ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Nolan Siegel produced a faultless performance this morning to win the second leg of the Andersen Interior Contracting Grand Prix of St. Petersburg double-header and wrap up the opening weekend of the 2022 Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires. The 17-year-old from Palo Alto, Calif., led throughout the 25-lap race for DEForce Racing, despite the potential distraction of a couple of full-course cautions.
Siegel’s first series win, in just his third start following an exploratory outing last year on the oval at World Wide Technology Raceway, allowed him to take an early lead in the quest for a scholarship valued at $614,425 to graduate into Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, the next step of the Road to Indy, in 2023.
Fellow rookie Louis Foster, from Basingstoke, England, backed up his first-ever outing on a street circuit, which yesterday netted a third-place finish, by going one better today on the tricky 14-turn, 1.8-mile circuit which encompasses downtown streets and a portion of runways and taxiways at the adjacent Albert Whitted Airport. Braden Eves, from New Albany, Ohio, finished third for the Jay Howard Driver Development team.
Siegel secured his first Indy Pro 2000 Cooper Tires Pole Award yesterday afternoon by virtue of posting the fastest lap in the opening race of the season. He took full advantage today by leading outside front row starter Wyatt Brichacek (Jay Howard Driver Development), from Johnstown, Colo., at the start.
Brichacek’s teammate, Eves, ousted Pakistani Enaam Ahmed (Juncos Hollinger Racing) for third at the first corner, while Foster moved up one position from sixth on the grid when he found a way past yesterday’s winner, Josh Green (Turn 3 Motorsport), from Mount Kisco, N.Y., on the third lap.
Siegel continued to lead following an early caution period, due to an incident between Mexican Salvador De Alba (JHDD) and Reece Gold (Juncos Hollinger Racing), from Miami, Fla., but an attempt by Brichacek to pass in Turn One at the restart was firmly rebuffed, which allowed both Eves and Foster to pass.
Foster continued his charge forward by diving to the inside of Eves under braking for Turn One on Lap 10. The Englishman ran wide on the exit but was able to hold onto the position. He then quickly closed the gap to Siegel.
Another full-course caution after 16 laps, when fourth-place runner Ahmed made a mistake and collected the wall in Turn Eight, provided one more opportunity for Foster to challenge for his first win in North America. But Siegel made not the hint of a mistake and held on to secure the victory and a first PFC Award of the year for team principals David and Ernesto Martinez.
Eves, who finished second in the championship last year, followed up his fourth-place run yesterday to secure his first podium of the new campaign, followed by Brazilian Kiko Porto, the 2021 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship winner, aboard a second DEForce Racing Tatuus PM-22.
Jack William Miller, from Carmel, Ind., finished sixth for Miller Vinatieri Motorsports, followed by Yuven Sundaramoorthy, from Delafield, Wis., and Pabst Racing teammate Jordan Missig, from Channahon, Ill., who earned the Tilton Hard Charger Award after climbing from 14th on the grid to eighth.
Yesterday’s winner Green experienced the opposite extreme of emotions today when he finished three laps down in 11th after a lengthy pit stop to replace a broken toe-link following earlier contact with Ahmed.
The Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires will continue with another pair of races held in conjunction with the NTT INDYCAR SERIES at Barber Motorsports Park on April 30/May 1.
Provisional championship points after 2 of 18 rounds:
1. Nolan Siegel, 50
2. Louis Foster, 48
3. Josh Green, 42
4. Braden Eves, 41
5. Kiko Porto, 34
6. Enaam Ahmed, 33
7. Jack William Miller, 28
8. Wyatt Brichacek, 25
9. Reece Gold, 25
10. Yuven Sundaramoorthy, 124
Nolan Siegel (#8 Towne Ford/Race for RP-DEForce Racing Tatuus PM-22): “That was amazing. The whole team has worked so hard and they were so happy on the radio at the checkered flag. The goal through the whole race was to stay calm and try not to look behind me as much as I might have wanted to. I tried to get away on the restarts and get a good brake into Turn One. I was really contested a few times in that first turn so I worked on the gap as hard as I could. But the whole field is so competitive – super strong teams and super strong drivers – so I think the standings are going to change a lot throughout the season with a lot of different drivers on the podium. As you saw this weekend, starting up front is key. Qualifying is everything in these cars, especially on a circuit like this one that’s so tight.”
Louis Foster (#90 Copart.com/Novara Technologies-Exclusive Autosport Tatuus PM-22): “Nolan did a good job on the restarts so we couldn’t get enough of a run on him. I tried a move late but got locked up and luckily avoided him, so I couldn’t reach him again before the end. But I’m happy with P2: it’s been quite a lot this weekend with a new team, new car, new series, new track. But we did a great deal of preparation before this weekend with the team and with SimMetric (Driver Performance Labs) so we could hit the ground running. The only thing that could have been better would be if we’d been P1. Our pace was so good all weekend. Exclusive gave me a great car and I was able to really push. Going in, I knew a podium would be possible so that was really the goal.”
Braden Eves (#4 CCFI/Huston Insurance/Addison Holdings-Jay Howard Driver Development Tatuus PM-22): “It’s been a crazy weekend. Tough luck in qualifying so we were on the back foot going into the races, but I’m so happy with the car and with the new team. The race-ability was incredible, so I was able to move forward and always pressure the drivers ahead. The car was so good; I really feel that if we’d started on pole we’d have won going away. But it’s a good points weekend, with guys who did well yesterday having issues today. The points will be really close, but it’s a completely open book right now. I’m really happy to come away from the weekend with a podium!”