Josh Green made the perfect start to his rookie season in the Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires by scoring a well-judged victory on Friday afternoon in the opening leg of the Andersen Interior Contracting Grand Prix of St. Petersburg doubleheader.
Green led throughout the 25-lap race held in gloriously warm weather on the challenging 1.8-mile street circuit after qualifying his brand-new Turn 3 Motorsport Tatuus PM-22 on the pole position.
Enaam Ahmed finished second for Juncos Hollinger Racing to become the first driver of Pakistani descent to claim a podium finish on the Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires open-wheel development ladder. English rookie Louis Foster completed the podium in third for Exclusive Autosport.
After winning the final race of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship season last September, Green became the first Cooper Tires Pole Award winner of the new year having posted the fastest time during qualifying this morning. He was joined on the front row of the grid by Ahmed, with Nolan Siegel (DEForce Racing) and Foster sharing row two.
Green made an exemplary getaway from the rolling start to lead the field of 18 new halo-equipped Tatuus PM-22s into the first corner. Ahmed followed in second ahead of Foster, who executed a bold move on the outside line at the tricky opening right-hand corner at the end of the long start/finish straightaway, which more usually serves as a runway at the Albert Whitted Airport.
Green established a comfortable margin of almost three seconds on the opening lap over Ahmed, who was chased by Foster, Braden Eves (Jay Howard Driver Development), Siegel, and Wyatt Brichacek in a second Jay Howard Driver Development entry.
The race leader settled into an impressively consistent pace, but rather than extend his advantage over second place, instead Ahmed was able to gradually reduce the deficit.
By lap 16, with nine to go, the gap was down to just a few car lengths. Green, however, remained unflustered, holding on to cross the finish line 0.6150s ahead of Ahmed, who also had finished second in the 2021 Indy Pro 2000 season finale.
“This was the dream coming into the weekend, to start with a win,” said Green. “We were super happy with the car; the team has done an outstanding job. I screamed as loud as I could over the radio at the checkered flag, it was so awesome. I’m so proud of everyone – we finished the 2021 USF2000 season with a win and we’ve just kept up the momentum.
“The start was key – once I got a good start, I managed the tires and didn’t take any risks. Once Enaam got up there, I had to think about where I could push to maintain that gap. It was all about tire management, which was something new from USF2000, and we did a really good job with that. The street circuits are pretty unforgiving: when you get it wrong, you get it wrong big.”
Foster pulled away from Eves in the closing stages to cement third in an impressive debut race in North America after showing strong speed in a variety of European open-wheel categories in recent years.
Eves, one of the preseason championship favorites after finishing as series runner-up in 2021, had to be content with fourth ahead of Siegel, who posted the fastest race lap. Last year’s USF2000 champion, Kiko Porto, finished sixth on his Indy Pro 2000 debut with DEForce Racing.
Peter Dempsey earned the PFC Award as the winning car owner, mirroring his Turn 3 Motorsport team’s success at the end of last year when fellow Irishman James Roe secured his maiden victory.
Jack William Miller claimed the Tilton Hard Charger Award after working his way from 14th on the grid to eighth.
The second leg of the season opening Andersen Interior Contracting Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will see the green flag tomorrow morning at 8:00 a.m. Siegel will start from pole position, by virtue of the fact his best lap during the race was quicker than any driver’s second-fastest lap set in qualifying this morning.