Only two race weekends remain to decide the champions of the junior rungs on the unique Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires open-wheel development ladder. The first will take place this weekend, August 27-29, at New Jersey Motorsports Park in Millville, N.J. At stake are a pair of scholarship prizes, collectively valued at over $1.1 million, to ensure graduation to the next level on the three-tiered progression from the grassroots of the sport to the pinnacle, the NTT IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500.
At the end of the season, which concludes with two more races for each series on the first weekend in October at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio, the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship winner will claim a scholarship valued at over $400,000 to secure a seat in the 2022 Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires. Similarly, the Indy Pro 2000 champion will earn more than $718,000 to guarantee a drive in next year’s Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires series, the final stepping stone into the NTT IndyCar Series.
Eves Aims to Maintain Title Challenge
After 13 of the 18 rounds which will determine this year’s Indy Pro 2000 championship, Denmark’s Christian Rasmussen holds a 32-point edge over Braden Eves, from New Albany, Ohio, who rekindled his title hopes with a fine victory for his Exclusive Autosport team last Saturday on the World Wide Technology Raceway oval in Madison, Ill.
The win was Eves’ third of the year following visits to the top step of the podium during both of the first two race weekends of the season at Barber Motorsports Park, in Leeds, Ala., and on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla.
Rasmussen, meanwhile, has won six times for the Jay Howard Driver Development team, and his second-place finish, behind Eves, on Saturday was particularly meritorious for the fact he had started a disappointing seventh.
Coincidentally, Eves and Rasmussen are the two most recent USF2000 champions, with Eves having earned the title in 2019 and Rasmussen in 2020.
Rasmussen will likely have a slight edge this weekend after notching two wins from three USF2000 races last year at New Jersey Motorsports Park, while Eves was unable to compete after earlier sustaining season-ending injuries in an accident at the Indianapolis Grand Prix circuit.
A tight battle is developing for third place in the championship standings, currently headed by teenager Reece Gold (Juncos Hollinger Racing), from Miami, Fla. Gold has a half-dozen podium finishes to his credit, along with a series leading four pole positions, but is still seeking an elusive maiden victory.
A win at Mid-Ohio last month followed by a third-place finish on Saturday have enabled New Zealand’s Hunter McElrea (Pabst Racing) to draw level on points with Eves’ Russian teammate, Artem Petrov, for fourth place in the standings, just 10 points shy of Gold’s total.
Mexico’s Manuel Sulaiman (Juncos Hollinger Racing) also will have high expectations after winning one of the races last year at New Jersey Motorsports Park.
After two hour-long test sessions on Friday, August 27, a busy weekend for the Indy Pro 2000 Grand Prix Presented by The Andersen Companies will begin with 30 minutes of official practice on Saturday at 9:30 a.m. EDT. A 20-minute qualifying session will follow at 1:00 p.m., then the first of three races at 4:30 p.m. A separate qualifying session at 10:45 a.m. on Sunday will precede two more races at 1:30 p.m. and 4:45 p.m.
Global live streaming can be found on the Road to Indy TV App and at RoadToIndy.TV and indypro2000.com.
Porto, d’Orlando Continue USF2000 Tussle
The USF2000 championship will return to action this week after an extended summer break as Kiko Porto (DEForce Racing) and Michael d’Orlando (Cape Motorsports) continue their intense battle for top honors.
Porto, from Recife, Brazil, currently leads by 21 points after accumulating three wins, three additional podium finishes and a series-leading six pole positions, including the last five in a row. The second-year racer was unable to compete at New Jersey in 2020 but has already proven to be a fast learner.
D’Orlando, from Hartsdale, N.Y., also has won three times, and has the additional benefit of claiming a third and a fourth-place finish last year on the 2.25-mile road course.
— Miller Vinatieri Motorsports (@MV_Motorsports) August 24, 2021
A stacked field of Tatuus USF-17 cars is sure to provide plenty of action. Aside from the two championship leaders, other contenders will include Yuven Sundaramoorthy, from Delafield, Wis., who has already won three times in 2021 for Pabst Racing, as well as his two young teammates, Josh Pierson, from Portland, Ore., and rookie Jace Denmark, from Phoenix, Ariz. Both are still chasing their first wins.
A pair of Californians, Christian Brooks (Exclusive Autosport) and Prescott Campbell (DEForce Racing), plus Canadian rookie Thomas Nepveu (Cape Motorsports) also have tasted the fruits of victory this season, while Spike Kohlbecker (Ignite Autosport with Cape Motorsports), from St. Louis, Mo., and Josh Green (Turn 3 Motorsport), from Mount Kisco, N.Y., are among those seeking a breakthrough win.
The schedule for the Cooper Tires USF2000 Grand Prix mirrors that of Indy Pro 2000 with a pair of 60-minute test sessions on Friday, August 27, followed by practice at 8:00 a.m. and qualifying at 10:15 a.m. on Saturday. The first of three races will see the green flag at 2:30 p.m. Sunday will begin with a second qualifying session to determine the starting order for Race Two at 11:30 a.m. and Race Three at 2:30 p.m.
Global live streaming can be found on the Road to Indy TV App and at RoadToIndy.TV and usf2000.com.