EA maintains Indy Pro 2000 Team Championship lead after Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course doubleheader
LEXINGTON, OH (July 4, 2021) – Exclusive Autosport returned the beautiful Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course this past weekend for the Cooper Tires Indy Pro 2000 Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio on the facility’s 2.258, 13-turn road course, and by the end of the weekend, the team had racked up its 13th podium of the 2021 season. Russia’s Artem Petrov proved to be fast, topping the charts during the official practice before backing it up as he was near the top of the charts during qualifying. Artem just missed both pole positions and wins in each race by the smallest of margins, while still grabbing two more podiums with a pair of second-place finishes. American Braden Eves didn’t have quite the weekend he would have liked, but he still gained one top-five finish to maintain his hold on second in the championship standings. These combined results have kept EA leading the Indy Pro 2000 Team Championship standings.
“I am very proud of the double podium finishes for Artem. He drove very well all weekend and did a really great job in qualifying just narrowly missing both pole positions.,” said Michael Duncalfe, Team Principal. “It was unfortunate Braden’s weekend wasn’t as expected, but he will come back fighting at Gateway. Both Exclusive drivers (and the team) are in the championship hunt with 3 event weekends remaining. We have a lot of work left to do but are really looking forward to the second half of the season.”
The doubleheader event kicked off on Thursday morning with three unofficial test sessions for the Indy Pro 2000 drivers. Friday started with a late morning official practice session, followed by Qualifying 1 to determine the grid for the opening race. Throughout the day, the team battled sporadic rain showers, but thankfully, both sessions were run in the dry. Both drivers pushed hard in their attempt to put down a pole-winning time, and both flirted with the necessary pace. Petrov held onto the provisional pole until the very last lap, but he would have to be content with second, placing him on the outside of the front row of the grid for Race 1. Eves would have to settle for the fifth starting spot.
Saturday started bright and early with a qualifying session to set the field for Race 2. Right away, Eves and Petrov topped the charts and continued to hold those spots throughout the session. Eves had the pace to start in the top-five, but due to an on-track penalty, he was dropped back to the eighth position. Petrov maintained the pole right up until the end of the session but was edged out, at the end by just 0.011 of a second, giving him the second starting position for the second straight race.
The opening races of the doubleheader took place later in the morning under sunny skies. Petrov went into immediate attack mode trying to overtake for the lead. He fought all race long but simply ran out of time. Petrov would stand on the second step of the podium, closing in on third-place in the standing. Eves started fifth, and then battled with some stiff competition as he worked to move forward. After battling with third and fourth throughout the race, he just missed out and finished in the fifth position.
Like most Road to Indy race days, Sunday started early. The drivers took to the track with the sole motivation to move forward. Petrov pressured first place from the green flag, but like in Race 1, he fell back just a little through the midway laps of the race. He began catching up, but again, he ran out of time and settled for his second runner-up finish of the weekend. Unfortunately, due to the penalty in Qualifying 2, Eves had his work cut out for him. As this track is known for being extremely hard to overtake, Braden fought hard but had to settle for a ninth-place finish. However, this weekend still helped keep him second in points and in the hunt for the championship title.
In the Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires point standings, Eves left the Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio sitting second place in the championship standings with a comfortable gap over third. Petrov closed significantly on the driver in front of him in the calculation, and sits fourth, just four points behind third. The team also continues to lead in the Team Championship, which provides the team with the first pit boxes on pit lane for the next event. The next race on the calendar for the Indy Pro 2000 squad is in six weeks at the World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway for their second and last oval race of the year. Exclusive Autosport fans and supporters can catch this race live on www.roadtoindy.tv or on the Road to Indy TV App. As always, follow our social media outlets for coverage throughout the race weekend.
Exclusive Autosport is pleased to be able to partner with great companies, such as Cambridge Global Payments (https://ca.cambridgefx.com/exclusive-autosport/) and AERO™ Advanced Paint Technology (www.rethinkpaint.com), which is used on all their race cars.
EXCLUSIVE AUTOSPORT – DRIVER RESULTS AND QUOTES
INDY PRO 2000 – ROUND 11/12 – JULY 2-4, 2021
COOPER TIRES INDY PRO 2000 GRAND PRIX OF MID-OHIO – LEXINGTON, OH
ARTEM PETROV – #42
Qualifying 1: 2nd – 1:17.927
Qualifying 2: 2nd – 1:18.171
Race 1: Start – 2nd / Finish – 2nd
Race 2: Start – 2nd / Finish – 2nd
Driver Quote: “It was a pretty good weekend. I got two off-poles, which is pretty good, although I wanted to finally get a pole for the season. My goal has been to improve in qualifying and I did that this weekend only missing one of the poles by just a few hundredths. I knew in Race 1 there would be only one opportunity since it’s so hard to pass here. I tried to make a few moves, but he defended well. On the restart, there was no way to try anything. But second was good for good points. For Race 2, I really gave it my all. I tried again to overtake in Turn Four, but it didn’t work. I focused on driving with no mistakes and put down good laps. The car wasn’t as good as it was in the first race, so we’ll look at the data and find improvement for the remaining races – but I’m the only driver with a double podium this weekend, so that’s good for me, for the team and for the championship.”
BRADEN EVES – #91
Qualifying 1: 5th – 1:18.927
Qualifying 2: 8th – 1:18.597
Race 1: Start – 5th / Finish – 5th
Race 2: Start – 8th / Finish – 9th
Driver Quote: “This was a tough weekend for me and my crew. Being my home track, this is not how I would have liked the weekend to turn out. I did manage to get one top-five finish, which keeps me in the championship hunt, which is good. The team and I just need to put our heads down for the rest of the season and gain as many points as possible for the last rounds of the year. Thank you to my crew for all their hard work this weekend.”
EXCLUSIVE AUTOSPORT – SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNTS:
Photo Credit: Gavin Baker / Road to Indy
About Exclusive Autosport:
Exclusive Autosport (EA) is a professional racing team dedicated to the success of its drivers in open-wheel formula car competition in North America. EA operates teams on the Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires, in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship and the Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires. The team also competes in the F1600 Championship Series in the US, and in F1600 competition in Ontario, Quebec and Eastern America to develop young racers for advancement up their internal ladder system. Exclusive Autosport’s drivers have secured numerous championships, race wins, podium finishes and pole positions, as well as Rookie of the Year awards. Exclusive Management Inc., the team’s parent company, has enjoyed great success in both open-wheel and sports car racing and has worked with standout drivers. Their mission is to develop drivers and prepare them for the upper echelons of professional motorsports.