Joel Granfors started a lowly 18th for this morning’s second leg of the Discount Tires Grand Prix of Indianapolis on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Grand Prix road course. But the rising star from Eskilstuna, Sweden, took advantage of a series of opportunities and ended up with a convincing maiden USF Pro 2000 Presented by Cooper Tires victory.
Salvador de Alba, from Guadalajara, Mexico, capped a banner day for the Canadian-owned Exclusive Autosport team by finishing second. Jace Denmark, from Scottsdale, Ariz., finished third for Pabst Racing.
Championship leader Myles Rowe, from Brooklyn, N.Y., looked to bounce back from a disappointing race on Friday after claiming the Cooper Tires Pole Award for Pabst Racing with Force Indy by virtue of setting the fastest lap in yesterday’s race. Rowe duly held onto the lead at the start, only for an unforced error at Turn Seven on the opening lap to send him wide onto the grass and to the tail of the field.
Instead it was Francesco Pizzi, from Rome, Italy, who took the early advantage for TJ Speed Motorsports after starting second.
An early full-curse caution following an incident farther down the field proved pivotal in the outcome of the race. Pizzi, still out front, was slow on the restart and consequently was swamped by the chasing pack.
De Alba, who was seventh in line for the resumption, timed his jump to perfection, leaping into the lead by the start/finish line, followed by the opportunistic Granfors, who had made up nine positions over the course of the first couple of laps and then leapt from ninth to second.
But the rookie Granfors was far from done. After another full-course caution interruption, the Swede took advantage of a big draft from de Alba as the leaders sped toward Turn One, then promptly braked later, on the outside line, to grasp the lead.
Granfors, who finished second in last year’s GB3 Championship in the UK, never looked back as he raced away to take the checkered flag over three seconds clear of de Alba.
Denmark also profited from the restarts, jumping from sixth to third, which he maintained to the finish.
Ireland’s Jonathan Browne enjoyed a strong weekend for Turn 3 Motorsport, securing his second successive fourth-place finish ahead of the remarkable Rowe, who atoned for his earlier gaff by storming back through the field and finishing fifth to further extend his championship lead.
Granfors, unsurprisingly, earned the Tilton Hard Charger Award, while Michael and Kimberly Duncalfe claimed their first PFC Award of the season as the winning car owners.
Next up for the USF Pro 2000 Presented by Cooper Tires contenders is their lone oval race of the season at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park on Friday evening, May 26.
Provisional championship points after 6 of 18 rounds:
1. Myles Rowe, 139
2. Kiko Porto, 100
3. Francesco Pizzi, 98
4. Joel Granfors, 95
5. Jace Denmark, 91
6. Reece Ushijima, 86
7. Lirim Zendeli, 82
8. Jonathan Browne, 80
9. Salvador de Alba, 77
10. Jack William Miller, 67
Joel Granfors (#92 Corpay Cross-Border-Exclusive Autosport Tatuus IP-22): “It was a crazy race. I started P18, all the way in the back after the DNF in Race 1. I made a good start. I think I managed to get up to P8 after the first two laps then the safety car came out. I had a really good restart. There was a miscommunication with some drivers and we took advantage of that. I think I went from P10 to P2 going into Turn One and then the pace car came out again. I just managed to slipstream Salvador going up into Turn One and managed to brake later than him. From that point on, I was trying to do as quick laps as possible to pull away. I got a gap and managed the tires until the end. It is a dream come true to win here.”
Salvador de Alba (#91 Archandel/Red Cola/Mecano/Z Motors-Exclusive Autosport Tatuus IP-22): “It was a very strange race. I started P12 and gained some spots at the start. Then there was a yellow and the restart was so wild. The leading driver got on the power too late and as soon as it went green, I went to the outside lane and I ended up first. I had quite good speed, but not as good as Joel who took P1. I managed P2 and a podium which is my first podium of the year. I am very happy about that and hope it is the first of many this year.”
Jace Denmark (#20 Metal Works Custom Fabrication-Pabst Racing Tatuus IP-22): “My first start was really awesome. I think I went to sixth or so, and then we had a caution. The restart was super chaotic. I don’t know what the leader was doing but he clearly didn’t pay attention in the driver’s meeting and started way later than what the start zone should be. It bottled everything up but good for me because I came out third from that and just ran my race. I was defending from Jonathan Browne for a while and just finished the race a little behind Salvador. A great race and a great rebound from yesterday. It is nice to finish Indy on a good note. Usually, I don’t have much luck here so this helps going into the Freedom 90."