Archives for 2021 Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires Coverage

Our USF2000 preview for the IMS road course – five stories and things to watch for

The 2020 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship field streams down the front stretch at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Photo Courtesy Of Andersen Promotions)

The Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship heads to the iconic Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) for a trio of races on the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course. The 16th, 17th, and 18th time that the series will compete on the IMS circuit.

Cape Motorsports, who are still looking for their first win of the 2021 USF2000 season, are the most successful team over the event’s history.

The Brownsburg, Ind.-based squad has won ten of the 15 previous races held on the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course. The team also leads all teams on the IMS road course with 11 poles, 19 podiums, and 166 laps led.

Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship winners on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course

YEAR DRIVER TEAM
2020 Race #3 Reece Gold Cape Motorsports
2020 Race #2 Eduardo Barrichello Pabst Racing
2020 Race #1 Eduardo Barrichello Pabst Racing
2019 Race #2 Braden Eves Cape Motorsports
2019 Race #1 Braden Eves Cape Motorsports
2018 Race #2 Alex Baron Swan-RJB Motorsports
2018 Race #1 Kyle Kirkwood Cape Motorsports
2017 Race #2 Oliver Askew Cape Motorsports
2017 Race #1 Oliver Askew Cape Motorsports
2016 Race #2 Parker Thompson Cape Motorsports with /WTR
2016 Race #1 Anthony Martin Cape Motorsports with /WTR
2015 Race #2 Nico Jamin Cape Motorsports with /WTR
2015 Race #1 Nico Jamin Cape Motorsports with /WTR
2014 – Race #2 Adrian Starrantino JAY Motorsports
2014 – Race #1 Will Owen Pabst Racing

 

Pabst Racing’s Will Owen is interviewed after winning the first ever USF2000 race held on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in 2014 (Photo Courtesy Of Andersen Promotions)

It’s probably early to pay too much heed to the championship standings, but that’s not going to stop us from mentioning them.

Exclusive Autosport sophomore Christian Brooks won both races on the Streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., giving the Californian five career North American Junior Open Wheel race wins and a 23 point lead over Kiko Porto.

Christian Brooks (Exclusive Autosport) has won the last two USF2000 races to take the points lead in the chase for the 2021 USF2000 championship Photo credit: Gavin Baker Photography/Road to Indy

The points table is veteran heavy, with the top five and eight of the top ten spots being held down by series returnees.

2021 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship points after four races

RANK DRIVER TEAM TOTAL BACK
1 Christian Brooks Exclusive Autosport 97
2 Kiko Porto DEForce Racing 74 -23
3 Prescott Campbell DEForce Racing 73 -24
4 Josh Pierson Pabst Racing 69 -28
5 Yuven Sundaramoorthy Pabst Racing 67 -30
6T Spike Kohlbecker – r Ignite Autosport w/Cape Motorsports 54 -43
6T Michael d’Orlando Cape Motorsports 54 -43
8 Billy Frazer – r Exclusive Autosport 51 -46
9T Josh Green Turn 3 Motorsport 46 -51
9T Matthew Round-Garrido Exclusive Autosport 46 -51
11 Thomas Nepveu – r Cape Motorsports 45 -52
12 Nolan Siegel DEForce Racing 39 -58
13 Jace Denmark – r Pabst Racing 38 -59
14 Myles Rowe – r Force Indy 30 -67
15 Andre Castro – r Legacy Autosport 27 -70
16T Jackson Lee – r Jay Howard Driver Development 26 -71
16T Grant Palmer – r Exclusive Autosport 26 -71
18 Dylan Christie – r Turn 3 Motorsport 22 -75
19T Ely Navarro – r DEForce Racing 19 -78
19T Erik Evans – r Velocity Racing Development 19 -78
21 Peter Vodanovich – r Jay Howard Driver Development 10 -87
22 Simon Sikes Legacy Autosport 9 -88
23 Kent Vaccaro – r Miller Vinatieri Motorsports 6 -91
24T Evan Stamer – r Ignite Autosport w/Cape Motorsports 5 -92
24T Michael Myers Michael Myers Racing 5 -92
24T Trey Burke – r Joe Dooling Autosports 5 -92
27 Bijoy Garg Jay Howard Driver Development 3 -94

TSO Ladder’s quintet of stories/things to watch for this weekend

1) Four-hundred

Saturday’s third USF2000 race will be the 400th since the series made its debut in 1990. Vince Puleo won a 22 lap race at Willow Springs International Raceway on April 22, 1990. One of four wins the Californian scored on the way to the 1990 championship.

https://twitter.com/RobHowden/status/1392171640386056198

The Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course has played host to an incredible 60 USF2000 races over 22 seasons; the only years that the 2.258-Mile, 13-Turn Mid-Ohio Road Course has not hosted the lowest Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires rung was in 1990, 1991, 1992, 1994, 2000 and 2010.

The breakdown by circuit type is:

  • Road Course —> 283
  • Street Circuit —> 59
  • Oval —> 58

The breakdown by country is:

  • USA —> 384
  • Canada —> 16

Race #100 was won by Bruno Bianchi at the 1-mile New Hampshire International Speedway oval in 1996.

Race #200 was won by Andrew Prenderville at Mosport Park in 2004.

Race #300 was won by RC Enerson at Sonoma Raceway in 2014.

RC Enerson behind the wheel of the No. 7 Team E machine on the way to winning the 300th USF2000 race. (Photo Courtesy Of Andersen Promotions)

Who will win race #400?

USF2000 race locations sorted by who has hosted the most races

TRACK RACES HOSTED
Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (RC) 60
Road America (RC) 29
St. Petersburg Street Circuit (SC) 24
Road Atlanta (RC) 23
Lucas Oil Raceway Park (Oval) 19
Indianapolis Motor Speedway (RC) 18
Watkins Glen International (RC) 18
Sebring International Raceway (RC) 17
WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca (RC) 17
Exhibition Place Street Circuit (SC) 16
Mosport Park (RC) 14
Barber Motorsports Park (RC) 10
Sonoma Raceway (RC) 9
Willow Springs International Raceway (RC) 8
Phoenix International Raceway (Oval) 7
Charlote Motor Speedway (Oval) 6
Portland International Raceway (RC) 6
Virginia International Raceway (RC) 6
Heartland Park (RC) 5
Lime Rock Park (RC) 5
New Jersey Motorsports Park (RC) 5
Phoenix International Raceway (RC) 5
Shannonville Motorsports Park (RC) 5
Trois-Rivieres Street Circuit (SC) 5
Baltimore Street Circuit (SC) 4
Cleveland – Burke Lakefront Airport (RC) 4
Mesa Marine Speedway (Oval) 4
New Hampshire International Speedway (Oval) 4
Des Moines Street Circuit (SC) 3
Homestead-Miami Speedway (RC) 3
Milwaukee Mile (Oval) 3
Walt Disney World Speedway (Oval) 3
Atlanta Motor Speedway (Oval) 2
Autobahn Country Club (RC) 2
Dallas – Reunion Arena Street Circuit (SC) 2
Firebird International Raceway (RC) 2
Homestead-Miami Speedway (Oval) 2
Houston – Reliant Park Street Circuit (SC) 2
Iowa Speedway (RC) 2
Lucas Oil Raceway Park (RC) 2
NOLA Motorsports Park (RC) 2
Pikes Peak International Raceway (Oval) 2
Pikes Peak International Raceway (RC) 2
Richmond International Raceway (Oval) 2
St. Petersburg – Tropicana Field Street Circuit (SC) 2
Atlanta Motor Speedway (RC) 1
Blackhawk Farms Raceway (RC) 1
Cajon Speedway (Oval) 1
Hutchison Island Road Course (RC) 1
Las Vegas International Speedway (Oval) 1
Las Vegas Motor Speedway (Oval) 1
Minneapolis Street Circuit (SC) 1
Mountain View Motorsports Park (RC) 1
Nazareth Speedway (Oval) 1

2) Qualifying is key

“To finish first, you must first finish” is a famous racing adage most often attributed to five-time world champion racer Juan Manuel Fangio. It doesn’t matter who first said it. It holds true to this day.

For the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship series, TSO Ladder would like to throw one more piece of advice into the mix; “to finish first, you must start on the first row.” It’s not quite the absolute that Fangio shared 70+ years ago, but in the 162 USF2000 races since 2010, it’s 82.1% on the mark.

Since 2010, the pole-sitter has won 95 races, while the outside front row starter has won 38 races. Delving further into the numbers, the driver that starts on the inside of the front row has won the race 28 more times than the drivers starting in any other position, a winning percentage of 58.6% for the driver who starts from the pole.

All four USF2000 races to start the 2021 season have been won from the front row. The pole-sitter has won twice, and the outside front row starter has also visited victory lane twice.

Of note, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has given us the lone USF2000 winner since 2010 to start outside the first three rows. The first-ever USF2000 race held on the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course was won from 13th place by Pabst Racing’s Will Owen. The race started under wet conditions, with all drivers starting on wet weather Cooper Tires. Pabst Racing realized how quickly the track was drying and was the first to call Owen in for slick tires.

The starting position of USF2000 race winners since 2010

STARTING SPOT WINS
1 95
2 38
3 18
4 5
5 3
6 2
7 0
8 0
9 0
10 0
11 0
12 0
13 1

3) Three

The trio of USF2000 Grand Prix Of Indianapolis Presented By Cooper Tire races is the first of three scheduled triple headers during the 2021 USF2000 season. It’s the second straight year that ‘The Brickyard’ will host three USF2000 races during the same event.

Since 2010, the bottom rung of the Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires has held ten triple-header events. Four in 2020 and one each in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2018. Mid-Ohio has played host to seven, while Indianapolis Motor Speedway, New Jersey Motorsports Park, and Road America have hosted one each.

A single driver has won all three races of a USF2000 triple-header on four occasions. Nico Jamin (2015), Anthony Martin (2016), Kyle Kirkwood (2018) and Christian Rasmussen (2020) all brought out the brooms at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Nico Jamin and Cape Motorsports celebrate winning their third race of a 2015 USF2000 event at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (Photo Courtesy Of Andersen Promotions)

There is an excellent chance that the 2021 Cooper Tires USF2000 Champion will visit the victory lane at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this weekend. Only twice, once in 2020 and in 2013, did the eventual champion fail to win at least one of the races during a triple-header weekend. The eventual USF2000 champion has won 18 of the 30 past triple header races.


4) Consistency and staying out of trouble

Winning races, leading leaps, and finishing on the podium will always form the roof and walls of your championship season, but like any building, it’s the parts you can’t always see that hold the building up.

In racing, consistently finishing in the top ten while limiting poor results is the structural foundation of a championship season.

After the first four races of the 2021 season, only a trio of drivers has laid the four corners of their championship foundation.

As the only driver to start the season with top-five finishes in every race, current championship leader and Exclusive Autosport sophomore Christian Brooks has the best foundation for building a scholarship-winning season.

Fellow sophomores Josh Pierson (Pabst Racing) and Kiko Porto (DEForce Racing) are the other two drivers that have finished in the top ten in every race so far, giving them a solid base for the remainder of the season.

It should come as no surprise that those drivers make up three of the top four spots in the championship.

A quartet of more sophomores – Prescott Campbell (DEForce Racing), Michael d’Orlando (Cape Motorsports), Josh Green (Turn 3 Motorsport), and Yuven Sundaramoorthy (Pabst Racing) – are all in the top ten on the championship table, but with 16th, 20th, 18th, and 24th place finishes, respectively, are missing one of the corners of their foundation.

Ignite Autosport w/Cape Motorsports freshman Spike Kohlbecker has been the most consistent rookie driver across the season’s first two events. A native of St. Louis, Mo., the 18-year-old has one 11th place finish to go along with a seventh and two sixth-place finishes.


5) Pace does not always equate to results.

The fastest lap of the race is an oft-derided statistic because it doesn’t necessarily translate directly to on-track results. At the INDYCAR, and maybe even Indy Lights level, we agree with that argument.

However, on the lower two rungs of the Road To Indy, we think it can be a valuable indicator of potential. The USF2000 and Indy Pro 2000 competitors don’t have a push-to-pass option, making the quickest lap of the race a fair indicator of a driver’s pace.

If you compare the average finish of a driver with the average of their fastest race lap, you can quickly deduce whose results don’t match their pace.

Nine drivers across the first four races of the 2021 USF2000 season have results that do not match their pace.

Those drivers whose average finish is at least one below the average of their quickest race laps are:

  • Myles Rowe (Force Indy) – his average finishing position is 6.5 spots behind the average of his fastest race lap.
  • Peter Vodanovich (Jay Howard Driver Development) – his average finishing position is 4.3 spots behind the average of his fastest race lap.
  • Yuven Sundaramoorthy (Pabst Racing) – his average finishing position is 4.0 spots behind the average of his fastest race lap.
  • Bijoy Garg (Jay Howard Driver Development) – his average finishing position is 3.5 spots behind the average of his fastest race lap.
  • Dylan Christie (Turn 3 Motorsport) – his average finishing position is 3.0 spots behind the average of his fastest race lap.
  • Billy Frazer (Exclusive Autosport) – his average finishing position is 2.8 spots behind the average of his fastest race lap.
  • Jackson Lee (Jay Howard Driver Development) – his average finishing position is 2.0 spots behind the average of his fastest race lap.
  • Ely Navarro (DEForce Racing) – his average finishing position is 1.5 spots behind the average of his fastest race lap.
  • Nolan Siegel (DEForce Racing) – his average finishing position is 1.3 spots behind the average of his fastest race lap.

Their own unforced error, another driver’s error, disappointing qualifying, or unfortunate mechanical issues can cause less than optimal results. But, if you are looking for a driver to have a breakout weekend, the above nine drivers could be a good choice.


Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship spotter guide

 


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


A note about our presenting sponsor. 

Once again, a huge thank you to Cooper Tires for coming back to be the presenting sponsor of TSO Ladder for the fourth season. Without them, we would not be able to bring you our extensive Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires coverage. If you require tires, I highly recommend them. Our family has the Discover ® AT3 4S  on our SUV and CS5 Grand Touring on our car.

David Malukas wins second Indy Lights race of the year; grabs points lead

David Malukas (HMD Motorsports) lead Kyle Kirkwood (Andretti Autosport) through Tires Plus Turn 6 during Sunday’s Indy Lights Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Presented by Foundation Building Materials Photo credit: Gavin Baker Photography/Road to Indy

David Malukas, with a green-to-checkered flag victory in the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by Andersen Interior Contracting, becomes the first Indy Lights driver in 2021 to win a second race. It also means the 19-year-old spends at least the next three weeks as the championship leader.

The Chicago, Ill. driver held off a late-race charge from Saturday’s winner Kyle Kirkwood.

“Those last laps were so intense, but that’s what makes good races. I could see Kirkwood behind me and early on, it was a three-second gap so I could cruise a bit. Suddenly, he was within push-to-pass range and all I could see was the Andretti logo again, so I gassed it the best I could. I was everywhere: scraping walls left and right, adjusting the brake bias to the rear. At one point, I was switching the bias under braking because I was locking up the fronts so bad. I was using everything I could, it was so intense. You don’t feel anything while you’re in the thick of it but as soon as I saw the checkers, there was so much relief. We worked so hard and to get the win felt so good. We’re leading the championship but it’s so close and it’s going to be that way all season, the drivers this season are just insane.”

Malukas is now two for four in the Indy Lights win column and is batting 1000 on Sundays.

With Malukas win from the pole, the percentage of Indy Lights winners on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn street circuit is now 50% (13 of 26).

The win is the first for the Brownsburg, Ind. based HMD Motorsports in St. Petersburg, Fla., and is the team’s third win in the first four races of the 2021 season and fourth liftime Indy Lights victory.

Kirkwood’s comeback home state weekend included one win, one pole, two podiums, two quickest laps of the race, including a race track record lap of 64.9562 seconds on his 35th of 40 laps Sunday. The 22-year-old has been the quickest driver in 13 Road To Indy races.

The podiums by Kyle Kirkwood (2) and Danial Frost (1) on Saturday and Sunday are the 14th, 15th and 16th for Andretti Autosport at St. Pete.

After a forgettable North American street circuit debut on Saturday, Barber Motorsports Park race #1 winner Linus Lundqvist (Global Racing Group w/HMD) recovered on Sunday, gaining four spots and finishing on the podium.

“Everything was done on the start and on the restart, balancing between aggression and caution, because you don’t know what’s going to happen on a street circuit,” said the Swede. “So many of the guys in this series have experience here on the Road to Indy and even Indy Lights so I knew it would be a struggle with just one practice session, but we’re happy with the development. The championship is tight so it will be key to minimize mistakes and keep it on track. For me as a driver, and as a team, we know the speed is there. Honestly, this feels like a win for us. We had a tough Friday and Saturday so to bring this one home to the team feels awesome. Big thank you to them and to Honda and HPD for supporting me, for making it possible for me to stand on this podium today.

The pair of podiums by David Malukas and Linus Lundqvist was HMD Motorsports / Global Racing Group’s fourth and fifth at this track, tying them with Juncos Racing for second among active Indy Lights teams. Malukas and Lundqvist’s podiums are the team’s 15th and 16th career Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires podiums and fifth and sixth on a street circuit.

The top five in championship points after four of 20 races are:
1 – David Malukas (HMD Motorsports) – 94 points
2 – Linus Lundqvist (Global Racing Group w/ HMD) – 91 points
3 – Kyle Kirkwood (Andretti Autosport) – 86 points
4 – Devlin DeFrancesco (Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport) – 70 points
5 – Danial Frost (Andretti Autosport) – 67 points

The second Indy Lights race of the St. Petersburg Grand Prix weekend got started after a pair of pace laps immediately following the NTT INDYCAR SERIES warm-up, meaning the track was fully rubbered in with a very different compound from the Cooper Tires.

The winners of the past two Indy Lights races, Malukas and Kirkwood, led the field to the green flag.

The Indy Lights field streams into Turn 1 during the Indy Lights Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Presented by Foundation Building Materials Photo credit: Gavin Baker Photography/Road to Indy

Malukas got a slight jump Kirkwood, but by the time the two drivers got to the braking zone, they were side-by-side. They made contact as they exited the corner with the Kirkwood’s car catching a little air as it was jostled to the outside of the turn, allowing the No. 79 HMD Motorsports machine to get to Turn 3 first.

“David and I hit pretty hard on that first lap,” explained the Andretti Autosport rookie Kirkwood. “I thought we would have more damage than we did. As it was, my front toe was completely out for the first 10 laps but I still had to push as hard as I could. With about 13 laps to go, I was on the limits. I lost time on the restart because we had some issues but I got into a groove and we were fast. My tires fell off a bit toward the end but anytime you push a tire that hard, it will fall off. I was smart with the push-to-pass, but we still couldn’t catch him. But we got the most points of any driver this weekend and that’s exactly what we need to do. Every driver who started up front finished up front so it shows how competitive it is and how important qualifying is – and that only gets harder when you go to INDYCAR.”

Later in the lap, and further back in the field, Lundqvist, who got a great start, went to the outside of Frost in Turn 4, moving up to the fourth spot from his seventh-place starting spot.

As the field got to the tight Turn 5 through Turn 9 portion of the track, Robert Megennis (Andretti Autosport), Frost and Toby Sowery (Juncos Racing) were battling. Somewhere during that tussle,  Sowery’s the left end plate on the veterans No. 51 was damaged.

After the race, Sowery said, “Race 2 was ruined for me early by the same poor driving standards of a certain driver. It was unfortunate, but this happens in racing.”

The m-start/Kumpf sponsored No. 51 of Toby Sowery tries to hold of Benjamin Pedersen with a damaged wing during a 2021 Indy Lights race in St. Petersburg, Fla. Photo credit: Gavin Baker Photography/Road to Indy

As the field got to Turn 10, reigning Indy Pro 2000 champion Robb, who had suffered a puncture after contact from a competitor,  ran long into the run-off area. The Idahoan was unable to continue and the AMR INDYCAR Safety Team pulled him behind the barriers of the 90-degree left-hander with a view of the marina on Tampa Bay. It’s only the 19-year-olds fourth DNF in 64 Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires starts.

The running order after the first lap was Malukas, Kirkwood, Devlin DeFrancesco (Andretti Autosport), Lundqvist, Frost, Megennis, Sowery, Benjamin Pedersen (Global Racing Group w/HMD), Antonio Serravalle (Pserra Racing), Nikita Lastochkin (HMD Motorsports), Christian Bogle (Carlin) and Robb.

On Lap 3, Sowery was shown the black flag for the dangling front wing that was damaged on Lap 1. The Juncos Racing veteran was forced to pit road and the Juncos Racing crew quickly affixed a front wing.

By Lap 4, Malukas was already out of push-to-pass range, gaining a gap of 1.9 seconds. That was about to change.

On Lap 5, the yellow flag came out after the No. 7 Carlin IL-15 of Bogle, locked up his brakes in Turn 13, going through the grass and hitting the concrete wall with the left front of his car.

The running order under yellow was Malukas, Kirkwood, DeFrancesco, Lundqvist, Frost, Megennis, Pedersen, Peroni, Serravalle, Lastochkin, and Sowery who was able to remain on the lead lap.

The green flag came back out to start Lap 8. Malukas and Kirkwood went through the corner nose-to-tail but behind them, Lundqvist

DeFrancesco, who was suddenly fighting to hold Frost, was warned by race control for blocking.

Just before the halfway point of the 40-lap race, Malukas was able to move just outside of the 1.5-second gap needed to keep Kirkwood from using the push-to-pass.

Malukas gap when the field got the cross-flags to signify the halfway point of the 40-lap race was almost three seconds over Kirkwood. The rest of the top ten was Lundqvist, Frost, DeFrancesco, Megennis, Pedersen, Peroni, Serrevalle, Sowery, Lastochkin and Bogle.

On Lap 22, Lastochkin in the No. 59 HMD Motorsports machine spun in Turn 13. The Russian didn’t hit anything, and he was able to get his turbo-charged AER 2.0L re-fired and continued.

Kirkwood had narrowed the gap from Malukas to 2.1 seconds with ten minutes remaining. Lundqvist was in the final podium position but was over eight seconds behind the front two.

The best battle on the track was between DeFrancesco, Megennis, and Pedersen for fifth, sixth, and seventh, with a slim 1.2 seconds separating them.

At the front of the field, Malukas and Kirkwood were trading the quickest lap and lowering the track record, but Kirkwood was consistently faster.

With six laps remaining, Kirkwood moved into the push-to-pass range of the leader.

With five laps to go, the lead was under one second. Further back, Pedersen went around the outside of Megennis for the sixth spot.

The lead with three laps remaining was down to just over a half-second. Kirkwood was only 0.3 seconds behind Malukas as they crossed the line to start lap 39.

Kirkwood jinked to the inside in the braking zone but jumped back into line. The gap was the same when they got the white flag, but again, Malukas held off Kirkwood. That was enough for Malukas to keep the lead and win his second Indy Lights race of the season.

Malukas crossed the line 0.6829 seconds ahead of Kirkwood, the closest Indy Lights race finish in St. Pete since 2009.

Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by Andersen Interior Contracting results

RANK CAR NO. DRIVER TEAM DIFFERENCE
1 79 David Malukas HMD Motorsports 40 LAPS
2 28 Kyle Kirkwood Andretti Autosport -0.6829
3 26 Linus Lundqvist Global Racing Group w/HMD Motorsports -13.0539
4 68 Danial Frost Andretti Autosport -14.9201
5 17 Devlin DeFrancesco Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport -25.9482
6 24 Benjamin Pedersen Global Racing Group wHMD Motorsports -28.852
7 27 Robert Megennis Andretti Autosport -31.0294
8 5 Alex Peroni Carlin -31.7152
9 51 Toby Sowery Juncos Racing -32.0033
10 11 Antonio Serravalle Pserra Racing -37.0842
11 59 Nikita Lastochkin HMD Motorsports -1 LAP
12 7 Christian Bogle Carlin -36 LAPS
13 2 Sting Ray Robb Juncos Racing -40 LAPS

Rasmussen and Jay Howard Driver Development win first Indy Pro 2000 race

Christian Rasmussen and team owner Jay Howard celebrate Jay Howard Driver Development’s first Indy Pro 2000 win in St. Petersburg, Fla. Photo credit: Gavin Baker Photography/Road to Indy

By Steve Wittich

It took two races, but after giving away his first Indy Pro 2000 win at Barber Motorsports Park last weekend, Christian Rasmussen made it to the podium’s top step in Sunday’s Indy Pro 2000 Grand Prix Of St. Petersburg presented by Cooper Tires Race #2.

The Jay Howard Driver Development built a big lead, survived a restart, and pulled an impressive 7.9-second gap over the last six laps to grab his and the team’s first win on the second rung of the Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires.

“Very happy getting my first win in Indy Pro,” said the Dane with a huge grin on his face. “It was great giving it back to the team. I think they really deserve this win after getting the car near perfect for both here and Barber. I’m now only a few points behind the leader. Looking to build on this momentum and hopefully get a lot more wins the rest of the season.”

The win is Rasmussen’s first Indy Pro 2000 win and the 13th in his Road To Indy career, giving him a winning percentage of 36.1%. The Dane has now won 18 open-wheel junior formula races in North America and 25 worldwide.

It’s the first Indy Pro 2000 win at St. Pete for Jay Howard Driver Development, making them the eighth different team to win a series race on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn street circuit.

Rasmussen has now had the quickest lap of the race in three of the four races to start the 2021 Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires season.

In the things only we notice category, Christian Rasmussen is the first driver in the 22 Indy Pro 2000 race in St. Pete to win from the outside of the first row.

Rounding out the podium was a pair of Juncos Racing drivers – Manuel Sulaiman and Reece Gold – who both got around McElrea on the final lap.

The pair of podiums for Juncos Racing pilots Manuel Sulaiman and Reece Gold are the 21st and 22nd in St. Pete for Juncos Racing, the most of any team. The Ricardo Juncos-led team has now had 16 different drivers visit the podium at the tricky street circuit.

The podiums are the 166th and 167th all-time Indy Pro 2000 podiums for Juncos Racing and their 40th and 41st on a street circuit.

Gold’s podium is his second in four Indy Pro 2000 races this season and the 12th in his Road To Indy career.

Juncos Racing sophomore Manuel Sulaiman and the Telcel/Infinitum/WBC/Inteligentus/Anahuac sponsored No. 22 PM-18 on track in St. Petersburg, Fla., during Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires action. Photo credit: Gavin Baker Photography/Road to Indy

It’s the fifth time in his Indy Pro 2000 career that Sulaiman has visited the podium, and the second-place finish is the Mexican driver’s 25th career Road To Indy top ten.

“We had some great battles today but it doesn’t matter if I’m racing my teammate or any other competitor – we always race clean,” said the Juncos Racing pilot. “That’s why I love this sport and that’s how you know how good the other drivers are, by how much they respect each other. There’s so much pressure and aggressiveness but respect is the most important thing. But I had a lot of fun out there, climbing up to second. The car felt amazing, I’m so thankful to my team. Unfortunately, the gap to Christian was too much to fight for the top step but we had a good comeback to finish second. I feel as though this is just getting started, we’re focusing on the championship title.”

The top five  in Indy Pro 2000 points after four rounds are:
1 – Braden Eves (Exclusive Autosport) – 98 points
2 – Christian Rasmussen (Jay Howard Driver Development) – 94 points
3 – Hunter McElrea (Pabst Racing) – 87 points
4 – Artem Petrov (Exclusive Autosport) – 79 points
5 – Reece Gold (Juncos Racing) – 67 points

The command to fire the 2.0L engines powering the 16 Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires entries was given at 7:55 am.

The forecasted rain was holding off. The ambient temperature was a very humid 76F when the front row of McElrea and Rasmussen brought the field down Albert Whited Airport Runway 7/25 to get the 25 lap race started.

A hazy start to Sunday’s Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires race in St. Petersburg, Fla. Photo credit: Gavin Baker Photography/Road to Indy

McElrea quickly moved to the inside, with Rasmussen falling in behind the pole sitter. In the braking zone to the first turn, Rasmussen popped but couldn’t make the pass.

The first three rows made it safely through the right-hand Turn 1, but not much further. Hunter Yeany (Velocity Racing Development) and James Roe (Turn 3 Motorsport) had an incident in Turn 2, with Roe coming out on the losing end and not being able to continue. Further along, Kyffin Simpson (Juncos Racing) and Wyatt Brichacek (Jay Howard Driver Development) ended up in the concrete barriers in the tight Turn 8 right-hander.

It’s the sixth Indy Pro 2000 race since 2013 at St. Pete that has seen a first lap caution.

After the first lap of the 1.8-mile, 14-turn street circuit, the running order under yellow was McElrea, Rasmussen, Gold, Eves, Manuel Sulaiman (Juncos Racing), Enaam Ahmed (RP Motorsport), Colin Kaminsky (Pabst Racing), Jacob Abel (Abel Motorsports), Jack William Miller (Miller Vinatieri Motorsports), Artem Petrov (Juncos Racing), Cameron Shields (DEForce Racing), Hunter Yeany (Velocity Racing Development) and Flinn Lazier (Legacy Autosport)

After the AMR INDYCAR Safety Team got the mess cleaned up, the green flag came back out to start Lap 7.

Once again, Rasmussen took a look to the outside of McElrea, and once again, McElrea was able to hold off the No. 1 Jay Howard Driver Development PM-18.

On Lap 8, Kaminsky could go to the outside of Turn 1, grabbing the sixth spot.

On Lap 9, Rasmussen waited until deep in the Turn 1 braking zone, moved to inside of McElrea after the pole sitter moved out to set up for the corner. The reigning Indy Pro 2000 champion completed the pass and began to pull away from McElrea.

“I got a good run on Hunter and drafted all the way down the front straight, and he didn’t really defend so I made a last-minute dive bomb to the inside in Turn One and got by,” said Rasmussen about the pass for the lead. “From there, I pretty much checked out, even with the yellow flag. I had an amazing car all weekend and I’m so happy to get my first Indy Pro 2000 win and my first win at St. Pete. It’s been a long time coming. I had so many emotions at the checkered flag but for me, it’s all about the championship, it’s all we’re thinking about. Getting max points today is crucial, especially with all the guys that I’m chasing finishing further down. The win today is amazing but the championship is the most important thing.”

After 11 laps, Rasmussen’s lead was already 1.2 seconds over McElrea. The pole-sitter was being pressured by Gold and was warned that race control was watching the No. 18 for blocking.

Rasmussen had a 2.4 second lead over McElrea at the crossed flags, signifying the race’s halfway point.

McElrea had a line of PM-18s behind him, with positions two through 12 within five seconds.

On the next lap, Gold looked on the outside of McElrea, but couldn’t get the pass done. That opened up the rookie to a challenge from Eves in Turn 4. The Juncos Racing No. 55 was able to hold off Saturday’s winner.

On Lap 16, Petrov was able to make a pass to the inside of Miller in Turn 1, moving to the ninth spot.

The Russian driver was the races biggest mover, finishing eighth after starting 14th.

When Miller got to Turn 10, the rear end of the No. 40 stepped out and hit the tire barrier and concrete wall, knocking the rear wing off the car and bringing out the yellow.

The yellow was withdrawn to start Lap 20. Rasmussen got a significant jump, but behind them, it was two-by-two for the following six drivers. McElrea and Gold held onto the podium spots, with Eves being the big loser, falling to sixth, losing spots to Sulaiman and Kaminsky.

Sunday’s Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires pole sitter Hunter McElrea (Pabst Racing) working hard to keep Juncos Racing rookie Reece Gold behind him. Photo credit: Gavin Baker Photography/Road to Indy

Rasmussen had a 2.8-second lead with three laps remaining, with the battling for the final podium spot was intense behind him.

Sulaiman was able to go around the outside of his teammate Gold to grab third.

Rasmussen’s lead when the starter waved the white flag was 7.0 seconds. Once again, it was the Telcel sponsored No. 22 that was on the move, going around the outside of McElrea in Turn 1 for the second spot.

Unfortunately, the Kiwi was not done losing spots on the final lap. Gold could get a better run off the last corner and beat him to the line by a hundredth of a second. After the race, it was determined that McElrea was losing power throughout the race.

Indy Pro 2000 Grand Prix Of St. Petersburg presented by Cooper Tires results

RANK CAR NO. DRIVER TEAM DIFFERENCE
1 1 Christian Rasmussen Jay Howard Driver Development 25 LAPS
2 22 Manuel Sulaiman Juncos Racing -7.921
3 55 Reece Gold Juncos Racing -9.132
4 18 Hunter McElrea Pabst Racing -9.1506
5 27 Colin Kaminsky Pabst Racing -9.5468
6 91 Braden Eves Exclusive Autosport -9.9597
7 51 Jacob Abel Abel Motorsports -11.1524
8 42 Artem Petrov Exclusive Autosport -11.6237
9 77 Enaam Ahmed RP Motorsport USA -12.1074
10 11 Hunter Yeany Velocity Racing Development -13.1959
11 7 Cameron Shields DEForce Racing -13.4022
12 20 Flinn Lazier Legacy Autosport -14.0129
13 40 Jack William Miller Miller Vinatieri Motorsports – 7 LAPS
14 21 Kyffin Simpson Juncos Racing – 25 LAPS
15 5 Wyatt Brichacek Jay Howard Driver Development – 25 LAPS
16 3 James Roe Turn 3 Motorsport – 25 LAPS
17 74 Enzo Fittipaldi RP Motorsport DNS

The Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires scholarship fight heads to famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway for a triple-header scheduled for May 13-15.

Christian Brooks, Exclusive Autosport Double Up on Saturday in USF2000 at St. Pete

Exclusive Autosport sophomore pilot Christian Brooks celebrates his second Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship win of the day in St. Petersburg, Fla. Photo credit: Gavin Baker Photography/Road to Indy

By Tony DiZinno / Steve Wittich

Late passes in the last race of the day were the story in Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship at the streets of St. Petersburg. But as in Race 1 earlier Saturday, the same driver and team emerged on top: Christian Brooks and Exclusive Autosport in the No. 44 Tatuus USF-17.

Brooks powered past polesitter Kiko Porto in his No. 12 DEForce Racing entry after the 20-lap race’s lone full-course caution, to score his second straight win of the day and third of his USF2000 career – all at St. Pete. That matches Spencer Pigot, who also won three times on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn street circuit .

Brooks won from the outside of the front row, the seventh time the USF2000 winner has come from that starting spot. It also means that the lowest that a race winner has started in 24 USF2000 in St. Pete is on the inside of the second row.

“This is the best weekend of my life. It’s unbelievable, after such a tough weekend at Barber, to be the points leader and a back-to-back winner,” enthused the 20-year-old Brooks. “I can’t thank everyone at Exclusive Autosport enough, the car was on rails the entire weekend. It was a great first race with my teammate Matt – when you have a guy like that behind you, you can’t make any mistakes, and to bring home a one-two finish was great. And in the second race, it was such a relief to get by Kiko. He’s such a fast driver and not an easy guy to pass, so I wasn’t sure I would be able to. But coming back from that yellow, that was the best restart I’ve ever done and I was able to take advantage of a little mistake he made. I was in the right place at the right time, and the car was amazing. It’s my third win at St. Pete and I think having experience here really helps my confidence. I know where to punch off on the restarts, the gap I need going into Turn One, how cold the tires are and how much I can push. The car was so good, I don’t think anyone had anything for us today.”

Michael Duncalfe’s squad nearly had its second double podium finish of the day, with second driver Matt Round-Garrido just off the podium in fourth in his No. 92 Exclusive car. Michael d’Orlando advanced from fourth to third on the final lap in his No. 4 car to bring Cape Motorsports onto the podium. Either way, Exclusive Autosport still went three-for-three in Road to Indy races Saturday at St. Petersburg with Brooks’ USF2000 sweep and Braden Eves scoring the Indy Pro 2000 Race 1 win.

After 11 cars were involved in incidents in Race 1 earlier today, it was inevitable that some might not be fully repaired in time for Race 2 this evening.

Those unable to make the call included Bijoy Garg (No. 6 Jay Howard Driver Development) and Kent Vaccaro (No. 16 Miller Vinatieri Motorsports) after separate incidents. Garg got hit by another car exiting Turn 10 and sustained heavy rear end damage; Vaccaro’s car was squeezed against the catch-fencing and concrete wall in an accordion effect accident prior to Turns 7 and 8.

The 24 remaining Tatuus USF-17 cars made it through Turns 1 through 3 cleanly, with the Exclusive cars of Brooks and Round-Garrido trying to attack Porto either side of the Brazilian. After the mess at Turns 4 through 8 in the first race, the field made it through smoothly from there.

Matthew Round-Garrido (No. 92 Exclusive Autosport car) puts pressure on pole-sitter Kiko Porto (No. 12 DEForce Racing car) early in the second USF2000 race in St. Petersburg, Fla. Photo credit: Gavin Baker Photography/Road to Indy

Three top 10 position changes occurred on Lap 1: d’Orlando passed Josh Green (No. 33 Turn 3 Motorsport) for fourth, Myles Rowe (No. 99 Force Indy) passed Yuven Sundaramoorthy (No. 22 Pabst Racing) for sixth and Andre Castro (No. 19 Legacy Autosport) passed Thomas Nepveu (No. 2 Cape Motorsports) for ninth. Another big mover early was Ely Navarro (No. 1 DEForce Racing), the Lucas Oil Formula Car Series champion, up six spots from 22nd to 16th.

By Lap 7, Rowe and Sundaramoorthy were past Green for fifth and sixth. Green had a gaggle of cars behind him including Spike Kohlbecker (No. 5 Cape Motorsports), Castro, Nepveu, Jace Denmark (No. 23 Pabst Racing), Josh Pierson (No. 24 Pabst Racing) and Prescott Campbell (No. 11 DEForce Racing) and a blanket could cover all of them.

D’Orlando attempted to get past Round-Garrido into Turn 1 for third on Lap 9, but was unable to do so. That scrap brought Rowe forward as the Force Indy driver continued to progress, and then past d’Orlando for fourth by the end of the lap.

At Lap 10 of 20, the order was Porto with a 0.7651 second lead over Brooks, Round-Garrido third then Rowe, d’Orlando, Sundaramoorthy, Green, Kohlbecker, Nepveu and Castro in the top 10.

Rowe tried around the outside of Round-Garrido for third on Lap 11 at Turn 1, but was unable to get past. Things got worse moments after that. Rowe clipped the Turn 2 curb and fell back to earth, and then into Sundaramoorthy’s clutches. Contact then occurred between the two of them at the entry to Turn 4, right in front of Green who had a front row seat to the collision.

This shifted the running order under the first full-course caution of the race. Porto, Brooks and Round-Garrido remained in the top three with d’Orlando now fourth, Green fifth, then Kohlbecker, Nepveu, Castro, Pierson and Campbell in the top 10.

The race went back to green at the end of Lap 15 with five laps to go and the race’s complexion changed.

Porto lost the lead on exit of Turn 1, Brooks making an opportunistic move on the inside to take the lead. Round-Garrido tried to follow his Exclusive teammate in dethroning the DEForce driver up front.

Brooks streaked away by more than a second at the end of Lap 16 with Porto having to defend against Round-Garrido, d’Orlando and Green.

Porto tried to claw back the deficit and gained half a second in the next two laps, and by the white flag he was within 0.4785 of a second heading into Turn 1. D’Orlando seized his opportunity into Turn 1 on Round-Garrido, passing him on the inside for third place and the last podium position.

Brooks held off Porto by just 0.3581 of a second to complete the Saturday sweep for both himself in USF2000 and Exclusive Autosport across the three races in USF2000 and Indy Pro 2000 held on the streets of St. Petersburg. D’Orlando rebounded from flipping in Race 1 to be on the podium hours later.

Porto’s second-place finish is the Brazilian’s fifth career USF2000 podium. He led the first 15-laps, the third time the DEForce Racing sophomore led a USF2000 event.

“It was so windy out there so we really had to make some adjustments during the race,” said the 2020 USF2000 winner in St. Pete. “When the yellow came out, I tried to cool down my tires but I didn’t get them warm enough as we came back to green. When I got on the power on the restart, the car didn’t have good front traction and I had just enough understeer under braking that Christian got by. I’m not too disappointed but I know we can do more. We’re second in the championship now and we’ll keep pushing at all the rest of the races.”

Michael d’Orlando’s recovery drive to third place in Race #2 after being on his lid to end race #1 only a few hours before was the 23rd podium in St. Pete for Cape Motorsports. d’Orlando joins names like Oliver Askew, Matthew Brabham, Jake Eidson, Braden Eves, Kyle Kirkwood, Nico Jamin, Spencer Pigot, and Aaron Telitz as podium visitors in St. Pete for Cape Motorsports. d’Orlando now has six career USF2000 podiums and 20 top-ten finishes.

“It was such an emotional roller coaster,” explained the veteran d’Orlando after the second race of the day. “In the first race, I was running third with Josh Green behind me and he went for the inside move and we collided, causing me to flip. So to finish third in the second race after finishing the first race on my head is pretty good! It was a hard battle with Matt, with all his experience he’s a tough guy to pass. You never know who’s going to come out on top. He made some good moves and was pushing hard in the corners but on the last lap, I went inside and was able to make it work.”

Round-Garrido and Green completed the top five, ahead of Kohlbecker and Nepveu for Cape, Castro, Campbell and Pierson in the top 10. Campbell gained seven spots from his starting position (16th to ninth) with Billy Frazer (No. 91 Exclusive Autosport) advancing six (18th to 12th) in this 20-lap race.

Young Canadian driver Thomas Nepveu (Cape Motorsports) finished seventh, the 16-year-old’s best finish of the season.

“The second race was better, even though I got a bad start and had to defend a bit,” said the pilot from Montreal, Quebec, Canada. “I lost a position but was able to get the position back. The lap times were so close, it was hard to get away from anyone. I had good speed after the restart but I was right behind Spike, so I wanted to make sure we both brought the cars home and have a good run for Cape. We got some good experience, and it’s so much fun here. It feels like a big race, with the fans in the stands.”

Thomas Nepveu on the Cromwell/Karting Excellence/Home Hardware sponsored No. Cape Motorsports machine holds off Legacy Autosport’s Andre Castro in the Metalloid sponsored No. 19. Photo credit: Gavin Baker Photography/Road to Indy

USF2000 Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by Andersen Interior Contracting Race 2 Unofficial Results

P No Name Team Laps Diff
1 44 Christian Brooks Exclusive Autosport 20 LAP 20
2 12 Kiko Porto DEForce Racing 20 0.3581
3 4 Michael d’Orlando Cape Motorsports 20 2.5135
4 92 Matt Round-Garrido Exclusive Autosport 20 2.9966
5 33 Josh Green Turn 3 Motorsport 20 4.0870
6 5 Spike Kohlbecker Cape Motorsports 20 4.2496
7 2 Thomas Nepveu Cape Motorsports 20 4.6163
8 19 Andre Castro Legacy Autosport 20 5.0511
9 11 Prescott Campbell DEForce Racing 20 5.2364
10 24 Josh Pierson Pabst Racing 20 5.4009
11 23 Jace Denmark Pabst Racing 20 6.0847
12 91 Billy Frazer Exclusive Autosport 20 6.4652
13 34 Dylan Christie Turn 3 Motorsport 20 7.1935
14 29 Erik Evans Velocity Racing Development 20 8.3108
15 9 Peter Vodanovich Jay Howard Driver Development 20 8.6916
16 1 Ely Navarro DEForce Racing 20 9.3226
17 90 Grant Palmer Exclusive Autosport 20 10.1396
18 8 Jackson Lee Jay Howard Driver Development 20 11.5075
19 63 Trey Burke Joe Dooling Autosports 20 12.1199
20 3 Evan Stamer Cape Motorsports 20 15.8636
21 10 Nolan Siegel DEForce Racing 20 16.3165
22 42 Michael Myers Michael Myers Racing 19 In Pit
23 99 Myles Rowe Force Indy 11 Contact
24 22 Yuven Sundaramoorthy Pabst Racing 11 Contact
25 6 Bijoy Garg Jay Howard Driver Development DNS
26 16 Kent Vaccaro Miller Vinatieri Motorsports DNS

Kyle Kirkwood adds Indy Lights to his Road to Indy win list in St. Pete

Danial Frost (Andretti Autosport), Kyle Kirkwood (Andretti Autosport) and David Malukas (HMD Motorsports) celebrate on the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires podium after race #1 in St. Petersburg, Fla. Photo credit: Gavin Baker Photography/Road to Indy

By Tony DiZinno / Steve Wittich

Kyle Kirkwood rebounded from a tough debut weekend in Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires at Barber with a dominant performance in St. Petersburg race one that more resembled his Road to Indy career to this point.

From pole, the driver of the No. 28 Andretti Autosport Dallara IL-15 led flag-to-flag in the 35-lap race to secure his first Indy Lights win and ensure he’s a winner in all three Road to Indy series.

The 22nd win of his Road to Indy career for the past USF2000 and Indy Pro 2000 champion sees him just two behind Spencer Pigot (24) on the all-time Road to Indy win chart. St. Pete is a home track for Kirkwood, as he resides in nearby Jupiter, Fla.

“I got chills at the finish! This feels so good. It’s been a while since I’ve won in an open-wheel car, and we know we’re going to have momentum for the rest of the year,” said Kirkwood, whose last win in an open-wheel car came in September 2019. “We had a great start, the Cooper Tires came in really well, we got the initial gap and were able to maintain it. I was pushing pretty hard with Devlin because the last thing I wanted to do was let him get within 1.5 seconds so he could get on the push-to-pass. I was disappointed to see the yellow, especially with Devlin going out, we could have had a one-two-three Andretti finish. And Danial had incredible pace on the restart so I knew I had to do something, and I was all over the place trying to keep the rear tires under me. It was close, but we were on rails. I learned so much about this track from my USF2000 and Indy Pro 2000 races: how the track evolves, how the layout works. They’ve done a nice job over the years of keeping the layout the same, so I was able to take so much information from my years on the Road to Indy.”

Kirkwood’s Road To Indy win percentage is now an incredible 66.7%. The Andretti Autosport rookie has now won 48 times in North American junior open-wheel action.

The Jupiter, Fla. native, now has a win on all three rungs of the Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires, making him the ninth driver to accomplish that feat.

Danial Frost stayed cool on the hot day to ensure an Andretti 1-2 finish in his DAN-JET sponsored No. 68 car. It’s the first Indy Lights podium for the 19-year-old. The Andretti Autosport rookie from Singapore now has 13 Road To Indy podiums, 16 North American junior open-wheel podiums, and 53 worldwide junior open-wheel podiums.

“We knew we had pace from the start so my focus was going forward. We made a few good passes, even if there were a few that didn’t stick. I thought we had a chance on the restart but he did a good job to stay up front. I’m happy to get my first podium of the year, congratulations to the team for the one-two finish. We need to make a few tweaks to the car, especially to deal with all the INDYCAR rubber that’s been laid down. But we know where to go and we’re starting in the same place, so if we can do what we did today, we can make it happen.”

The DAN-JET sponsored No. 68 of Danial Frost was a blur of speed in St. Petersburg, Fla. on the way to his first Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires podium. Photo credit: Gavin Baker Photography/Road to Indy

David Malukas didn’t quite have the pace for the Andretti Autosport duo up front, finishing 2.3 seconds behind Kirkwood. The Chicago, Ill. pilot’s third-place finish is his fourth career Indy Lights podium and his 11th across the Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires.

Linus Lundqvist, the points leader headed into the weekend was Global Racing Group w/HMD Motorsports rookie, had an adventurous North American street circuit debut, starting sixth, withstanding contact and finishing ninth. That lesson-filled finish is his worst in 20 North American junior open-wheel starts.

Push-to-pass was back available this race, with 15 pushes of 50 extra horsepower available. Temperatures for the race start were 83 ambient and 121 on track.

Kirkwood slotted away at the start as the 13 2.0L AER-powered Dallara IL-15s took the green flag on the streets of St. Petersburg. The early mover was Devlin DeFrancesco (No. 17 Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport), who made it past Malukas for second on the outside of Turn 2. Frost tried to repeat the feat into Turn 4 but was unable to do so.

Toby Sowery entered the pits in his No. 51 car and the Juncos Racing team surveyed the engine area. Team principal Ricardo Juncos told Peacock’s Katie Kiel he didn’t know what the issue was other than a loss of power. After the race, it was determined that is was an issue with the power plant. The 13th place finish is the first time in 21 Indy Lights starts that Toby Sowery has finished outside of the top ten.

On Lap 5, Frost made it past Malukas on the inside for third place. That left the Illinois native falling into Megennis’ clutches, and he darted past on the inside of Turn 4. Linus Lundqvist (No. 26 Global Racing Group with HMD Motorsports) tried to follow around the outside, then inside in the tricky Turns 5-8 section, but backed out of it thinking better than to contact his teammate.

By Lap 7, Kirkwood’s gap to DeFrancesco was 2.8720 with Frost third, Megennis fourth and Malukas fifth. Alex Peroni (No. 5 Carlin) passed Lundqvist for sixth, with Benjamin Pedersen, Antonio Serravalle, Sting Ray Robb, Nikita Lastochkin and Christian Bogle the remaining runners as Sowery was stuck in the pits.

On Lap 11, Frost tried on the inside of DeFrancesco but overcooked it into Turn 1. Because he missed the apex, he fell back to the Megennis/Malukas scrap.

The Megennis/Malukas battle continued to get spicy as Malukas passed Megennis exiting Turn 14. Megennis tried back on him into Turn 1 of the next lap, and looked incredibly close but fair, but with the loss of momentum, Peroni was right behind him.

On Lap 17, just shy of halfway, there was contact between Lundqvist and Peroni at Turn 1. Lundqvist came in hot, and slightly got airborne after contacting the Carlin car’s right side tires. He pitted and fell from seventh place, promoting Peroni, Serravalle, Robb, Lastochkin and Bogle up a spot.

DeFrancesco ran into trouble on Lap 23 from second to bring out the first full-course caution of the race. He locked his left front Cooper Tire, ran wide at the entry into Turns 13 and 14 and contacted the wall straight on with his left front tire and his front wing.

This wiped out Kirkwood’s three-plus second lead. Frost, Malukas and Megennis were next with Pedersen having quietly snuck up to fifth. Lundqvist, with nothing to lose, pitted for a new set of Cooper Tires to see what progress he may be able to make.

The green flag flew at the end of Lap 26, with nine laps to go. Kirkwood got going without too much of an issue. Robb got past Serravalle for seventh into Turn 4, in a forceful but determined move. Lundqvist got around Bogle for 10th on Lap 29. He had slight contact with Bogle’s right front tire, but not as severe as with the first Carlin car earlier in the race.

With three laps to go, Pedersen spun from a solid fifth place at Turn 1. He tried to pass Megennis for fourth but clipped the apex curb and spun on entry. He then resumed after a couple donuts and avoided clipping Robb. This dropped him to 10th, a spot behind Lundqvist.

Up front, Kirkwood wasn’t headed and beat Frost by 1.3823 seconds with Malukas third, Megennis fourth and Peroni fifth. Robb was sixth ahead of Serravalle, Lastochkin, Lundqvist and Pedersen in the top 10.

The Sekady Capital/Goodheart-Firehouse Animal Centers sponsored No. 2 piloted by 2020 Indy Pro 2000 champion Robb was the biggest mover during the race, gaining six spots from outside sixth row starting spot.

The Sekady Capital/Goodheart-Firehouse Animal Centers sponsored No. 2 of Juncos Racing rookie Sting Ray Robb on track during Indy Lights action in St. Petersburg, Fla. Photo credit: Gavin Baker Photography/Road to Indy

Unofficially in the championship, Lundqvist leads with 69 points, Malukas is seven behind and Kirkwood eight behind. DeFrancesco and Pedersen are also within 19 points.

The podium drivers recapped their races speaking to Kiel on Peacock.

“I saw them coming down the inside on the start… and after that it was clean sailing,” Kirkwood told Kiel in victory lane, as he described his race. “Dev (Devlin DeFrancesco) had that off behind me. The car was on rails. Big thanks to Doug (Zister), my engineer, JF (Thormann) and Michael (Andretti).”

Frost said, “I’m super glad to get the podium. This is one thing we were working on, and we’re very happy to get it. The team did a good job after practice one. We got a 1-2 which is great for the team. I’m happy for that.”

Malukas added, “Off the bat it was a whole bunch of bulls behind me! I was fighting for my life. DeFrancesco was on my right, and I didn’t want an Askew/VeeKay replay from 2019 (of contact). I needed to calm my head down and push forward. Everyone ended up making mistakes; Megennis, me and DeFrancesco all made mistakes at the last turn. The whole race I felt like a bit of a pinball.”

Malukas will start from pole in race two, which is at 10 a.m. ET Sunday morning.

Indy Lights Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Presented by Foundation Building Materials Race 1 Unofficial Results

P No Name Team Laps Diff
1 28 Kyle Kirkwood Andretti Autosport 35 LAP 35
2 68 Danial Frost Andretti Autosport 35 1.3823
3 79 David Malukas HMD Motorsports 35 2.3342
4 27 Robert Megennis Andretti Autosport 35 6.7887
5 5 Alex Peroni Carlin 35 9.1613
6 2 Sting Ray Robb Juncos Racing 35 10.1144
7 11 Antonio Serravalle Pserra Racing 35 14.1512
8 59 Nikita Lastochkin HMD Motorsports 35 14.8509
9 26 Linus Lundqvist Global Racing Group w/HMD Motorsports 35 15.3176
10 24 Benjamin Pedersen Global Racing Group w/HMD Motorsports 35 21.6392
11 7 Christian Bogle Carlin 35 22.8604
12 17 Devlin DeFrancesco Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport 22 Contact
13 51 Toby Sowery Juncos Racing 22 13 LAPS

Eves Delivers Exclusive’s Second Win Saturday in St. Pete Indy Pro 2000 Race 1

Braden Eves in the Cambridge/CCFI/Huston Insurance/MDRN Livery sponsored No. 91 follows behind the Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires pace car on the Streets of St. Petersburg, Fla. Photo credit: Gavin Baker Photography/Road to Indy

By Tony DiZinno / Steve Wittich

Braden Eves displayed excellent racecraft and defense from the lead to win from pole, leading flag-to-flag for his second Indy Pro 2000 victory in the first three races of the season. He’s also ensured Exclusive Autosport has a pair of wins this weekend in St. Petersburg, with Eves following Christian Brooks’ win in race one for USF2000 earlier Saturday morning.

The win is Eves’ third Indy Pro 2000 victory and the ninth of his Road To Indy career. For the 16th time (in 21 races) at this event, the pole-sitter won the race.

“Christian is tough – I raced against him in USF2000 and it was much of the same, always in your mirrors, always ready to make a pass,” said a happy Eves after the race. “But we both learned our craft from Jay Howard so I know all his moves! It’s always going to be a good fight but it was a bit too close for comfort. I made one mistake toward the end and almost threw it away, but I was able to hang on. I still haven’t lost here at St. Pete. I came here in 2019 as a rookie and that first race – and first win – gave me the confidence to go on my championship run. It may not be the season-opener this time but I’m getting shades of 2019 with our success right off the bat so I couldn’t be happier. The team gave me a great car today.”

The Ohioan in his No. 91 Tatuus PM-18 edged ahead of his old USF2000 sparring partner, Hunter McElrea in the No. 18 Pabst Racing Tatuus, from pole and led away with Christian Rasmussen (No. 1 Jay Howard Driver Development) quickly moving into third around Eves’ Exclusive teammate, Artem Petrov.

It’s the third Indy Pro 2000 podium in St. Pete for Exclusive Autosport, with Eves joining Danial Frost and Parker Thompson as the podium visitors for the Canadian team. The podium is the team’s 18th overall and fourth on a street circuit.

“Braden picked right up where he left off last March when COVID shut down the weekend and having missed the season finale here in St. Pete after his IMS accident, his pole and race win was remarkable,” said Michael Duncalfe, Team Principal. “The team is gelling incredibly well and Artem’s performance added to our overall success. He scored his third straight top-five finish on Saturday and then showed patient aggression on Sunday to score a crucial eighth-place finish. That run has kept him firmly in the early-season championship hunt. I’m really proud of both of them and the EA crew. It was great to win with our Cambridge Global Payments car while we had our friends from Cambridge at the race cheering us on.”

The 17-car field was down a few cars early. With too much damage from his accident on Friday, Enzo Fittipaldi was unable to start this race today in his No. 74 RP Motorsport USA entry. You can see Fittipaldi’s tweet below:

Cameron Shields peeled off into the pit lane with an issue in his No. 7 DEForce Racing car, and Jacob Abel needed to pit his No. 51 Abel Motorsports entry with left rear damage from P9 after a couple laps.

Neither the Shields nor Abel departures from contention forced a yellow flag and by Lap 5, Eves held a steady lead over McElrea with Rasmussen third, Petrov fourth and Reece Gold fifth in the first Juncos Racing entry.

Ramussen completed a slick, classic St. Pete outside at Turn 1 to be inside at Turn 2 move on McElrea for second on Lap 8, and would begin his charge of Eves from 1.6 seconds behind.

“I’m disappointed because I made that mistake,” explained McElrea on his eighth career Indy Pro 2000 podium run. “Braden, Christian and I were all together, not catching or pulling away. I want to win, so that’s disappointing, but you can’t feel too badly when you’re on the podium. Even though Braden finished ahead of me, it’s good points. I’m on pole tomorrow and I’m looking forward to that. It was tough out there today: we saw what happened to the USF2000 guys, but it’s tough to go from such a wide front straight to such a tight first corner, especially for the rookies. For us, we’re a bit more experienced but it’s always a hairy Turn One so I’m really happy to be on pole for race two.”

He gained a half a second in five laps before Hunter Yeany’s second incident of the weekend, this time at Turn 10 in his No. 11 Velocity Racing Development entry, brought out the first and only full-course caution of the race.

This wiped out Eves’ 1.1-second lead but set up a thriller for the final 11 laps under green flag conditions.

After the restart some passing occurred further in the pack, with Flinn Lazier (No. 20 Legacy Autosport) getting around James Roe (No. 3 Turn 3 Motorsport) for 11th and Manuel Sulaiman (No. 22 Juncos Racing) passing Enaam Ahmed (No. 77 RP Motorsport USA) for sixth. Sulaiman later got his teammate, Gold, for fifth.

James Roe (Turn 3 Motorsport), Kyffin Simpson (Juncos Racing) and Flinn Lazier (Legacy Autosport) battle for position during Saturday’s Indy Pro 2000 race in St. Petersburg, Fla. Photo credit: Gavin Baker Photography/Road to Indy

But the action intensified up front as Rasmussen closed on Eves, as he got within three tenths of a second in the final five laps.

He made one attempt to the outside of Turn 4 with less than four laps to go, but Eves maintained his line in the middle of the road to tease Rasmussen into an unsuccessful attempt.

“That was an awesome race for me,” said Rasmussen who is looking for his first Indy Pro 2000 win. “I started P4, got by Petrov at the start and just settled in. It can be hard to pass here but Hunter made a little mistake out of (Turn) 14 that let me get a run on him and get by in Turn One. I was chasing Braden down toward the end but just didn’t have enough to get a pass done but I’m really happy with our pace today. It’s my first podium at St. Pete – I’ve always had the pace here but I’ve never been able to get it done. We’re thinking championship all the time so that’s the most important part for me, so a drive from fourth to second is very positive in terms of points. I’ll start from second tomorrow and hope to go for the win.”

Eves held on by 0.3519 of a second from Rasmussen with McElrea third ahead of Petrov and Sulaiman. The 0.3519 margin of victory was the ninth straight under two seconds and the fifth during that time frame under one second.

Jack William Miller (Miller Vinatieri Motorsports) had the quickest lap of the race. The first time the second generation driver has accomplished that in Indy Pro 2000, and the second time he’s been the fastest in his Road To Indy career.

Jack William Miller in the Indy Dental Group/LLC/Patterson Dental sponsored No. 40 from the Miller Vinatieri Motorsports stable set the quickest lap during Saturday’s Indy Pro 2000 race in St. Petersburg, Fla. Photo credit: Gavin Baker Photography/Road to Indy

The top nine starters in the race finished in the top nine positions, albeit not entirely in the positions they qualified (of note, Rasmussen went fourth to second, Sulaiman went from seventh to fifth). Juncos’ third driver, Kyffin Simpson, advanced three spots from 13th up to a top-10 finish at the checkered flag.

Race two of the weekend goes green at 8 a.m. ET Sunday morning.

INDY PRO 2000 GRAND PRIX OF ST. PETERSBURG PRESENTED BY COOPER TIRES Race 1 Unofficial Results

P No Name Team Laps Diff
1 91 Braden Eves Exclusive Autosport 25 LAP 25
2 1 Christian Rasmussen Jay Howard Driver Development 25 0.3519
3 18 Hunter McElrea Pabst Racing 25 1.5804
4 42 Artem Petrov Exclusive Autosport 25 1.9639
5 22 Manuel Sulaiman Juncos Racing 25 4.2843
6 55 Reece Gold Juncos Racing 25 5.0066
7 77 Enaam Ahmed RP Motorsport USA 25 5.5105
8 5 Wyatt Brichacek Jay Howard Driver Development 25 5.9287
9 27 Colin Kaminsky Pabst Racing 25 6.4447
10 21 Kyffin Simpson Juncos Racing 25 10.2683
11 20 Flinn Lazier Legacy Autosport 25 11.0718
12 40 Jack William Miller Miller Vinatieri Motorsports 25 11.3968
13 3 James Roe Turn 3 Motorsport 25 17.3617
14 7 Cameron Shields DEForce Racing 23 2 LAPS
15 51 Jacob Abel Abel Motorsports 18 7 LAPS
16 11 Hunter Yeany Velocity Racing Development 10 Off Course
17 74 Enzo Fittipaldi RP Motorsport USA IN PIT

Brooks Leads Exclusive Autosport 1-2 in Chaotic USF2000 St. Pete Race 1

Christian Brooks scored the win from pole in USF2000 Race 1 from St. Pete. Photo credit: Gavin Baker Photography/Road to Indy

By Tony DiZinno

Exclusive Autosport’s pair of Christian Brooks and Matt Round-Garrido started on the front row and finished 1-2 in the opening USF2000 race of the weekend at St. Petersburg. The teammates enjoyed a trouble-free race in their No. 44 and 92 Tatuus USF-17 cars, while a high number of the 26 cars that started ran into some kind of trouble and only 15 finished all 20 laps.

The win is the second in a row for the Californian Brooks in St. Pete, and he is the 17th pole sitter in 23 USF2000 races in St. Pete to stand on the top step of the podium.

It’s the second win in St. Pete for Exclusive Autosport. It’s the fifth USF2000 lifetime win for the Canadian team and their fourth on a street circuit.

Christian Brooks and Matthew Round-Garrido celebrate an Exclusive Autosport double podium with team owner Michael Duncalfe after Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Race #1 in St. Petersburg, Fla. Photo credit: Gavin Baker Photography/Road to Indy

The podiums by Brooks and Round-Garrido are the 13th and 14th overall for Exclusive Autosport and their sixth and seventh on street circuits. It’s Brooks’ fourth and Round-Garrido’s second career visit to the USF2000 podium.

“It feels great to be on the podium, thanks to all the lads at Exclusive Autosport,” said a happy Round-Garrido. “It was such a last-minute deal and with Barber not having gone so well, this is a nice bounce back. For the team to give us such fast cars, the only way we could repay them was by going one-two. Massive congratulations to Christian, who drove a great race. I put him under pressure the entire race and he hung on, great drive by him.”

Yuven Sundaramoorthy provided Pabst Racing another St. Pete podium for a team that’s won there before in his No. 22 car. Rookie Billy Frazer (No. 91) made it an impressive three Exclusive cars in the top four, while Kiko Porto (No. 12) completed the top five in his DEForce entry.

Sundaramoorthy is the ninth Pabst Racing driver to stand on the podium in St. Pete. The team now has 15 podiums at this event, the second-most of any team. The third-place finish by the veteran driver is the 105th podium for Pabst Racing, with 23 of them coming on street circuits.

Sundaramoorthy now has two podiums on the season and collected his first career fastest lap of the race during the 20-lap race.

Yuven Sundaramoorthy wheels the S team Motorsports sponsored No. 22 Pabst Racing USF-17 around Turn 2 in St. Petersburg, Fla. The veteran driver scored a podium and had the quickest lap in Race #1 Photo credit: Gavin Baker Photography/Road to Indy

“I made that a lot more difficult on myself than it needed to be, falling back on the restart when d’Orlando and Green came together,” said the 18-year-old. “I’m glad to hear that all the guys who crashed are okay, but that one happened right in front of me and was really scary. But in the end, I set fast lap so I know we were the quickest car out there; there were just too many yellows to catch the Exclusive guys.”

The fourth-place finish by Billy Frazer is the first and only top-five finish by a rookie driver in the four USF2000 races so far in 2021.

Porto will start this afternoon’s second race from pole, and a number of cars behind him face repair work to ensure their cars are good to go once the clock hits 5:20 p.m. ET.

The field of 26 cars rolled off under sunny skies shortly after NTT IndyCar Series practice with the pair of Exclusive Autosport Tatuus USF-17 cars of Brooks and Round-Garrido leading the USF2000 field to green.

While the field made it through Turns 1, 3 and 4 safely, safe for a single spin from Evan Stamer in the No. 3 Cape Motorsports entry, chaos erupted at Turns 6 and 7 on the run-up to Turn 8 to bring out the first full-course caution.

In a three-wide entry into the corner, Peter Vodanovich was on the inside in his No. 9 Jay Howard Driver Development car, and richocheted into Erik Evans (No. 29 Velocity Racing Development), who richocheted into Kent Vaccaro (No. 16 Miller Vinatieri Motorsports) and left Vaccaro’s car on its side, driver’s side up, against the catch-fencing. Trey Burke (No. 63 Joe Dooling Autosports) had nowhere to go except into the mess. Nolan Siegel (No. 10 DEForce Racing) was also listed out after starting from the back. Vodanovich’s teammate, Jackson Lee, somehow snaked through the inside of the wreckage in his similarly liveried No. 8 JHDD car.

Fortunately, the drivers made it out of their cars and the AMR Safety Team was dispatched to help clear the wreckage. Race Control put the race under a red flag with three laps complete. No penalties were assessed for the incident.

The first lap caution in Turn 7 involving five cars was the tenth caution on the opening lap of a USF2000 race in St. Pete.

The top five on the grid remained in that order, with the big mover on the start rookie Frazer up from eighth to sixth in his No. 91 Exclusive entry, passing Porto and Josh Pierson (No. 24 Pabst Racing). Prescott Campbell (No. 11 DEForce Racing) and Myles Rowe (No. 99 Force Indy) completed the top 10.

The red flag was lifted at 11:10 a.m. ET with the countdown clock running at just over 30 minutes remaining. The 20 drivers still running restarted in single file order, and it was barely green until another driver was flipped over at Turn 1, this time Michael d’Orlando (No. 4 Cape Motorsports) after contact with Josh Green (No. 33 Turn 3 Motorsport). D’Orlando escaped from his car unscathed. The Turn 3 Motorsport veteran was deemed to be responsible for the contact with his fellow New Yorker and long-time friend, and was assessed a post-race 30 second penalty for avoidable contact.

Behind Brooks and Round-Garrido, Sundaramoorthy and Frazer were up to third and fourth after that incident with Porto and Campbell fifth and sixth.

After another restart, another yellow flag flew, this time for points leader Campbell, who had suffered front wing damage earlier in the race, going off course on entry to Turn 14 rather quickly. He was sixth at time of incident.

At Lap 14 the order was Brooks, Round-Garrido and Frazer in an Exclusive 1-2-3 with Porto fourth, Sundaramoorthy fifth, Pierson, Rowe, Spike Kohlbecker (No. 5 Cape Motorsports), Bijoy Garg (No. 6 Jay Howard Driver Development) and Dylan Christie (No. 34 Turn 3 Motorsport) the top 10 runners.

Sundaramoorthy got past Frazer for third on Lap 15 before another full-course yellow, the fifth of the race, flew for more contact.

Another JHDD car had a heavy accident exiting Turn 10, this time Garg in the No. 6 car. Another Pabst Racing car, Jace Denmark in the No. 23 car, pitched Garg into the wall after attempting a move on the inside line. Denmark was penalized 30 seconds post race for avoidable contact after being deemed responsible for the contact. Michael Myers in his No. 42 family-run car had nowhere to go and contacted Garg on corner exit.

“We were having a great run inside the top 10 yesterday, before I ran into some problems, initially with my dash going out then getting taken out at T10 by someone who had absolutely no reason to be there,” said the USF2000 sophomore. “It’s frustrating because we were having a solid run and likely would have enjoyed a strong finish. That damage kept me out of the second race, unfortunately. We need to dust ourselves off and go again at the Indy GP.”

This contact put the race under a final full-course caution where it remained out to the checkered flag.

The four cautions and 11 caution laps set new high-water marks for those categories in USF2000 races at St. Pete. The previous highs were three and nine.

It was the first time that a Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship race in St. Pete has ended under a combined yellow and checkered flag.

Brooks’ win snaps a run of four consecutive first-time winners in USF2000, which began last October at St. Pete when Porto and Brooks won their maiden events. Sundaramoorthy and Campbell captured the wins at Barber to kick off the new season.

USF2000 GRAND PRIX OF ST. PETERSBURG PRESENTED BY ANDERSEN RACEPARK (RACE 1) Unofficial Results

P No Name Team Laps Diff
1 44 Christian Brooks Exclusive Autosport 20 LAP 20
2 92 Matt Round-Garrido Exclusive Autosport 20 0.4036
3 22 Yuven Sundaramoorthy Pabst Racing 20 1.6624
4 91 Billy Frazer Exclusive Autosport 20 2.2325
5 12 Kiko Porto DEForce Racing 20 2.7743
6 5 Spike Kohlbecker Cape Motorsports 20 4.7464
7 24 Josh Pierson Pabst Racing 20 5.3036
8 99 Myles Rowe Force Indy 20 5.5850
9 34 Dylan Christie Turn 3 Motorsport 20 6.3331
10 19 Andre Castro Legacy Autosport 20 7.6981
11 23 Jace Denmark Pabst Racing 20 8.0608
12 2 Thomas Nepveu Cape Motorsports 20 9.5668
13 90 Grant Palmer Exclusive Autosport 20 10.8038
14 1 Ely Navarro DEForce Racing 20 11.2362
15 8 Jackson Lee Jay Howard Driver Development 20 11.8010
16 11 Prescott Campbell DEForce Racing 17 3 LAPS
17 42 Michael Myers Michael Myers Racing 16 Contact
18 33 Josh Green Turn 3 Motorsport 16 4 LAPS
19 6 Bijoy Garg Jay Howard Driver Development 15 Contact
20 4 Michael d’Orlando Cape Motorsports 4 Contact
21 9 Peter Vodanovich Jay Howard Driver Development Contact
22 29 Erik Evans Velocity Racing Development Contact
23 3 Evan Stamer Cape Motorsports Spin
24 63 Trey Burke Joe Dooling Autosports Contact
25 16 Kent Vaccaro Miller Vinatieri Motorsports Contact
26 10 Nolan Siegel DEForce Racing Contact

Last second flyer helps McElrea score first Indy Pro 2000 pole – six RTI races, six different pole winners

Hunter McElrea (Pabst Racing) wheels the Giltrap Group/Doric NZ/Miles Advisory Partners sponsored No. 18 on the Streets Of St. Petersburg, Fla. Photo credit: Gavin Baker Photography/Road to Indy

By Steve Wittich

Hunter McElrea utilized a last-minute flyer to pip reigning USF2000 champion, Christian Rasmussen, to win his first career Indy Pro 2000 pole.

The Pabst Racing sophomores sixth career Road To Indy pole means that all six of the ‘ladder series’ races will have different drivers start from the pole, duplicating that feat from Barber Motorsports Park.

Rasmussen just missed out on his second pole of the season and will start Saturday and Sunday’s Indy Pro 2000 Grand Prix Of St. Petersburg presented by Cooper Tires races on the outside of the front row.

Reece Gold, a Juncos Racing rookie, continues his improvement and will start behind the pole sitter after qualifying fifth for this afternoon’s race.

Gold’s teammate Manuel Sulaiman round out an all-Juncos Racing second row. It’s the Mexican driver’s best starting spot this season.

A hazy sunrise floating over the relatively still waters of Tampa Bay greeted the 17 Indy Pro 2000 drivers and teams for their second qualifying session as a busy day of action in St. Petersburg, Fla., got started. The ambient temperature was already 72F and the track temperature of the 1.8-mile, 14-turn street circuit was 76F.

Eves, the race #1 pole winner, had a frustrating and possibly championship-changing start to the day, starting the session with a non-functioning transponder.

The Ohioan was stuck at the bottom of the running order but could get out on track with a functioning transponder in the final four minutes, completing only four laps and turning in the sixth-best time.

The early leader was fall 2020 St. Pete winner McElrea, but times were still two seconds off Saturday’s pole setting lap.

Over the next five minutes, Gold and then Rasmussen grabbed the provisional pole. A pole winner at Barber Motorsports Park, Rasmussen’s lap at 68.9563 seconds, held the top spot. The Jay Howard Driver Development driver was followed in the top ten by Jack William Miller (Miller Vinatieri Motorsports), Gold, Cameron Shields (DEForce Racing), McElrea, James Roe (Turn 3 Motorsport), Colin Kaminsky (Pabst Racing), Manuel Sulaiman (DEForce Racing), Jacob Abel (Abel Motorsports), and Artem Petrov (Exclusive Autosport).

With most of the field coming to pit road for adjustments, times started to drop in the final four minutes of the session.

After provisional pole laps by McElrea and Gold, Rasmussen went back to the provisional pole. The Dane improved on each of his next three laps, holding the top spot until the last few seconds of qualifying when McElrea pipped him by one-hundredth-of-a-second on his 15th of 15 laps.

Despite being cleared to drive by INDYCAR, Enzo Fittipaldi, who was involved in a significant incident on Friday, did not participate in the session. TSO Ladder will go check with the team about his status when this session ends.

Indy Pro 2000 Grand Prix Of St. Petersburg presented by Cooper Tires qualifying #2 results

RANK CAR NO. DRIVER TEAM QUICK LAP DIFFERENCE TOTAL LAPS
1 18 Hunter McElrea Pabst Racing 1:08.3534 15
2 1 Christian Rasmussen Jay Howard Driver Development 1:08.3708 0.0174 15
3 55 Reece Gold Juncos Racing 1:08.5241 0.1707 12
4 22 Manuel Sulaiman Juncos Racing 1:08.5951 0.2417 13
5 21 Kyffin Simpson Juncos Racing 1:08.6465 0.2931 13
6 91 Braden Eves Exclusive Autosport 1:08.6708 0.3174 4
7 27 Colin Kaminsky Pabst Racing 1:08.7580 0.4046 15
8 5 Wyatt Brichacek Jay Howard Driver Development 1:08.7986 0.4452 15
9 40 Jack William Miller Miller Vinatieri Motorsports 1:08.8017 0.4483 15
10 77 Enaam Ahmed RP Motorsport USA 1:08.8025 0.4491 14
11 51 Jacob Abel Abel Motorsports 1:08.9198 0.5664 14
12 7 Cameron Shields DEForce Racing 1:08.9280 0.5746 14
13 3 James Roe Turn 3 Motorsport 1:09.0051 0.6517 14
14 42 Artem Petrov Exclusive Autosport 1:09.0849 0.7315 14
15 20 Flinn Lazier Legacy Autosport 1:09.2725 0.9191 14
16 11 Hunter Yeany Velocity Racing Development 1:09.4882 1.1348 14
17 74 Enzo Fittipaldi RP Motorsport USA No Time

The first race for the middle rung of the Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires rolls off at 11:50 am.

Malukas a fifth polesitter in five sessions to cap off Friday in St. Pete

David Malukas captured the Race 2 pole for Indy Lights in St. Pete. Photo credit: Gavin Baker Photography/Road to Indy

By Tony DiZinno

For the second consecutive Friday in the trio Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires series, there were as many different polesitters as there were qualifying sessions.

And for the second consecutive Friday, the last of those was David Malukas in the No. 79 HMD Motorsports Dallara IL-15 on the streets of St. Petersburg.

A week ago in Barber Motorsports Park there were six in six sessions. Today there were five in five, with Malukas following Christian Brooks and Kiko Porto in USF2000, Braden Eves in Indy Pro 2000 and Kyle Kirkwood in the first of two Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires sessions.

The Illinois native set a new track record in the process, as well, around the 1.8-mile, 14-turn street course. Malukas’ best time of 1:04.6720, set on his 20th of 22 laps, eclipsed the previous mark set by Pato O’Ward in 2018 at 1:05.0392. That weekend saw O’Ward win his maiden Indy Lights race and eventually begin his run to the season championship; hot on the heels of his first Indy Lights race win last week in Barber, Malukas will be keen to emulate the young Mexican as this year progresses.

As per usual in Indy Lights qualifying, a flurry of activity occurs early in the first 30 minutes before pit stops, a swap to fresh sets of Cooper Tires, and a changing of the order occurs.

On this occasion, it looked like Malukas’ fellow Barber winner Linus Lundqvist in the No. 26 Global Racing Group with HMD Motorsports entry looked the polesitter in waiting. His best time on the first runs was 1:05.1722, ahead of St. Pete race one polesitter Kirkwood at 1:05.1867, then Danial Frost, Malukas and Devlin DeFrancesco. Lundqvist’s best lap was set on his 10th of 12 flyers around the circuit.

But Malukas lowered the bar first with another 1:05 lap, 1:05.1508 on his 16th lap of qualifying, followed by a pair of laps in the 1:04 range at 1:04.7423 and then the eventual pole lap of 1:04.6491.

Kirkwood, in the No. 28 Andretti Autosport entry, was the only other driver to break into the 1:04s and ended 0.1940 of a second off pace. Teammates DeFrancesco and Frost were next, with Alex Peroni slotting the No. 5 Carlin entry up to P5 after some work by the Delray Beach, Fla.-based team to help improve the car for qualifying.

Juncos Racing’s Toby Sowery in sixth ensured four different teams in the top six, with Lundqivst sliding to seventh and only able to improve an extra hundredth. He’s ahead of Robert Megennis, a past St. Pete winner in USF2000, with Benjamin Pedersen and Antonio Serravalle completing the top 10 runners. Last year’s Indy Pro 2000 champion Sting Ray Robb was 11th, only 0.9084 off pole, but still showing the depth of competition within this series.

The first of two Indy Lights races is Saturday at 3:20 p.m. ET and will follow NTT IndyCar Series qualifying.

Indy Lights Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by Andersen Interior Contracting Race 2 Qualifying

P No Name Team FTime Diff Laps
1 79 David Malukas HMD Motorsports 1:04.6491 1:04.6491 22
2 28 Kyle Kirkwood Andretti Autosport 1:04.8431 0.1940 23
3 17 Devlin DeFrancesco Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport 1:04.9869 0.3378 23
4 68 Danial Frost Andretti Autosport 1:05.0069 0.3578 22
5 5 Alex Peroni Carlin 1:05.1084 0.4593 23
6 51 Toby Sowery Juncos Racing 1:05.1485 0.4994 20
7 26 Linus Lundqvist Global Racing Group w/HMD Motorsports 1:05.1637 0.5146 22
8 27 Robert Megennis Andretti Autosport 1:05.2829 0.6338 23
9 24 Benjamin Pedersen Global Racing Group wHMD Motorsports 1:05.3454 0.6963 23
10 11 Antonio Serravalle Pserra Racing 1:05.5545 0.9054 21
11 2 Sting Ray Robb Juncos Racing 1:05.5575 0.9084 17
12 59 Nikita Lastochkin HMD Motorsports 1:05.6570 1.0079 20
13 7 Christian Bogle Carlin 1:05.8268 1.1777 23

Porto Denies Brooks Pole in Last Lap Dash to St. Pete USF2000 Race 2 Pole

Kiko Porto captured the pole at the last moment for USF2000 Race 2 in St. Pete. Photo credit: Gavin Baker Photography/Road to Indy

By Tony DiZinno

Sometimes one last lap is all it takes to change the course of qualifying. And that was the story of qualifying for the second Cooper Tires USF2000 race of the weekend at St. Petersburg, as DEForce Racing’s Kiko Porto grabbed the pole from Exclusive Autosport’s Christian Brooks on the final lap of the 20-minute session. It’s his third career pole and seventh in the series for DEForce Racing.

Porto also denied Exclusive a three-for-three pole position sweep across two Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires series on Friday. Brooks (USF2000) and Braden Eves (Indy Pro 2000) took the top spots on the grid earlier in the day.

Porto was one of 10 drivers in the top 15 on the grid who set their fastest laps on their last of the session, anywhere from their ninth to 13th lap completed. Porto’s lap of 1:12.0840 around the 1.8-mile, 14-turn circuit was 0.0188 of a second clear of Brooks.

And showing the depth of the field, just 0.3711 of a second covered the top eight and just 0.9305 of a second covered the top 19 drivers in the 26-car field.

The frantic finish to the session occurred after a red flag flew with just over seven minutes remaining in the session, for Ely Navarro running off course at Turn 10 in his No. 1 DEForce car. The reigning Lucas Oil Formula Car Series champion was 20th at time of the red flag.

Brooks led Michael d’Orlando, Yuven Sundaramoorthy, Spike Kohlbecker and Porto, all covered by 0.3919 of a second. Just 0.9117 of a second covered the top 16.

But there was enough time for drivers to get at least one more hot lap as the green flag flew with just under three minutes remaining. Indeed that is when the intensity ramped up.

Porto, third-placed Matt Round-Garrido, fourth-placed Josh Green, seventh-placed Myles Rowe, ninth-placed Thomas Nepveu and 10th-placed Andre Castro all set their best laps on their last lap.

One other note in the DEForce camp: Nolan Siegel made it out after not posting a time the first two sessions, but the driver of the No. 10 DEForce Racing entry spun at Turn 14 on his out lap. It was still good to see the 16-year-old and one of the Barber polesitters back on course. Showing how deep the field is and how much can change in a week, he’ll start 26th and 24th for the two races here.

The two USF2000 races, Rounds 3 and 4 of the season, are Saturday at 10:55 a.m. and 5:20 p.m. ET.

USF2000 Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by Andersen Interior Contracting Race 2 Qualifying

P No Name Team FTime Diff Laps
1 12 Kiko Porto DEForce Racing 1:12.0840 1:12.0840 12
2 44 Christian Brooks Exclusive Autosport 1:12.1028 0.0188 12
3 92 Matt Round-Garrido Exclusive Autosport 1:12.1754 0.0914 13
4 33 Josh Green Turn 3 Motorsport 1:12.2396 0.1556 10
5 4 Michael d’Orlando Cape Motorsports 1:12.3690 0.2850 9
6 22 Yuven Sundaramoorthy Pabst Racing 1:12.4360 0.3520 12
7 99 Myles Rowe Force Indy 1:12.4538 0.3698 13
8 5 Spike Kohlbecker Cape Motorsports 1:12.4551 0.3711 9
9 2 Thomas Nepveu Cape Motorsports 1:12.5853 0.5013 9
10 19 Andre Castro Legacy Autosport 1:12.5880 0.5040 11
11 24 Josh Pierson Pabst Racing 1:12.6075 0.5235 12
12 23 Jace Denmark Pabst Racing 1:12.6285 0.5445 12
13 6 Bijoy Garg Jay Howard Driver Development 1:12.7618 0.6778 11
14 34 Dylan Christie Turn 3 Motorsport 1:12.8376 0.7536 12
15 29 Erik Evans Velocity Racing Development 1:12.9313 0.8473 11
16 11 Prescott Campbell DEForce Racing 1:12.9384 0.8544 8
17 9 Peter Vodanovich Jay Howard Driver Development 1:12.9442 0.8602 12
18 91 Billy Frazer Exclusive Autosport 1:12.9622 0.8782 13
19 8 Jackson Lee Jay Howard Driver Development 1:13.0145 0.9305 12
20 3 Evan Stamer Cape Motorsports 1:13.1863 1.1023 12
21 90 Grant Palmer Exclusive Autosport 1:13.1989 1.1149 13
22 1 Ely Navarro DEForce Racing 1:13.2557 1.1717 8
23 42 Michael Myers Michael Myers Racing 1:13.2727 1.1887 13
24 10 Nolan Siegel DEForce Racing 1:13.4073 1.3233 13
25 63 Trey Burke Joe Dooling Autosports 1:13.6027 1.5187 12
26 16 Kent Vaccaro Miller Vinatieri Motorsports 1:14.2549 2.1709 9
Page 4 of 9:« First« 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 »Last »