McElrea shines in Indy Pro 2000 test

A successful ninth annual Chris Griffis Memorial Road to Indy Test wrapped up after two days of running under ideal conditions at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Grand Prix road course.

A total of 44 drivers from 12 different nations turned well over 4700 laps between them over the two days, representing all three levels of the Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires, with the majority of fastest times being set in the morning.

This year’s USF2000 championship runner-up Hunter McElrea, from New Zealand, continued to display his ability by stepping up to the Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires Tatuus PM-18 for the first time and posting the fastest time for Pabst Racing.

Some idea of the level of intensity to be expected in next year’s Indy Pro 2000 Championship was gleaned from the weekend’s test, with the top drivers all posting times within a half-second of each other. Intriguingly, it was a trio of rookies and USF2000 graduates – Hunter McElrea, Colin Kaminsky and Braden Eves – who played the starring roles, with Canadian Parker Thompson the only Indy Pro 2000 veteran interloper after being drafted in by the DEForce Racing team.

McElrea emerged with the fastest time – as he did one year ago in USF2000 – turning a best lap of 1:19.4553, an average speed of 110.507 mph this morning. Pabst Racing teammate Colin Kaminsky, from Homer Glen, Ill., was only a few ticks of the watch slower at 1:19.5716.

“This is surreal, actually,” declared 19-year-old McElrea. “I was quickest at this test last year in USF2000 and that really put me on the map going into the (Road to Indy) Shootout (which McElrea won to secure his drive in this year’s USF2000 Championship) – and now, I’m here a year later topping the Indy Pro 2000 test.

“It’s a credit to Augie Pabst and everyone at Pabst Racing. They let me have a go at this car to prove what I can do, and what they can do as well. For a rookie team in this series to come out of this test one-two, you can’t get any better than that.

“The car was amazing straight out of the box and I was in the top three in every session I did, with a race run at the end to feel what the car is like in race trim. That was definitely a highlight of the weekend.

” It was a lot of new things to adapt to, but the Road to Indy has done a great job in making it a big step from USF2000 but a smooth one in terms of gaining confidence. Now I have to work hard to be on the grid next year, but hopefully this helps.”

Thompson, from Red Deer, Alb., Canada, ended the weekend with the third fastest time, 1:19.6035, fractionally ahead of recently crowned USF2000 champion Eves, from New Albany, Ohio, who had been fastest of all yesterday for Exclusive Autosport (1:19.6386), and today was on top of the time charts in each of the final two sessions – held in warmer conditions – at 1:19.6752 for RP Motorsport USA, which guided Kyle Kirkwood to this year’s championship.

Experienced Londoner Raoul Hyman continued to impress on his debut in North America, turning the second fastest time in the final session for Exclusive Autosport to end the weekend sixth overall, fractionally faster than teammate Kellen Ritter, from Vancouver, B.C., Canada.

Manuel Sulaiman, from Mexico City, also was within a half-second of the fastest time aboard a second DEForce Racing entry.

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