Archives for 2021 Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires Coverage

Andersen Promotions Announces USF Juniors Presented by Cooper Tires

PALMETTO, Fla. – Andersen Promotions today announced a new series that will help drivers prepare for the highly acclaimed Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires driver development platform, a clear-cut path to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. USF Juniors Presented by Cooper Tires will launch in 2022 offering a prize package exceeding $325,000 including a scholarship valued at more than $200,000 to advance to the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship – the first official step on the ladder to the pinnacle of U.S. motorsports.
The new series will be sanctioned by USAC with a schedule that will be announced in the next few weeks comprising six road-course race weekends, most with triple-header rounds for a total of 16-18 races. For 2022, the popular Ligier JS chassis and HPD powerplant will be utilized with long-time series engine builder Elite Engines performing all new builds and rebuilds. Cooper Tires will develop a series-specific tire for the triple-header events with two sets of tires allocated for each event weekend. Budgets are expected to be in the $120,000 to $150,000 range, and the series will be open to drivers as young as 14 years of age.
“There are numerous routes into the Road to Indy, but it has become apparent that one additional entry level step was needed,” said Dan Andersen, Owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions. “Our current first step – the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship – has become extremely more competitive from a global scale of driving talent than what used to be considered as entry level.
“Our goal with USF Juniors is to provide a true entry level series that is professionally managed where drivers, teams and parents can focus on training and racing via shorter, more economical events, while also lowering the spotlight on young drivers that often occurs on INDYCAR race weekends. Our entry level drivers will learn the skills needed for them to move onto the Road to Indy, with less pressure. The new series will be choreographed with our current programs and tremendous partnership with Cooper Tires. The feedback I have received from team owners has been nothing but positive.”
In addition to a team from Andersen Promotions’ current staff, former Indy Lights race winner and sports car talent Gustavo Yacaman will fill the role of series manager. An accomplished driver coach, Yacaman now leads the YACademy Winter Series, a highly regarded training ground for drivers looking to make the move from karts to cars. Andersen Promotions will work closely with the YACademy as a pre-season testing opportunity for USF Juniors as well as USF2000 and the Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires.
“I am really excited to get this program off the ground together with Dan Andersen,” said Yacaman. “Our successful strategies in place at the YACademy Winter Series will be brought to this new series with all the support and resources that Andersen Promotions has to offer. Huge thanks to Cooper Tires for believing in this project from Day 1. Without their support, none of this would be possible.
“We will be very focused on driver training and making sure that young drivers really learn the right way of racing an open-wheel car in a highly competitive environment.”
Current Indy Pro 2000 and USF2000 Race Directors Johnny Unser and Joel Miller will oversee race control and will work directly with USF Juniors official driver coach Gabby Chaves, the 2014 Indy Lights champion, in preparing drivers to take the next step on the ladder.
“We’re enjoying an increasing number of drivers coming to USF2000 from assorted junior programs each year, so creating this new platform will only pay dividends when it comes to properly training the young racers who want to move into the Road To Indy,” offered Rob Howden, Road to Indy Series Development Director. “The USF Juniors program will immerse these young drivers in our culture and our approach to training and race direction. I believe that this will only serve to further increase the quality of the competition in USF2000 and Indy Pro 2000 in the coming years. The drivers will learn the Road to Indy approach and atmosphere, which I believe sets us apart from other programs.”
Registration for USF Juniors Presented by Cooper Tires will open in November. The USF Juniors website can be found at http://usfjuniors.com/ and is currently in development. Social media platforms include @USFJuniors on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

 

Kirkwood caps off dominant weekend with ninth win of the Indy Lights season

Kyle Kirkwood in the Road to Indy/Cooper Tires/Construction Contractors Club sponsored No. 28 on track at the WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca Photo credit: Gavin Baker Photography/Road to Indy

By Steve Wittich

Dominant, on-rails, championship altering and effortless are all words and phrases that describe Kyle Kirkwood’s weekend at the iconic WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

“I have to give it to the team,” said the 22-year-old on the peacock broadcast after his 26+ second Sunday drive. “Andretti Autosport has been on it all weekend, and our cars have been absolutely phenomenal.

“We came here testing, and what we found here has been good. It’s given me a car where I can go out, drive my pace and focus on my driving and not have any big moments or slides, which is pretty rare for a place like this with how low grip it is and how much elevation there is.

“I couldn’t be any happier. Big thanks to all of the Andretti guys. They’ve done a super job all weekend making sure the car – even when the track changes with the NTT INDYCAR SERIES – we still got faster and faster. ”

The dominant sweep of all 64 points available during the Indy Lights Grand Prix of Monterey Presented By Cooper Tires Race equates to a 20 point shift and a 15 points championship lead headed to the scholarship decider at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course the first weekend in October.

Kirkwood’s ninth win of the season moves him to within one win of the Indy Lights single-season record of ten, set by Greg Moore in 1995.

The phenom from Jupiter, Fla., has now won 30 Road To Indy races in 48 starts, giving him an RTI win percentage of 62.5%!

Kirkwood is the 14th pole-sitter to win in 24 Indy Lights races at the iconic Monterey, Calif. road course.

Coming home in second place after spending most of the 35-lap race by himself on the track was HMD Motorsports veteran David Malukas, the Chicago, Ill. driver’s 14th podium of the year and 23rd of his Road To Indy career.

“In the beginning, he took off like a rocket, said the driver, who turns 20-years-old in a week, to peacock’s Georgia Henneberry. “I was looking at his line and said, ‘wow, he carried a lot of speed through there, I’m going to try it,’ and I almost went off in (Turn) 9.

“I had to back it off. I was at 90% on the tires because I didn’t want to lose the car and make a mistake like I did yesterday. So I kept the car at 90%, and sooner or later, I was by myself, and it was almost like a test day for me.

“I think we got everything we could out of it. We had a big gap over my teammate Linus (Lundqvist), so that’s a big plus.

“In the end, we’re still close, and hopefully, going into Mid-Ohio, we can get something done.”

Scoring the tenth podium of his rookie Indy Lights season was Global Racing Group w/HMD’s Linus Lundqvist, who locks himself into third place on the championship table, guaranteeing the Swede will get an NTT INDYCAR SERIES test.

Rounding out the top five were Danial Frost (Andretti Autosport) and Benjamin Pedersen (Global Racing Group w/HMD), the two drivers who are fighting for fourth in the championship. Pedersen has an 18 point gap to Frost with the two races at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course remaining.

The command to fire the 2.0L turbocharged AER engines came at 10:15 am from Mike White, the AER Engine Indy Lights program manager.

A light mist/marine layer covered the 2.238-mile, 11-turn road course as the cars pulled onto the track.

On the first pace lap, Christian Bogle came to the attention of the Carlin crew on the pit road, but he was able to rejoin, almost catching the rear of the field before the start.

After two laps behind the Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires pace car, a front row of Kirkwood and Malukas brought the field to green for the sixth time in 2021.

Kirwood, in the Road to Indy/Cooper Tires/Construction Contractors Club Dallara, sponsored No. 28, got a slight jump on Malukas, who could not drop in behind the pole-sitter because his teammate Lundqvist had filled that gap.

Malukas remained to the outside of Kirkwood and Lundqvist and was able to slot into second place.

Frost, who started fourth, locked up his front brakes going into the Andretti hairpin but held off Pedersen for fourth.

In Turn 10, Robb took a look around the outside of DeFrancesco but dropped all four tires into the dirt, losing a spot to his teammate Lindh.

The running order after the first lap was Kirkwood, Malukas, Lundqvist, Frost, Pedersen, Megennis, DeFrancesco, Lindh, Robb, Sulaiman and Bogle.

On Lap 2, Lundqvist had his mirrors full of Frost and Pedersen.

Kirkwood’s dominance at the front of the field carried over from Saturday, pulling a 5.6-second gap over Malukas after ten laps. The gap between Malukas in second and Lundqvist in third was over two seconds.

Further back, Lindh, who had to start ninth after a penalty in qualifying, moved up to the seventh spot after getting around DeFrancesco.

After 15 laps, Kirkwood’s lead over Malukas was 8.6 seconds, with the 22-year-old the only driver to turn a lap under 77 seconds.

At this point of the 35-lap, Sunday feature ran laps over a half-second quicker than Malukas, the only driver not named Kyle turning laps in the 77-second range.

Forst, in fourth, was within push-to-pass range of Lundqvist for the final spot on the podium, but he had his mirrors full of the other orange and black Global Racing Group machine of Pedersen.

Further back in the field, Lindh behind Megennis was the only driver that was within push-to-pass.

On Lap 19, Malukas dropped two wheels off at the exit of Turn 4 but kept his HMD Trucking sponsored No. 79 pointing in the right direction.

Kirkwood’s gap to second place Malukas had grown to a massive 16.9 seconds with ten laps remaining.

Malukas was also on his own, running 8.2 seconds ahead of Lundqvist.

Behind the podium runners, the action was much closer, with the drivers running third through ninth covered by only 13 seconds.

The gap had grown to 21.3 seconds with five laps remaining, but he did have a slight tick of excitement on that lap.

In the Pelican Energy, sponsored No. 7, Bogle went for a wild ride in the second half of The Corkscrew, bounding through the gravel and reentering the track not too far in front of the leader.

While not exciting upfront, Lundqvist, Frost, and Pedersen were all close for the final spot on the podium, also, Megennis had Lindh, DeFrancesco, and Robb within 1.5 seconds of him.

Kirkwood crossed under the checkered flag 26.0555 seconds ahead of Malukas, a series largest gap in 24 races at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

In 2019 Race #1, Rinus VeeKay bested Toby Sowery by 9.8874 seconds, the largest previous gap at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

Indy Lights Grand Prix of Monterey Presented By Cooper Tires Race #2 Results

RANK CAR NO. DRIVER TEAM DIFFERENCE
1 28 Kyle Kirkwood Andretti Autosport 35 LAPS
2 79 David Malukas HMD Motorsports -26.0555
3 26 Linus Lundqvist Global Racing Group w/HMD Motorsports -39.3152
4 68 Danial Frost Andretti Autosport -40.8857
5 24 Benjamin Pedersen Global Racing Group w/HMD Motorsports -41.7672
6 27 Robert Megennis Andretti Autosport -48.0055
7 51 Rasmus Lindh Juncos Hollinger Racing -48.5498
8 17 Devlin DeFrancesco Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport -49.531
9 2 Sting Ray Robb Juncos Hollinger Racing -50.1593
10 59 Manuel Sulaiman HMD Motorsports -54.303
11 7 Christian Bogle Carlin -2 LAPS

The Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires series will decide who wins the $1,289,425 scholarship to move to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on October 2nd and 3rd.

‘Effortless’ performance gives Kirkwood the Indy Lights points lead

Kyle Kirkwood celebrates his eighth Indy Lights win of 2021 with a young fan Photo credit: Gavin Baker Photography/Road to Indy

By Steve Wittich

How to turn a five-point championship deficit into an eight (nine) point lead in only 24 hours by Kyle Kirkwood is the title of the first chapter of the Indy Lights weekend at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

Kirkwood, a champion in USF2000 and Indy Pro 2000, moved one race closer to becoming the first driver to win all three Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires scholarships with a dominating 24 hours that included two pole wins and the most effortless win this year. His words, not ours.

“We came into this weekend knowing we needed to be fast, and we are just that,” said Andretti Autosport, rookie to Georgia Henneberry, on the Peacock broadcast. “I was unsure of our race pace coming in, but we were even faster at the end than we were in the beginning.

“I can’t believe it. I have no words right now. It was probably the most effortless race that I’ve had all season. For it to happen this weekend is so crucial for our championship.

“I’m stoked. It’s awesome!!”

It’s the eighth win of the season for Kirkwood, giving him one more trip to the top step of the podium than his championship rival David Malukas. In addition, Kirkwood extends his Road To Indy leading wins total to 29.

The win is the first in Indy Lights at the iconic 2.238-mile, 11-turn road course for Andretti Autosport. The team now has 67 wins as an Indy Lights team.

Coming home second, after holding off an early charge from his championship-leading teammate David Malukas was Linus Lundqvist. The podium is the 22-year-olds ninth this season, 25th in his American Open Wheel career, and 70th across all junior open-wheel categories.

“We’re here to win, but on days you can’t win, it’s good to be second,” said the driver, who is third in the season-long points battle. “We have a bit of work overnight to try to catch Kyle, but tomorrow’s a new day. It’s a long way down into Turn One; hopefully, we can figure something out, but it’s good to have another shot at it. This track is one of the places we tested at, so it’s good to come back somewhere familiar. Huge thanks to the team, who has worked night and day to get the car we have. Hopefully, we can get one more spot tomorrow.”

Making it three podiums and five top-fives in the last five races was Lundqvist’s Global Racing Group w/HMD teammate Benjamin Pedersen, who stood on a podium for the fifth time during his rookie Indy Lights season.

“It was a really tricky race in terms of tire management, especially the rear tires once we hit the halfway point,” explained Pedersen after the 30-lap race. “I tried my best to pressure Linus, but it’s hard to stay close here. We’re happy with the result, sitting a strong fourth in the championship and our fifth straight (top-four). We’ll try to make the car better overnight, help the rears last longer, and see how I can make myself better for tomorrow.”

It gives the 22-year-old a more comfortable twenty-point gap to a trio of Andretti Autosport drivers whom he is battling for fourth in the championship.

For the fifth time in 2021, Kirkwood led the field to the green flag, with Lundqvist joining him on the front row.

Kirkwood got a slight jump, with Lundqvist also getting a decent jump. In the Utah Airguns/HPD/Global Racing Group/FX Airguns/ Paytrim/JULA, sponsored No. 26, Lundqvist was side-by-side with Kirkwood at the corner entry. But, by the apex of the Andretti Hairpin, he had fallen behind the No. 28, slotting in behind the leader.

A chaotic start to the first of two Indy Lights Grand Prix of Monterey Presented By Cooper Tires races at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca Photo credit: Gavin Baker Photography/Road to Indy

Malukas wisely let the two front-row starters fight for the top spot, easily holding back his teammate Pedersen and holding third.

Further back, the Telcel/Anahauc/WBC Store/Ambiental/MultiQuip No. 59 of Manuel Sulaiman went for a wild ride through the dirt at the exit of Turn 4 after making wheel-to-wheel contact with DeFrancesco in the right-hander.

The running order at the end of the first lap was Kirkwood, Lundqvist, Malukas, Benjamin Pedersen (Global Racing Group w/HMD), Danial Frost (Andretti Autosport), Rasmus Lindh (Juncos Hollinger Racing), Devlin DeFrancesco (Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport), Robert Megennis (Andretti Autosport), Sting Ray Robb (Juncos Hollinger Racing), Christian Bogle (Carlin) and Manuel Sulaiman (HMD Motorsports).

On Lap 2, Lindh, a winner at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in Indy Pro 2000, was able to get by Frost for the fifth spot.

After five laps of action, Kirkwood’s lead over Lundqvist was 2.19 seconds, meaning that push-to-pass was not available. Behind Lundqvist, his teammate Malukas was lapping a little quicker but could not get around the Swedish driver.

On Lap 6, Megennis came to pit road for repairs by the Andretti Autosport crew, with what Georgia Henneberry reported was a suspension issue.

On Lap 8, the points leader lost the rear of the HMD Trucking No. 79 at the apex of Turn 3 and went for a wild ride through the dirt. He kept his car pointed in the right direction but lost one spot to his teammate Pedersen.

Benjamin Pedersen leads David Malukas at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca Photo credit: Gavin Baker Photography/Road to Indy

After ten laps, Kirkwood’s lead over Lundqvist was 4.0 seconds. Lundqvist’s teammate Pedersen was within push-to-pass range of the No. 26. The running order behind the podium runners was Malukas, Lindh, Frost, DeFrancesco, Robb, Sulaiman, Bogle, and Megennis.

As Kirkwood began Lap 17, he had a 7.6 second lead over Lundqvist erased when the yellow flag came out for Bogle, who appeared to have a mechanical issue and dropped fluid on the track, coming to a stop in the gravel on the outside of Turn 2.

The running order under the yellow flag was Kirkwood, Lundqvist, Pedersen, Malukas, Lindh, Frost, DeFrancesco, Robb, Sulaiman, Bogle, and Megennis.

The AMR INDYCAR Safety Team got the car and fluid cleaned up, with the green flag coming with
nine laps remaining.

As the field exited the final corner, DeFrancesco and his teammate, Frost, were side-by-side, with the Dan-Jet sponsored No. 68 running wide and losing three spots, falling to ninth. Race control announced that move was under review, with DeFrancesco eventually being penalized five seconds.

At the front, Kirkwood got a significant jump, quickly pulling out of push-to-pass range and driving away from the Global Racing Group/HMD Motorsports trio.

Kirkwood was running laps almost a second quicker than Lundqvist, and with five laps remaining, had pulled to a 4.7-second lead.

Lundqvist had Pedersen within push-to-pass range in the fight for second. However, Pedersen had his teammate and championship leader Malukas within a half-second.

Over the last five laps, Kirkwood pulled out another two seconds, getting the checkered flag 6.6 seconds ahead of Lundqvist.

Malukas continued to put pressure on Pedersen but was not able to get around the Danish driver.

DeFrancesco was putting pressure on Lindh for fifth place but couldn’t get around the Juncos Hollinger Racing newcomer, meaning that the following three drivers were within the five seconds DeFrancesco was penalized, and he ended up finishing ninth.

Indy Lights Grand Prix of Monterey Presented By Cooper Tires Race #1 results

RANK CAR NO. DRIVER TEAM DIFFERENCE
1 28 Kyle Kirkwood Andretti Autosport 30 LAPS
2 26 Linus Lundqvist Global Racing Group w/HMD Motorsports -6.6515
3 24 Benjamin Pedersen Global Racing Group w/HMD Motorsports -9.1243
4 79 David Malukas HMD Motorsports -9.7218
5 51 Rasmus Lindh Juncos Hollinger Racing -12.0328
6 2 Sting Ray Robb Juncos Hollinger Racing -14.3389
7 59 Manuel Sulaiman HMD Motorsports -15.4639
8 68 Danial Frost Andretti Autosport -16.5291
9 17 Devlin DeFrancesco Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport -17.4696
10 27 Robert Megennis Andretti Autosport -4 LAPS
11 7 Christian Bogle Carlin -14 LAPS

The final Indy Lights race of the weekend at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca will get the green flag at 9:45 am (PT) or 12:45 pm (PT).

Some big changes in store for Indy Lights in 2022

By Steve Wittich

TSO has learned from numerous sources that INDYCAR, the owners of the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires championship, will be bringing the top rung of the Road To Indy back in-house for the 2022 season.

Andersen Promotions, the owner and promoter of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship and Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires series, has been the promotor of Indy Lights since the 2014 season.

After taking over the promotion of Indy Lights, Andersen Promotions introduced a new car, the popular IL-15, which has proved itself as a great training tool for future NTT INDYCAR SERIES drivers.

Since 2014, Indy Lights has graduated 19 drivers to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, including recent race winners Pato O’Ward, Colton Herta, and Rinus VeeKay.

The top junior open-wheel series, which began life as the American Racing Series in 1986, was promoted by Championship Auto Racing Teams from 1986 through 2001 and the Indy Racing League/INDYCAR from 2002 through 2013.

TSO Ladder has reached out to both Andersen Promotions and INDYCAR for comment, and will update this story when we hear back from those entities.

More details of the change are forthcoming in the next week.

 

Kyle Kirkwood grabs second straight pole – Malukas and HMD Motorsports make gains

 

The Road to Indy/Cooper Tires/Construction Contractors Club sponsored No. 28 of Kyle Kirkwood navigates “The Corkscrew” at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca Photo credit: Gavin Baker Photography/Road to Indy

By Steve Wittich

After a second straight dominant qualifying session that yielded his sixth pole of the 2021 Indy Lights season, Andretti Autosport rookie Kyle Kirkwood has closed the gap to championship leader David Malukas to three points with four races remaining.

The 22-year-old saved a set of sticker Cooper Tires and was still able to beat his closest rival to the all-important pole and bonus point that goes with it at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, a track that can be difficult to overtake on.

“Our car is absolutely on rails this weekend,” explained Kirkwood to Rob Howden to the INDYCAR Radio Network. “We came here and tested in February, and whatever we did, we figured it out. I’m really happy with the car right now.”

The pole by Kirkwood is Andretti Autosport’s 78th start from the pole in an Indy Lights race, matching Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, on top of the all-time leader board. Andretti Autosport’s first Indy Lights pole came with Marco Andretti behind the wheel on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn St. Petersburg, Fla. street circuit in 2005.

Championship leader and HMD Motorsports veteran Malukas will start beside his rival, the sixth time the pair have started on the front row together this season.

Malukas and his engineer Yancy Diotalevi did make some gains overnight, qualifying within 0.25 seconds of Kirkwood after ending yesterday’s qualifying session 0.45 seconds adrift.

“We had a good gain from yesterday,” explained the 19-year-old to the INDYCAR Radio Network. “We found those two or three tenths we needed; we just missed the peak zone. The car was much better, and I wasn’t used to the car being at that level, so I had to change my line a little bit. Because of that, even at the end of the run, we were getting quicker and quicker, and we missed zone to get those extra two-tenths to be with Kyle.

“At the same time, hat’s off to them (Andretti Autosport and Kyle Kirkwood). They found something for sure, but I think we gained on them, and I think it will be more even in the longer runs.

This track isn’t the easiest to pass, so it will be interesting.

Starting behind the championship leader are Linus Lundqvist (Global Racing Group w/HMD) and Danial Frost (Andretti Autosport).

“We always want a bit more,” said the Swede Lundqvist. “We’re here to win and get poles. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to fight for it today. I know that the team will come back strong, and the race is where the points are handed out. Hopefully, we’ll have a chance in Turn 1. I have confidence we’ll bounce back in the race.

When the green flag came out to start the 30-minute qualifying session, ten of the 11 drivers quickly took to the 2.238-mile, 11-turn road course. The lone driver still on pit road was the pole winner for the first Indy Lights Grand Prix of Monterey Presented By Cooper Tires, Kyle Kirkwood. There were no problems with the Road to Indy/Cooper Tires/Construction Contractors Club No. 28; the team held him to save a set of Cooper Tires. The driver that is second in the championship standing took to the track with 20 minutes remaining.

After ten minutes of action, the majority of the field had turned five or six laps. The quickest of the group was Frost, with his teammates DeFrancesco and Megennis, also among the fastest drivers.

Megennis, on fresh Cooper Tire slicks, on his seventh lap of the session, went to the provisional pole with a lap of 75.7661 seconds. Kirkwood, who was on scuffed Coopers, was the third quickest driver, barely over a tenth-of-a-second behind his teammate.

With 14 minutes remaining, Kirkwood was the only driver on track, and with a lap at 75.6353 seconds, took over the provisional pole.

With all drivers on pit road for new sticker Cooper Tires, the running order on the timing screen was Kirkwood, Megennis, Frost, DeFrancesco, Lindh, Malukas, Lundqvist, Robb, Bogle, Sulaiman, and Pedersen.

The field got back on track with just under ten minutes remaining, giving them only five or six laps to improve their previous lap times.

Championship leader Malukas led the field onto the iconic road course, giving him clean air to improve his sixth-place standing.

As drivers were juggling for space, Lundqvist was the first driver to improve, grabbing the provisional pole with a lap of 75.5475 seconds.

With three minutes remaining, Frost, Malukas, and lastly, Kirkwood blitzes the field again, turning a lap at 74.8317 seconds, four-tenths of a second ahead of Malukas.

Kirkwood and Malukas went quicker on their last laps, with Malukas coming within 0.2504 seconds of Kirkwood.

Addendum:

Lindh and the SKF/PWR Racing/Husvarden sponsored No. 51 had his best lap time violated for violating rule 8.5.6, and will start the race from the ninth spot. That rule states:

8.5.6. Interference – If a Car has a problem, the Driver made a mistake, is on an out lap or for any other reason is not fully up to speed, Drivers must pay attention not to interfere with another Cars lap. Interference as determined by the Race Director may result in a penalty. If the situation warrants a penalty, the penalty will be loss of fastest lap of the session.

Indy Lights Grand Prix of Monterey Presented By Cooper Tires Qualifying #2 Results

RANK CAR NO. DRIVER TEAM FAST LAP DIFFERENCE
1 28 Kyle Kirkwood Andretti Autosport 1:14.6939 ——
2 79 David Malukas HMD Motorsports 1:14.9443 0.2504
3 26 Linus Lundqvist Global Racing Group w/HMD Motorsports 1:15.0414 0.3475
4 68 Danial Frost Andretti Autosport 1:15.2521 0.5582
5 24 Benjamin Pedersen Global Racing Group w/HMD Motorsports 1:15.3813 0.6874
6 27 Robert Megennis Andretti Autosport 1:15.5721 0.8782
7 2 Sting Ray Robb Juncos Hollinger Racing 1:15.5987 0.9048
8 51 Rasmus Lindh Juncos Hollinger Racing 1:15.6881 0.9942
9 17 Devlin DeFrancesco Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport 1:15.6895 0.9956
10 59 Manuel Sulaiman HMD Motorsports 1:15.8342 1.1403
11 7 Christian Bogle Carlin 1:16.4630 1.7691

Race #1 is scheduled for a 12:45 pm (PT) or 3:45 pm (ET) green flag on Saturday afternoon. Race #2 is set for 10:15 am (PT) or 1:15 pm (ET).

Kirkwood grabs fifth pole of the season, points Leader Malukas will start 3rd

Kyle Kirkwood celebrates his fifth pole of the 2021 Indy Lights season Photo credit: Patrick Stephan – TSO

By Steve Wittich

For the fifth time this season and the 16th time in his Road To Indy career, Andretti Autosport rookie Kyle Kirkwood will start a race from the pole.

Starting from the preferred spot on the grid isn’t the only benefit for the 22-year-old. Kirkwood left Portland with a five-point deficit to points leader David Malukas, but the pole win means that gap has decreased by 20% to four points.

“We had a test here (WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca) before the season, and we thought that everything was going to be great, and it translated,” said the Jupiter, Fla. native. “We got the set-up perfect. Our car is absolutely amazing in qualifying.”

“But we haven’t really done any long runs to know where our race car is, but we’re pretty confident with what we have. So it’s a good way to start the weekend.”

An Andretti Autosport driver will start on the pole for the 77th time since 2005, leaving the Michael Andretti-owned team only one behind Schmidt Peterson Motorsports on the all-time Indy Lights pole list.

Global Racing Group w/HMD rookie Linus Lundqvist, who is making his first visit to the California track, turned in the second quickest lap time, and for the sixth time this season, will start outside of the front row.

With two-tenths of a second of Lundqvist is his HMD Motorsports/Global Racing Group teammates David Malukas and Benjamin Pedersen, along with Andretti Autosport rookie Danial Frost.

Points leader Malukas will start somewhere other than the front row for only the fourth time in fifteen races this season.

Indy Lights qualifying got underway a little late after cleaning up an incident involving a pace car and a former Formula 1 driver. When the green flag came out at 1:34 pm, the sky was bright blue after the marine layer had burned off and the ambient temperature was 64F.

All 11 drivers quickly got on to the 2.238-mile, 11-turn road course with fresh Cooper Tire slicks.

After five minutes and all of the drivers had completed three laps, Kirkwood held the provisional pole, but lap times were getting quicker and were below the morning’s times on the used tires.

At 75.6009 seconds on his third lap, Kirkwood’s lap was a half-second quicker than Lundqvist, who set his quickest lap on his fifth lap of the qualifying session.

Most drivers remained on the track, completing an average of nine or ten laps before coming to pit road for adjustments and fresh Cooper Tire slicks. All 11 drivers turned their quickest lap on their third, fourth, or fifth lap after the start of the 30-minute session.

With two-thirds of the half-hour session complete, the drivers started to get up to speed for the final pole shootout.

It took the drivers at least three laps to get back up to speed, with Sulaiman and Robb the first drivers to go quicker.

On his 12th lap of the session, Malukas moved to with four-tenths of a second of Kirkwood, as the timing screens started to light up green as lap times improved.

Lundqvist knocked Kirkwood from the provisional pole for only a few seconds before Kirkwood improved the provisional pole to 75.3525 seconds, besting the Swede by just over a hundredth of a second.

Kirkwood wasn’t done, though, with the American going even quicker on his next two laps, with the two-time Road To Indy champion saying:

“I’m very comfortable. Our Andretti Autosport No. 28 car is absolutely on rails. It seems almost effortless. I was able to get another lap time, and another lap time, and then another one, and I knew exactly where the tires were at just after that. I knew that was all we had.”

The Road to Indy/Cooper Tires/Construction Contractors Club sponsored No. 28 of Kyle Kirkwood navigates “The Corkscrew” at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca Photo credit: Gavin Baker Photography/Road to Indy

Only Pederson could go quicker on his last lap, going a little quicker than Frost and moving up to fourth.

Indy Lights Grand Prix of Monterey Presented By Cooper Tires Qualifying #1 Results

RANK CAR NO. DRIVER TEAM FAST LAP DIFFERENCE
1 28 Kyle Kirkwood Andretti Autosport 1:15.0235 ——
2 26 Linus Lundqvist Global Racing Group w/HMD Motorsports 1:15.4015 0.3780
3 79 David Malukas HMD Motorsports 1:15.4821 0.4586
4 24 Benjamin Pedersen Global Racing Group w/HMD Motorsports 1:15.5815 0.5580
5 68 Danial Frost Andretti Autosport 1:15.5953 0.5718
6 51 Rasmus Lindh Juncos Hollinger Racing 1:15.9109 0.8874
7 17 Devlin DeFrancesco Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport 1:16.0095 0.9860
8 27 Robert Megennis Andretti Autosport 1:16.1641 1.1406
9 59 Manuel Sulaiman HMD Motorsports 1:16.6593 1.6358
10 2 Sting Ray Robb Juncos Hollinger Racing 1:16.7524 1.7289
11 7 Christian Bogle Carlin 1:17.0608 2.0373

The first of two Indy Lights Grand Prix of Monterey Presented By Cooper Tires races gets the green flag at 12:45 pm (PT) or 3:45 (ET) on Saturday. But, first, the top rung of the Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires is back on track for another qualifying session at 9:45 am (PT) or 12:45 pm (ET).

DeFrancesco leads practice at iconic Laguna Seca

Devlin DeFrancesco prepares to climb aboard his PowerTap sponsored Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport No. 17 Photo credit: Gavin Baker Photography/Road to Indy

By Steve Wittich

For the first time this season, the PowerTap sponsored No. 17 piloted by Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport rookie Devlin DeFrancesco ended a practice session at the top of the timing screens.

“I’m really looking forward to Laguna Seca,” explained the Canadian-born driver. “We had a great test out here early in the year, and the circuit was everything I expected and more. It includes the Corkscrew, which is obviously one of the most famous corners in the world. It’s actually not that difficult, but you do have to be careful you don’t arrive in there too hot.

“The secret to a lap here is linking the corners together. The run from the Andretti hairpin to the Corkscrew is where you make all your time. If you make a small mistake in Turns 3, 4, 5 or 6, it can really compromise your lap. This place has a great flow to it when you get it right, and it’s really rewarding. I’ve had a lot of laps in the Indy Lights car since that test, and I can’t wait to get back on track on Friday.”

Only nine-thousandths of a second shy of his teammate was championship contender Kyle Kirkwood, in a practice session that had the top seven times within DeFrancesco’s quickest lap.

Juncos Hollinger Racing rookie Rasmus Lindh was holding down the third spot. The Swede is making only his second race weekend appearance with the team but did have Indy Pro 2000 success at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, winning once, starting on pole once, and standing on two podiums in 2019.

Rounding out the top five in the long practice before qualifying was championship leader David Malukas (HMD Motorsports) and Linus Lundqvist (Global Racing Group w/HMD).

Qualifying up front certainly matters at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, with the pole-sitter winning 12 of the 22 races. However, if you extend that to the front frow, 17 of the 22 winners have a clear view downhill to the Andretti Hairpin.

Surprisingly, Andretti Autosport has not been a winner across the six Indy Lights races at the 2.238-mile, 11-turn road course since 2015. Instead, Juncos Hollinger Racing has won five of the half-dozen races, with Spencer Pigot (twice), Kyle Kaiser (once), and Rinus VeeKay (twice) winning for the Speedway, Ind. based team.

Eight of the drivers competing this weekend have raced at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. Malukas and Megennis have made Indy Lights starts, Kirkwood, Sting Ray Robb (Juncos Hollinger Racing), Rasmus Lindh (Juncos Hollinger Racing), and Danial Frost (Andretti Autosport) made Indy Pro 2000 starts, and Manuel Sulaiman (HMD Motorsports) and Christian Bogle (Carlin) made USF2000 starts. All of those starts came in 2019.

That leaves DeFrancesco, Pedersen, and Lundqvist as the only three newcomers to WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

Megennis finished third and fourth in 2019, while Malukas finished fifth and seventh.

Kirkwood and Lindh both have Indy Pro 2000 wins at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

The 45-minute practice session got underway at 10:10 am on the west coast, with the air temperature a chilly 59F.

In the early going, the Malukas and Kirkwood traded the top spot as the drivers got reacquainted with the iconic low grip circuit.

At the one-third point of the 45-minute practice session, Kirkwood’s lap of 76.3702 seconds top the timing screens, over three-tenths of a second ahead of Malukas.

In the first two-thirds of the session, teams utilized a carry-over set of tires from the Portland International Raceway.

At the two-thirds point of the practice session, one of the Laguna Seca newbies, DeFrancesco, held the top spot.

DeFrancesco’s lap time of 76.3604 seconds was within two-tenths of a second of Max Chilton’s race record of 76.1633.

Lap times were incredibly close to the last time that the Indy Lights series visited WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. Oliver Askew led the lone practice session in 2019 with a lap at 76.3497 seconds.

None of the drivers had bolted on their fresh sets of Cooper Tire slicks with ten minutes remaining, and none of the engineers opted to send their drivers out on new tires in practice.

That’s not shocking, considering drivers will have 30 minute instead of 20-minute qualifying sessions, allowing for the use of two sets of tires in each qualifying session.

Indy Lights Grand Prix of Monterey Presented By Cooper Tire practice results.

RANK CAR NO. DRIVER TEAM FAST LAP DIFFERENCE TOTAL LAPS
1 17 Devlin DeFrancesco Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport 1:16.3604 —— 19
2 28 Kyle Kirkwood Andretti Autosport 1:16.3702 0.0098 20
3 51 Rasmus Lindh Juncos Hollinger Racing 1:16.6349 0.2745 22
4 79 David Malukas HMD Motorsports 1:16.7028 0.3424 25
5 26 Linus Lundqvist Global Racing Group w/HMD Motorsports 1:16.7132 0.3528 24
6 68 Danial Frost Andretti Autosport 1:16.8254 0.4650 23
7 24 Benjamin Pedersen Global Racing Group w/HMD Motorsports 1:16.8755 0.5151 24
8 27 Robert Megennis Andretti Autosport 1:17.1289 0.7685 22
9 2 Sting Ray Robb Juncos Hollinger Racing 1:17.3315 0.9711 22
10 59 Manuel Sulaiman HMD Motorsports 1:17.5328 1.1724 25
11 7 Christian Bogle Carlin 1:18.4679 2.1075 27

The first of two qualifying sessions for the Indy Lights Grand Prix of Monterey Presented By Cooper Tires will get the green flag at 1:30 pm (PT) or 4:30 pm (ET).

Malukas grabs fifth pole – HMD Motorsports/Global Racing Group dominates qualifying

By Steve Wittich

For the fifth time in 2021, the HMD Trucking sponsored No. 79 of David Malukas will start an Indy Lights race from the pole. Photo credit: Gavin Baker Photography/Road to Indy

For the fifth time in 2021, David Malukas was the quickest driver during an Indy Lights qualifying session, breaking a tie for the most poles this season with title rival Kyle Kirkwood. It’s the eighth time in fifteen qualifying sessions that Malukas bested Kirkwood.

More importantly, Malukas stablemates Linus Lundqvist, Benjamin Pedersen, and newcomer Manuel Sulaiman also out-qualified Kirkwood, leading to an HMD Motorsports/Global Racing Group lockout of the front two rows.

The soon-to-be 20-year-old Malukas now has nine career Road To Indy poles.

The pole is the first at Portland International Raceway for HMD Motorsports and the Brownsburg, Ind. based teams eighth as a team on the top rung of the Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires.

Starting from the preferred spot isn’t the only benefit that the Chicagoan won for his lap timed at 63.7747 seconds. The bonus point increases Malukas gap to chaser Kirkwood to four points heading into Saturday’s action.

Like we mentioned in our preview, Malukas’ teammates can play a huge role in helping him secure a championship. It does not get more helpful than putting not one, not two, but three buffers between him and Kirkwood.

Malukas also credited having three teammates for helping them nail the optimal setup.

“This is a prime example of the benefit of having good teammates,” explained an ecstatic Malukas to TSO Ladder. “Throughout the tests and practice, we did completely different setups. We chose the best from everybody and put it all together on low fuel, and the times showed. One-two-three-four. Having the teammates is a big deal!”

Lundqvist will start on the front row for the seventh time in 2021, but it’s his first appearance in the top two spots since starting on the pole for Race #2 in Detroit.

Pedersen will start Race #1 of his home race weekend behind Malukas, the Pacific Northwest resident’s best road or street course start of his rookie season.

Newest stablemate Sulaiman was the only driver to go quickest on his final qualifying lap, going six-hundredths of a second faster than Kirkwood.

Kirkwood, in fifth, leads the Andretti Autosport/Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport quartet that was separated by just over three-tenths of a second.

“We just missed it a bit, “ said Kirkwood, a winner at Portland International Raceway in USF2000 and Indy Pro 2000. “We seemed to be quick in practice and the test sessions, but not really sure what happened to be honest. The track changed from the ARCA cars going out on track and we threw some changes at the car, but we think it went the opposite direction than we were expecting it to. We need to go back to our baseline and know that we have something that is pretty decent for the race. I think our race car is really good.”

When the first of two Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires qualifying sessions got underway, the skies were overcast, the ambient temperature was 69F, and the track temperature was 82F.

When the session began, the 1.964-mile, 12-Turn road course was relatively dirty after the second ARCA Menards Series West Practice session.

The HMD Motorsports/Global Racing Group stablemates of Lundqvist, Malukas, and Pedersen all held the provisional pole in the first ten minutes, but lap times, even though the drivers were on fresh Cooper Tire slicks, were almost a full second behind the earlier testing times.

At the halfway mark of the 25-minute session, the three championship contenders found themselves one-two-three on the timing screens, separated by a scant 0.1288 seconds. Also within two-tenths of a second was the third of the HMD Motorsports/Global Racing Group stablemates, Benjamin Pedersen.

With a dozen minutes remaining in the all-important session to set the grid for the first race of the weekend, the track was quiet as the crews made minor adjustments and mounted fresh Cooper Tire slicks.

The timing screen started to light up with green, signifying drivers going quicker with five minutes remaining. Pedersen was the first driver to supplant Malukas from the provisional pole and was the first driver below 64 seconds. Only 30 seconds later, his teammate Lundqvist went three-hundredths quicker to take over the provisional pole.

With just over two minutes remaining, Malukas joined the fun, moving to the provisional pole on his 16th lap of the session. He went quicker on his next lap to secure the all-important inside front row starting spot.

Indy Lights Grand Prix Of Portland Presented By Cooper Tires qualifying #1 results

RANK CAR NO. DRIVER TEAM FAST LAP DIFF.
1 79 David Malukas HMD Motorsports 1:03.7747 ——
2 26 Linus Lundqvist Global Racing Group w/HMD Motorsports 1:03.8622 0.0875
3 24 Benjamin Pedersen Global Racing Group w/HMD Motorsports 1:03.9223 0.1476
4 59 Manuel Sulaiman HMD Motorsports 1:03.9755 0.2008
5 28 Kyle Kirkwood Andretti Autosport 1:04.0377 0.2630
6 27 Robert Megennis Andretti Autosport 1:04.1861 0.4114
7 68 Danial Frost Andretti Autosport 1:04.3166 0.5419
8 17 Devlin DeFrancesco Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport 1:04.3942 0.6195
9 51 Rasmus Lindh Juncos Hollinger Racing 1:04.4564 0.6817
10 2 Sting Ray Robb Juncos Hollinger Racing 1:04.7164 0.9417
11 7 Christian Bogle Carlin 1:05.3820 1.6073

The teams and drivers are back on track at 11:25 am for another round of qualifying. Indy Lights Grand Prix Of Portland Presented By Cooper Tires Race #1 is set to get the green flag at 1:55 pm on Saturday. All times are Pacific.

Points leader Malukas sets pace in practice at Portland International Raceway

David Malukas is interviewed by Katie Kiel from NBC Sports after a win at World Wide Technology Raceway At Gateway Photo credit: Gavin Baker Photography/Road to Indy

By Steve Wittich

Indy Lights championship leader David Malukas began the Portland International Raceway event on top of the timing screens. The HMD Motorsports veteran turned a lap timed at 64.0267 seconds, almost two-tenths of a second quicker than his Global Racing Group w/HMD stablemate Linus Lundqvist.

Rounding out the top five in the lone official practice session preceding the Portland International Raceway twin-bill was Benjamin Pedersen (Global Racing Group w/HMD), the second championship contender Kyle Kirkwood (Andretti Autosport), and Danial Frost (Andretti Autosport).

The 11 drivers completed 218 laps, and the top ten were within eight-tenths of a second of Malukas.

The ambient temperature when the 30-minute session began was 68F, and the track temperature was 80F.

After 15 minutes of practice, the top two in the championship – Malukas and Kirkwood – held the top two spots on the timing screen.

Does ‘winning’ practice matter at Portland International Raceway?

As far as the pair of races go, the answer is, maybe?

In 2019, the last time the series visited the 1.964-mile, 12-Turn road course, Oliver Askew led the lone practice session. Unfortunately, the Andretti Autosport driver did not win either race but did finish on the podium both times.

In 2018, Pato O’Ward led the lone practice session and won both races in the season’s final event.

Of note, both drivers that led Portland International Raceway practice did win the Indy Lights championship and the scholarship that went with it.

The series completed a pair of test sessions earlier today totaling 215 minutes. Lundqvist led both of the test sessions. The Swede’s best lap time of 63.6072 seconds came in the second session.

Indy Lights Grand Prix Of Portland Presented By Cooper Tires practice results

RANK CAR NO. DRIVER TEAM FAST LAP DIFF. LAPS
1 79 David Malukas HMD Motorsports 1:04.0267 —— 21
2 26 Linus Lundqvist Global Racing Group w/HMD Motorsports 1:04.2103 0.1836 24
3 24 Benjamin Pedersen Global Racing Group w/HMD Motorsports 1:04.2555 0.2288 25
4 28 Kyle Kirkwood Andretti Autosport 1:04.3682 0.3415 20
5 68 Danial Frost Andretti Autosport 1:04.4201 0.3934 10
6 17 Devlin DeFrancesco Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport 1:04.4282 0.4015 19
7 27 Robert Megennis Andretti Autosport 1:04.5923 0.5656 19
8 59 Manuel Sulaiman HMD Motorsports 1:04.7754 0.7487 18
9 51 Rasmus Lindh Juncos Hollinger Racing 1:04.8679 0.8412 20
10 2 Sting Ray Robb Juncos Hollinger Racing 1:04.9221 0.8954 19
11 7 Christian Bogle Carlin 1:05.8250 1.7983 23

These drivers are back on track in one hour for their first qualifying session of the year.

Scene setting the Indy Lights title battle from the Pacific Northwest

The 2019 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires field streams towards Turn 1 at Portland International Raceway (Photo Courtesy Of Andersen Promotions)

By Steve Wittich

With a $1,289,425 scholarship on the line, the three points separating David Malukas and Kyle Kirkwood at the top of the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires point table are presently worth $429,809.33 apiece. No pressure, gentlemen.

What began with a melee in Turn 1, on Lap 1, in Race 1 of the 2021 season has turned into an annual must-watch Road To Indy production.

A pair of ‘scenes’ in the Pacific Northwest will serve as Act 8 of a season-long 10 Act production.

Veteran HMD Motorsports racer Malukas travels west with that slim three-point advantage after outdueling Andretti Autosport rookie Kirkwood at the lone oval event of the season.

David Malukas is interviewed by Katie Kiel from NBC Sports after a win at World Wide Technology Raceway At Gateway Photo credit: Gavin Baker Photography/Road to Indy

The pair of leads in this epic have each visited victory lane six times in 2021. Kirkwood, with five poles, leads Malukas, who has started from the inside of the front row four times. Moving to podiums finds the points leader holding an 11 to nine advantage, although each driver has a dozen top-five finishes. Yes, it’s that close!


Advantage Malukas?

With the final six races taking place on natural terrain road courses, this is an apt time to inspect which driver has been the best in the first eight races held on natural terrain road courses – two each at Barber Motorsports Park, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, Road America and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Malukas, with one win each at Barber Motorsports Park, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, and Road America, currently holds a 16-point lead over Kirkwood on the dedicated twisty circuits.

2021 Indy Lights natural terrain road course points scored

RANK DRIVER TEAM ROAD COURSE POINTS
1 David Malukas HMD Motorsports 186
2 Linus Lundqvist – r Global Racing Group w/HMD 180
3 Kyle Kirkwood – r Andretti Autosport 170
4 Toby Sowery Juncos Racing 140
5 Danial Frost – r Andretti Autosport 136
6 Devlin DeFrancesco – r Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport 133
7 Benjamin Pedersen – r Global Racing Group w/HMD 128
8 Robert Megennis Andretti Autosport 124
9 Alex Peroni – r Carlin 122
10 Sting Ray Robb – r Juncos Racing 95
11 Christian Bogle – r Carlin 84
12 Antonio Serravalle – r Pserra Racing 82
13 Nikita Lastochkin – r HMD Motorsports 76

Kirkwood has also stood on the top step of the podium on natural terrain road courses three times, including the last two contested at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.


Advantage Kirkwood?

Both leading men have had past success on the 1.964-mile, 12-Turn road course, but it’s Kirkwood that has been the most successful.

Kirkwood has been dominant in four trips to Portland International Raceway across the USF2000 and Indy Pro 2000 series, leading 103 of 110 possible laps and visiting victory lane in all four races.

Kyle Kirkwood on the way to a USF2000 win at Portland International Raceway (Photo Courtesy Of Andersen Promotions)

Malukas has made a pair of Indy Pro 2000, and Indy Lights starts at Portland International Raceway, winning once in the lower category in 2018.


Advantage no one?

Over the past six scenes as part of three acts, Malukas and Kirkwood have each accumulated 181 points.

2021 Indy Lights points scored over the last three events/six races

RANK DRIVER TEAM LAST 3 EVENTS
T1 David Malukas HMD Motorsports 181
T1 Kyle Kirkwood – r Andretti Autosport 181
3 Benjamin Pedersen – r Global Racing Group w/HMD 132
4 Danial Frost – r Andretti Autosport 125
5 Linus Lundqvist – r Global Racing Group w/HMD 121
6 Robert Megennis Andretti Autosport 116
7 Devlin DeFrancesco – r Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport 115
8 Alex Peroni – r Carlin 100
9 Toby Sowery Juncos Racing 90
10 Christian Bogle – r Carlin 82
11 Sting Ray Robb – r Juncos Racing 75
12 Antonio Serravalle – r Pserra Racing 74
13 Nikita Lastochkin – r HMD Motorsports 38

Also, Andretti Autosport and HMD Motorsports have each produced winners at Portland International Raceway, with Pato O’Ward winning twice for Andretti Autosport in 2018 and Toby Sowery winning once for HMD Motorsports in 2019.


Helping yourself

With only three points separating David Malukas and Kyle Kirkwood, don’t be surprised if bonus points come into play to help decide who ends up with the Indy Lights scholarship. Each race has a pair of bonus points up for offer, one for winning the pole and one for leading the most laps.

With six races remaining, Kirkwood has collected two more bonus points than his championship protagonist.

2021 Indy Lights Bonus Points Scored

RANK DRIVER BONUS POINTS
T1 Kyle Kirkwood 11
T1 David Malukas 9
3 Linus Lundqvist 5
4 Danial Frost 3

A little help, please

Malukas and Kirkwood can only control their results against their rival, but that doesn’t mean their teammates can’t play a huge role in aiding their championship quest by stealing points from rival drivers.

For Malukas, Linus Lundqvist, Benjamin Pedersen, and Manuel Sulaiman can finish between the veteran pilot of the HMD Trucking sponsored No. 79 and Kirkwood.

Danial Frost, Robert Megennis, and Devlin DeFrancesco can do the same – insert themselves between the duo – for the pilot of the Road to Indy/Cooper Tires/Construction Contractors Club sponsored No. 28.

So far, during the 2021 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires season, Lundqvist has finished between Malukas and Kirkwood one time.

The Andretti Autosport rookie has a little more help, with Frost – on three occasions – and Megennis – once – finishing between the title contenders.


Avoid the early mess

An example of Lap 1, Turn 1 trouble at Portland International Raceway (Photo Courtesy Of Andersen Promotions)

Eleven of the 18 (61%) of the Indy Lights races held at Portland International Raceway have started with a first lap caution, making completing the first of the 30 or 35 laps the most challenging task of the race.

One way to avoid that early trouble is to qualify at the pointy end of the grid. Only once – Ryan Norman in 2018 – has an Indy Lights pole-sitter been knocked out on the first lap of a race.

Only twice – Norman and Townsend Bell in 2001 – has the pole-sitter failed to finish in the top five. The average finishing position of the driver that starts on the inside of the front row is in Indy Lights action at Portland International Raceway is 2.5. Ten of the 18 winners have started from the pole, and the average starting spot of the Portland International Raceway winner is 2.1.


Other things in play

Linus Lundqvist, at 59 points out of the championship lead, certainly isn’t out of the title fight, but the Swedish driver is going to have to start adding wins to his rookie season total of two.

After making significant contact with the SAFER Barrier after an equipment failure not of his making at World Wide Technology Raceway At Gateway, the Global Racing Group w/HMD rookie rebounded with a gutsy fourth-place finish in Sunday’s second oval race, keeping him on the outskirts of the title fight.

The 22-year-old won on natural terrain road courses at Barber Motorsports Park, and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and trails only championship leader Malukas in points scored on the traditional race circuits.

“I want to get back to victory lane,” Lundqvist assures. “That’s what drives me. We’re third in the points at the moment, which is good, but I’m not really thinking along those lines. I’ll get out there in Portland and push on. If the opportunity to win presents itself, I will not hesitate. Let’s go racing!”

An entertaining tussle for fourth, fifth, and sixth has developed between a trio of rookies – Devlin DeFrancesco (Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport), Benjamin Pedersen (Global Racing Group w/HMD), and Danial Frost (Andretti Autosport) – separated by a lone point.

Portland International Raceway will be an all-new circuit for the Toronto, Ontario-born DeFrancesco, who, with an average finishing position of 5.9, has been the most consistent of the trio.

Pedersen, a denizen of the Pacific Northwest, welcomes the Seatle, Washington-based Oberto Snacks on board as a sponsor for his ‘home’ race.

Coming off a pair of podiums, Pedersen has scored the third-most points over the last three Indy Lights events and would love to win for his new sponsor.

“I would like nothing more than to get my first Indy Lights race win with Oberto on the car at the event that is closest to their headquarters, and we will push hard to try and make that happen,” said the 22-year-old. “I have a great team behind m,e, very solid teammates, and another great partner in my wheelhouse.”

Danial Frost, who has three natural terrain poles this season, is the only one of the three drivers fighting for fourth place to make a Road To Indy start at Portland International Raceway. The Singaporean driver made a pair of Indy Pro 2000 starts in 2019, including one podium finish.

Another Andretti Autosport driver, Robert Megennis, is only 20 points out of the fight for fourth in the championship and, along with Malukas, is the only other driver to have Indy Lights experience at Portland International Raceway. The New Yorker finished third and fifth in a 2019 visit to Portland, Oregon, beginning a strong finish to his rookie Indy Lights campaign.

Pedersen isn’t the only driver that considers Portland International Raceway his ‘home’ track. Sting Ray Robb, his family, friends, and supporters look forward to making the short(ish) trip from his Payette, Idaho/Ontario, Oregon, to see their driver.

Sting Ray Robb’s family, friends and supporters at Portland International Raceway in 2019 (Photo Courtesy Of Andersen Promotions)

Robb has had past Road To Indy success on the 1.964-mile, 12-Turn road course, grabbing his first Road To Indy pole in 2019 as well as finishing on the podium.

His teammate’s departure (see below) leaves Christian Bogle as the lone Carlin entry this weekend. The driver from Louisiana has consistently got quicker throughout race weekends as he learns the high horsepower and downforce IL-15.

2021 Indy Lights points standings after 14 of 20 rounds

RANK DRIVER TEAM TOTAL BACK
1 David Malukas HMD Motorsports 371
2 Kyle Kirkwood – r Andretti Autosport 368 -3
3 Linus Lundqvist – r Global Racing Group w/HMD 312 -59
T4 Devlin DeFrancesco – r Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport 245 -126
T4 Benjamin Pedersen – r Global Racing Group w/HMD 245 -126
6 Danial Frost – r Andretti Autosport 244 -127
7 Toby Sowery Juncos Racing 236 -135
8 Alex Peroni – r Carlin 228 -143
9 Robert Megennis Andretti Autosport 225 -146
10 Sting Ray Robb – r Juncos Racing 169 -202
11 Christian Bogle – r Carlin 163 -208
12 Antonio Serravalle – r Pserra Racing 157 -214
13 Nikita Lastochkin – r HMD Motorsports 123 -248

Welcome Back

Rasmus Lindh, who has finished in second place in both seasons of Road To Indy action, will be making his Indy Lights debut at Portland International Raceway with Juncos Hollinger Racing.

The Swedish driver based in Florida has made 32 starts across USF2000 and Indy Pro 200 and has three wins, eight poles, 18 podiums, 26 top-five finishes, and has had the quickest lap of the race on six occasions.

“I’m looking forward to driving the Indy Lights car again,” said Lindh. “I have not been in the car since we went out for practice in St. Pete back in March 2020. When Ricardo Juncos called me and told me he had a seat available for the remaining races, it was an easy yes for me! I was thrilled to add this to my schedule and that these final events had no conflict with my current IMSA program. I want to thank everyone who helped make this possible, including Andersen Promotions, my sponsors, and my team Juncos Hollinger Racing.”

Rasmus Lindh during Indy Lights spring training at Homestead-Miami Speedway in March 2020 (Photo Courtesy Of Andersen Promotions)

The 20-year-old was set to contest the 2020 Indy Lights season with Belardi Auto Racing before the global pandemic ended the season after a single practice session. During that lone practice, Lindh was the third quickest driver and at spring training on the Homestead-Miami Speedway road course.

Lindh is no stranger to the 1.964-mile, 12-Turn road course, collecting two podiums, four top fives, and one pole in four starts across the bottom two rungs of the Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires ladder.

In 2021, Lindh is contesting the LMP3 portion of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and the IMSA Prototype Challenge Championship. In the former, he has stood on the podium twice and is currently fourth in points. In the latter, he has also stood on the podium and is fifth in points.

Lindh has been confirmed for the season’s final three Indy Lights events, rejoining with his team (Juncos Hollinger Racing) and teammate (Sting Ray Robb) from his successful 2019 Indy Pro 2000 season.

“We are excited to have Rasmus back on board with our team as we go to finish out the Indy Lights season,” said team owner Ricardo Juncos. “Rasmus performed great for us back in 2019, and I am confident he will have no problem transitioning back into the Indy Lights car come this weekend at Portland. Thank you to Andersen Promotions for their support in getting Rasmus back in the series and to all of Rasmus’s supporters for this opportunity.”

TSO Ladder Note: We (Steve) caught up with Rasmus and his dad Mathias while producing an episode of the NBC show Off-Track at the IMSA race at Watkins Glen. He told us that he is enjoying his time in sports cars but was working hard to get back into open-wheel racing. It’s been clear that his heart was in Indy Lights, and it’s great to see that goal has come to fruition.


Moving up

After 45 races across USF2000 and Indy Pro 2000, Manuel Sulaiman will be joining the HMD Motorsports Indy Lights program for the final three events of the 2021 season.

The Mexican driver spent his first two years in cars contesting the F4 British Championship before moving back to North America for the next three seasons.

Sulaiman has 13 wins, 13 poles, and 27 podiums across the FIA Formula 4 NACAM, USF2000, and Indy Pro 2000 championships, including a trio of wins on the middle rung of the Road To Indy.

“I am very happy with this announcement, and for me, this is a very important step in my life as a professional driver,” explained Sulaiman, who joins an HMD Motorsports that has won eight races this season. “Road to Indy and the NTT INDYCAR SERIES is my passion and my dream. I am very grateful for what I have achieved up to now and look forward to more success. The atmosphere and welcoming that HMD has given me in this important upward step I am taking has been exceptionally good, and I am very grateful for the opportunity. I, as a driver, will give everything I have, and it is an honor to belong to HMD, a team with an impressive win record In Indy Lights, and my respects to them for their success. Nothing else to say, but I am excited to go racing!”

Manuel Sulaiman during Indy Lights testing with HMD Motorsports (Photo Courtesy of HMD Motorsports)


Saying goodbye

Unfortunately, it’s that point of the season when the junior formula series start to shed drivers that are not in championship contention or that have run out of budget. Unfortunately, the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires series is not immune to that in 2021.

Toby Sowery (Juncos Hollinger Racing) and Alex Peroni (Carlin) announced their departure via social media.

Toby Sowery

 

Alex Peroni

 

 

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