Story Credit: Road to Indy PR
Photo Credit: Road to Indy Photo
PALMETTO, Fla. – The tires and engines have barely cooled down after a rousing final weekend for all three open-wheel development racing series that comprise the Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires on the West Coast, yet an intriguing mix of veteran and rookie drivers will converge this week on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Grand Prix course, anxious to begin preparations for the 2020 season.
Almost three dozen drivers representing a dozen nations are on the entry list for the two-day test on Saturday and Sunday, October 19/20. This will be the ninth annual fixture held in the memory of long-time crew chief and team manager Chris Griffis, who played major roles within Indy Lights championship-winning teams at Panther Racing and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports before passing away suddenly and unexpectedly in September 2011.
The on-track agenda will comprise three 45-minute sessions each day for Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, the Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship. In addition, drivers on Friday will have an opportunity to gain some more valuable insights into the complete educational experience offered by the unique driver development program with scheduled visits to NTT IndyCar Series team Ed Carpenter Racing, renowned driver performance center PitFit Training and Dallara, which supplies chassis for both IndyCar and Indy Lights.
The final stop will include a demonstration of Dallara’s state-of-the-art full-motion simulator by Oliver Askew, who won this year’s Indy Lights championship and a scholarship valued at $1.1 million to graduate to IndyCar, the pinnacle of open-wheel racing in the United States, in 2020.
After winning its second successive Indy Lights crown, Andretti Autosport will field four turbocharged AER-powered Dallara IL-15 cars at the test. Returning driver Robert Megennis, from New York, N.Y., will lead the team after winning one race during his rookie campaign. He will be joined by rookies Rasmus Lindh, from Gothenburg, Sweden, and Singaporean Danial Frost, who finished second and fifth, respectively, in this year’s Indy Pro 2000 title-chase, and Egor Orudzhev, from Saint Petersburg, Russia. Orudzhev moved up through the open-wheel ranks in Europe, placing third in the 2016 Formula V8 3.5 series, before competing in the FIA World Endurance Championship for the past few years.
Belardi Auto Racing, past winners in both the Indy Lights Driver and Team Championships, will field a single-car entry for a driver yet to be announced.
Exclusive Autosport recently announced plans to join the Indy Lights series in 2020 and while plans are progressing smoothly, the Canadian-owned organization will concentrate its efforts this week on a trio of Indy Pro 2000 cars. Similarly, HMD Motorsports, which fielded a two-car program in 2019, will not participate in the Indianapolis test as it focuses on an expansion into USF2000 with two new young drivers. Both organizations, along with Juncos Racing, which continued its successful form with Rinus VeeKay in 2019, will have an opportunity for track time in the next series test at Sebring, Fla., in December.
Ricardo Juncos’ 2018 championship-winning team, based within a few hundred yards of IMS in Speedway, Ind., instead will oversee three Indy Pro 2000 cars this week for Parker Locke, from San Antonio, Texas, Matt Round-Garrido, from Stourbridge, England, and Phillippe Denes, from Carmel, Calif., all of whom ran partial campaigns in 2019.
Defending champion team RP Motorsport USA has entered three drivers for the two-day test, with Russian Artem Petrov, who contested the final handful of races this year, driving both days and USF2000 champion Braden Eves, from New Albany, Ohio, and Mexican fellow USF2000 grad Manuel Sulaiman, from Mexico City, Mexico, sharing duties in a second Tatuus PM-18.
Eves also will spend one day with Exclusive Autosport, while Sulaiman will return to DEForce Racing for one day after gaining two USF2000 podium finishes with the Houston-based team in 2019.
Rookies Kellen Ritter, from Vancouver, B.C., Canada, who contested a few USF2000 races in 2018, and open-wheel veteran Raoul Hyman, from Durban, South Africa, who is set to gain his first experience of competition in the U.S., will drive both days for Exclusive Autosport.
DEForce veterans Kory Enders, from Sugar Land, Texas, and Mexico’s Moises de la Vara will seek to build upon their promising end to the 2019 season, while series veteran Parker Thompson, from Red Deer, Alb., Canada, also is due to drive both days with the team.
Jacob Abel, from Louisville, Ky., will remain with his family run outfit, with the 14-car entry list completed by Pabst Racing, which is looking to augment its successful USF2000 program after securing back-to-back-to-back Team Championships. New Zealander Hunter McElrea and Colin Kaminsky, from Homer Glen, Ill., will step up with the Wisconsin-based team after claiming four wins, eight poles and 19 podium finishes between them in 2019.
Pabst also will field two USF2000 cars at the Chris Griffis test for returning driver Yuven Sundaramoorthy, from Oconomowoc, Wis., and 15-year-old Rick Bouthoorn, from Almere, Netherlands, who is set to make the step up from karting.
Perennial USF2000 front-runner Cape Motorsports will field a Tatuus USF-17 for Reece Gold, also 15, from Miami, Fla., who is looking to build on a promising rookie campaign, while Indianapolis-based Jay Howard Driver Development has entered three cars for Denmark’s Christian Rasmussen, who finished an impressive third in the 2019 title-chase, winning three times, plus regular teammate Christian Bogle, from Covington, La., and Wyatt Brichacek, from Johnstown, Colo., who made a strong debut earlier this month at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
DEForce Racing will bring two cars for the Brazilian pair of Eduardo Barrichello, who finished the season strongly with his first front row qualifying effort, and Kiko Porto, who currently lies second in the F4 U.S. Championship with three wins to his name.
Miller Vinatieri Motorsports will add SCCA Formula F racer Max Kaeser, from Keystone, Colo., to its roster alongside fellow teenager Jack William Miller, while HMD Motorsports is set to make its USF2000 debut with Sweden’s Viktor Andersson, whose father, Matthias, contested a half-dozen Indy Lights races in the 1990s, and regular midget and sprint car racer TJ Thompson, from Lisbon, Conn., whose “day job” is as a mechanic with IndyCar team Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.
The 16-car entry will be completed by Kyle Dupell, from Portland, Ore., and Nolan Siegel, of Palo Alto, Calif., who will remain with Newman Wachs Racing, and highly rated Floridian rookie Jonathan Kotyk with Legacy Autosport. Kotyk, a Team USA Scholarship winner in 2017, capped an impressive FRP F1600 Championship Series-winning season last weekend at VIRginia International Raceway where he added a second successive SCCA Formula F National Championship title to his resume.
Live timing and scoring for all sessions will be available on the respective series’ websites, indylights.com, indypro2000.com and usf2000.com, as well as the Road to Indy TV App.