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Chris Griffis Memorial Test – Update #1 – Notebook from the two days of testing

 

By Steve Wittich

Consider tonight’s writings the first of two updates from the ninth annual Chris Griffis Memorial Test. For the seventh time, the road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway played host to all three steps on the Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires ladder.

TSO Ladder has made this point each time we’ve covered this event, but we’re going to make it again and go one step further. We won’t call testing times meaningless, but we will reiterate that they are one of the last things that we look at when the two days of testing are done.

Need proof? If you take nine previous years of the Chris Griffis Memorial Test and multiply it by three, you come up with 27 drivers that have led the annual end of season test. Of those 27 drivers, only five (that’s 18.5%) have won the championship the next year.

So, what do we pay attention to?

How well does the driver progress from day to day and session to session? How does a driver that is new to the Road To Indy acclimate themselves to the car and tires? How does a driver fit in well with a new team? How ready is a driver that makes the jump to the next level? How does a driver interact with their teammates? How seriously does a driver take the test? These are all questions we attempt to answer before looking at the timesheets.

We will be back with notes from each day along with timesheets tomorrow, but for now, here is a notebook of some of the other things we learned this weekend.

The ninth annual Chris Griffis Memorial Test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was blessed with wonderful fall weather (Photo Courtesy Of Andersen Promotions)


If you haven’t yet, make sure you watch Road To Indy TV Episode 11 from the finale at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.


So, why is Rinus van Kalmthout (VeeKay) testing with Belardi Auto Racing?

It’s a win-win situation for all involved.

From the team side, the experienced VeeKay piloting the team’s car during the test makes sense on two fronts. First, the Dutchman helped move the Juncos Racing program forward last year and should help the Brownsburg, Ind. based team do the same. Second, VeeKay is the perfect driver to showcase how competitive your cars will be against Andretti Autosport.

Rinus VeeKay provides feedback to Belardi Auto Racing engineer Kent Boyer at the 2019 Chris Griffis Memorial Test (Photo Courtesy Of Andersen Promotions)

From the driver’s side, testing is so limited in modern racing that any extra seat time is beneficial.

VeeKay is coming off his second successful test with Ed Carpenter Racing. From all accounts that TSO Ladder has heard, the day-long outing at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course was very successful.

Look for news on the Dutch teenager’s future sooner than later.


Experienced newcomer?

TSO had a chance to chat with experienced newcomer Raoul Hyman, who is testing in Indy Pro 2000 with Exclusive Autosport.

Hyman was impressed with the PM-18’s torque and enjoyed the welcoming atmosphere in the paddock and especially with Exclusive Autosport. He hasn’t entirely made up his mind on where he will be racing next year but did tell us that he was leaning towards a switch to the U.S.A.

Raoul Hyman relaxes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway before getting in an Exclusive Autosport Indy Pro 2000 car for the Chris Griffis Memorial Test (Photo Courtesy Of Andersen Promotions)

Hyman spent this past season in the FIA Formula 3 Championship, finishing a disappointing 22nd in the championship. TSO doesn’t put much stock into that result. Last year was the first year for the new Dallara F3 2019 car, and the South African’s Sauber Charouz Racing System team didn’t have a handle on a car they’ve never run before.

The 23-year-old won the 2018 F3 Asian Championship, finished fourth in the 2019 Toyota Racing Series, and was a race winner in GP3 and BRDC Formula 4 Championship.

He’d be a great addition to the Road To Indy.


Lights car count and another test for the top rung of the Road To Indy

We’ve had some questions about why the Lights field is only five cars for the Chris Griffis Memorial Test. There are several factors. Brand new team Exclusive Autosport is still prepping their cars. HMD Motorsports is focusing on getting their restarted USF2000 and Indy Pro 2000 programs sorted.

Unfortunately, the FIA Formula 3 Championship post-season test is taking place at the same time in Valencia, Spain. That series, with a similar budget to Indy Lights, has 31 drivers entered across the three-days of testing.

Also, there will be another official Indy Lights test in a few months. The top level of the Road To Indy will join the Global MX-5 Cup and the Lucas Oil School of Racing Karting Shootout for a two-day test.

With surface changes, bumps, heavy braking zones, and 90-degree turns, the 1.6-mile, 11-turn short course does a great job of mimicking a street circuit.


Safety addition for the ‘kids’

Before next season, the USF-17, PM-18 and IL-15, will all be fitted with the Advanced Frontal Protection device. The AFP is designed to keep debris from the cockpit of the car and was added to the cars of the NTT IndyCar Series before the Indianapolis 500 last year.


IndyCar driver sighting

NTT IndyCar Series championship contender Alexander Rossi was in the USF2000 paddock on Sunday. Pieter Rossi, the 7-time IndyCar race winners father, helps guide the careers of several Road To Indy drivers. This weekend, the Rossi’s were working with Pabst Racing’s Yuven Sundaramoorthy.

The Oconomowoc, Wisc. is coming off a successful first year of USF2000 action where he was one of only three drivers to complete every lap.


Road To Indy alum making good

At last year’s Chris Griffis Memorial Test, Igor Fraga spent Saturday wrenching on the Exclusive Autosport program in exchange for an opportunity to get behind the wheel of the Canadian team’s Indy Pro 2000 car.

This year, the Brazilian was at Autodromo Nazionale Monza, where he won the final two races of the 2019 Formula Regional European Championship season. Fraga won four races and stood on the podium in ten races on the way to finishing third in the series that utilizes the Tatuus F3 chassis mated to a 265+ HP Alfa Romeo power plant.

Fraga earned his seat by winning the FIA Gran Turismo Nation’s Cup along with the McLaren Shadow Project by beating over 500,000 contestants around the world.

Fraga, who just turned 21-years-old spent the 2018 racing season with Exclusive Autosport, collecting three podiums and finishing fourth in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship.


New Town of Speedway denizen 

Juncos Racing, A.J. Foyt Racing, and Dallara will soon have more racing company in the town of Speedway. The walls are currently going up on the new home of Abel Motorsports. The building is being built by ABEL Construction and is a partnership between team owner Bill Abel and Bob Lazier.


Speaking of Laziers

Third-generation racer Flinn Lazier spent the test in the second Abel Motorsports PM-18 alongside Jacob Abel. The Vail, Colo. native experienced mechanical gremlins on Saturday but rebounded to turn a lap within one-second of the quickest lap of the weekend on Sunday.

The Chris Griffis Memorial Test was the first time the 20-year-old had been behind the wheel of an Indy Pro 2000 car, but he is not short of open-wheel experience. Lazier joined his grandfather Bob as a Formula B/Atlantic champion at the SCCA Runoffs, winning at Virginia International Raceway last weekend. The elder Lazier won the 1971 Formula B championship Road Atlanta in 1971.

Joining Lazier at the historic track where his grandfather, the 1981 Championship Auto Racing Teams Rookie Of The Year and his father Buddy, the 1996 Indianapolis 500 champion.

Third-generation racer Flinn Lazier on pit road at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the ninth annual Chris Griffis Memorial Test (Photo Courtesy Of Andersen Promotions)

That’s it for us tonight. I’ll be back with more tomorrow.

Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires at Laguna Seca – Saturday – Lindh grabs his fifth pole of the season, edges one point closer to Kirkwood

The 15 Indy Pro 2000 cars took to the 2.258-mile, 11-turn road course immediately following the third NTT IndyCar Series session, guaranteeing that the track would have plenty of grip.

That proved to be accurate when championship contender Rasmus Lindh grabbed the pole bonus point and a new track record with a late flyer. The Swede’s lap timed at 79.899 seconds broke an 11-year-old track record by Richard Kent, who was driving for Andersen Racing.

It is Lindh’s fifth pole of the season and 8th of Road To Indy career.

Kirkwood, who saw his 20-point lead shrink to 19-points, will start on the outside of the front row.

Race #1 pole sitter Sting Ray Robb will start behind his Juncos Racing teammate on the second row alongside Exclusive Autosport rookie Danial Frost.

The entire session ran green, and with five minutes remaining, the top five were Robb, Kirkwood, Lindh, Frost, and Petrov.

Lindh and Kirkwood were both able to surpass Robb in the last quarter of the session, and DEForce Racing’s Kory Enders was able to knock Petrov out of the top five.

Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires Race #2 Qualifying Results

RANK CAR NO. DRIVER TEAM QUICK LAP DIFFERENCE
1 10 Rasmus Lindh Juncos Racing 1:19.899 –.—-
2 28 Kyle Kirkwood RP Motorsport USA 1:20.426 0.5275
3 2 Sting Ray Robb Juncos Racing 1:20.475 0.5759
4 68 Danial Frost Exclusive Autosport 1:20.731 0.8326
5 7 Kory Enders DEForce Racing 1:20.887 0.9886
6 5 Artem Petrov RP Motorsport USA 1:21.103 1.2039
7 6 Moises de la Vara DEForce Racing 1:21.289 1.3907
8 51 Jacob Abel Abel Motorsports 1:21.529 1.6304
9 3 Antoine Comeau Turn 3 Motorsport 1:21.692 1.7931
10 11 Antonio Serravalle Pserra Racing/RP Motorsports USA 1:21.874 1.9752
11 8 Parker Thompson Abel Motorsports 1:21.951 2.0519
12 90 Nikita Lastochkin Exclusive Autosport 1:22.172 2.2737
13 27 Matt Round-Garrido Jay Howard Driver Development/BN Racing 1:22.215 2.3168
14 91 Phillippe Denes Exclusive Autosport 1:24.152 4.2536
15 83 Charles Finelli FatBoy Racing 1:27.701 7.8026
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Road To Indy schedules each feature 18 races

By Steve Wittich

An increased scholarship and award fund of 2.7 million dollars will await the winners on each of the three steps on the Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires ladder after an 18-race 2020 season.

The schedule looks similar to 2019 with a few minor changes. Last year, the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires joined the NTT IndyCar Series in their debut at Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas. This year, the top-level open-wheel series in the United States will be joined by the Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship.

The April doubleheader will be the first race appearance for the lowest rung of the ladder on the 3.41-mile, 20-turn road course. The Indy Pro 2000 series has made one previous appearance at the Austin, Texas track, starting their 2013 season with a pair of races.

In 2020, the Indy Lights returns to Barber Motorsports Park to contest a pair of races on the tricky and undulating 2.3-mile, 17-turn natural terrain road course. The series has contested 14 previous races at the Birmingham, Alabama circuit.

“I am very happy with our calendar for next season,” said Dan Andersen, Owner, and CEO of Andersen Promotions. “We’ve managed to eliminate the large break we have had in April with a return to Barber Motorsports Park for Indy Lights and the addition of Circuit of The Americas for Indy Pro 2000 and USF2000. Now all three series are racing monthly from March through September.”

2020 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires schedule

ROUNDS DATE TRACK CITY STATE
Open Test March 9 Homestead-Miami Speedway Road Course Homestead Florida
1-2 March 14/15 Streets Of St. Petersburg St. Petersburg Florida
3-4 April 4/5 Barber Motorsports Park Birmingham Alabama
Open Test May 7 Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course Indianapolis Indiana
5-6 May 8/9 Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course Indianapolis Indiana
Open Test May 18 Indianapolis Motor Speedway Oval Indianapolis Indiana
7 May 22 Indianapolis Motor Speedway Oval Indianapolis Indiana
8-9 June 20/21 Road America Elkhart Lake Wisconsin
10-11 July 11/12 Streets Of Toronto Toronto Ontario, CANADA
Open Test August 12 Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course Lexington Ohio
12-13 August 15/16 Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course Lexington Ohio
Open Test August 20 World Wide Technology Raceway At Gateway Madison Illinois
14 August 22 World Wide Technology Raceway At Gateway Madison Illinois
15-16 September 5/6 Portland International Raceway Portland Oregon
17-18 September 19/20 WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca Monterey California

2020 Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires schedule

ROUNDS DATE TRACK CITY STATE
Open Test March 7/8 Homestead-Miami Speedway Road Course Homestead Florida
1-2 March 14/15 Streets Of St. Petersburg St. Petersburg Florida
Open Test April 23 Circuit of The Americas Austin Texas
3-4 April 25/26 Circuit of The Americas Austin Texas
Open Test May 7 Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course Indianapolis Indiana
5-6 May 8/9 Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course Indianapolis Indiana
Open Test May 11 Lucas Oil Raceway Oval Indianapolis Indiana
7 May 22 Lucas Oil Raceway Oval Indianapolis Indiana
8-9 June 20/21 Road America Elkhart Lake Wisconsin
10-11 July 11/12 Streets Of Toronto Toronto Ontario, CANADA
Open Test August 12 Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course Lexington Ohio
12-13 August 15/16 Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course Lexington Ohio
Open Test August 20 World Wide Technology Raceway At Gateway Madison Illinois
14 August 22 World Wide Technology Raceway At Gateway Madison Illinois
Open Test September 3 Portland International Raceway Portland Oregon
15-16 September 5/6 Portland International Raceway Portland Oregon
17-18 September 19/20 WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca Monterey California

Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship schedule

ROUNDS DATE TRACK CITY STATE
Open Test March 7/8 Homestead-Miami Speedway Road Course Homestead Florida
1-2 March 14/15 Streets Of St. Petersburg St. Petersburg Florida
Open Test April 23 Circuit of The Americas Austin Texas
3-4 April 25/26 Circuit of The Americas Austin Texas
Open Test May 7 Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course Indianapolis Indiana
5-6 May 8/9 Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course Indianapolis Indiana
Open Test May 11 Lucas Oil Raceway Oval Indianapolis Indiana
7 May 22 Lucas Oil Raceway Oval Indianapolis Indiana
8-9 June 20/21 Road America Elkhart Lake Wisconsin
10-11 July 11/12 Streets Of Toronto Toronto Ontario, CANADA
Open Test August 12 Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course Lexington Ohio
12-13 August 15/16 Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course Lexington Ohio
Open Test August 20 World Wide Technology Raceway At Gateway Madison Illinois
14 August 22 World Wide Technology Raceway At Gateway Madison Illinois
Open Test September 3 Portland International Raceway Portland Oregon
15-16 September 5/6 Portland International Raceway Portland Oregon
17-18 September 19/20 WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca Monterey California

We’ll be back more on some cost saving initiatives in a while.

Chris Griffis Memorial Test provides the perfect introduction to the Road To Indy and NTT IndyCar Series

By Steve Wittich

Since 2011, the Chris Griffis Memorial Test has introduced several notable names to the Road To Indy as well as the NTT IndyCar Series.

The temperatures were brisk, but the skies were sunny during that first test held in late October in honor of Chris Griffis, Sam Schmidt Motorsports Indy Lights team manager who passed away suddenly that September.

Making their U.S debut during the two days of testing were a pair of future NTT IndyCar Series drivers.

Carlos Munoz, an IndyCar race winner, and two-time Indianapolis 500 runner-up took part in the Indy Lights portion of the test.

In Indy Pro 2000, it was Jack Hawksworth, who made his first appearance on American Soil. The 2012 Indy Pro 2000 champion has made 49 IndyCar starts and is currently wheeling a Lexus RC F GT3 in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. Hawksworth has won twice this year and is now third in the season-long championship.

Jack Hawksworth during his first test on U.S. soil at the Chris Griffis Memorial Test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2011. (Photo courtesy of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography)

“It was my first time in the (United) States for motor racing,” explained Hawksworth to TSO Ladder when asked about that test. “Indianapolis – the famous circuit known all over the world – so going there and going through the gates was very cool.”

“I had a lot of fun — it what effectively sparked my interest in the US. The test went quite well and helped me get a deal done with Team Pelfrey, and set me on my way. I raced (Star) Mazda the next year, and I’ve been racing over here ever since.”

Also appearing in the 2011 test was Nicolas Latifi, who was making his first appearance in cars before moving to Europe to chase his Formula 1 dream. The 24-year-old Canadian has won four times in the FIA Formula 2 Championship this season and is currently second in the championship table.

IndyCar drivers Kyle Kaiser and Jack Harvey made their Road To Indy debuts at the Chris Griffis Memorial Test in 2012 and 2013 respectively. Between them, the pair of drivers have ten Indy Lights wins.

Also making their Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires debuts in 2013 were:

  • Aaron Telitz, 2019 Indy Lights race winner, IndyCar hopeful and endurance driver for Lexus RC F GT3 program in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
  • Jacob Edison, a professional sports car driver.
  • Nico Jamin, a professional sports car driver, piloting an LMP2 for Duqueine Engineering in the European Le Man Series.

In 2014, reigning Indy Lights champion Patricio O’Ward took the reins of a Team Pelfrey Indy Pro 2000 machine. The then 15-year-old led the test, using that momentum to put together a full season effort for 2015.

Patricio O’Ward gets instruction during the 2014 Chris Griffis Memorial Test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Photo Courtesy Of Andersen Promotions)

Also making their debut in Indianapolis that weekend was perennial championship contender Parker Thompson. In 76 Road To Indy starts, the Canadian has a dozen wins to go along with 31 career podiums.

The following year, the annual end of season test moved to Circuit of The Americas, where a quartet of familiar names made their Road To Indy debuts. Current Indy Lights drivers Rinus van Kalmthout (VeeKay) and Robert Megennis were joined by Indy Pro 2000 front-runners Kyle Kirkwood and Sting Ray Robb, who all tested USF2000 machinery.

In 2016, it was presumptive 2019 Indy Lights champion Oliver Askew who impressed in his Road To Indy debut.

Current USF2000 and Indy Pro 2000 championship contenders Hunter McElrea and Rasmus Lindh took part in their first official Road To Indy tests during the 2017 Chris Griffis Memorial Test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2017.

The test, scheduled for October 19 and 20 should fit perfectly for drivers from around the world to have a chance to drive across the famous yard of bricks at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Unfortunately, in the past, the test that was held in September often coincided with other worldwide series. This year, there is no conflict with the following worldwide junior open-wheel series FIA Formula 3 Championship – Euroformula Open Championship – Formula Renault Eurocup – BRDC British Formula 3 Championship – F3 Americas Championship – F3 Asian Championship – Japanese Formula 3 Championship – Italian F4 Championship – ADAC Formula 4 Championship – Formula 4 United States Championship – F4 Spanish Championship – China Formula 4 Championship- SMP F4 Championship- F4 Danish Championship – F2000 Championship Series -Australian Formula Ford Championship – F1600 Championship Series- Ontario F1600 – Quebec F1600 and BRSCC Formula Ford.

Friday will consist of an educational summit, and each series will have 4.5 hours of track time on the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course throughout Saturday and Sunday.

If you are driver looking for a seat for the two-day test, you can find the team contact info at the links below.

Indy Lights teams
Indy Pro 2000 teams 
USF2000 teams 

Here is the on-track schedule:

Saturday

TIME EVENT
7:30am – 8:30am Track Walk
9am – 9:45am USF2000 Practice #1
9:55am – 10:40am Indy Pro 2000 Practice #1
10:50am – 11:35am Indy Lights Practice #1
11:45am – 12:30pm USF2000 Practice #2
12:30pm – 1:15pm Lunch
1:15pm – 2pm Indy Pro 2000 Practice #2
2:10pm – 2:55pm Indy Lights Practice #2
3pm – 3:45pm USF2000 Practice #3
3:55pm – 4:40pm Indy Pro 2000 Practice #3
4:50pm – 5:35pm Indy Lights Practice #3

Sunday

TIME EVENT
9am – 9:45am USF2000 Practice #4
9:55am – 10:40am Indy Pro 2000 Practice #4
10:50am – 11:35am Indy Lights Practice #4
11:45am – 12:30pm USF2000 Practice #5
12:30pm – 1:15pm Lunch
1:15pm – 2pm Indy Pro 2000 Practice #5
2:10pm – 2:55pm Indy Lights Practice #5
3pm – 3:45pm USF2000 Practice #6
3:55pm – 4:40pm Indy Pro 2000 Practice #6
4:50pm – 5:35pm Indy Lights Practice #6

A quick thought from Steve:

These are two of my favorite days of the racing season. I relish the chance to meet young drivers that are possibly embarking on their Road To Indy journey . It’s a relaxed atmosphere, but a the same time, it’s still serious business. It’s a little like being able to watch a first date as drivers and teams both work hard to make an excellent first impression on each other. Is that a little creepy? Yes, but I can’t deny that it’s entertaining and informative.

Current Indy Pro 2000 points leader Kyle Kirkwood made his Road To Indy debut at the 2015 Chris Griffis Memorial Test at Circuit of The Americas (Photo Courtesy Of Andersen Promotions)

Road To Indy at World Wide Technology Raceway At Gateway – Saturday – Kirkwood goes 12th to 1st in Indy Pro 2000 – extends winning streak

Kyle Kirkwood’s incredible run of results that started two months ago at Road America continued as the middle rung of the Road To Indy took on their second oval of the season. But, it wasn’t as easy as leading 50 of 55 laps would appear to be.

The Soul Red No. 28 from the RP Motorsport stable turned in a qualifying lap quick enough to start on the outside of the front row, but the team made an illegal adjustment in the qualifying line, and the reigning 2018 USF2000 champion started on the tail of the 12-car field.

Kirkwood took only five laps to grab the lead, and for much of the race, it appeared that the 20-year-old might head to Portland with the points lead.

“No. Nowhere near that,” explained Kirkwood to TSO after the race. “Honestly, if we had no cautions, I realistically thought a top-five would be a good finish because it’s not very easy to pass around here.

“Every situation I came across was incredible. I went to the outside and people got bottled-up on the inside and I was able to have a massive run to the next corner. I kept doing that and doing that, and it kept working and kept working. Fortunately, the top three or four got together when I was in fifth or sixth, and it created a massive run for me, and I got three or four cars going into Turn 3 and all of a sudden I was passing for the lead. I was passing for the lead, and I was like ‘how did I get here.’

“Everything that could have went right, did for us.”

Polesitter and points leader Lindh spent most of the race running in the fourth spot, but with 15 laps remaining decided it was time to go. The 18-year-old made up one spot with 15 laps remaining and made an aggressive final-lap pass to grab the second sport in the final two corners of the last lap.

After the race, Lindh told us that he didn’t have the speed to win, but was satisfied with his second-place finish.

“I want to win this championship,” said Lindh, who still has a six-point championship lead. “It’s going to end very soon, and we have to get every point we can right now.

The dozen Elite 2.0L engines were fired at 1:41 pm, and after two pace laps, the front row of Lindh and Enders brought the field to the green flag on the World Wide Technology Raceway At Gateway front straight.

Outside front row starter Enders got a slower start allowing his DEForce Racing teammate de la Vara to move into second and put pressure on Lindh.

Lindh crossed the line first followed by de la Vera, Enders, Robb, Comeau, Frost, Petrov, Kirkwood, Thompson, Abel, Lastochkin and Finelli.

On Lap 2, the top three went down the front straight three-wide with de la Vara grabbing the lead. Kirkwood had already made up seven spots and was running fifth. Kirkwood made up one spot on each of the next two laps and completed his run from last to first on Lap 5.

Things settled in for the next few laps with Kirkwood leading de la Vera and Enders. By Lap 10 Enders was on his teammate’s gearbox with the pair going side-by-side for Lap 13 and Lap 14 before de la Vara was able to take control of the second spot.

Lap 18 was a busy one. Enders was finally able to get past de la Vara, and Lindh was able to grab back the fourth spot from Comeau.

Two laps later, Enders turned the quickest lap of the race to that point, taking off after Kirkwood upfront. On lap 20, the lead was 1.9 seconds. Texan Enders started to methodically eat into Kirkwood’s lead, dropping the gap to 1.3 seconds with 30 laps remaining.

Behind the front pair, de la Vara was facing immense pressure from Lindh and Comeau, with Frost right there. On lap 27, Frost was able to move into the top five, getting past Comeau.

With 25 laps remaining, Kirkwood’s lead was down to 0.7 seconds. The front two were over six seconds ahead of the train forming behind de la Vara.

On lap 32, Enders washed wide in Turn 3 and Turn 4, and the gap grew to 1.1 seconds when they crossed the line to start lap 33.

With 18 to go, Lindh and Frost went side-by-side through Turn 1 and 2. The championship leader was able to hold onto the spot as the Exclusive Autosport driver dropped in behind the Juncos Racing rookie.

With 15-laps remaining Lindh went to the outside of de la Vara in Turn 1 and the Swedish driver was the only one to exit Turn 2. de la Vara’s UAG / I.E.P. / MOTUL / JUMEX / Oil Depot sponsored No. 6 appeared to be carrying too much speed and spun 90 degrees making hard contact with the SAFER Barrier in the middle of the two turns at the south end of the track.

The running order under yellow was Kirkwood, Enders, Lindh, Frost, Comeau, Robb, Petrov, Thompson, Lastochkin, Finelli, de la Verra and Abel. 28 7 10 68 3 2 5 8 90 83 6 51

Kirkwood got a good jump on Enders when the green flag came back out with seven laps remaining. Lindh immediately started to put pressure on Enders, looking to get by the DEForce Racing driver in Turn 3 on the first two laps under green. Enders was able to hold him off, but that allowed Kirkwood to build a comfortable lead upfront.

With four laps remaining, Kirkwood’s lead was 0.7 seconds. With two laps left, the lead had dropped to 0.5 seconds.

But, Lindh was not done trying to grab as many points as possible. The driver of the Chicago Pneumatic / PWR Junior Team / SKF sponsored No. 10 got a great run through Turn 1 and Turn 2, carrying enough momentum to go two-by-two with Enders in Turn 3 and 4 with Lindh beating Enders to the start/finish line by a slim 0.09-second margin.

Cooper Tires Indy Pro 2000 Oval Challenge of St. Louis Race Results 

RANK CAR NO. DRIVER TEAM GAP
1 28 Kyle Kirkwood RP Motorsport Racing 55 laps
2 10 Rasmus Lindh Juncos Racing 0.8679
3 7 Kory Enders DEForce Racing 0.9601
4 68 Danial Frost Exclusive Autosport 3.4598
5 2 Sting Ray Robb Juncos Racing 4.0903
6 8 Parker Thompson Abel Motorsports 4.5870
7 5 Artem Petrov RP Motorsport Racing 6.6119
8 90 Nikita Lastochkin Exclusive Autosport 7.8187
9 3 Antoine Comeau Turn 3 Motorsport 8.7151
10 83 Charles Finelli FatBoy Racing – 1 LAPS
11 6 Moises de la Vara DEForce Racing -16 LAPS
12 51 Jacob Abel Abel Motorsports -41 LAP
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Road To Indy at World Wide Technology Raceway At Gateway – Friday – DEForce Racing’s Enders and de la Vara sandwich championship leader Lindh in practice

A pair of DEForce Racing drivers, Kory Enders, and Moisés de la Vara sandwiched current points leader Rasmus Lindh at the top of the Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires timing screen after the first and only practice session. 

Parker Thompson and Kyle Kirkwood, who are also in championship contention had the fourth and fifth quickest laps. 

The air temperature when the lone 30-minute practice session for the Cooper Tires Indy Pro 2000 Oval Challenge of St. Louis was 84F. The track temperature of the 1.25-mile egg-shaped oval was 115F. 

Each entry received two new sets of Cooper Tires and were allowed to carry over one set from the recent World Wide Technology Raceway At Gateway test. Drivers have to start the race on the same set of Cooper Tires they qualify on. 

The leader at the half-way point of the sessions was Moisés de la Vara. The DEForce Racing driver’s quick lap was 143.177mph. The rest of the top five were points leader Lindh, Kory Enders, Parker Thompson and Danial Frost. 

With ten minutes remaining in the session, newcomer Artem Petrov moved into the top three.

With eight minutes remaining, Lindh went to the top of the timing screens with a lap at 143.514mph. 

With five of 30 minutes, remaining times started to drop as drivers made qualifying simulations. Lindh was the first driver to go quicker, but the Swede was quickly supplanted on the top of the timing screens by Enders.

The entire 30-minute session was run under green flag conditions, and the dozen drivers turned a total of 423 laps. Nikita Lastochkin was the busiest pilot, turning 49 laps.

Cooper Tires Indy Pro 2000 Oval Challenge of St. Louis practice #1 results 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RANK CAR NO. DRIVER FASTEST LAP (mph) TOTAL LAPS
1 7 Kory Enders 143.786 35
2 10 Rasmus Lindh 143.780 36
3 6 Moises de la Vara 143.665 34
4 8 Parker Thompson 143.000 37
5 28 Kyle Kirkwood 142.741 30
6 51 Jacob Abel 142.637 36
7 68 Danial Frost 142.270 34
8 5 Artem Petrov 141.668 30
9 2 Sting Ray Robb 141.598 26
10 90 Nikita Lastochkin 139.899 49
11 3 Antoine Comeau 138.488 32
12 83 Charles Finelli 137.703 44

The middle rung of the Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires will be back for qualifying at 6:30 pm (Central).

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Road To Indy testing at World Wide Technology Raceway At Gateway – Sowery and HMD Motorsports quick in Indy Lights – Kirkwood’s momentum continues in Indy Pro 2000

By Steve Wittich

The top two rungs of the Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires were in action yesterday at the 1.25-mile World Wide Technology Raceway At Gateway oval in preparation for their races next weekend.

A total of eight Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires and a dozen Indy Pro 2000 drivers took part in three test sessions (a total of 165 minutes) each.

Championship leader Oliver Askew turned in the quickest laps during the first two test sessions, but it was a pair of HMD Motorsports drivers who ended up on top of the combined timesheet when the test ended.

Yes, you read that correctly, HMD Motorsports. The team formerly known as BN Racing has moved from Chicago, Ill. to Brownsburg, Ind. and experienced USF2000 team owner, IndyCar team manager, and one-time Team Penske crew chief John Cummiskey has joined the team that also added championship-winning engineer Geoff Fickling at the Road America rounds.

Sowery’s fastest lap during a qualifying simulation on his last lap in the last session of the day was clocked at 159.086 mph, just a little quicker than Colton Herta’s pole lap of 159.075 mph from last year.

Toby Sowery on pit road for an Indy Lights test at World Wide Technology Raceway At Gateway (Photo Courtesy Of Andersen Promotions)

“We were comfortable right out of the box,” said Sowery, who finished fourth in the Freedom 100 presented by Cooper Tires, his first-ever race on an oval. “Most every track I’ve been to this year has been new, so you can’t let that bother you. Ovals are new to me as well, but in some ways, there’s less to an oval than a road course, and the concept applies from one to another. You basically know what to expect, so it’s all about having faith in the car and knowing what it’s capable of. We had a car that allowed us to push fairly easily without taking any risks.

“I’m quietly optimistic going into the race weekend – I don’t want to jinx it, because I really do want that first series win, but I think we’ve got the car under us, it’s just a matter of putting all the pieces together.”

The 23-year-old’s HMD Motorsports teammate needed a confidence boost after a hard crash ended his first Indy Lights oval experience at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on the fourth turn of the first lap.

The Chicago, Ill. driver turned a total of 181 laps during the three sessions, the most of any driver. “This is the most confident I’ve felt since I started Indy Lights,” said Malukas.

“I’m still new to ovals, to preparing passes, and I didn’t have a teammate last year in Indy Pro 2000 to work with, said the 17-year-old after the test. “I won’t lie, I was a bit nervous getting back into the car, since the last time I was on an oval I had a big incident. I went in not expecting much, but we’ve made a lot of changes to the team and this was a fresh start. I was expecting to take my time getting up to speed, but we were up to pace right away in the first session.

“It’s quite difficult to pass here, as opposed to Indy, so getting practice in passing is really important, and it went really well. We put it in P1 doing a quali sim early in the third session and went back to race runs, since that’s where I struggle the most. We found a really good race setup but we were out of fuel and couldn’t compete with Toby over those last few laps, but congrats to him. All that matters is the team effort – to be one-two at the top, we’re all really happy going into the race weekend.”

Freedom 100 presented by Cooper Tires pole-sitter Robert Megennis ended the day with the third quickest time, just ahead of his teammate Askew, who worked on race runs in the final one-hour session.

None of the drivers made contact with the wall, but Andretti Autosport veteran and winner at World Wide Technology Raceway At Gateway had a big “oh sh*t” moment that he shared on social media.

Combined Indy Lights Time Sheet 

RANK CAR NO DRIVER TEAM FASTEST LAP (MPH) DIFFERENCE (MPH) TOTAL LAPS
1 2 Toby Sowery HMD Motorsports 159.086 156
2 79 David Malukas HMD Motorsports 158.617 -0.469 181
3 27 Robert Megennis Andretti Autosport 158.101 -0.985 162
4 28 Oliver Askew Andretti Autosport 157.947 -1.139 152
5 48 Ryan Norman Andretti Autosport 157.828 -1.258 108
6 21 Rinus VeeKay Juncos Racing 157.574 -1.512 147
7 5 Lucas Kohl Belardi Auto Racing 156.386 -2.7 174
8 67 Dalton Kellett Juncos Racing 155.207 -3.879 110

 

Kyle Kirkwood’s hot streak continued into testing for the second oval event of the Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires season. The reigning Cooper Tires USF2000 Champion used final session lap clocked at 142.241mph to wipe out a rough start to start to the day that had the RP Motorsport driver in eighth after the first session.

The Italian team went back to the same set-up they used last year when Harrison Scott grabbed the pole, and that allowed Kirkwood to go to the top of the combined timesheet.

Kirkwood’s quickest lap was significantly faster than Scott’s qualifying effort of 139.738mph last year.

“We had some issues in the first session, but we went back to the team’s baseline from last year’s pole-winning car in the second session,” said the 20-year-old who is on a three-race winning streak. “In the third session, we put fresh tires on and were able to get a quick lap there at the end, though I think there’s plenty of room for improvement. The team has confidence coming into the race weekend after their performance here last year, and since this is the second oval of the year.

“This is very different from Lucas Oil Raceway, as there are fewer reference points and you’re not running up high the entire time, and we’re going a lot quicker. This is the first time I’ve been on a ‘real’ oval so it was a good experience. I think we’ll be strong next weekend.”

Kyle Kirkwood on pit road during Indy Pro 2000 testing at World Wide Technology Raceway At Gateway (Photo Courtesy Of Andersen Promotions)

Championship leader Rasmus Lindh, like fellow title-leader Oliver Askew, led the first two sessions. The Juncos Racing rookie ended the day with the second quickest time and with the team’s past success on the 1.25-mile oval, has confidence headed into the race weekend.

“This is my first time on an oval like this and it was a good experience,” said Lindh who finished third in the first oval event of the year at Lucas Oil Raceway. “You can work more with your driving here because you can run more of a normal line in the middle of the corner, rather than having to run a high line. It took a few laps to get used to it. It’s more difficult to find time on an oval like this, but if you’re in the top three, running here feels quite easy.

“Rinus did well here last year and we were P1 in the first two sessions so we’re very confident that we have a good baseline going into the race weekend. We focused on race runs in the final session and we’re very happy with the car. We have to be careful, as Kyle is catching us a bit, but I feel as though this will be a good race weekend for us.”

Ending the day with the third and fourth quickest laps were DEForce Racing teammate Kory Enders and Moisés de la Vara.

Danial Frost, the winner of the first oval race of the year finished the day with the tenth quickest time, and the Exclusive Autosport crew will have some work to do, if they want to win again on an oval.

Making his Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires debut with RP Motorsport was Artem Petrov. The 20-year-old from St. Petersburg, Russia spent two years in F4, finishing fifth in the 2017 Italian F4 Championship. Last year, Petrov contested the FIA Formula 3 European Championship and has driven in Euroformula Open Championship with RP Motorsport this year.

Petrov ended up with the ninth quickest time.

There were no significant incidents, but the No. 83 Fatboy Racing! machine piloted by Charles Finelli expired, losing substantial fluid and causing a delay during clean-up.

Combined Indy Pro 2000 timesheet 

RANK CAR NO DRIVER TEAM FASTEST LAP (MPH) DIFFERENCE (MPH) TOTAL LAPS
1 28 Kyle Kirkwood RP Motorsport 142.241 122
2 10 Rasmus Lindh Juncos Racing 142.116 -0.125 119
3 7 Kory Enders DEForce Racing 141.452 -0.789 123
4 6 Moisés de la Vara DEForce Racing 141.404 -0.837 100
5 2 Sting Ray Robb Juncos Racing 141.200 -1.041 150
6 51 Jacob Abel Abel Motorsports 140.654 -1.587 159
7 8 Parker Thompson Abel Motorsports 140.031 -2.21 99
8 3 Antoine Comeau Turn 3 Motorsport 139.904 -2.337 135
9 5 Artem Petrov RP Motorsport 139.067 -3.174 139
10 68 Danial Frost Exclusive Autosport 139.032 -3.209 152
11 90 Nikita Lastochkin Exclusive Autosport 138.945 -3.296 163
12 83 Charles Finelli Fatboy Racing! 136.186 -6.055 91
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Road To Indy at Mid-Ohio – Friday – Kirkwood makes statement in dominant Indy Pro 2000 pole

By Steve Wittich

Only five points separate the three drivers chasing Rasmus Lindh for the Indy Pro 2000 title, and one of them needs a statement weekend. The early advantage goes to Kyle Kirkwood, who’s pole-winning lap at 75.5151 seconds was 0.442 ahead of Lindh.

Tomorrow’s inside front row start will the 20-year-old’s fourth of the year and eighth in 24 career Road To Indy starts. It’s the first pole on the 2.258-Mile, 13-Turn Mid-Ohio Road Course for RP Motorsport.

The iconic Soul Red livery of Indy Pro 2000 pole winner Kyle Kirkwood on track at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (Photo Courtesy Of Andersen Promotions)

Parker Thompson, who is currently second in the championship, will start directly behind Kirkwood. The veteran Canadian will be joined by his Abel Motorsports teammate Jacob Abel, who turned in his best qualifying effort of the year.

The ambient temperature when qualifying for the first of two Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires races at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course this weekend began was 81F. The track temperature was 114F. The middle rung of the Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires ladder was the final track activity of the day.

Thompson led early, but was quickly supplanted at the top of the timing screens by Kirkwood, who lap of 76.3338 seconds was the quickest at the half-way point of the 20-minute session. The rest of the top ten were: Thompson, Rodriguez, Robb, Lindh, Frost, Abel, Lastochkin, Denes and Enders.

It was at this time that most drivers came to pit road for adjustments. The 14 drivers and teams were following the Firestone Firehawk rubber for the first time this weekend.

With just over three minutes remaining in the session, Lindh was the first driver to go quicker, jumping to the second spot. Just a few seconds later, Kirkwood crossed the timing line, lowering the provisional pole time again.

Thompson was the next driver to grab the provisional pole, but that didn’t last long. Kirkwood lowered the provisional pole time one more time.

The timing screen was lit up with purple with drivers setting their fastest laps of the session in the final 60 seconds, but nobody could touch Kirkwood, whose last lap obliterated the field.

Cooper Tires Indy Pro 2000 Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio Qualifying #1 Results

RANK CAR. NO DRIVER TEAM QUICK LAP DIFFERENCE
1 28 Kyle Kirkwood RP Motorsport Racing 1:15.515 –.—-
2 10 Rasmus Lindh Juncos Racing 1:15.957 0.4421
3 8 Parker Thompson Abel Motorsports 1:16.182 0.6672
4 51 Jacob Abel Abel Motorsports 1:16.427 0.9119
5 5 Ian Rodriguez RP Motorsport Racing 1:16.436 0.9212
6 68 Danial Frost Exclusive Autosport 1:16.542 1.0267
7 2 Sting Ray Robb Juncos Racing 1:16.566 1.0513
8 98 Phillippe Denes FatBoy Racing 1:16.679 1.1640
9 90 Nikita Lastochkin Exclusive Autosport 1:17.225 1.7099
10 6 Moises de la Vara DEForce Racing 1:17.389 1.8738
11 7 Kory Enders DEForce Racing 1:17.461 1.9455
12 3 Antoine Comeau Turn 3 Motorsport 1:17.767 2.2517
13 11 Antonio Serravalle Pserra Racing/Jay Howard Driver Development 1:17.896 2.3805
14 83 Charles Finelli FatBoy Racing 1:21.177 5.6615

Indy Pro 2000 Race #1 gets the green flag at 5 pm on Saturday. Before that, the middle rung of the Road To Indy qualifies for Race #2 at 9:10 am.

Road To Indy at Mid-Ohio – Friday – Points leader Lindh goes quickest in first Indy Pro 2000 practice

By Steve Wittich

Points leader Rasmus Lindh started off the most-important race weekend of the season by leading the lone practice session with a quick lap of 76.058 seconds. That lap-time is below the race track record of 76. 3320 set by Rinus van Kalmthout (VeeKay) last year.

The top six drivers, including Kyle Kirkwood, Jacob Abel, Ian Rodriguez, Sting Ray Robb, and Parker Thompson were all within a half-second of Lindh.

The lone Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires practice session before qualifying started promptly at 9:35 am.

Drivers mainly utilized carry-over tires from Toronto for the session.

Abel Motorsports rookie Abel was the early leader at the half-way point of the session with a lap of 76.270 seconds. That was 0.3540 seconds ahead of Kirkwood and his Soul Red No. 28. Danial Frost, Lindh, Ian Rodriguez, Sting Ray Robb, Parker Thompson, Nikita Lastochkin, Kory Enders and Moisés de la Vara.

With 10-minutes left in the session, Lindh went to the top of the timing screen and remained there until the checkered flag came out to end the session.

The 13 drivers turned a total of 210 laps. Antonio Serravalle (Pserra Racing) and Charles Finelli (Fatboy Racing!) with 20 laps each, were the busiest drivers.

Phillippe Denes does not show as turning any laps, but the Fatboy Racing! driver was dealing with a faulty transponder, so his laps didn’t register.

Cooper Tires Indy Pro 2000 Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio Practice #1 Results

RANK CAR. NO DRIVER TEAM QUICK LAP DIFFERENCE TOTAL LAPS
1 10 Rasmus Lindh Juncos Racing 1:16.058 –.—- 16
2 28 Kyle Kirkwood RP Motorsport Racing 1:16.269 0.2105 18
3 51 Jacob Abel Abel Motorsports 1:16.270 0.2113 13
4 5 Ian Rodriguez RP Motorsport Racing 1:16.308 0.2493 18
5 2 Sting Ray Robb Juncos Racing 1:16.379 0.3205 16
6 8 Parker Thompson Abel Motorsports 1:16.518 0.4594 19
7 68 Danial Frost Exclusive Autosport 1:16.719 0.6609 17
8 90 Nikita Lastochkin Exclusive Autosport 1:16.912 0.8538 18
9 7 Kory Enders DEForce Racing 1:17.430 1.3717 10
10 3 Antoine Comeau Turn 3 Motorsport 1:17.438 1.3794 18
11 6 Moises de la Vara DEForce Racing 1:17.548 1.4898 7
12 11 Antonio Serravalle Pserra Racing/Jay Howard Driver Development 1:17.760 1.7017 20
13 83 Charles Finelli FatBoy Racing 1:19.642 3.5840 20
14 98 Phillippe Denes FatBoy Racing No Time

The Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires drivers are the last track activity for the day, qualifying at 4:15 pm.

Road To Indy in Toronto – Friday – Kirkwood leads first Indy Pro 2000 season

For the second straight event, it was Kyle Kirkwood and the Soul Red No. 28 that led the first practice session of the weekend.

The next three drivers, Parker Thompson (Abel Motorsports), championship leader and Juncos Racing rookie Rasmus Lindh and Sting Ray Robb (Juncos Racing) were within a scant three-tenths of Kirkwood.

Thompson had to jump straight from his PM-18 to his ride in the Porsche GT3 ride for the second of his five practice session on the day.

The Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires series had their 25-minute practice session delayed by a few minutes after the extended USF2000 session.

Mirroring their smaller siblings, the red flag came out after only two minutes for the No. 51 of Jacob Abel, which had ground to a halt on the front straight. His Abel Construction/Bell Helmets No. 51 was damaged when he was hit by Moisés de la Vara’s  UAG/I.E.P. /MOTUL/JUMEX/Oil Depot sponsored No. 51 as the Mexican driver from the DEForce Racing stable exited pit road. The green flag on the 25-minute session came back out with just under 14-minutes remaining. The rest of the session was run under green flag conditions.

Kirkwood, coming off a pair of wins at Road America, Kirkwood led the majority of the session.

With five minutes remaining, it was Thompson that moved to the top of the timing screens.

With three minutes left in the session, championship leader Lindh went quickest, but was surpassed by Kirkwood on the next lap.

Eleven of the 13 drivers turned a total of 134 laps in anger.

Indy Pro 2000 Practice #1 Results

RANK CAR NO NAME TEAM QUICK LAP DIFFERENCE TOTAL LAPS
1 28 Kyle Kirkwood RP Motorsport Racing 1:09.747 –.—- 13
2 8 Parker Thompson Abel Motorsports 1:09.939 0.1913 13
3 10 Rasmus Lindh Juncos Racing 1:09.970 0.2227 11
4 2 Sting Ray Robb Juncos Racing 1:10.051 0.3034 13
5 90 Nikita Lastochkin Exclusive Autosport 1:10.533 0.7858 12
6 68 Danial Frost Exclusive Autosport 1:10.795 1.0481 9
7 11 Antonio Serravalle Pserra Racing/Jay Howard Driver Development 1:10.836 1.0884 13
8 98 Phillippe Denes FatBoy Racing 1:11.199 1.4520 12
9 6 Moises de la Vara DEForce Racing 1:11.396 1.6485 13
10 5 Ian Rodriguez RP Motorsport Racing 1:11.579 1.8322 12
11 7 Kory Enders DEForce Racing 1:11.858 2.1110 13

The Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires series is back on track at 2:05 pm for their first qualifying session.

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