Motorsports, a new Indy Lights team run by a familiar face, entered a single car for the already confirmed Kyffin Simpson at the Chris Griffis Memorial Test. However, team owner Tim Neff, a multi-championship-winning Indy Lights engineer, assured TSO Ladder that the program would be two cars. We also understand that a third car is possible.

Abel Motorsports, who have competed in the USF2000, Formula Regional Americas Championship, and Indy Pro 2000 series with driver Jacob Abel, have purchased a pair of IL-15s. Spearheading the minimum one-car program is team manager John Brunner and engineer Kent Boyer, a pair that have won A LOT of American junior formula races. A second car for the Speedway, Ind.-based team is in the possible category.

Returning to competition for a second season of action will be Pserra Racing/AS Promotions with driver Antonio Serravalle. The team has made it known that a second car is in the possible category.

Last but not least is Exclusive Autosport. In the spring, the Canadian team, who most recently won the Indy Pro 2000 team championship, will be breaking ground on a new shop in Brownsburg, Ind. They were hoping to run one car at the Chris Griffis Memorial Test, but with the global shipping slowdown, they were, unfortunately, missing an essential part to make that happen. An official announcement on the program is imminent, with one car expected and another one possible.

 

 

Benjamin Pedersen leads the Indy Lights portion of the Chris Griffis Memorial Test at IMS – notes, quotes, stats and photos from the 2 days of testing

The Indy Lights field streams out of pit lane at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Photo Courtesy of Penske Entertainment)

By Steve Wittich

The Chris Griffis Memorial Test officially marks the end of an Indy Lights season, but in reality, the two-day showcase at the iconic Indianapolis Motor Speedway acts more like a prelude to the next season.

And, like the second half of the 2021 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires season, Benjamin Pedersen’s stellar driving continued as the Global Racing Group w/HMD Motorsports pilot was hot.

After being outscored by eight of his contemporaries over the first ten races, the Danish-born Washington State resident was outscored by only three drivers in the second ten races.

Pederson’s fastest lap, timed at 85.4619 seconds, came on Saturday afternoon and withstood 726 laps on Sunday – barely.

In the final session, Indy Lights newcomers Kyffin Simpson and TJ Speed Motorsports just missed out on top test honors and was one of four driver-team combinations within a tenth of a second of Pedersen’s quick lap.

“It was a great two-day test,” said Pedersen. “Yesterday, both sessions that we did we were P1 so the car was working really well.

“It was a little bit of tire strategy today. We were saving some sets for the last session, so on used pace today we were still the fastest which was really good.

“The last session, we tried some things that didn’t work out but we knew where we were yesterday.

“Overall, really happy to finish the test fastest. We are just trying to continue our momentum and work hard on focusing on our own program. I’m excited to continue this pre-season and get the new year going.”

Benjamin Pedersen gets ready to head out on track during the 2021 edition of the Chris Griffis Memorial Test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Photo Courtesy of Penske Entertainment)

Indy Lights session recaps

Saturday

Test Session #1

The damp session on the 2.58-mile, 14-turn road course was lightly subscribed, with five of the 14 drivers on hand turning more than a single lap.

Jacob Abel in the No. 3 Abel Motorsports IL-15 navigates a wet front straight at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Photo Courtesy of Penske Entertainment)

Jacob Abel, who moves up from Indy Pro 2000 with Abel Motorsports, was the quickest group that turned laps at speed, with fellow newcomers Matteo Nannini (Juncos Hollinger Racing) Kyffin Simpson (TJ Speed Motorsports) rounding out the top three.

Test Session #2

Lap times in the second 45-minute test session were almost ten seconds quicker on a dry track. The 14 drivers completed 285 laps, and this time, the Indy Lights veterans led the way, turning the five fastest laps in the post-lunch testing time.

Global Racing Group w/ HMD Benjamin Pedersen, with a lap timed of 86.1408 seconds, led Rasmus Lindh (Juncos Racing), Sting Ray Robb (Andretti Autosport), Danial Frost (HMD Motorsports), and Manuel Sulaiman (HMD Motorsports). Hunter McElrea (Andretti Autosport) and Christian Rasmussen (Andretti Autosport) were the quickest newcomers in a tight session that saw the top 10 drivers with one second of Pedersen.

Test Session #3

Pedersen was able to go seven-tenths of a second quicker in the final Saturday session, once again heading the test session and the combined timesheet on the first of two days of testing.

This time, it was a mix of veterans and newcomers in the top five, with Indy Lights rookies McElrea and Abel holding down the second and fourth spots. Indy Lights veterans Danial Frost and Rasmus Lindh were third and fourth on the end-of-the-day timing screens.

Andretti Autosport drivers Sting Ray Robb and Christian Rasmussen had mechanical issues in the final session and could not turn in a representative time.

The 14 Indy Lights drivers completed 619 laps on Saturday. TJ Speed Motorsports rookie Simpson was the busiest of the bunch, completing 152.22 miles of running.


Sunday

Test Session #4

The sun started shining through for the first of three 45-minute test sessions, with the 14 drivers completing 237 laps.

Rasmus Lindh, a 20-year-old, a USF2000 and Indy Pro 2000 vice-champion, is working hard to get back into open-wheel full-time after a successful two-season sojourn in prototypes, was the third different driver to lead one of the half-dozen test sessions.

Rasmus Lindh gets instructions from Juncos Hollinger Racing team owner Ricardo Juncos (Photo Courtesy of Penske Entertainment)

Kyffin Simpson and Danial Frost were within a scant five-hundredths of a second of Lindh, while nine of the 14 drivers were within a half-second of the Swede at the top of the timesheet.

Test Session #5

The middle stanza on the second day of the Chris Griffis Memorial Test saw another new driver and team lead a session, showing the depth of the potential talent for the upcoming 2022 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires season.

Hunter McElrea, a newcomer to Andretti Autosport and Indy Lights, was the quickest of the drivers. The American-born, Australian-raised Kiwi, made his first Road To Indy appearance at this same test in 2017.

Hunter McElrea’s Andretti Autosport machine in the garage during the 2021 Chris Griffis Memorial Test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Photo Courtesy of Penske Entertainment)

Matteo Nannini, an Italian-Argentine pilot, found pace in the final two sessions, ending with the second quickest lap in each. Nannini the 2021 season in the FIA Formula 2 and Formula 3 championships, winning at the Hungaroring in F3. The 18-year-old dual citizen is the nephew of Formula 1 race winner Alessandro Nannini.

Sting Ray Robb, the 2020 Indy Pro 2000 champion, who recently signed with Andretti Autosport, proved that he hadn’t lost his pace, finishing test session #5 with the third quickest time.

Test Session #6

The final Indy Lights session of the Chris Griffis Memorial Test is always the craziest as teams and drivers attempt to make one last statement in front of their rivals.

As the track cools down in the late afternoon session, teams mount their final set of sticker tires in the last 15-minutes, looking to “win” the test.

TJ Speed Motorsports Simpson came so close to doing just that, turning a lap that was only 0.0231 seconds slower than Pedersen’s best lap on late Saturday afternoon. The current Formula Regional Americas Championship Powered By Honda points leaders were the fifth different driver and fifth different team to lead one of six test sessions.

 

The No. 21 TJ Speed Motorsports car belong to Kyffin Simpson on track during the 2021 Chris Griffis Memorial Test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Photo Courtesy of Penske Entertainment)


So stinking competitive

  • On the combined timesheet, the top five drivers – representing four teams were separated by less than a tenth of a second, and the top ten drivers were within three-tenths of a second.
  • Five different drivers and teams lead one of the test sessions.
  • Eleven of the 14 drivers were finished at least one test session in the top five.

2021 Chris Griffis Memorial Test Indy Lights combined timesheet

RANK CAR NO. DRIVER TEAM TIME DIFF. TOTAL LAPS
1 24 Benjamin Pedersen Global Racing Group w/ HMD 85.4619 98
2 21 Kyffin Simpson TJ Speed Motorsports 85.4850 -0.0231 116
3 27 Hunter McElrea Andretti Autosport 85.5218 -0.0599 93
4 15 Matteo Nannini Juncos Hollinger Racing 85.5425 -0.0806 98
5 28 Christian Rasmussen Andretti Autosport 85.5509 -0.089 80
6 51 Rasmus Lindh Juncos Hollinger Racing 85.5988 -0.1369 100
7 79 Danial Frost HMD Motorsports 85.6569 -0.195 97
8 2 Sting Ray Robb Andretti Autosport 85.6578 -0.1959 81
9 3 Jacob Abel Abel Motorsports 85.7317 -0.2698 95
10 83 Matthew Brabham Andretti Autosport 85.7868 -0.3249 99
11 59 Manuel Sulaiman HMD Motorsports 86.0205 -0.5586 97
12 99 Ernie Francis, Jr. HMD Motorsports 86.0566 -0.5947 96
13 11 Antonio Serravalle Pserra Racing/AS Promotions 86.5942 -1.1323 96
14 7 Christian Bogle HMD Motorsports 86.7779 -1.316 99

Consistency

The 2022 Indy Lights field is shaping up to be the largest and deepest in over a decade (more on that in an individual story), making consistency even more critical.

With six 45-minute sessions over two days, examining who was the most consistent can give fans a hint of what to expect next year. To accomplish that, TSO ladder averages the finishing position in each of the sessions, ignoring any sessions the driver turned one or fewer laps and removing each driver’s worst session.

Eight drivers’ average session finish was 5.0 or lower, portending what is shaping into an epic 2022 season of competition.

The average session finishes in the 2021 Chris Griffis Memorial Test.

RANK CAR NO. DRIVER TEAM AVG.
1 24 Benjamin Pedersen Global Racing Group w/ HMD 2.8
2 51 Rasmus Lindh Juncos Hollinger Racing 3.4
3 27 Hunter McElrea Andretti Autosport 3.8
4 79 Danial Frost HMD Motorsports 4.0
5 21 Kyffin Simpson TJ Speed Motorsports 4.2
6 15 Matteo Nannini Juncos Hollinger Racing 4.2
7 2 Sting Ray Robb Andretti Autosport 4.5
8 28 Christian Rasmussen Andretti Autosport 5.0
9 3 Jacob Abel Abel Motorsports 6.8
10 83 Matthew Brabham Andretti Autosport 7.3
11 59 Manuel Sulaiman HMD Motorsports 8.3
12 99 Ernie Francis, Jr. HMD Motorsports 9.3
13 11 Antonio Serravalle Pserra Racing/AS Promotions 12.3
14 7 Christian Bogle HMD Motorsports 12.6
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Jagger Jones leads first day of USF2000 Chris Griffis Memorial Test at IMS

Jagger Jones behind the wheel of the No. 3 Cape Motorsports race car. The 19-year-old from Scottsdale, Arizona was the quickest driver on Saturday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Photo Courtesy Of Andersen Promotions)

By Steve Wittich

On only his third day in an open-wheel car on a dry track, Jagger Jones was the quickest of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship pilots during the first day of the Chris Griffis Memorial Test.
The third-generation racer, piloting the No. 3 for Cape Motorsports, ended the first day of testing with a best lap of 105.9984 seconds, only a hundredth-of-a-second ahead of Legacy Autosport veteran Simon Sikes on the combined Saturday timesheet.
A pair of DEForce Racing pilots from North Of The Border was the next on the combined timesheet, with newcomer Mac Clark going a little quicker than USF2000 winning teammate Thomas Nepveu.
Jackson Lee, testing with Cape Motorsports, rounded out the top five.
The top ten drivers were all within one second of Jones’ quickest lap.
The most consistent driver of the group was Clark. The debutant, who won five races on the way to a second-place championship finish in the just-completed F4 United States Championship Powered By Honda season, was the only driver to end each of the three 45-minute test sessions in the top five.
The 17-year-old from Milton, Ontario led the first test session on a damp 2.58-mile, 14-turn Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, finished the second session on an almost dry track, and third in the final session on a dry track. Also in the top three in the early morning session were Dylan Christie and Jones.

Mac Clark behind the wheel of the No. 12 DEForce Racing machine on a wet Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course (Photo Courtesy Of Andersen Promotions)

The quickest driver in the second test session on a quickly drying track was Legacy Autosport’s, Simon Sikes. The four-time USF2000 podium finisher was joined in the top three in that session by Jackson Lee and Trey Burke.
The top five average sessions finish during Saturday’s three test sessions were:
  1. Mac Clark – 3.0
  2. Jagger Jones – 4.7
  3. Jackson Lee – 5.0
  4. Simon Sikes – 5.0
  5. Thomas Nepveu – 5.3
The 13 drivers with operable transponders completed 600 laps. The busiest of the drivers was Exclusive Autosport’s Ethan Ho.
Viktor Anderson does not show up as turning laps, but the Legacy Autosport newcomer was on track but did not have an operational transponder.
Chris Griffis Memorial Test USF2000 Test Day #1 Combined Timesheet
RANK CAR NO. DRIVER TEAM TIME DIFF. TOTAL LAPS
1 3 Jagger Jones Cape Motorsports 105.9984 44
2 19 Simon Sikes Legacy Autosport 106.0112 -0.0128 39
3 12 Mac Clark DEForce Racing 106.2502 -0.2518 44
4 10 Thomas Nepveu DEForce Racing 106.3935 -0.3951 37
5 2 Jackson Lee Cape Motorsports 106.5407 -0.5423 53
6 4 Nicholas d’Orlando Cape Motorsports 106.5654 -0.567 45
7 63 Trey Burke Joe Dooling Autosports 106.5744 -0.576 39
8 24 Ayrton Houk Pabst Racing 106.6535 -0.6551 57
9 11 Dylan Christie DEForce Racing 106.8669 -0.8685 36
10 91 Lucas Mann Exclusive Autosport 106.8824 -0.884 56
11 7 Yeoroo Lee Jay Howard Driver Development 107.3261 -1.3277 46
12 92 Ethan Ho Exclusive Autosport 107.6122 -1.6138 58
13 9 TJ Thompson Jay Howard Driver Development 107.6122 -1.6138 46
14 20 Viktor Andersson Legacy Autosport —— —— ——

Andersen Promotions Announces USAC Sanctioning

PALMETTO, Fla. – Andersen Promotions today announced a new agreement with the United States Auto Club (USAC Racing) to become the sanctioning body for the three racing series owned and operated by the organization – the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship and Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires as well as the new USF Juniors Presented by Cooper Tires.

Both USF2000 and Indy Pro 2000 are key steps on the highly visible Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires, a scholarship-supported driver development platform to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES and Indianapolis 500. The recently announced USF Juniors is a pre-step to the ladder system offering its champion a scholarship package to enter USF2000.

USAC Racing has enjoyed a storied history since being formed in 1956 as a sanctioning body for the United States National Championship and the Indianapolis 500. While its portfolio is best known in the circle track arena with Silver Crown, Sprint, Midget and .25 Midget sanctioning, it now governs a diverse motorsports platform which also includes the SRO World Challenge, Porsche Sprint Challenge and the SPEED Energy Stadium SUPER Trucks.

“Thirty years ago when I first announced the USF2000 series launch in 1991, USAC stepped up and was my first sanctioning body,” said Dan Andersen, Owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions. “We’ve come full circle and I am very pleased to be back with them and look forward to a long-term relationship. USAC Racing is widely recognized for its operation of Midgets, Sprint cars and Silver Crown cars but they are also becoming increasingly prominent in road racing with Porsche and SRO. This is a great sanctioning body and we are proud to be with them.

“I would also like to thank INDYCAR, which has sanctioned the Road to Indy since its inception in 2010. INDYCAR’s focus is, understandably, on series it owns and operates. We’ll continue to use their services on race weekends and look forward to our ongoing relationship as a support series where our drivers continue along their path toward the NTT INDYCAR SERIES.”

USAC Racing sanctioning services will include licensing and membership management, which will result in cost savings for teams and drivers. Andersen Promotions will continue to contract the services of INDYCAR for Race Control, Timing & Scoring and the AMR INDYCAR Safety Team with all events on its 2022 calendar for USF2000 and Indy Pro 2000 in support of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES.

The Road to Indy will be back in action later this month with its traditional Chris Griffis Memorial Open Test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course on October 30/31. The outing will feature all three levels of the ladder including Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, which is owned by INDYCAR and will continue to operate under its sanction.

Source: Series PR

Levi Jones joins INDYCAR as director of Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires

Levi Jones will be joining INDYCAR as the new director of the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires series (Photo Courtesy of Penske Entertainment)

The Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires series, the top rung of the Road To Indy ladder, will have new leadership to start the new INDYCAR era of promotion. Today, the sanctioning body announced that veteran United States Auto Club driver and executive Levi Jones will be the director of Indy Lights.

“My entire career has been in racing, and moving to INDYCAR and Indy Lights is the perfect next step,” said the 39-year-old. “I look forward to the opportunity to continue to grow Indy Lights and expand its legacy and position as the ideal final step before the NTT INDYCAR SERIES.

“It’s hard to put into words what joining an organization like INDYCAR really means. When you’re in racing, you always want to be a part of the biggest and the best. This is a dream come true.”

Jones, a winner of seven United States Auto Club (USAC) national championships – five Sprint car titles between 2005 & 2011 and two Silver Crown championships in 2010 & 2011 – will take over Indy Lights on November 1, 2021.

Most recently, Jones, who joined USAC in 2015, was the sanctioning bodies, executive vice president, working on all aspects of the day-to-day operation of the multitude of series, from maintaining and executing annual rule books, managing sponsorship for each series, negotiating sanctioning agreements, personnel management to working as race director for the Camping World SRX Series in its inaugural season in 2021

Kyle Kirkwood, who won the Indy Lights championship last week, will look to join the 34 Indy Lights grads that have won an Indy car race.

Those 34 drivers have won 262 total races since 1993, including ten of 17 during the 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season.

Nine Indy Lights drivers have won Indy car championships, including four of the last five.

“Because of his broad experience in and out of the cockpit, Levi is the perfect choice to become the director of Indy Lights,” INDYCAR President Jay Frye said. “Levi is well respected in the racing industry and knows every angle of the sport as a driver, team owner, racetrack operator, and sanctioning body. We are excited to have Levi on board and look forward to the new era of INDYCAR operating Indy Lights.”

Welcome to the Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires, Levi!

Qualifying #2 – Indy Pro 2000 – McElrea quick in the wet, grabs fifth pole

 

Hunter McElrea, in the Giltrap Group/Doric NZ/Miles Advisory Partners sponsored No. 18 won his fifth pole of the season on a wet Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course Photo credit: Gavin Baker Photography/Road to Indy

By Steve Wittich

A wet but clean Indy Pro 2000 qualifying session ended with Pabst Racing sophomore grabbing his fifth pole of the season. That ties him for the series lead with Juncos Hollinger Racing rookie Reece Gold.

Up until the very last second, it looked like newcomer Enaam Ahmed (Juncos Hollinger Racing) might grab his first American pole, but the Englishman had to settle for an outside front row result.

Starting behind the front two and representing team champions Exclusive Autosport will be Artem Petrov and Christian Brooks.

The third of three straight Road To Indy got going at 9:30 am. Unfortunately, it was still drizzling, and the track was still thoroughly wet.

Unlike their little and big brothers, USF2000 and Indy Lights, the middle kid kept their 20-minute qualifying session green early and often.

Presumptive champion Christian Rasmussen did not appear during the session. The Dane only needs to start this afternoon’s race to claim the championship, and risking damage on a slick track wasn’t worth it.

At the halfway point of the session, McElrea held the provisional pole, with Petrov, Ahmed, Brooks, and Eves holding down the first five spots on the timing screen.

With eight minutes remaining, returnee Ahmed went too deep into Turn 4, sliding through the grass and getting sideways in the gravel. However, the one-time BRDC British F3 kept the power down and was able to continue.

With 90-seconds remaining, Ahmed went a half second quicker than his competitors, taking the provisional pole.

It looked like the 21-year-old’s lap might stand, but on his tenth of ten laps, the Aussie was able to go a full second quicker.

VP Racing Lubricants Grand Prix Of Mid-Ohio Presented by Cooper Tires qualifying #2 results

RANK NO. NAME TEAM DIFFERENCE
1 18 Hunter McElrea Pabst Racing —-
2 22 Enaam Ahmed Juncos Racing 1.0399
3 42 Artem Petrov Exclusive Autosport 1.2010
4 44 Christian Brooks Exclusive Autosport 1.4592
5 91 Braden Eves Exclusive Autosport 2.9628
6 3 James Roe Turn 3 Motorsport 3.2147
7 55 Reece Gold Juncos Racing 3.2653
8 5 Wyatt Brichacek Jay Howard Driver Development 5.6868
9 19 Jordan Missig Pabst Racing 8.2105
10 51 Jacob Abel Abel Motorsports 11.2706
11 40 Jack William Miller Miller Vinatieri Motorsports 11.8283
12 1 Christian Rasmussen Jay Howard Driver Development

Qualifying #2 – Indy Lights – Malukas wins 7th pole, keeps championship hopes alive

The HMD Trucking sponsored No. 79 of David Malukas on track at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in much nicer conditions Photo credit: Gavin Baker Photography/Road to Indy

By Steve Wittich

Before starting a chaotic Indy Lights qualifying session at a wet Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, David Malukas had a 0.1% chance of claiming the title.

After grabbing his seventh pole of the season and seeing Kyle Kirkwood in the tire barriers, the HMD Motorsports veteran’s chances might now be 1%.

Malukas needs to win the race, lead the most laps and have Kirkwood finish in last to take home the $1,289,425 scholarship.

Kirkwood, who lost his quickest lap after causing a red flag, recovered and will start on the inside of row three.

Starting beside Malukas is his teammate Linus Lundqvist, with Benjamin Pedersen and Devlin DeFrancesco starting on the second row.

The season’s final Indy Lights qualifying session and of the Andersen Promotions era got the green flag on time at 8:45 am.

That was after Tony Cotman, the Indy Lights race director, reported after an exploratory ride in the pace car that the track was slippery but acceptable for qualifying.

The Indy Lights drivers didn’t make it a single lap before the red flag came out for an incident on the driver’s right between Turn 4 and Turn 5. The distinctive orange and black No. 24 Global Racing Group w/HMD with Benjamin Pedersen behind the got stuck in the wet grass after looping it while getting on the gas. The AMR INDYCAR Safety Team re-fired his turbocharged engine

No drivers could complete a lap before qualifying stopped, and when the green flag came back out, there were still 29-minutes on the clock.

This time, the entire field made it three more corners before the red flag came out. This time, it was the No. 7 Carlin machine of Christian Bogle that spun in Turn 7. The red flag came out when it appeared the rookie could not keep going. But, as soon as the starter unfurled the red flag, Bogle continued.

At this point, the race director checked with the drivers, and their feedback was that qualifying should continue.

The green flag came back out with 16-minutes left in the session.

Lundqvist was the first driver to turn a lap at speed after the drivers had turned one lap at ‘speed.’

After turning the fourth quickest lap of the session, Saturday’s race winner and presumptive champion, Kyle Kirkwood, brought out the third red, nosing into the tires in The Carousel.

Race control allowed the drivers to complete the hot lap they were on before the red flag came out. The AMR INDYCAR Safety Team pulled him from the tires, and he was able to drive back to the pit road with the Andretti Autosport crew, quickly replacing the damaged front wing.

When the green flag returned with five minutes remaining, the top five were Lundqvist, Malukas, DeFrancesco, Pedersen, and Megennis.

With two minutes remaining, Malukas went to the provisional at the same time that rookie Manuel Sulaiman spun in Turn 5

VP Racing Fuels Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio Presented by Cooper Tires Qualifying Session #2

RANK NO. NAME TEAM FAST LAP DIFFERENCE
1 79 David Malukas HMD Motorsports 1:46.7873 ——
2 26 Linus Lundqvist Global Racing Group w/HMD Motorsports 1:46.9953 0.2080
3 24 Benjamin Pedersen Global Racing Group w/HMD Motorsports 1:49.5369 2.7496
4 17 Devlin DeFrancesco Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport 1:50.6520 3.8647
5 28 Kyle Kirkwood Andretti Autosport 1:51.3490 4.5617
6 27 Robert Megennis Andretti Autosport 1:53.2443 6.4570
7 51 Rasmus Lindh Juncos Hollinger Racing 1:55.0460 8.2587
8 2 Sting Ray Robb Juncos Hollinger Racing 1:55.6824 8.8951
9 68 Danial Frost Andretti Autosport 1:56.1405 9.3532
10 59 Manuel Sulaiman HMD Motorsports 1:59.3821 12.5948
11 11 Antonio Serravalle Pserra Racing 2:25.5903 38.8030
12 7 Christian Bogle Carlin 7:01.6032 314.8159

The race will roll off at noon.

Qualifying #2 – USF2000 qualifying abandoned

By Steve Wittich

When the green flag for USF2000 qualifying came out at 8 am, the ambient temperature at the track was 63F, and there was a light rain falling.

The drivers ventured out on Cooper Tire wet weather tires, tip-toeing around the 2.258-Mile, 13-Turn Mid-Ohio Road Course.

Several drivers had adventures, spinning or going off-roading, on their out laps, but all could continue, keeping the track green.

The red flag came out after seven and a half minutes of action for incidents in multiple corners.

There were three cars stuck in China Beach and one car in tires outside Turn 1.

Michael d’Orlando, Prescott Campbell, and Josh Green were the drivers off the track in Turn 4.

The AMR INDYCAR Safety Team was able to get d’Orlando back on the track, re-started, and yesterday’s pole-sitter drove back to pit road.

The cars of Campbell and Green sustained damage and required wreckers to get them back to the USF2000 paddock.

In Turn 1, it was Turn 3 Motorsport rookie Christian Weir that was in the tires. The 14-year-old got out of the car on his own, but the car sustained enough damage that it had to be craned back to the paddock. The tire barrier in Turn 1 required repair, necessitating a delay

All 22 drivers had completed two laps at ‘speed,’ with champion Porto hold the provisional pole. The rest of the top ten were Sundaramoorthy, Green, Navarro, Campbell, Siegel, Weir, d’Orlando, Denmark, and Pierson.

However, with four of the top ten involved in the red flags, that would change.

Race control abandoned the session with only five minutes remaining in the allotted 30-minutes for qualifying and 12 minutes of the 20-minutes remaining. Over the race control channel, it was announced that the grid would be set via the second-fastest lap from Saturday’s qualifying session.

Race #1 – USF2000 – Sundaramoorthy and Porto both winners

Yuven Sundaramoorthy (right) and Kiko Porto (left) were both winners in a Saturday USF2000 race at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course Photo credit: Gavin Baker Photography/Road to Indy

By Steve Wittich

Every season, in most racing series, there is the possibility of two different winners only once. Saturday’s 20-lap Cooper Tires USF2000 Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio Presented by VP Stay Frosty Race #1 was that race for the lowest rung of the Road To Indy.

The first winner was Yuven Sundaramoorthy, who stood on the top step of the podium for the fourth time in 2021. The Pabst Racing veteran moved to 18 points of second place in the championship after the 18-year-old made a first lap pass on pole-sitter Michael d’Orlando and survived a late-race restart.

“It felt great to get back to that top step,” exclaimed the University of Wisconsin student. “I knew the championship was done, so I wanted to win races to end the season. The new tires helped, though his (d’Orlando’s) came in faster so those first few laps were a bit sketchy! He got loose and I got a good draft past him. I had a good gap to him, so I wasn’t happy to see the caution, but I knew we had pace on him. I was driving a bit conservatively, so I was fine at the end. Pabst always gives me a great car and today was no exception.”

The second winner was Kiko Porto, who clinched the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship and the $401,305 scholarship that goes to the winner. (more on Porto’s championship in a separate post).

Porto finished the race in third place, his ninth podium of the season, tied for the series high with Sundaramoorthy.

Cape Motorsports’ d’Orlando started from the pole, needing a win and a poor finish from Porto to remain in championship contention. Instead, the 18-year-old finished second, his eighth podium of 2021.

The trio of Saturday podium celebrants have combined for 26 (51%) of 51 possible USF2000 podiums to date, so, surprisingly, it took until the 15th race for the trio to share a podium.

After the race, d’Orlando said:

“That was a fantastic race. Huge congratulations to both Yuven and Kiko. Yuven made the right move to new tires so there wasn’t anything I could do. I’m glad to take home another podium. We fought hard with Kiko and Yuven all season long; congratulations to Kiko on the championship title. We have one more race to go tomorrow, and the weather could be a factor, so we’ll do the best we can to bring home another win for the Cape team.”

Road To Indy TV analyst and winner of seven USF2000 races, Parker Thompson, gave an emphatic call to fire the 22 Elite Engine prepared 2.0L powerplants by

Just as the field got the green flag, the accordion effect reared its ugly head at the rear of the field with the No. 63 of Trey Burke climbing over the back of Evan Stamer’s Ignite Autosport w/Cape Motorsports No. 3. Both cars could continue, but there was debris in the middle of the front straight right in front of the flag stand.

Race control allowed the field to race through the first seven corners before slowing them down with the yellow flag.

Before the caution, Sundaramoorthy, who started outside the front row, got a great exit out of The Keyhole and executed a textbook outside pass in Turn 4. The driver, who started from the outside of the front row, utilized the banking around the rim of Turn 4 to stay even with d’Orlando, giving himself the preferred inside line into Madness.

The running order after one lap of action was Sundaramoorthy, d’Orlando, Prescott Campbell (DEForce Racing), Jace Denmark (Pabst Racing), Kiko Porto (DEForce Racing), Green Thomas Nepveu (Cape Motorsports), Rowe, Billy Frazer (Exclusive Autosport), Josh Pierson (Pabst Racing), Christian Weir (Turn 3 Motorsport), Spike Kohlbecker (Ignite Autosport w/Cape Motorsports), Dylan Christie (Turn 3 Motorsport), Ely Navarro (DEForce Racing), Andre Castro (Legacy Autosport), Bijoy Garg (Jay Howard Driver Development), Kent Vaccaro (Miller Vinatieri Motorsports), Michael Myers (Michael Myers Racing), Jackson Lee (Jay Howard Driver Development), Burke and Stamer.

The big gainer on the first lap was rookie Frazer, who went from 19th to tenth.

The restart came on Lap 2, with Frazer getting aggressive again, gaining two spots, getting by fellow rookies Nepveu and Rowe, going to eighth.

Rowe wasn’t happy losing that position, coming back at Frazier. The race winner at New Jersey Motorsports Park and Kiwi went side-by-side through Turns 4 and 5 before the Force Indy No. 99 grabbed the eighth spot back.

At the front of the field, d’Orlando continued to stalk the Pabst Racing veteran, staying within one second of the lead. When the starter showed the field the crossed flags, Sundaramoorthy held a 0.5 second lead over d’Orlando.

On Lap 11, Denmark was pressuring Campbell, with the rookie looking to the inside of the 2019 Lucas Oil Formula Car Race Series champion, locking up the tires on the Metal Works Custom Fabrication sponsored No. 23 into Turn 9 and making contact with Campbell’s Fluid Logic/Valkyrie Intelligence sponsored No. 11. Campbell and his car bounced through the gravel before making significant contact with the tire barrier at the exit of the right-hander.

The top ten under the yellow flag were Sundaramoorthy, d’Orlando, Porto, Green, Rowe, Siegel, Frazer, Nepveu, Weir, and Kohlbecker.

The green flag came back out with five laps remaining. Rookie Nepveu was the only driver who moved on the restart, getting around Frazer for seventh after a multi-corner battle.

With two laps remaining, Sundaramoorthy’s lead over d’Orlando was just over one second, with Porto another second back. The presumptive champion Porto had his mirrors full of Green, Rowe, Siegel, and Nepveu.

Cooper Tires USF2000 Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio Presented by VP Stay Frosty Race #1 Results

RANK NO. NAME TEAM DIFFERENCE
1 22 Yuven Sundaramoorthy Pabst Racing 20 LAPS
2 4 Michael d’Orlando Cape Motorsports -0.7094
3 12 Kiko Porto DEForce Racing -2.0474
4 33 Josh Green Turn 3 Motorsport -2.8783
5 99 Myles Rowe Force Indy -3.5594
6 10 Nolan Siegel DEForce Racing -3.777
7 2 Thomas Nepveu Cape Motorsports -4.3198
8 91 Billy Frazer Exclusive Autosport -5.7089
9 32 Christian Weir Turn 3 Motorsport -6.1159
10 5 Spike Kohlbecker Ignite Autosports w/Cape Motorsports -6.4284
11 24 Josh Pierson Pabst Racing -6.7511
12 34 Dylan Christie Turn 3 Motorsport -7.1662
13 1 Ely Navarro DEForce Racing -8.036
14 19 Andre Castro Legacy Autosport -8.7661
15 6 Bijoy Garg Jay Howard Driver Development -10.7364
16 16 Kent Vaccaro Miller Vinatieri Motorsports -11.1641
17 63 Trey Burke Joe Dooling Autosports -11.425
18 8 Jackson Lee Jay Howard Driver Development -12.9421
19 42 Michael Myers Michael Myers Racing -13.4291
20 23 Jace Denmark Pabst Racing -1 LAP
21 11 Prescott Campbell DEForce Racing -9 LAPS
22 3 Evan Stamer Ignite Autosports w/Cape Motorsports -19 LAPS

2021 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship points with one race remaining

RANK DRIVER TOTAL
1 Kiko Porto 390
2 Michael d’Orlando 345
3 Yuven Sundaramoorthy 327
4 Josh Pierson 276
5 Christian Brooks 257
6 Josh Green 248
7 Spike Kohlbecker – r 221
8 Thomas Nepveu – r 206
9 Jace Denmark – r 204
10 Nolan Siegel 202
11 Prescott Campbell 198
12 Billy Frazer – r 180
13 Simon Sikes 136
14 Myles Rowe – r 136
15 Dylan Christie – r 120
16 Matthew Round-Garrido 116
17 Ely Navarro – r 102
18 Jackson Lee – r 64
19 Peter Vodanovich – r 63
20 Christian Weir – r 56
21 Erik Evans – r 54
22 Evan Stamer – r 54
23 Trey Burke – r 45
24 Michael Myers 44
25 Bijoy Garg 43
26 Grant Palmer – r 38
27 Kent Vaccaro – r 38
28 Andre Castro – r 34
29 Nathan Byrd – r 10
30 Chase Hyland – r 3

The remainder of the USF2000 weekend schedule is as follows:

Sunday, October 3

  • 8am – 8:30am – USF2000 Qualifying #2
  • 11am – 11:40am – USF2000 Race #2

Don’t miss any of the Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires action:

Race #1 – Indy Pro 2000 – Raz doubles up, winning race and locking down championship

Indy Pro 2000 Race #1 winner and presumptive season champ Christian Rasmussen celebrates with team owner Jay Howard in victory lane at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course Photo credit: Gavin Baker Photography/Road to Indy

By Steve Wittich

Christian Rasmussen had a doubly terrific day at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, winning his seventh race of the season and all but clinching the $718,065 scholarship. As a result, the Dane heads into his final Indy Pro 2000 race with an insurmountable – as long as he starts the race – 27 point lead.

On the Independence Day weekend, Rasmussen won the first race in the series first visit to the 2.258-Mile, 13-Turn Mid-Ohio Road Course. It is his ninth win across the F4 United States Championship USF2000 and Indy Pro 2000 series at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The win is the 19th in the career of “Raz,” moving him to third on the all-time list, trailing only Spencer Pigot (24 wins) and Kyle Kirkwood (31 wins).

“This is such a relief! It’s been such an intense season – there are so many good drivers out there, and the series is so competitive. I didn’t get a perfect start today; Braden got a good run, and I think we touched wheels, so it’s good that we all got through cleanly. It’s hard to pass here, so I just waited for an opportunity. Petrov slowed into Turn One and I grabbed the spot and I cruised from there.

“I knew the championship was about done. I rarely get emotional, but this one got me a little bit. Winning in my rookie season with a rookie team is a huge accomplishment. I’m so happy for (team owner) Jay (Howard). We’ve been together for so long, and to go back-to-back shows how much of a team sport this really is. But for me, winning the scholarship is huge, life-changing. We’re so grateful to have the chance to earn these scholarships; you don’t see that anywhere else in the world. It gives drivers like me the chance to keep racing.”

Rasmussen was able to fight off pole-sitter Artem Petrov, who was comfortably on the way to his third win of the season when electrical gremlins robbed him of that accolade. All was not for naught for the 22-year-old, though. His 16th career Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires podium moved him to within one point of Reece Gold (Juncos Hollinger Racing) in fourth and Hunter McElrea (Pabst Racing) in third on the points table.

It was the fifth time that Exclusive Autosport teammates Petrov and Braden Eves have shared a podium in 2021 and the team’s 17th and 18th podiums this season, giving them the Indy Pro 2000 team championship (more on that at a later time).

The 2019 USF2000 champion, Eves, came into the finale with a shot to win his second Road To Indy championship, only a year after a scary crash on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. The 22-year-old got beside championship rival Rasmussen in the first corner of the first lap but had to settle for third place, his 19th career Road To Indy podium.

“Tough race, said Eves after the 25-lapper. “This is a very physical track, and pushing from behind makes it even more so. It’s a bummer, but we’ll rebound and try to finish the season on a high note tomorrow and pick up a win in the rain.

“It’s been a tough season; a lot of things didn’t go our way. But Christian did an incredible job, so congratulations to him.

“The entire Cambridge Exclusive Autosport team did an incredible job all year, and the team championship is very deserving. But all things considered, it’s been a good year, coming back after last year. Second place isn’t all that bad. I’m proud of our accomplishments. Hopefully, I can put something together for next year.”

Gold, who scored his 12th top-five of his rookie Indy Pro 2000 season, pressured Eves for most of the race.

Coming home fifth, in his first-ever Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires race, was Exclusive Autosport’s Christian Brooks, who held off more experienced drivers behind him.

Rob Howden, the Voice of the Road To Indy, gave the command to fire the dozen Elite Engine 2.0L engines at 2 pm. The skies were sunny, and the temperature was a comfortable 73F.

The field, led by Petrov and Rasmussen, got the green flag after one lap behind the Road To Indy pace car.

Petrov got a great jump, easily beating Rasmussen to Turn 1 and allowing Eves to get beside the Dane in the fast left-hander. That compromised the Eves exit, allowing Rasmussen, Gold, and Brooks to get past him on the long uphill run to Turn 2. After that, the Ohian could get back around everybody but Rasmussen, slotting back into where he started, third.

Behind the front five, the action in the Keyhole was three-wide, with the No. 40 of Jack William Miller pushed wide at the corner exit and going for a bouncy ride through the grass.

After one lap, Petrov’s lead over Rasmussen was 1.3 seconds, with Eves slotting into the final spot on the podium. The remainder of the running order was Gold, Brooks, Able, McElrea, Ahmed, Brichacek, Roe, Missig, and Miller.

After five laps of action, Petrov’s lead over Rasmussen was steady at 1.1 seconds. Eves was 2.2 seconds behind the driver he’s fighting for the championship and had Gold in his mirrors.

Further back, newcomer Brooks was in the fifth spot but had his mirrors full of Abel and McElrea.

On Lap 7, the No. 42 slowed on the front straight, allowing Rasmussen to get the lead. The Russian was able to get back up to speed.

“The start was good, and the early part of the race was going great; I made no mistakes,” explained the driver of the Exclusive Autosport No. 42. “But, then suddenly, my systems turned off completely and I was stuck in gear, and that happened three times during the race. A bit unlucky, but we secured the team championship, and I’m very happy about that. It was a hard year for me, with some bad luck, but I’m just trying to enjoy the last race weekend with the Exclusive team.”

On Lap 10, Abel was running sixth and facing pressure from McElrea. The Crosley/Abel Construction/Bell Helmets No. 51 dropped his left side tires at the exit of Turn 9 but somehow kept the car pointed in the right direction and held McElrea behind him.

When the starter showed the crossed flags to signify the halfway mark of the 25-lap race, all three spots on the podium were under competition.

Petrov was back up to speed and within a half-second of the leader. Behind those two, Gold was on the gearbox of
Eves, for the final spot on the podium.

Petrov was 0.6 seconds behind Rasmussen with ten laps remaining, and Gold was only 0.3 seconds behind Eves.

With five laps remaining, Rasmussen had gapped Petrov by 1.8 seconds, comfortably.

Rasmussen got the white flag and yellow flag at the same time after an incident involving Roe and Miller in Turn 2, giving the reigning Indy Pro 2000 champion the win and his second straight Road To Indy championship.

Roe ended up in the gravel, and Miller came to a stop on the driver’s right at the corner exit. Race control requested that Miller meet with race director Johnny Unser after the race. As a result of that meeting, the second-generation driver was given an avoidable contact penalty and will have to serve a two-grid place penalty for race #2.

VP Racing Lubricants Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio Presented by Cooper Tires Race #1 results

RANK NO. NAME TEAM DIFFERENCE
1 1 Christian Rasmussen Jay Howard Driver Development 25 LAPS
2 42 Artem Petrov Exclusive Autosport 0.4290
3 91 Braden Eves Exclusive Autosport 1.3866
4 55 Reece Gold Juncos Racing 2.0908
5 44 Christian Brooks Exclusive Autosport 3.2536
6 51 Jacob Abel Abel Motorsports 4.0697
7 18 Hunter McElrea Pabst Racing 4.8290
8 22 Enaam Ahmed Juncos Racing 5.4623
9 5 Wyatt Brichacek Jay Howard Driver Development 5.8981
10 19 Jordan Missig Pabst Racing 6.4411
11 3 James Roe Turn 3 Motorsport -2 Laps
12 40 Jack William Miller Miller Vinatieri Motorsports -2 Laps

2021 Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires points table with one race remaining

RANK DRIVER TEAM TOTAL
1 Christian Rasmussen – r Jay Howard Driver Development 423
2 Braden Eves Exclusive Autosport 396
3 Hunter McElrea Pabst Racing 362
4 Reece Gold – r Juncos Hollinger Racing 356
5 Artem Petrov Exclusive Autosport 355
6 Jacob Abel Abel Motorsports 279
7 Kyffin Simpson – r Juncos Hollinger Racing 230
8 Manuel Sulaiman Juncos Hollinger Racing 214
9 James Roe – r Turn 3 Motorsport 210
10 Wyatt Brichacek – r Jay Howard Driver Development 199
11 Jack William Miller – r Miller Vinatieri Motorsports 189
12 Enaam Ahmed – r RP Motorsport 113
13 Colin Kaminsky Pabst Racing 91
14 Hunter Yeany – r Velocity Racing Development 79
15 Cameron Shields – r DEForce Racing 43
16 Flinn Lazier – r Legacy Autosport 37
17 Nolan Siegel DEForce Racing 26
18 Enzo Fittipaldi – r RP Motorsport 20
19 Kory Enders DEForce Racing 18
20 Christian Brooks Exclusive Autosport 17

The remainder of the Indy Pro 2000 weekend schedule is as follows:

Sunday, October 3

  • 9:30am – 10am – Indy Pro 2000 Qualifying #2
  • 1:10pm – 2pm – Indy Pro 2000 Race #2

 


Don’t miss any of the Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires action:

 

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