Story Credit: Road to Indy PR
Photo Credit: Road to Indy Photo
MADISON, Ill. – The two leading contenders currently in the battle for the Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires crown started on opposite ends of the grid for this afternoon’s Cooper Tires Oval Challenge of St. Louis at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway but it was Kyle Kirkwood who emerged victorious following a nail-biting 55-lap race.
Sweden’s Rasmus Lindh of Juncos Racing captured his fourth pole position of the season, setting a new qualifying track record at the 1.25-mile oval in the process, while Kirkwood of RP Motorsport USA saw his qualifying run disqualified due to a technical infraction and was slotted to the back of the grid. DEForce Racing’s Kory Enders posted his best qualifying effort to date to start alongside Lindh on the front row.
The opening laps saw tremendous side-by-side racing with three lead changes before the Kirkwood freight train charged to the front to take the top spot on Lap 7 while Lindh found himself shuffled back to fourth behind Moises de la Vara (DEForce Racing) and Enders. As battles continued throughout the field, Kirkwood and Enders briefly checked out with a 3.5-plus second lead over the field by Lap 25.
The first and only caution came on Lap 40 when Lindh, who had been stalking de la Vara, was able to find a way past. The pair made slight contact which sent de la Vara spinning and into the Turn 3 wall. Thankfully, he was subsequently checked and released from medical.
The green flag flew once again on Lap 48 with seven to go. While Kirkwood took off into the lead, Enders had his hands full with a charging Lindh and the riveting battle continued until the final dash to the checkers with Lindh completing the last lap gasp just before the finish line.
Enders had to settle for third – his best result to date this season while setting the fastest lap of the race in the process – followed by Danial Frost of Exclusive Autosport, who brought home his eighth top-four finish of the year, and Sting Ray Robb (Juncos Racing) rounding out the top five.
Two relative newcomers to the series boasted impressive performances with Artem Petrov of Saint Petersburg, Russia, finishing seventh in his series debut and Antoine Comeau of Turn 3 Motorsport ninth after a strong fourth-place qualifying effort.
Kirkwood, by virtue of his charge from last to first, to claim his sixth win of the season – and sixth out of the last seven races – earned the Tilton Hard Charger Award with RP Motorsport USA picking up another PFC Award as the winning team.
Lindh now holds a slim six-point lead over Kirkwood, 323-317.
Next on the calendar for the entire Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires is a doubleheader at Portland International Raceway on August 31/September 1 as the season finale looms at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca on September 21/22.
Provisional championship points after 12 of 16 rounds:
- Rasmus Lindh, 323
- Kyle Kirkwood, 317
- Parker Thompson, 259
- Danial Frost, 254
- Sting Ray Robb, 241
- Nikita Lastochkin, 190
- Moises de la Vara, 148
- Phillippe Denes, 146
- Jacob Abel, 140
- Ian Rodriguez, 132