Devlin DeFrancesco thoroughly dominated today’s Cooper Tires Indy Pro 2000 Grand Prix at New Jersey Motorsports Park. The 20-year-old Italian-Canadian rookie was never seriously challenged during the 25-lap contest while wrapping up his second victory of the season for Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport.
Juncos Racing’s Sting Ray Robb also enjoyed a relatively comfortable ride to second place, now holding a healthy 41-point advantage over DeFrancesco in the Indy Pro 2000 title race with four races remaining this season. At stake is a scholarship valued at over $600,000 for the season champion to graduate onto the final rung of the Road to Indy open-wheel development ladder, Indy Lights, in 2021.
Mexico’s Manuel Sulaiman continued his good form for DEForce Racing to complete the podium in third.
DeFrancesco set the ball rolling this morning in qualifying as he edged Robb by just 0.0087s to snag his third Cooper Tires Pole Award of the year. He took full advantage by making a clean start and was comfortably ahead as the field entered the braking area for Turn 1. DeFrancesco then set a series of fastest laps to extend his margin to over a second in the first five opening laps before settling into a rhythm and eventually taking the checkered flag fully 5.3507 seconds to the good.
DeFrancesco’s performance ensured a second PFC Award of the season for the winning team.
“That was a new situation for us, to be out in front for the entire race, so that was fun,” said the race winner. “It’s a great feeling, after all the hard work that’s gone into this, to see us evolve as a team and get faster and faster through the year. That’s the most satisfying feeling in the world. The test here last month really helped us as a team to find that speed, so I knew we’d have the race pace. We’ll see what we can squeeze out in qualifying tomorrow morning. I know there’s weather coming so there will be a few more spanners in the works. But anything can happen in the championship. I’m here to fight and Sting Ray definitely has a fight on his hands.”
“With the triple header, we had the choice to run on new or used tires and we decided to go out on used, and it looks as though Devlin went with freshly scrubbed new tires,” said Robb. “Props to him, he drove great, especially on the newer tires; but I think we did a good job to get second. We had good pace, so going into qualifying tomorrow morning we’ve got two new sets of tires we can look forward to in addition to perhaps some rain racing. Who knows what will happen; no one has run here in the rain. Huge thanks to the Juncos crew. We blew a motor yesterday and they had to hustle to get me back in the car, with little time in the car until the final session. But 41 points … I’m not too worried. I’m ready to get out there tomorrow.”
Sulaiman chased gamely after Robb but was never able to make a serious challenge for position. He in turn edged clear of Canadian teammate Parker Thompson who had to work much harder to keep Robb’s teammate, Russian Artem Petrov, in his mirrors after overtaking Petrov at the start.
New Zealander Hunter McElrea rounded out the top six for Pabst Racing. McElrea also took home the Tilton Hard Charger Award after making up two positions during the 25-lap race.
Singapore’s Danial Frost, winner of the opening race of the season at Road America in July for Turn 3 Motorsport, endured a disappointing day when he pulled off the road with a mechanical problem while holding down sixth place. Frost’s demise allowed Colin Kaminsky (Pabst Racing) to finish seventh, despite having fallen to the back of the field following an off-course excursion on the opening lap.
Two more races will be on tap tomorrow, with the grid for the opener established during a separate qualifying session at 10:45 a.m. ET.