Braden Eves scored another beautifully crafted victory in the opening leg of the Indy Pro 2000 Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Presented by Cooper Tires.
The 21-year-old from New Albany, Ohio, led from flag to flag for Exclusive Autosport, fending off a stern challenge from the driver who succeeded him as winner of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship, Denmark’s Christian Rasmussen (Jay Howard Driver Development).
Hunter McElrea, from New Zealand, completed the podium for Pabst Racing. McElrea chased home in third place, just ahead of Eves’ teammate Artem Petrov, from Saint Petersburg, Russia, who continued his strong start to the Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires season with his third consecutive top-four finish.
“I’m disappointed because I made that mistake,” commented McElrea. Braden, Christian and I were all together, not catching or pulling away. I want to win, so that’s disappointing, but you can’t feel too badly when you’re on the podium. Even though Braden finished ahead of me, it’s good points.
“I’m on pole tomorrow and I’m looking forward to that. It was tough out there today: we saw what happened to the USF2000 guys, but it’s tough to go from such a wide front straight to such a tight first corner, especially for the rookies. For us, we’re a bit more experienced but it’s always a hairy Turn One so I’m really happy to be on pole for race two.”
McElrea led the chase of Eves from the start after annexing the outside front row starting position but he wasn’t able to shake off the challenge of Rasmussen, who eventually executed a bold pass around the outside line at Turn One on Lap 8.
A dramatic second qualifying session earlier today saw McElrea post the fastest time to ensure pole position for tomorrow’s fourth round of the Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires for which the green will fly bright and early at 8 a.m. EDT.
Provisional championship points after 3 of 18 rounds:
1/ Braden Eves, 83
2/ Hunter McElrea, 67
3/ Artem Petrov, 66
4/ Christian Rasmussen, 62
5/ Reece Gold, 45
6/ Enaam Ahmed, 43
7/ Colin Kaminsky, 40
8/ Jacob Abel, 36
9/ Wyatt Brichacek, 35
10/ Cameron Shields, 32