Story Credit: Road to Indy PR
Photo Credit: Road to Indy Photo
LEXINGTON, Ohio – Manuel Sulaiman today became the seventh different winner after just 11 rounds of an intensely competitive Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires. Sulaiman, from Puebla, Mexico, held off a determined challenge from Singapore’s Danial Frost (Turn 3 Motorsport), although both were trailing Sulaiman’s unfortunate DEForce Racing teammate Parker Thompson until the Canadian suffered an engine failure midway through the 25-lap race.
New Zealander Hunter McElrea finished third for Pabst Racing, notching his fifth podium finish from his last seven starts.
The grid for the first of two races which will comprise this weekend’s Surgere Indy Pro 2000 Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio was set in qualifying yesterday, with Frost claiming his first Cooper Tires Pole Award, fractionally ahead of Thompson and Sulaiman. All three were blanketed by just 0.057 of a second.
The two front row starters battled side by side as they entered Turn One, but it was Thompson who gained the upper hand to grasp the lead for the first time this season. Sulaiman slotted into third ahead of McElrea, who found a way past series points leader Sting Ray Robb (Juncos Racing), from Payette, Idaho, on the opening lap.
Devlin DeFrancesco (Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport) clung onto sixth, under intense pressure from the second Juncos Racing Tatuus PM-18 of Russia’s Artem Petrov until the Italian-Canadian also experienced a mechanical problem which caused him to pull off the race track after five laps and brought out the caution flags for the first time.
Thompson continued to lead at the restart, only for his hopes of victory to expire dramatically just a handful of laps later. Cue another full-course caution.
Sulaiman, who already has two poles to his credit this season, took up the running once the green flags flew again, and even though Frost was never more than a few car lengths in arrears, Sulaiman held on expertly to secure the victory. He also secured a first-ever PFC Award for DEForce Racing.
McElrea lost a place to Robb after 10 laps but regained it again with just five laps remaining, and then added another championship point to his tally by posting the fastest lap on the last lap of the race.
After slipping back into clutches of teammate Petrov in the closing stages, Robb just managed to maintain the position, thereby extending his championship lead to 28 points over DeFrancesco.
Colin Kaminsky (Pabst Racing) from Homer Glen, Ill., finished sixth after a race-long battle with Jacob Abel (Abel Motorsports), from Louisville. Ky., who earned the Tilton Hard Charger Award after starting from 12th on the grid.
The second leg of the Surgere Indy Pro 2000 Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio is slated to start tomorrow at 9:00 a.m. EDT. Sulaiman again will start up front after edging Robb by just a scant 0.0291 of a second during a separate qualifying session yesterday afternoon.
Provisional championship points after 11 of 17 rounds:
1. Sting Ray Robb, 275
2. Devlin DeFrancesco, 247
3. Danial Frost, 225
4. Artem Petrov, 224
5. Hunter McElrea, 207
6. Manuel Sulaiman, 181
7. Parker Thompson, 178
8. Braden Eves, 163
9. Colin Kaminsky, 146
10. Antoine Comeau, 131