CLERMONT, Ind. – Racers from the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship and the Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires gained oval experience Monday during a test at Lucas Oil Raceway.
The Canadian-owned Exclusive Autosport team enjoyed an especially productive day with Danial Frost and Russian Nikita Lastochkin leading the way in Indy Pro 2000 and Mexico’s Manuel Cabrera emerging with the fastest time in USF2000.
Monday began in the classroom with the traditional Oval Clinic hosted by Road to Indy veteran and Lucas Oil School of Racing Director of Operations Gerardo Bonilla. Also on hand to pass along a wealth of knowledge and experience to an enraptured audience were popular Brazilian Tony Kanaan, whose long list of accomplishments includes winning the 1997 Indy Lights championship, the 2004 IndyCar title and the 2013 Indianapolis 500, plus Indy Pro 2000 Race Director and five-time Indianapolis 500 starter Johnny Unser and IndyCar Race Director Kyle Novak.
“It’s good have someone who is successful to talk to the kids,” said Kanaan. “It was a pleasure to come talk to them – if I put one thing into their heads that will help them drive today and in the race next week, then that’s a good thing. I came to America and went straight into Indy Lights, and I was lucky to have a mentor like (former Tasman Motorsports Team Principal) Steve Horne, and I repeated much of what he told me to the drivers today.
“This is the beauty of being part of the Road to Indy. The ladder series is part of IndyCar and all the drivers support it. This is the future – in a few years, I’ll be watching the races and I’ll see drivers in the Indy 500 and I can say ‘I remember talking to those kids!’ I think that is why the ladder series has been so strong: everyone puts a lot of effort into making this work. I don’t see anything like this anywhere in the world so to me, this is the best place to be.”
Frost was clearly the class of the field in Indy Pro 2000, heading all three sessions which totaled more than two hours of track time. His best time was a full half-second clear of his nearest challenger in the first 45-minutes of running this morning and he continued a similar dominance throughout the day to post a best lap of 20.2860 (121.739 mph) this afternoon and lay down a firm marker in advance of next week’s Cooper Tires Freedom 90 at the fast and challenging LOR oval.
Lastochkin’s time of 20.7516 seconds, also set Monday afternoon, remained good enough for second on the day to ensure a clean sweep for Exclusive Autosport, although Moises de la Vara jumped to third fastest at 20.7641 moments before the final checkered flag for DEForce Racing.
Last year’s USF2000 champion, Kyle Kirkwood, also improved to 20.8025 in the final period to edge out Jacob Abel and series points leader Rasmus Lindh.
Three different drivers took a turn in the spotlight during Monday’s trio of USF2000 test sessions, although once again it was Exclusive Autosport which led the way as Cabrera’s time from the opening session, 22.1141 seconds, an average speed of 111.675 mph on the .686-mile oval, remained as the fastest lap of the day in preparation for the Cooper Tires Freedom 75.
Cabrera, 18, also displayed good pace on the IMS road course last weekend, although his results were compromised by an incident in the first race and a mechanical problem in the second. The youngster will no doubt gain a welcome boost of confidence from Monday’s performance, even though his day was curtailed by an incident moments before the end of the opening 45-minute session.
Rookie Yuven Sundaramoorthy set the pace in the second session for Pabst Racing, just over one-tenth quicker than teammate and Mazda Scholarship winner Hunter McElrea.
Colin Kaminsky ended the day third fastest with a time .0115 of a second slower than Cabrera.
The final session saw yet another rookie, 14-year-old Jak Crawford narrowly on top for DEForce Racing. Jack William Miller, Darren Keane, another 14-year-old, Nolan Siegel, Alex Baron, Eduardo Barrichello and McElrea also were within one tenth of a second of Crawford’s benchmark in the final session.