After placing ninth in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires standings last year, Nikita Lastochin will return to the second step of the Road to Indy ladder in the Indy Pro 2000 Presented by Cooper Tires.
With Mazda’s departure from the series at the end of 2018, the Pro Mazda program was renamed ‘Indy Pro 2000’ during the off-season the reflect this partnership change. The series will remain based on the same Tatuus PM-18 chassis and Elite Engines built 2.0L powerplant that was the platform for the Pro Mazda Championship. Only the series name will change.
However, it will also be a different team for Nikita, as he has signed with Exclusive Autosport for his 2019 campaign.
The Russian recently shared his thoughts entering the year with POPULAR OPEN WHEEL.
POPULAR OPEN WHEEL: What are your thoughts going into the upcoming season?
NIKITA LASTOCHKIN: The thought is obviously to do the best job possible, and from testing the car for the new team, it’s been quite a quick car. I can definitely feel how it differently drives from the car that I was in last year. It’s going to be a good year with Exclusive Autosport.
POW: What are your goals and expectations?
NIKITA: Obviously, the goal is to win the championship, and try to do it in a good way. I think over the last few years, it’s been about putting the different pieces of the puzzle together and it should be a good year for me to show what I can do if there’s a competitive package underneath me.
POW: What track are you most looking forward to?
NIKITA: I definitely like Laguna Seca as it’s one of my favorite tracks so we’re coming back there at the end of the year. So I would be very looking forward to getting on that track.
POW: What are your final thoughts on looking back on last season and how things played out?
NIKITA: I think it was definitely a character building year. I think I learned a lot from the experience in where expectations are high for the driver and team, and things don’t go the way they planned. I learned how to deal with that, and how to stay positive, and do the best that you can.
POW: How did you get started in racing?
NIKITA: So originally I started with what was Skip Barber Racing Series. I never did any go-karting growing up. I started attending the Skip Barber Racing School, and then I did the series for about a year and a half.
POW: Who is your racing hero?
NIKITA: I can’t say I have a racing hero. I don’t come from a racing family per say, so I wasn’t into racing growing up; I wasn’t really exposed to it, and what made me fall in with racing was the speed itself. So I never had this idol figure that I looked up to, so I can’t say that I have one.
POW: What is one track that you wish was on the schedule that currently isn’t?
NIKITA: Absolutely it would be Long Beach. I’d love to race at Long Beach with IndyCar, and hopefully if I can make the jump up to Indy Lights, hopefully they’ll come back there and I’ll get to run Long Beach.
POW: So with Indy Lights in mind, what would it mean to you to win the championship this year to get the chance to move up?
NIKITA: It would be, honestly, a testament to the hard work that I’ve been putting in over the last five years, and learning from so many great people that I’ve worked with. Every year, even when the results weren’t there, I still learned a lot being around great teams, and engineers, and having great teammates. It would just mean that all the hard work is able to show itself.
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