Road to Indy Heads to the Cooper Tires Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio
 June 29, 2021| 
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Burgeoning USF2000 Field Reaches 28 Cars for Pivotal Triple-Header

PALMETTO, Fla. – After a brief break, the Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires returns to action this week for what promises to be an exciting Fourth of July weekend at the Cooper Tires Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio. All three levels of the highly acclaimed open-wheel racing development ladder will be competing alongside the NTT INDYCAR SERIES on the challenging 2.258-mile, 13-turn Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio, as the season enters its second half. At stake are scholarships and prizes valued at over $3.1 million to assist talented race car drivers in progressing from the grassroots of the sport to the pinnacle.

All three championships – Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, the Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship – are finely poised, with a new leader having emerged in each series following the most recent races at Road America.

Tense Times in Indy Lights
The battle for title honors on the top rung of the ladder, Indy Lights, has reached a crucial stage with half of the season’s 20 races now in the books. The champion will claim a scholarship valued at almost $1.3 million which will guarantee entry into at least three NTT INDYCAR SERIES races in 2022, including the Indianapolis 500.

David Malukas (HMD Motorsports), from Chicago, Ill, currently holds an eight-point edge over both Kyle Kirkwood (Andretti Autosport), from Jupiter, Fla., and Linus Lundqvist (Global Racing Group with HMD Motorsports), from Stockholm, Sweden. Remarkably, the championship lead has pivoted between all three aspirants following each of the past three races.

Malukas and Kirkwood have both won four times this season with Lundqvist claiming the other two race wins. Kirkwood’s most recent success, two weeks ago at Road America, took his Road to Indy win tally to a series high 25 in 40 starts.

Malukas has finished on the podium previously at Mid-Ohio and has the benefit of some Indy Lights experience at the track in 2019. But he cannot match the records of his two primary rivals. Kirkwood swept all three Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship races at Mid-Ohio en route to the title in 2018, then won both Indy Pro 2000 Championship races the following year on his way to another scholarship. Lundqvist enjoyed a similarly emphatic debut last year when he won both Formula Regional Americas Championship races, chased home each time by teammate Malukas. Lundqvist, a former British Formula 3 Champion, went on to claim the FRA title with consummate ease.

Juncos Racing teammates Toby Sowery, from Cambridge, England, and Sting Ray Robb, from Payette, Idaho, also have enjoyed success at Mid-Ohio. Sowery finished on the podium when Indy Lights last visited Mid-Ohio in 2019, while Robb won twice in 2020 as he romped to the Indy Pro 2000 championship – as well as a scholarship to graduate into Indy Lights for 2021.

Competitors in the Cooper Tires Indy Lights Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio will be able to hone their skills during a Promoter Test day on Thursday, July 1, followed by one more test session on Friday morning. The official schedule continues with practice and one qualifying session later in the day to set the starting grid for Race One on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. A second qualifying session on Saturday morning will determine the order for Race Two on Sunday, immediately prior to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES headline event, at 10:00 a.m. All times are EDT.

Eves Seeks Home-Track Advantage
The past two USF2000 champions, Braden Eves, from New Albany, Ohio, and Christian Rasmussen, from Copenhagen, Denmark, are now locked in combat for another championship in Indy Pro 2000. Also squarely in their sights is a second scholarship valued at $718,065 to ensure graduation to the next level, Indy Lights, in 2022.

After 10 out of 18 races which will comprise the 2021 season, Rasmussen (Jay Howard Driver Development) holds an 18-point edge. He has already proven to have a hot hand at Mid-Ohio, winning once during his rookie campaign in 2019 and adding four more victories from the six races held there in 2020.

Although Eves finished outside the top five at Mid-Ohio during his own rookie season in 2019, he turned the tables on his Danish rival by securing the championship. Eves then went on to notch a victory last year at his home track for Exclusive Autosport during his rookie Indy Pro 2000 season before it was cut short by an injury sustained in a crash on the Indianapolis Grand Prix circuit.

Eves’ Exclusive Autosport teammate, Artem Petrov, from Saint Petersburg, Russia, Mexico’s Manuel Sulaiman (Juncos Racing) and New Zealand’s Hunter McElrea (Pabst Racing) also have earned victories already this year. Petrov and Sulaiman also won Indy Pro 2000 races at Mid-Ohio in 2020, while McElrea claimed a USF2000 checkered flag in 2019.

Reece Gold (Juncos Racing), from Miami, Fla., gained a USF2000 race win of his own at the Lexington, Ohio, track in 2020, but the 16-year-old is still seeking his elusive maiden victory in Indy Pro 2000, despite qualifying on pole position for four of the last six races.

The Cooper Tires Indy Pro 2000 Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio will commence with a trio of 45-minute test sessions on Thursday, July 1. Friday will comprise 30 minutes of official practice followed by 20 minutes of qualifying to form the grid for Saturday’s first race at 10:50 a.m. One more qualifying session earlier on Saturday will set the starting grid for Race Two on Sunday at 9:00 a.m.

Stellar 28-Car Field Set for USF2000
The largest field of USF2000 cars since 2013 has been entered for this weekend’s Cooper Tires USF2000 Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio triple-header, which will comprise the 11th, 12th and 13th rounds of what is turning out to be an incredibly intense season. The previous record turn-out of Tatuus USF-17 cars since its introduction in 2017 was 26 for the 2018 events at the Indianapolis Grand Prix circuit and Road America.

Kiko Porto (DEForce Racing), from Recife, Brazil, currently holds a slender 15-point championship lead over Pabst Racing’s Yuven Sundaramoorthy, from Delafield, Wis.

Porto and Josh Pierson (Pabst Racing), from Wilsonville, Ore., who currently lies third in the points chase but is still seeking his first victory, are the only two drivers to finish among the top 10 in all 10 races so far this season.

Michael d’Orlando (Cape Motorsports), from Hartsdale, N.Y., Christian Brooks (Exclusive Autosport), from Santa Clarita, Calif., Prescott Campbell (DEForce Racing), from Newport Beach, Calif., and rookie Thomas Nepveu (Cape Motorsports), from Oka, Que., Canada, are the other race winners so far in 2021.

Up for grabs is a scholarship valued at over $400,000 which will enable the champion to graduate to Indy Pro 2000 in 2022.

In addition to the usual contenders, Chase Hyland (Jay Howard Driver Development), from Denver, Colo., and Christian Weir (Turn 3 Motorsport), from Naperville, Ill., are set to make their USF2000 debuts this weekend, while short track oval veteran Nathan Byrd, from Sun City, Ariz., will make his first start on a road course after debuting on the Lucas Oil Raceway oval for Legacy Autosport in May.

The massive field will take advantage of three 45-minute sessions during the Promoter Test Day on Thursday, July 1, before getting down to serious business with official practice and qualifying on Friday for the first of three races which will start at 4:20 p.m. The busy weekend will continue with two more races at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday and then bright and early on Sunday at 8:05 a.m.
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