Next weekend, the Indy Pro 2000 will also start its new season. This is the penultimate stage on the "Road to Indy". In this article we take a look at the teams and drivers this year, all the race tracks, the race format, the points system, as well as the recent testing at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama. Also, at the end, I again venture a prediction on the driver and team championships this season.
After competing in 2019 & 2020, Jacob Abel will compete again in 2021 with Abel Motorsports in Indy Pro 2000. A third place finish from the second race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course last year was his best result to date. He also competed in Formula Regional Americas last year, where he finished fifth in the championship.
In his home country in Australia, Cameron Shields was always one of the fastest drivers when he was on the grid. In 2017, he finished third in the Australian Formula 4 Championship. In 2018, he managed to win 18 races in six different racing series and stood on the podium 50 times. Among other things, he was runner-up in the Australian F3 Premier Series. In the past two years, he competed in USF2000, where he finished on the podium four times and won the oval race at Lucas Oil Raceway in 2019. This year, he now debuts with DEForce in the Indy Pro 2000 Series.
Artem Petrov, Braden Eves
This year, Exclusive Autosport is once again competing with two cars in the Indy Pro 2000 series. Braden Eves already started for the team last year. He was able to win his third race with the team and was in the championship fight until his terrible accident in the first race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This year, the 2019 USF2000 champion is now making his comeback on the "Road to Indy." Artem Petrov is his new teammate for this season. The Russian won two races with Juncos Racing last year, finished on the podium seven times and finished fourth in the championship.
Jay Howard Driver Development
Christian Rasmussen, Wyatt Brichacek
The Jay Howard Driver Development Team is competing in Indy Pro 2000 for the first time this year. Last year they won the USF2000 with Christian Rasmussen. The Dane will start for the team again this year and will probably be right up front again. Last year he dominated the USF2000 and won 9 out of 17 races. His teammate for this year is Wyatt Brichacek, who raced in USF2000 last year. His best result was a tenth place finish in the final race of the season. In 2019, he finished twelfth in the F4 US Championship.
Kyffin Simpson, Manuel Sulaimán, Reece Gold
The reigning champions of the Indy Pro 2000 drivers and teams championships will be competing with three completely new drivers this season. Manuel Sulaimán still competed for DEForce in the championship last year. He won two races and was on the podium four times. For his teammates, it will be their first year in Indy Pro 2000. Reece Gold finished third in the USF2000 championship last year and won two races. Kyffin Simpson recently celebrated his first victories in the FR Americas.
Legacy Autosport is teaming up with Flinn Lazier for their first full season in the Indy Pro 2000 Championship. In recent years, Buddy Lazier's son has been found primarily in SCCA Formula Atlantic, where he has won two SCCA National Championship Runoffs titles among others.
Miller Vinatieri Motorsports
Jack William Miller
Jack William Miller has moved up to the Indy Pro 2000 championship this year. The 17-year-old from Indianapolis has competed in the USF2000 series for the past two years. Last year, he finished eighth overall in the championship and celebrated two podium finishes. He finished the oval race at Lucas Oil Raceway in P3. And in the second race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, he crossed the finish line in second place.
Hunter McElrea, Colin Kaminsky
The driver pairing at Pabst Racing remains unchanged from last year. For both drivers it will be the second season in the Indy Pro 2000. Hunter McElrea scored one win and six podiums last year. He finished fifth in the championship. His teammate Colin Kaminsky also made the podium three times and finished eighth in the championship.
Enaam Ahmed, Enzo Fittipaldi
RP Motorsport has two cars on the grid again this year. Only recently, the signing of Enaam Ahmed was announced. Last year's FIA Formula 3 driver will make his debut on the USA circuits this year. In 2017 he won the British BRDC F3 and in 2019 he finished third with two wins in Japanese Formula 3. Former Ferrari Driver Academy member Enzo Fittipaldi is also new to the "Road to Indy" this year. Last year, he still competed in FIA F3 and scored points there six times. In 2019, he was runner-up in the European Formula Regional Championship. In 2018 he won the Italian Formula 4.
Turn 3 Motorsport
Turn 3 Motorsport is entering only one car in the Indy Pro 2000 series this year. The Irishman James Roe is known mainly from the Formula Regional Americas, where he drove the last two years. Last year he finished the championship in 7th place. This year he makes his debut on the "Road to Indy".
Velocity Racing Development
Velocity Racing Development is making their debut in the Indy Pro 2000 series this year. With Hunter Yeany they already won the F4 US Championship last year. At the time, they won seven of 14 races and finished on the podium a whopping thirteen times. This year, Hunter has a double schedule in the Indy Pro 2000 and FR Americas.
Round 1: Barber Motorsports Park (17-18 April)
The season opener will be held at Barber Motorsports Park, just like the testing this year. Two races will be held here this season. To date, no Indy Pro 2000 races have been held in Birmingham, Alabama.
Round 2: Streets of St. Petersburg (24-25 April)
After being the season opener for years, the race weekend at the Streets of St. Petersburg in Florida became the season finale last year due to the worldwide pandemic. This year, the weekend now moves to second on the calendar. Last year, Sting Ray Robb won the first race with Juncos Racing. Hunter McElrea was victorious in the second race with Pabst Racing.
Round 3: Indianapolis Motor Speedway (14-15 May)
The third stop this year is the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Despite the pandemic, Indy Pro 2000 races were able to take place here last year as well. The later champion Sting Ray Robb was able to win all three races with Juncos Racing at that time.
Round 4: Lucas Oil Raceway (28 May)
The first oval race for Indy Pro 2000 will be held May 28 at Lucas Oil Raceway in Brownsburg, Indiana. The race could also take place last year and was won by Kody Swanson and Legacy Autosport.
Round 5: Road America (19-20 June)
Road America was the venue for last year's season opener. Danial Frost with Turn 3 Motorsport and Artem Petrov with Juncos Racing won the two races back then.
Round 6: Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (3-4 July)
At the beginning of July, racing will resume at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Last year, the pandemic meant that two race weekends were held here. On the first weekend, Braden Eves won the first race with Exclusive Autosport. Juncos Racing won the other two races with Artem Petrov and Sting Ray Robb. On the second visit to Mid-Ohio, Manuel Sulaimán and DEForce won the first race. The second race was then won again by Sting Ray Robb.
Round 7: Exhibition Place (10-11 July)
After the race weekend in Toronto, Canada could not take place last year due to the global pandemic, the "Exhibition Place" is back on the calendar in 2021. The two feeder races of the 2019 Grand Prix of Toronto were won by Exclusive Autosport with Danial Frost and RP Motorsport with Kyle Kirkwood.
Round 8: World Wide Technology Raceway (21 August)
The second and last oval race of the season is scheduled for August 21. Last year the race could take place as well. Devlin DeFrancesco could win with Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport at that time.
Round 9: New Jersey Motorsports Park (28-29 August)
This year, the season finale will be held at New Jersey Motorsports Park. Three races were held here last year as well. Devlin DeFrancesco and Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport won the first race then. The second race was won by Sting Ray Robb and Juncos Racing. In the last race Manuel Sulaimán with DEForce was victorious.
The race format of the Indy Pro 2000 series and the "Road to Indy" in general varies in the number of races from weekend to weekend. Usually, two or even three races are run on the same race track. The starting formation for the first race is determined by a qualifying session. The starting grid for the second race is then determined by the fastest lap time during the first race. If there is a third race, there will be a second qualifying session which will then determine the grid for race 2. The third race will then be started based on the fastest lap times from race 2.
Since Indy Pro 2000 races on both street and street circuits, as well as oval tracks, there are two different scoring systems. On a street or street circuit, the top 20 get points. The winner gets 30 points. The second and third place get 25 and 22 points respectively. In addition, there is an extra point for the pole position and the most lead laps.
(P1: 30, P2: 25, P3: 22, P4: 19, P5: 17, P6: 15, P7: 14, P8: 13, P9: 12, P10: 11, P11: 10, P12: 9, P13: 8 P14: 7, P15: 6, P16: 5, P17: 4, P18: 3, P19: 2, P20: 1)
On an oval there are also points for the best 20 drivers. However, since there are significantly fewer oval races compared to other races, there are more points to be won in an oval race. Again, there is one extra point each for pole position and most lead laps.
(P1: 45, P2: 38, P3: 33, P4: 29, P5: 26, P6: 23, P7: 21, P8: 20, P9: 18, P10: 17, P11: 15, P12: 14, P13: 12 P14: 11, P15: 9, P16: 8, P17: 6, P18: 5, P19: 3, P20: 2)
For the team championship again other points are awarded. Teams with only one car will receive three bonus points to compensate for teams with multiple cars. Furthermore, only the two best results count for all teams with more than two cars.
(P1: 22, P2: 18, P3: 15, P4: 12, P5: 10, P6: 8, P7: 6, P8: 4, P9: 2, P10+: 1)
The Indy Pro 2000 champion's scholarship is currently worth $609,245 and will allow him to advance to Indy Lights with the team of his choice. Last year, it was added that the 2020 Indy Pro 2000 champion, Sting Ray Robb, will have a test with an IndyCar team after the conclusion of the 2021 Indy Lights season.
As is the case every year, preseason testing sessions called "Spring Trainings" were held. The Indy Pro 2000 was on the road for five one-hour test sessions at Barber Motorsports Park on April 4 and 5.
On Sunday, the first day of testing, two one-hour sessions were run. Rookie Wyatt Brichacek posted the fastest lap time in the first session. Reece Gold and Colin Kaminskiy followed in second and third place. Wyatt Brichacek was also able to burn the fastest time into the asphalt in the faster second session. James Roe and Christian Rasmussen followed behind.
Three one-hour practice sessions were held on Monday. The first session in the morning was also the fastest of the entire test. Manuel Sulaimán set the fastest time with DEForce, just ahead of Christian Rasmussen and Kyffin Simpson. In the second session of the day, Wyatt Brichacek set the fastest lap time ahead of Enaam Ahmed and Christian Rasmussen. In the third and final session, Manuel Sulaimán once again took the top spot in the standings. Braden Eves was second and Enzo Fittipaldi third.
P1: Manuel Sulaimán (Juncos)
P2: Christian Rasmussen (JHDD) + 0.0143 sec
P3: Kyffin Simpson (Juncos) + 0.0803
P4: Hunter McElrea (Pabst) + 0.1893
P5: James Roe (Turn 3) + 0.2384
P6: Artem Petrov (Exclusive) + 0.2457
P7: Reece Gold (Juncos) + 0.3452
P8: Cameron Shields (DEForce) + 0.3540
P9: Enzo Fittipaldi (RP Motorsport) + 0.3817
P10: Colin Kaminsky (Pabst) + 0.4381
As I have done in other racing series, I'll venture a little prediction for this year's Indy Pro 2000 driver and team title fights.
Drivers Championship Prediction
P1: Christian Rasmussen
P2: Manuel Sulaimán
P3: Hunter McElrea
P4: Reece Gold
P5: Artem Petrov
As you could already see in the "Spring Training" the starting field is extremely close this year. My three main favorites for the title are Christian Rasmussen, the reigning USF2000 champion, the Mexican F4 NACAM champion from the 2018-19 season Manuel Sulaimán and the USF2000 runner-up from 2019, New Zealander Hunter McElrea. Exclusive drivers Artem Petrov and Braden Eves are also likely to be up front in the battle. I am excited about the rookies Reece Gold, Kyffin Simpson, Jack William Miller and Hunter Yeany. I'm also looking forward to the performances of Cameron Shields, Enzo Fittipaldi and Enaam Ahmed. I think they can also compete for podiums or even wins in some races.
Teams Championship Prediction
P1: Juncos Racing
P2: Exclusive Autosport
P3: Pabst Racing
After the team championship was won by Juncos Racing last year, I see the team in the lead again this year. Behind them it will be tight for the other places. I think that especially Exclusive Autosport and Pabst Racing will be able to assert themselves more often.
written by Claudio Graf (youngdriversmonthly) / 10th April, 2021