Siegel wins at St. Pete to take early Indy Pro 2000 points lead

Gavin Baker Photography

Siegel wins at St. Pete to take early Indy Pro 2000 points lead

Road to Indy

Siegel wins at St. Pete to take early Indy Pro 2000 points lead

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Nolan Siegel produced a faultless performance this morning to win the second leg of the Andersen Interior Contracting Grand Prix of St. Petersburg doubleheader and wrap up the opening weekend of the 2022 Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires. The 17-year-old led throughout the 25-lap race for DEForce Racing, despite the potential distraction of a couple of full-course cautions.

Siegel’s first series win, in just his third start following an exploratory outing last year on the oval at World Wide Technology Raceway, allowed him to take an early lead in the quest for a scholarship valued at $614,425 to graduate into Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, the next step of the Road to Indy, in 2023.

“That was amazing. The whole team has worked so hard and they were so happy on the radio at the checkered flag,” said Siegel. “The goal through the whole race was to stay calm and try not to look behind me as much as I might have wanted to. I tried to get away on the restarts and get a good brake into Turn 1. I was really contested a few times in that first turn so I worked on the gap as hard as I could.

”But the whole field is so competitive – super strong teams and super strong drivers – so I think the standings are going to change a lot throughout the season with a lot of different drivers on the podium. As you saw this weekend, starting up front is key. Qualifying is everything in these cars, especially on a circuit like this one that’s so tight.”

Fellow rookie Louis Foster backed up his first-ever outing on a street circuit, which yesterday netted a third-place finish, by going one better today on the tricky 14-turn, 1.8-mile circuit which encompasses downtown streets and a portion of runways and taxiways at the adjacent Albert Whitted Airport. Braden Eves finished third for the Jay Howard Driver Development team.

Siegel secured his first Indy Pro 2000 Cooper Tires Pole Award yesterday afternoon by virtue of posting the fastest lap in the opening race of the season. He took full advantage today by leading outside front row starter Wyatt Brichacek (Jay Howard Driver Development) at the start.

Brichacek’s teammate, Eves, ousted Enaam Ahmed (Juncos Hollinger Racing) for third at the first corner, while Foster moved up one position from sixth on the grid when he found a way past yesterday’s winner, Josh Green (Turn 3 Motorsport) on the third lap.

Siegel continued to lead following an early caution period, due to an incident between Salvador De Alba (JHDD) and Reece Gold (Juncos Hollinger Racing), but an attempt by Brichacek to pass in Turn One at the restart was firmly rebuffed, which allowed both Eves and Foster to pass.

Foster continued his charge forward by diving to the inside of Eves under braking for Turn One on Lap 10. The Englishman ran wide on the exit but was able to hold onto the position. He then quickly closed the gap to Siegel.

Another full-course caution after 16 laps, when fourth-place runner Ahmed made a mistake and collected the wall in Turn 8, provided one more opportunity for Foster to challenge for his first win in North America. But Siegel made not the hint of a mistake and held on to secure the victory and a first PFC Award of the year for team principals David and Ernesto Martinez.

Eves, who finished second in the championship last year, followed up his fourth-place run yesterday to secure his first podium of the new campaign, followed by Brazilian Kiko Porto, the 2021 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship winner, aboard a second DEForce Racing Tatuus PM-22.

Jack William Miller finished sixth for Miller Vinatieri Motorsports, followed by Yuven Sundaramoorthy and Pabst Racing teammate Jordan Missig, who earned the Tilton Hard Charger Award after climbing from 14th on the grid to eighth.

Yesterday’s winner Green experienced the opposite extreme of emotions today when he finished three laps down in 11th after a lengthy pit stop to replace a broken toe-link following earlier contact with Ahmed.

The Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires will continue with another pair of races held in conjunction with the NTT IndyCar Series at Barber Motorsports Park on April 30-May 1.

Provisional championship points after 2 of 18 rounds:
1. Nolan Siegel, 50
2. Louis Foster, 48
3. Josh Green, 42
4. Braden Eves, 41
5. Kiko Porto, 34
6. Enaam Ahmed, 33
7. Jack William Miller, 28
8. Wyatt Brichacek, 25
9. Reece Gold, 25
10. Yuven Sundaramoorthy, 124

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