ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires officially crowned its series champions and additional winners in an abbreviated awards ceremony held trackside at the Mahaffey Theater on Sunday.
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.