After competing earlier this month on the Indianapolis Grand Prix road course in Speedway, Ind., drivers on the first two rungs of the Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires open-wheel racing development ladder will be back in action this Friday, May 28, just a few miles to the west for their annual visit to Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis.
The traditional Carb Night Classic – “The Race Before the 500″ – will feature the Cooper Tires Freedom 90 and Cooper Tires Freedom 75, both the eighth round of competition for the Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship respectively.
The Carb Night Classic also will feature the USAC Silver Crown and Pavement Midgets as a precursor to Sunday’s 105th Running of the Indianapolis 500 at the iconic nearby Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The evening will kick off with a pre-race party beginning at 5:15 p.m. EDT hosted by Kevin Lee and Curt Cavin with special guests and a live taping of “Trackside” on 107.5 The Fan.
This will be the first of two oval-track races this year for Indy Pro 2000, which will also hold an August event at World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison. Ill., but the only opportunity for the USF2000 contingent to gain experience on a left-turn-only track in 2021.
Eves, Rasmussen Continue Title Tussle
The battle for the Indy Pro 2000 championship and a scholarship valued at over $718,000 has developed into a head-to-head battle between Braden Eves, from New Albany, Ohio, and Christian Rasmussen, from Copenhagen, Denmark. Coincidentally they are the two most recent USF2000 champions, having won scholarships to progress into Indy Pro 2000 in 2019 (Eves) and 2020 (Rasmussen).
Eves, 22, who drives for Exclusive Autosport, currently holds a slender three-point edge over Jay Howard Driver Development representative Rasmussen, 20. Eves has won two of the seven races held to date, while Rasmussen has won three times.
Eves came out narrowly on top when the pair last raced together on the 0.686-mile oval as USF2000 rookies in 2019. Eves finished fifth while Rasmussen marked his potential by rising from 15th on the grid to sixth. The Dane parlayed that experience to claim victory in 2020 en route to the championship.
Eves’ Exclusive Autosport teammate, Artem Petrov, from Saint Petersburg, Russia, lies third in the points chase, 24 adrift of Rasmussen, after claiming his first win of the season recently on the Indy road course.
Reece Gold, 16, from Miami, Fla., is still looking for his first Indy Pro 2000 victory for Juncos Racing but came oh-so close last time out at the Brickyard where he claimed a pair of podium finishes. Gold also finished runner-up to Rasmussen in last year’s Freedom 75 USF2000 race.
New Zealander Hunter McElrea similarly has good memories of the oval after finishing second last year in Indy Pro 2000 for Pabst Racing, one position ahead of Mexico’s Manuel Sulaiman, who had started from the pole and will return with his sights set firmly on Victory Lane for Juncos Racing.
The green flag for Friday’s Cooper Tires Freedom 90 is slated for 8:05 p.m. EDT. Global live streaming can be found on the Road to Indy TV App and at RoadToIndy.TV and indypro2000.com.
Place Your Bets in USF2000
The intense level of competition this year in USF2000 sees the top four drivers covered by just 16 points after the opening seven races. Four different drivers have shared victories, with four more having earned at least one podium finish. At stake is a scholarship valued at more than $400,000 to make the step up to Indy Pro 2000 in 2022.
University student Yuven Sundaramoorthy, from Delafield, Wis., earned his first race win for Pabst Racing at Barber Motorsports Park in April, the opening event of his third full campaign at this level. Since then he has added two more emphatic victories on the Indianapolis Grand Prix circuit.
Kiko Porto (DEForce Racing), from Recife, Brazil, and Christian Brooks (Exclusive Autosport), from Santa Clarita, Calif., both secured their maiden victories in the final event of the 2020 season on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla. Porto thrust himself into contention for the championship by winning the most recent race at Indianapolis, while Brooks already has earned two victories this year.
Josh Pierson, 15, from Wilsonville, Ore., has four podium finishes to his name with Pabst Racing and is looking to break through for his first win. Michael d’Orlando, from Hartsdale, N.Y., also will have high expectations for Cape Motorsports after finishing fourth at LOR in 2020. All three who finished ahead of him – Rasmussen, Gold and local driver Jack William Miller (Miller Vinatieri Motorsports), from Carmel, Ind., have graduated to Indy Pro 2000 this year.
Almost half of the 24-car field will be making their oval track debuts this week. But two drivers – Trey Burke (Joe Dooling Autosports), from Alvin, Texas, and Nathan Byrd (Legacy Autosport), from Litchfield Park, Ariz. – will feel much more at home on the high-banked oval.
Burke, now 16, became the youngest ever IMCA National Sprint Car Series Rookie of the Year in 2019, while Byrd, 21, who will be making his USF2000 debut, has amassed plenty of experience in the Mel Kenyon Midget Series and the Radical Ford Focus Midgets over the past year.
Byrd plans to compete in as many as 10 different series and a wide variety of cars this year including sprint cars, midgets and late model stock cars – and intends to create a little bit of history on Friday by also competing in the Midget and Silver Crown races.
Friday’s Cooper Tires Freedom 75 is set to kick off an intense evening of racing at 7:05 p.m. EDT. Global live streaming can be found on the Road to Indy TV App and at RoadToIndy.TV and usf2000.com.