MILLVILLE, N.J. – Devlin DeFrancesco thoroughly dominated Saturday’s Cooper Tires Indy Pro 2000 Grand Prix at New Jersey Motorsports Park.
The 20-year-old Italian-Canadian rookie was never seriously challenged during the 25-lap contest, wrapping up his second victory of the season for Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport.
“That was a new situation for us, to be out in front for the entire race, so that was fun. It’s a great feeling, after all the hard work that’s gone into this, to see us evolve as a team and get faster and faster through the year. That’s the most satisfying feeling in the world,” said DeFrancesco. “The test here last month really helped us as a team to find that speed, so I knew we’d have the race pace. We’ll see what we can squeeze out in qualifying tomorrow morning. I know there’s weather coming so there will be a few more spanners in the works. But anything can happen in the championship.
“I’m here to fight and Sting Ray (Robb) definitely has a fight on his hands.”
Juncos Racing’s Sting Ray Robb also enjoyed a relatively comfortable ride to second place.
Robb, from Payette, Idaho, still holds a healthy 41-point advantage over DeFrancesco in the Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, with four races remaining this season.
At stake is a scholarship valued at over $600,000 for the season champion to graduate onto the final rung of the Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires open-wheel development ladder, Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, in 2021.
Mexico’s Manuel Sulaiman continued his good form for DEForce Racing to complete the podium in third.
DeFrancesco set the ball rolling this morning in qualifying as he edged Robb by just 0.0087 of a second to snag his third Cooper Tires Pole Award of the year.
He took full advantage by making a clean start and was comfortably ahead as the field entered the braking area for turn one. DeFrancesco then set a series of fastest laps to extend his margin to over a second in the first five opening laps before settling into a rhythm and eventually taking the checkered flag fully 5.3507 seconds to the good.
DeFrancesco’s performance ensured a second PFC Award of the season for the winning team.
Sulaiman chased gamely after Robb but was never able to make a serious challenge for position. He in turn edged clear of Canadian teammate Parker Thompson, who had to work much harder to keep Robb’s teammate, Russian Artem Petrov, in his mirrors after overtaking Petrov at the start.
New Zealander Hunter McElrea rounded out the top six for Pabst Racing. McElrea also took home the Tilton Hard Charger Award after making up two positions during the 25-lap race.
Singapore’s Danial Frost, winner of the opening race of the season at Road America in July for Turn 3 Motorsport, endured a disappointing day when he pulled off the road with a mechanical problem while holding down sixth place.
Frost’s demise allowed Colin Kaminsky to finish seventh, despite having fallen to the back of the field following an off-course excursion on the opening lap.