By Road to Indy
The Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires yesterday officially crowned its 2020 series champions and additional winners in an abbreviated awards ceremony held trackside at the Mahaffey Theater. The event capped off an exciting end of the season for the Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship, which saw thrilling double-headers on the unforgiving streets of St. Petersburg as final finishing positions were cemented. The weekend including emotional first race wins for Hunter McElrea (Pabst Racing) in Indy Pro 2000 and Kiko Porto (DEForce Racing) and Christian Brooks (Exclusive Autosport) in USF2000.
Both Indy Pro 2000 champion Sting Ray Robb, 19, of Juncos Racing and USF2000 champion Christian Rasmussen, 20, of Jay Howard Driver Development entered the weekend with a bit of breathing room after securing their titles two weeks earlier at New Jersey Motorsports Park. Behind them, however, six drivers had a mathematical chance of finishing second in Indy Pro 2000 – Devlin DeFrancesco (Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport), Artem Petrov (Juncos Racing), Danial Frost (Turn 3 Motorsport), Hunter McElrea (Pabst Racing), Parker Thompson (DEForce Racing) and Manuel Sulaiman (DEForce Racing). In USF2000, Eduardo Barrichello (Pabst Racing) and Reece Gold (Cape Motorsports) were the only two combatants for second and third in the championship, arriving to the event tied on points.
The Road to Indy provides a unique, scholarship-funded path to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES and next season, with the return of Indy Lights Presented by Cooper tires after a one-year hiatus, will see scholarships packages increase across the board to ensure future champions like Robb and Rasmussen continue their progression up the ladder. In total, over $3,138,500 in prize money and awards will be on offer across the three series in 2021.
Robb’s impressive season included seven wins, 11 podiums, five poles – including a new qualifying and race track record at St. Petersburg set on Saturday – five fastest race laps and bragging rights for the most races led and most laps led. A mark of consistency, the Payette, Idaho native also was the only driver to complete all 485 laps contested.
In securing the Indy Pro 2000 title, Robb earns a scholarship package valued at $609,245 for a guaranteed year in the rejuvenated Indy Lights in 2021 as well as an NTT INDYCAR SERIES test at the conclusion of next season.
DeFrancesco secured second in the Indy Pro 2000 points table as well as Cooper Tires Rookie of the Year honors. On the heels of a pair of podium finishes this weekend, Frost knocked out the competition to finish third.
Rasmussen, of Copenhagen, Denmark, ended his shining USF2000 year with nine wins, 10 podiums, eight poles, seven fastest race laps and most laps led. He leaves the series tied for second in all-time wins with JR Hildebrand and Kyle Kirkwood.
The USF2000 scholarship package for Rasmussen is valued at $328,225 and includes guaranteed entry into a full calendar in Indy Pro 2000 in 2021 as well as an Indy Lights test at the end of the season.
Also notching a pair of podium finishes in the series finale was Barrichello, who edged Gold for second in the USF2000 championship by 12 points. The Hyperco Rookie of the Year title went to Brooks who, in addition to his first race win, also claimed his first Cooper Tires Pole Award yesterday setting a new track record.
On the team front, Juncos Racing earned its fifth Indy Pro 2000 team championship – and third in succession – while Cape Motorsports laid claim to its sixth USF2000 team championship.
Two awards special to the Road to Indy are the Spirit Awards, which honor a driver or team who embodies the “heart of a champion” as they aspire to reach their goals. In Indy Pro 2000, the award went to McElrea and in USF2000 to Barrichello.
Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires Award Winners
Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires
Champion: Scholarship Package* Valued at $609,245 to advance to a guaranteed season in Indy Lights and an NTT INDYCAR SERIES Test at Conclusion of 2021 season – Sting Ray Robb (Juncos Racing)
Second Place ($20,000) – Devlin DeFrancesco (Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport)
Third Place ($10,000) – Danial Frost (Turn 3 Motorsport)
Team Champion ($5,000) – Juncos Racing
Cooper Tires Rookie of the Year ($7,500) – Devlin DeFrancesco (Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport)
Spirit Award ($1,000) – Hunter McElrea (Pabst Racing)
Tilton Hard Charger Award ($1,000 product certificate) – Antoine Comeau (Turn 3 Motorsport)
AiM Sports Move of the Year ($1,000) – Sting Ray Robb (Juncos Racing)
INDYCAR Mechanic of the Year ($1,000) – Jessica Mace (Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport)
Rotiform Winning Driver Team Owner Trophy/Set of Street Wheels – Juncos Racing
Jostens Indy Pro 2000 Champion’s Ring – Sting Ray Robb
Carl Haas Auto Golden Wishbone Award ($1000 damper rebuild certificate) – DEForce Racing
Original Artwork by Jim Swintal – Sting Ray Robb (Juncos Racing)
*($500,000 scholarship to advance to Indy Lights, Cooper Tires Tire Allotment Award valued at $63,360, Series Race Entry Fee Award valued at $31,460, Bell Helmet Contract/Sabelt Award $14,425 = $609,245)
Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship
Champion: Scholarship Package* Valued at $328,255* to advance to a guaranteed season in Indy Pro 2000 and an Indy Lights Test at Conclusion of 2021 season – Christian Rasmussen (Jay Howard Driver Development)
Second Place ($10,000) – Eduardo Barrichello (Pabst Racing)
Third Place ($5,000) – Reece Gold (Cape Motorsports)
Team Champion ($5,000) – Cape Motorsports
Hyperco Rookie of the Year ($2,500) – Christian Brooks (Exclusive Autosport)
Spirit Award ($1,000) – Eduardo Barrichello (Pabst Racing)
Tilton Hard Charger Award ($1,000 product certificate) – Christian Bogle (Jay Howard Driver Development)
AiM Sports Move of the Year ($1,000) – Christian Brooks (Exclusive Autosport)
The Ticket Clinic USF2000 Fastest Lap Award ($1,000) – Christian Rasmussen (Jay Howard Driver Development)
INDYCAR Mechanic of the Year ($1,000) – Danick Bernier (Exclusive Autosport)
Motegi Winning Driver Team Owner Trophy/Set of Street Wheels – Jay Howard (Jay Howard Driver Development)
Jostens USF2000 Champion’s Ring – Christian Rasmussen
Carl Haas Auto Golden Wishbone Award ($1000 damper rebuild certificate) – Cape Motorsports
Original Artwork by Jim Swintal – Christian Rasmussen (Jay Howard Driver Development)
*Champion ($250,000 scholarship to advance to Indy Pro 2000, Cooper Tires Tire Allotment Award valued at $34,720, Series Race Entry Fee Award valued at $29,080, Bell Helmet Contract/Sabelt Award $14,425 = $328,225)
Dan Andersen, Owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions: “2020 presented extraordinary challenges to the entire Road to Indy, and it was impressive to see how each race track, each team and each driver stepped up to help us put together a complete season. The racing schedule might have been compressed, but the races were exciting and two worthy champions have emerged. Christian Rasmussen and Sting Ray Robb have the opportunity to join drivers like Colton Herta and Pato O’Ward as they continue to move up the Road to Indy ladder toward the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, and we celebrate their achievements tonight. This evening highlighted so many fantastic seasons by the talented young drivers who make up our fields, and we are very proud to be a part of their ongoing careers in motorsports. And of course, we couldn’t do this without our partners, Cooper Tire, and our entire Andersen Promotions staff. Congratulations to all of tonight’s winners and to the entire Road to Indy. We look forward to 2021.”
Chris Pantani, Director of Motorsports, Cooper Tires: “Tonight, we gather to celebrate the future stars of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. The 2020 racing season brought challenges but we endured as a team and now we take the opportunity to celebrate our champions who will be moving up the development ladder. The Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires has proven to be the one, and only, true path to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES for any young driver interested in open-wheel racing. I would like to recognize Dan Andersen, Michelle Kish and the entire Andersen Promotions staff, as well as all of the teams, sponsors and personnel that make up the Road to Indy. Dan’s vision and the dedication of this entire group is what makes the Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires the success we see today.”
Sting Ray Robb, 2020 Indy Pro 2000 Champion: “I think it’s finally set in! It’s been a crazy year, all the highs and lows, and now we get to enjoy the next step, Indy Lights. Looking back on the season, I feel as though we found a new level of perseverance at Mid-Ohio. We had to fight hard for that first win but as Rob Howden said at the time, the floodgates opened after that. I don’t know if something changed in me or in the team, but we found another gear after that, dialing the car in right where we needed it to be. When we swept the weekend at Indy, we felt that we could really do it. I don’t know if my mindset changed, or if it was just a relentless attitude to not give up. I want to thank the Juncos team; without them this wouldn’t have happened, and I wouldn’t be the driver I am today. Thanks to all my investors and partners, all the friends and family who came out to support me, and everyone at the Road to Indy and Cooper Tires. It’s been a long road to get here but I’ve grown into the family here and Andersen Promotions has given us a hope to move on to the next step. I hope I carry their name well.”
Christian Rasmussen, 2020 USF2000 Champion: “It’s starting to feel real! I’m just so happy right now. It’s been a great year for me and for the Jay Howard team, especially being only our second year in the series. It’s a huge accomplishment. I’m happy with my performance and the team’s performance and we’re looking to do the same thing next year. We came out really strong and had that dip in the middle part of the season, but I think it’s been character building. You learn a lot by winning but I think you learn even more about yourself when you lose, when things aren’t working out and you have to put your head down. We learned a lot this year and it will help me for the rest of my career. It’s been a great year, winning the championship, but also in my learning process. Thanks to my parents for getting me here, they’ve supported me since I started karting at 5 years old, and to my personal sponsors for believing in me and giving me the opportunity to race over here. Thanks as well to Dan Andersen, Andersen Promotions, Cooper Tires and everyone with the series for giving us young drivers such a great opportunity to progress and live out our dreams.”