Louis Foster and Reece Gold each scored a clear victory and a second-place finish during today’s pair of Cooper Tires Indy Pro 2000 Grand Prix races at Portland International Raceway. But that tally proved more than enough for Foster, the 19-year-old British series rookie, to clinch the Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires for the Exclusive Autosport team. Foster also claimed a champion’s scholarship valued at $614,425 to graduate into Indy Lights, the top step on the Road to Indy open-wheel driver development ladder, in 2023.
Gold’s Juncos Hollinger Racing teammate Enaam Ahmed finished third in the opening race while last year’s Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship winner, Kiko Porto (DEForce Racing) completed the podium in Race 2.
Foster entered the final event of the season with a commanding 77-point championship lead, which he promptly extended by one more point by virtue of claiming his series-leading fifth Cooper Tires pole award of the season during qualifying this morning.
Foster was briefly challenged by Gold under braking for the Festival Curves chicane on the opening lap, but after weathering that storm, he quickly settled into a smooth rhythm at the front of the field. Gold remained hot on his heels for the first 12 laps or so, before Foster’s potent blend of speed and consistency enabled him to gradually extend his advantage to as much as three seconds. The Englishman then cruised home to secure his seventh win of the season and put the championship title beyond the reach of his rivals.
“Obviously, it was a really good race today. I managed to get pole position and Reece challenged me quite hard going in to Turn 1 but I managed to get him back in Turn 2,” related Foster. “From there, it was really just preserving tires. This track is really hard on tires and it was quite hot today as well. I was just waiting for his tires to drop off and, once they did, the gap opened up to three seconds.
“I can’t thank the team enough for this year. They have been amazing and the series has been amazing. I have really enjoyed my first year in the States.”
Gold was relatively content with second, 2.1474s in arrears at the finish line, especially with the knowledge he would start the second race from the pole position by virtue of having turned the best of every driver’s second-fastest lap in qualifying.
Gold’s teammate, Ahmed, emerged from the first corner in third following an incident involving DEForce Racing teammates Nolan Siegel and Porto, plus Miller Vinatieri Motorsports’ Jack William Miller. Ahmed couldn’t match the leaders’ pace but proved comfortably faster than the next pack of cars, led by Marcos Flack (Jay Howard Driver Development), who somehow contrived to vault from 16th on the grid to fourth place by the completion of the opening lap.
Flack, who earned the Tilton Hard Charger Award, held off a race-long challenge from Jonathan Browne (Turn 3 Motorsport), who was in turn chased by Jordan Missig (Pabst Racing), who overtook Braden Eves (Jay Howard Driver Development) on the final lap.
Race 2 featured a complete role reversal as Gold started from pole position and quickly asserted his superiority. He was helped by the fact Porto slotted in ahead of front row starter Foster on the opening lap. Gold pulled out a commanding lead of 4.7s inside the first seven laps, and even though Foster finally found a way through into second place and posted the fastest lap of the race, Gold managed his lead expertly before taking the checkered flag 3.5502s clear of the new series champion.
“That was one of the best birthday presents I’ve ever had! The team gave me a great car as always, and we got the clean start we needed,” said Gold. “I knew we had the pace to run our own race, (so) super happy with the result. I couldn’t see Louis but my team was giving me the gap, so I was able to manage the numbers. I was fighting for second in the championship and I think we secured that — a couple of bad weekends cost us the title but I’m still super happy”
Ahmed finished close behind in fourth as Miller completed the top five.
Missig finished seventh after another strong run. He also claimed the Tilton Hard Charger Award after working his way from 13th on the grid.
The two PFC Awards were shared by Michael Duncalfe and Ricardo Juncos as the winning car owners.
Juncos Hollinger’s third win of the season was enough to clinch the coveted Team Championship with one race remaining on Saturday. The green flag is set to fly at 2:20pm