Road to Indy Reaches Halfway Mark at Road America
 June 15, 2021| 
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PALMETTO, Fla. – All three levels of the Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires will see action this week, each set for a pair of races at one of the most eagerly awaited venues on the schedule, the challenging 4.014-mile Road America circuit in Elkhart Lake, Wis.

The Grand Prix of Road America marks the halfway point in a season which will see a total of more than $3.1 million awarded in prizes and scholarships to enable talented race car drivers to progress from the grassroots of the sport to the pinnacle, the NTT INDY CAR SERIES, which once again tops the racing bill this weekend.

Kirkwood Aims for New Milestones
Kyle Kirkwood jumped right into the mix for the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires title-chase following an emphatic pair of victories last weekend for Andretti Autosport at The Raceway on Belle Isle Park temporary circuit in Detroit, Mich. The wide-open expanses of Road America will mark an entirely different challenge but has already proven to be a happy hunting ground for the 22-year-old from Jupiter, Fla. In fact, Kirkwood is unbeaten at the venue so far in Road to Indy competition, having swept the weekends both in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship in 2018 and the following season’s Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires.

Kirkwood went on to claim both championship titles – along with scholarships to guarantee graduation to the next level of the Road to Indy. After sitting out the 2020 season as a consequence of the COVID-19 global pandemic, he has returned with a vengeance this year with a singular goal of becoming the first driver in the history of the Road to Indy to win scholarships at each level.

Kirkwood’s brace of wins in Detroit took his tally to 24 in all, equaling the record set by Spencer Pigot, who placed second in the USF2000 series in both 2011 and 2012 before winning consecutive championships in Indy Pro 2000 (2014) and Indy Lights (2015).

The dominant weekend took Kirkwood to within four points of the championship lead which is currently held by Sweden’s Linus Lundqvist (Global Racing Group with HMD Motorsports). Lundqvist, also, 22, has not previously competed at Road America, although judging by his performance last week in Detroit, where he twice finished in second place and ended the weekend with a new race lap record, that is unlikely to prove much of a handicap.

Lundqvist will be able to draw on the experience of HMD Motorsports teammate David Malukas, 19, from Chicago, Ill., who considers Road America to be his home circuit. Malukas, who currently lies just one point shy of Lundqvist in the points table, won both Indy Pro 2000 races at Road America in 2018 and finished a strong fourth in one of the Indy Lights encounters during his rookie campaign in 2019.

The Cooper Tires Grand Prix of Road America Powered by AER, which represents the ninth and 10th rounds of the 20-race Indy Lights season, will start out with a pair of one-hour test sessions on Thursday, June 17. An official practice session on Friday morning will lead into qualifying later in the afternoon which will set the grid for the first of two 20-lap races, set to start at 3:05 p.m. CDT on Saturday. A second, separate qualifying session earlier in the day will determine the starting order for Race Two at 8:50 a.m. on Sunday.

Coverage can be found on Peacock Premium in the U.S., on REV TV in Canada, and internationally on The Race YouTube channel, the Road to Indy TV App and at RoadToIndy.TV and indylights.com.

Rasmussen vs. Eves in Indy Pro 2000
The Indy Pro 2000 Championship seems to be developing into a two-horse race between Denmark’s Christian Rasmussen and Ohio native Braden Eves. Coincidentally, they are also the two most recent champions on the first rung of the Road to Indy ladder. Eves took the title in 2019, as well as a scholarship to move up to Indy Pro 2000, while Rasmussen followed suit in 2020.

Both have tasted success previously at Road America, with Eves winning one of the two races in 2019 and Rasmussen sweeping the weekend last year.

Rasmussen, driving for the team run by former USF2000 and Indy Lights champion Jay Howard, currently holds a 13-point edge over Eves, who represents Exclusive Autosport. Rasmussen has won four of the last five races, taking his Road to Indy tally to 16, just one shy of fourth on the all-time list held jointly by Greg Moore, JR Hildebrand and Sage Karam.

Eves already has two wins to his credit this season. His Russian teammate, Artem Petrov, and New Zealander Hunter McElrea have shared the other two race victories. Both are anxious to add to their tallies and each has good reason for optimism. Petrov claimed his maiden triumph in one of the races at Road America last season, while McElrea, who drives for the locally based Pabst Racing team, scored his first USF2000 victory there as a rookie in 2019.

Reece Gold, 15, from Miami, Fla., has come agonizingly close to the top step of the podium during an impressive rookie campaign with Juncos Racing. With four consecutive pole positions and five podium finishes to his credit, the youngster has every intention of scoring a breakthrough first win this weekend.

Gold’s two teammates, Manuel Sulaiman, from Puebla, Mexico, and Cayman Islander Kyffin Simpson, also hold high expectations. Sulaiman claimed a pole and a fastest lap in 2020, while 15-year-old Simpson secured two wins during a Formula Regional Americas weekend at Road America in May.

The Cooper Tires Grand Prix of America Powered by Elite Engines schedule will mirror that of Indy Lights with testing on Thursday, two qualifying sessions, and one race each on Saturday, at 12:10 p.m. CDT, and Sunday at 9:55 a.m., immediately prior to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES headline event. Global live streaming can be found on the Road to Indy TV App and at RoadToIndy.TV and indypro2000.com.

Sundaramoorthy Leads USF2000 on Home Ground
Yuven Sundaramoorthy has been a revelation in 2021. After making his USF2000 debut toward the end of the 2018 season, Sundaramoorthy, who was born in Oconomowoc, Wis., (also home to his team, Pabst Racing), and now lives in nearby Delafield, less than a 90-minute drive from the race track, scored a popular maiden victory in the opening round of the season at Barber Motorsports Park in Leeds, Ala. The 18-year-old of Indian descent, who is also in his freshman year at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, added another pair of wins last month at the Indianapolis Grand Prix road course and now holds a seven-point lead in the championship over Brazilian Kiko Porto (DEForce Racing).

Three other contenders – Christian Brooks, Michael d’Orlando and Josh Pierson – also are currently within 20 points of Sundaramoorthy, all with an eye set on securing a scholarship valued at more than $400,000 to guarantee graduation into the 2022 Indy Pro 2000 Championship. As measure of the series’ level of competition, the leading quintet represent four different teams.

Brooks, from Santa Clarita, Calif., lies third in the championship chase with two wins to his name, although his quest was hindered by a technical irregularity which relegated his Exclusive Autosport Tatuus USF-17 to last in the 26-car field after finishing second on the road course in the final race at the Indianapolis road course in May.

d’Orlando, from Hartsdale, N.Y., is the most recent winner, taking top honors for Cape Motorsports during a hard-fought race on the series’ only visit to an oval track this year at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis.

Porto, who won the third road course race at Indianapolis, and Sundaramoorthy’s Pabst Racing teammate, Pierson, from Wilsonville, Ore., are the only drivers to have finished among the top 10 in all eight races run so far this season.

A total of 18 drivers have scored at least one top-10 finish.

After two hours of testing on Thursday and one more official practice session on Friday morning, two qualifying sessions later in the day will set the grid positions for the pair of 12-lap races at 11:15 a.m. CDT on Saturday and 8:00 a.m. on Sunday. Global live streaming can be found on the Road to Indy TV App and at RoadToIndy.TV and usf2000.com.

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