The focus for open-wheel racing fans is now set firmly on Indianapolis, Indiana. As tradition demands, the month of May will culminate with the 106th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge on Memorial Day weekend. But the intensity at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway begins to ramp up this week when the NTT INDYCAR SERIES and the entire Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires open-wheel development ladder takes to the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course for a packed schedule of races on Friday and Saturday, May 13-14.
The first two rungs on the Road to Indy ladder are finely poised with four out of the season’s 18 races already in the books. And with a triple-header on the docket for both the Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship, this week is likely to prove pivotal in determining the favorites for a pair of scholarships valued at well over $1 million for the two end-of-season champions to continue their rise toward the pinnacle of the sport.
California Teenager Leads Indy Pro 2000 Entry
The youngest driver in the Indy Pro 2000 field, 17-year-old Nolan Siegel, from Palo Alto, Calif., has taken an early lead in the chase for a scholarship valued at almost $615,000 to ensure graduation onto the top rung of the Road to Indy ladder, Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, in 2023. Siegel already has two wins to his credit this season for DEForce Racing, one apiece at the opening two events on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., and Barber Motorsports Park in Leeds, Ala.
Even so, Siegel holds only a slender five-point edge over English rookie Louis Foster, who has three podium finishes and a fourth to his credit for Exclusive Autosport. Foster also has gained the bonus point for fastest race lap in three of the four races held to date.
Consistency also has been a hallmark for Braden Eves, who currently lies third in the points chase after notching four top-six results for last year’s championship-winning team, Jay Howard Driver Development. Eves, from New Albany, Ohio, surely will encounter mixed emotions as he heads back to IMS. After sweeping both USF2000 races en route to winning the championship crown in 2019, Eves’ rookie Indy Pro 2000 campaign ended prematurely the following year due to injury following a crash at the Speedway. Last year he rebounded magnificently by securing a trio of podium finishes en route to second in the championship.
Based almost literally across the street from the race track in Speedway, Ind., Juncos Hollinger Racing also has high expectations as Reece Gold, from Miami, Fla., and London, England-raised Pakistani Enaam Ahmed are both in the thick of the championship battle. Gold, also still only 17, qualified on pole position for all three races in 2021 but failed to convert any of them into a victory. He set that record straight by securing his maiden Indy Pro 2000 win at New Jersey Motorsports Park last fall, and notched his first triumph of 2022 recently at Barber Motorsports Park. Ahmed, a former British F3 champion, exemplified his capabilities by claiming podium finishes in two of the four races held so far this year, in addition to posting a fastest race lap at Indianapolis during an abbreviated rookie season in 2021.
Other contenders among an extremely competitive field include Turn 3 Motorsport’s Josh Green, from Mount Kisco, N.Y., who won the opening race of the season in Florida; Pabst Racing’s Colin Kaminsky, from Homer Glen, Ill., who scored a runner-up finish at Barber; Brazilian Kiko Porto (DEForce Racing), who employed a victory in one of the three USF2000 races last year at Indianapolis as the springboard toward his successful championship run; and local driver Jack William Miller (Miller Vinatieri Motorsports), from Carmel, Ind., a podium finisher at the Speedway who was at the top of the timesheets in the series’ open test held in late October.
This weekend also will see the Road to Indy debut of social media star Lindsay Brewer, from Newport Beach, Calif., who joins the Exclusive Autosport ranks after a partial season of racing touring cars in 2021 and a concerted test program.
The Cooper Tires Grand Prix of Indianapolis Supporting INDYCAR Ministry will begin on Thursday, May 12, with a pair of one-hour test sessions followed by 30 minutes of official practice at 3:45 p.m. EDT. Qualifying at 8:45 a.m. on Friday morning will set the grid for Race One at 2:45 p.m. The starting positions for Race Two, at 9:10 a.m. on Saturday, will be set according to each driver’s second fastest lap in qualifying or their best lap in Race One, whichever is faster. A similar procedure will determine the grid for the third and final race at 12:10 p.m.
Live streaming will be available at RoadToIndy.TV, the Road to Indy TV App and indypro2000.com.
Rowe Heads 23-Car USF2000 Field
A quartet of newcomers will ensure a bumper crop of 22 young chargers looking to knock new sensation Myles Rowe from his perch at the top of the USF2000 point standings.
Rowe, 21, hails originally from Atlanta, Ga., but is now based in New York, N.Y. He is soon to graduate from the city’s Pace University with a degree in film making. But his passion is racing. After being chosen as the first representative of INDYCAR’S Race for Equality & Change initiative in 2021, Rowe struggled with a brand-new team before scoring a breakthrough win at New Jersey Motorsports Park. This year, after joining acknowledged front-running team Pabst Racing on a race-by-race basis, Rowe has shown that was no fluke by scoring a pair of emphatic victories.
Ironically, Rowe is fighting to secure the funding to continue his season and potentially clinch a scholarship valued at almost $407,000 to graduate to Indy Pro 2000 in 2023, but with Pabst Racing having won two of the three races at Indianapolis in 2021, Rowe will surely be among the pacesetters.
Michael d’Orlando, from Hartsdale, N.Y., is currently tied on points with Rowe but is still striving for his first win of the season for Cape Motorsports.
Teammate and third-generation racer Jagger Jones became the newest USF2000 race winner when he took the checkered flag last month at Barber Motorsports Park. The triumph vaulted him into the title mix along with fellow Scottsdale, Ariz., resident Jace Denmark, who won the opening race of the season in St. Petersburg.
Seven drivers representing five different teams have so far claimed at least one podium finish, with New Zealander Billy Frazer (Exclusive Autosport) earning two second-place finishes and Bijoy Garg (DEForce Racing) and Christian Weir (Turn 3 Motorsport), from Naperville, Ill., each claiming a third from the opening four encounters.
Simon Sikes, from Athens, Ga., also has come close, finishing fifth on three occasions for Legacy Autosport. Sikes has enjoyed success previously at Indianapolis, winning the SCCA National Championship Runoffs last year in the Formula Continental division.
The regular contenders will be joined this weekend by experienced Englishman Alex Quinn, who joins Velocity Racing Development in a partnership with Arden, one of the leading European open-wheel teams; proven F1600 Championship Series race winner Joey Brienza (Exclusive Autosport), from Golden, Colo.; ex-F4 racer Chase Gardner (DEForce Racing), from Prosper, Texas; and fellow accomplished karter Frankie Mossman (Jay Howard Driver Development), from La Verne, Calif., who served notice of his talent earlier this year when he won one of the preseason TireRack.com iRacing eSeries Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires virtual races at Road America.
The schedule for the Cooper Tires Grand Prix of Indianapolis will mirror that of Indy Pro 2000 with two 60-minute test sessions on Thursday preceding 30 minutes of official practice at 3:00 p.m. EDT. A single qualifying session will take place at 8:00 a.m. on Friday, followed by the first of three races at 11:45 a.m. Two more races will complete the agenda on Saturday at 8:05 a.m. and 11:15 a.m.
Global live streaming can be found at RoadToIndy.TV, the Road to Indy TV App as well as usf2000.com.