Story Credit: Road to Indy PR
Photo Credit: Road to Indy Photo
LEEDS, Ala. – A new season for the Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires is under way. And how! A total of 56 drivers representing a dozen different nationalities took full advantage of perfect weather conditions today at Barber Motorsports Park as new qualifying lap records were established in all three series – Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, the Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship.
Remarkably, with a pair of qualifying sessions for each series, there will be no repeat pole winners when the racing action begins on the 2.3-mile road course tomorrow morning.
After setting the pace in Indy Lights at the Spring Training pre-season test last week, the new partnership between the Global Racing Group and HMD Motorsports continued to bear fruit as each of its drivers secured a maiden pole position. Highly rated rookie Linus Lundqvist, from Stockholm, Sweden, this morning shattered the old track record of 1:12.3865, set back in 2015, by winning the Cooper Tires Pole Award for Race One at a new record 1:11.5149, an average speed of 115.780 mph.
HMD stablemate David Malukas, from Chicago, Ill., was just 0.1666 of a second slower in second, while Kirk Kirkwood (Andretti Autosport), from Jupiter, Fla., edged out the second GMG/HMD car of Benjamin Pedersen, from Seattle, Wash., for third.
Malukas, who finished sixth in the 2019 Indy Lights championship, gained his revenge later in the day by snagging the Cooper Tires Pole Award for Race Two. His best lap at 1:11.7021 edged out Lundqvist by a scant 0.0221 of a second.
A different Andretti Autosport representative, Robert Megennis, from New York, N.Y., will start third.
The two most recent USF2000 champions and scholarship winners, Braden Eves (Exclusive Autosport), from New Albany, Ohio, and Christian Rasmussen (Jay Howard Driver Development), from Copenhagen, Denmark, shared the Cooper Tires Pole Awards for the two Indy Pro 2000 races.
Eves, who was forced to sit out most of last season following a horrific crash at the Indianapolis Grand Prix Circuit, bounced back magnificently to claim pole for Race One by just 0.0747 of a second from Russian teammate Artem Petrov. Eves’ time of 1:16.1542, an average speed of 108.727 mph, narrowly eclipsed Parker Thompson’s qualifying lap record of 1:16.2968 set in 2018. The top 14 cars were separated by just over seven tenths of a second.
Once again the afternoon session proved a little slower, and this time it was Rasmussen who emerged fastest with a best of 1:15.5270, just 0.1726 of a second ahead of New Zealander Hunter McElrea, who will start on the outside of the front row to back up his third fastest qualifying run this morning for Race One.
The closest times of all were set in USF2000 as, remarkably, all 26 qualifiers eclipsed the old qualifying track record of 1:23.009 (99.748 mph) set way back in 2014. Fastest of all this morning was Pabst Racing’s series veteran Yuven Sundaramoorthy, from Delafield, Wis., who claimed his very first Cooper Tires Pole Award with a best lap of 1:21.1201, a new record average speed of 102.071 mph. Sundaramoorthy in fact managed two laps faster than everyone else, which was just as well because his best lap was disallowed for causing a red-flag stoppage due to a spin.
Prescott Campbell (DEForce Racing), from Newport Beach, Calif., emerged second fastest, just ahead of fellow West Coast racer Josh Pierson (Pabst Racing) from Wilsonville, Ore. Even Michael d’Orlando (Cape Motorsports), from Hartsdale, N.Y., was within one tenth of a second of the pole time in fourth place!
Jace Denmark (Pabst Racing), from Scottsdale, Ariz., was the top rookie qualifier in fifth.
Impressively, times were even faster this afternoon. This time it was DEForce Racing’s Nolan Siegel, from Palo Alto., who posted a new lap record at 1:20.9794 (102.248 mph).
Teammate Campbell capped off a fine day by again setting the second-fastest time, while Brazilian Kiko Porto made it a top-three sweep for DEForce Racing.
Fastest rookie of the afternoon was Myles Rowe, from New York, N.Y., who marked an impressive debut for the brand-new Force Indy team as, once again, the top four were separated by less than one tenth of a second.
The first of two races that will comprise the Cooper Tires USF2000 Grand Prix of Alabama will kick off the racing action tomorrow at 8:00 a.m., followed by Race Two at 3:50 p.m. CDT.
The opening leg of the Indy Pro 2000 Grand Prix of Alabama Presented by Cooper Tires will start at 11:10 a.m., followed shortly afterward at 12:15 p.m. by the first of two Indy Lights Grand Prix of Alabama Presented by Cooper Tires events. The second championship races for both Indy Lights and Indy Pro 2000 will take place on Sunday.