By Road to Indy
ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Kyle Kirkwood extended his winning streak at the fabled Road America race track to four – from just four starts – following this morning’s Cooper Tires Indy Pro 2000 Grand Prix of Road America Powered by Elite Engines. Kirkwood (RP Motorsport USA), from Jupiter, Fla., chased pole-sitting Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires points leader Rasmus Lindh for the opening five laps before pouncing incisively at Turn Five. He then held off Lindh’s unrelenting but ultimately unsuccessful effort to regain the advantage to score his fourth successive victory at the fabled Wisconsin road course.
Lindh, from Gothenburg, Sweden, finished just over a half-second back in third place for defending champion team Juncos Racing to ensure himself a 30-point lead in the championship standings over Parker Thompson, from Red Deer, Alb., Canada, who completed the podium for Abel Motorsports.
A clean start to the 15-lap race, run entirely under green-flag conditions, saw Lindh maintain his pole position advantage but he was unable to shake off the attentions of Kirkwood, who had started third before quickly vaulting past Lindh’s teammate, Sting Ray Robb, on the drag race to Turn One.
Kirkwood remained seemingly latched onto Lindh’s rear wing as the two leaders traded early fastest laps, before glimpsing an opportunity at Turn Five and squeezing down the inside under braking. Now the situation was reversed, with Lindh looking to redress the balance, but Kirkwood was steadfast in his defense and ultimately crossed underneath the waved checkered flags just 0.5847 of a second to the good. Last year’s Cooper Tires USF2000 champion also secured the second PFC Award of the weekend for RP Motorsport USA.
A close battle for third place between Robb, from Payette, Idaho, Thompson and Singapore’s Danial Frost (Exclusive Autosport) ended prematurely when Frost pulled off the road with an electrical failure after nine laps and then Robb retired to the pits shortly afterward with a mechanical problem.
Guatemalan Ian Rodriguez took advantage to finish fourth aboard a second RP Motorsport USA Tatuus PM-18, while Los Angeles-based Russian Nikita Lastochkin made up the three places he had lost on the opening lap to finish fifth.
A thoroughly entertaining race also was enlivened by a tremendous five-car battle over what eventually became sixth place. Jacob Loomis, from Corinth, Texas, emerged with the position and the Tilton Hard Charger Award after a fine drive from 10th on the grid in his family-run JDL Racing entry. Phillippe Denes, from Carmel, Calif., finished hot on his heels in seventh for FatBoy Racing!, followed by Canadian Antonio Serravalle (Pserra Racing).
DEForce teammates Moises de la Vara, from Guadalajara, Mexico, and Kory Enders, from Sugar Land, Texas, also had been part of the scrap before encountering mechanical problems of their own.
Provisional championship points after seven of 16 rounds:
1. Rasmus Lindh, 163
2. Danial Frost, 143
3. Parker Thompson, 138
4. Sting Ray Robb, 135
5. Kyle Kirkwood, 128
6. Nikita Lastochkin, 96
7. Moises de la Vara, 85
8. Phillippe Denes, 83
9. Kory Enders, 78
10. Jacob Abel, 77
The next two rounds of the Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires will be held on the streets of Toronto, Ont., Canada, once again in support of the NTT IndyCar Series, on July 13-14.
Kyle Kirkwood (#28 Mazda/Firstex Industries/Bell Helmets/Sabelt-RP Motorsports USA Tatuus PM-18): “That was big. We had an oil pressure light before the race started and three laps in, the light came back on and I watched it drop through the entire race. I kept pushing and toward the end, the car felt different which was scary, so it was a huge relief to cross the line.
“I really worked for the pass on Rasmus. I didn’t want to make a move until I was sure. He made a small mistake and that created the draft to make a deep pass. I’m not certain I would have been able to get him if not for that, so it was some luck and some strategy. But this is a big confidence boost. We came off five races where we lost points, but we took a big chunk out of the championship this weekend so we will have a lot of momentum going into the rest of the season – and that’s really what we did last year with Cape (Motorsports). There were weekends that our car wasn’t that quick but we got race wins because we had confidence as a team, and that’s what I think we have now. I raced all these guys last year except for Parker, who’s an amazing driver, so that’s a new challenge. We just have to keep this momentum going.”
Rasmus Lindh (#10 Chicago Pneumatic/PWR Junior Team/SKF-Juncos Racing Tatuus PM-18): “I had a good start but I didn’t move my brake bias in the beginning, so we lost a little time. We might have been able to pull away. Kyle made a clean move to get next to me but turned in a bit on the exit and I just didn’t close the door. But that’s racing. We were both fast all weekend so I just tried to focus forward to try to pass, but I couldn’t get close enough. But we increased the championship lead and I think the championship could come down between me and Kyle.”
Parker Thompson (#8 Abel Construction/Badlands Motorsports Resort-Abel Motorsports Tatuus PM-18): “The car really came in mid-race, but we were too far back to reach the top two. I was able to get by Danial Frost, who seemed to have the best pace out there, for that final podium spot. I made a great defensive move in Canada Corner – because Canada – and he went off track which meant I could relax just a bit for the last few laps. But that was pretty awesome. It was so cool to see all the Canadians that were here, including some people I’ve met on Twitter. There was so much local support as well, from the Chupka family and my girlfriend, who is from Wisconsin. And in the end, points mean prizes. I had to be in the championship fight to continue this season, so we did our part this weekend.”