ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Louis Foster is on a roll. The Los Angeles, Calif.-based Englishman scored a comfortable victory for Exclusive Autosport in this afternoon’s opening leg of the Cooper Tires Grand Prix of Road America Powered by Elite Engines. Foster’s third successive win enabled him to extend his lead in the Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires at the halfway point in the 18-race season.
Josh Green, from Mount Kisco, N.Y., worked his way from sixth on the grid to finish second for Turn 3 Motorsport, while London, England-raised Pakistani Enaam Ahmed finished third for Juncos Hollinger Racing.
Enaam’s teammate, 17-year-old Reece Gold, from Miami, Fla., was fastest in qualifying yesterday to secure his third Cooper Tires Pole Award of the season. The pole also was the eighth of Gold’s young career, moving into sixth on the all-time list. But his hard-earned advantage didn’t last for long. Gold found himself under siege at the end of the long, downhill straightaway that leads toward Turn Five, whereupon he attempted to carry a little too much speed into the left-hand corner and washed wide on the exit. All of a sudden, Foster, who started third, was up into the lead and Gold was relegated all the way to seventh position.
After a brief full-course caution following an incident farther down the field, Foster took off into the lead and quickly began to pull away from the field.
Another impressive opening gambit by Salvador De Alba saw the Mexican rookie jump from sixth on the grid to second for Jay Howard Driver Development, with teammate Braden Eves, from New Albany, Ohio, hot on his heels. Green, too, was right in the mix, and within the course of the next two laps he had vaulted his way past both JHDD entries.
As Foster pulled away in the lead and eventually finished more than 3.6 seconds clear to secure another PFC Award for Michael Duncalfe as the winning car owner, Green consolidated second place and left De Alba, Eves and the rest to squabble over the final podium placing.
Ahmed, who started second but, like teammate Gold, lost several positions at Turn Five on the opening lap, gradually hauled his way back into contention. He eventually worked his way to a third podium finish of the season.
De Alba won the intra-team battle with Eves to finish fourth, with polesitter Gold having to settle for sixth.
Local driver Yuven Sundaramoorthy, from Oconomowoc, Wis., earned the Tilton Hard Charger Award for Pabst Racing after climbing from 14th on the grid to 10th at the finish line.
The second race of the weekend will see the green flag tomorrow morning at 8:30 a.m., with Gold looking for redemption after having once again posted the fastest time in a separate qualifying session on Friday afternoon.
Provisional championship points after nine of 18 rounds:
1. Louis Foster, 216
2. Reece Gold, 186
3. Nolan Siegel, 177
4. Enaam Ahmed, 165
5. Josh Green, 164
6. Braden Eves, 152
7. Kiko Porto, 136
8. Colin Kaminsky, 133
9. Salvador De Alba, 127
10. Jack William Miller, 120
Louis Foster (#90 Copart.com/Novara Technologies-Exclusive Autosport Tatuus PM-22): “It was a great race. Obviously, the first lap was quite dramatic. We kind of went three wide into Turn Five. I didn’t really put a move in properly, I just wanted to put my nose there and I think that might have caused the mistake from the two Juncos cars. They both overshot the corner, because the track was a little greasy and because it had been raining a little bit and we were still on cold slicks (tires). They went straight on and I managed to get the car around the corner, and from that point on it was just eyes forward. I had to do a little bit of defensive maneuvers when Braden (Eves) was behind me, especially at the restart, but, honestly, it was just like a mental qualifying for me. Obviously I had cars in my mirrors, and sometimes that’s a bit daunting, but the team did a really good job, I can’t thank Exclusive enough.”
Josh Green (#3 Session Guardian/Zimperium-Turn 3 Motorsport Tatuus PM-22): “It was really good. Obviously, we got pole (for Race Two) earlier today so we knew we had the pace, and we’ve had a really good car all weekend. The first qualifying, P5, wasn’t awesome, and we knew we had more in it than that, but I was able to capitalize on the (two Juncos cars) going off but I had already lost positions to the two Jay Howard cars so then it was a fight to get back ahead of them. They definitely didn’t want to give up those positions, so it was a hard fight but once I got by them I started to chase down Louis. We were similar in pace for most of the race, so I’m excited for tomorrow.”
Enaam Ahmed (#47 Clear Capital Market/The Support of Pakistan-Juncos Hollinger Racing Tatuus PM-22): “It was a good start. I was pressuring Reece, he made a mistake, I pulled alongside him, and because I haven’t won a race this year I was going to go for it so I braked really late. But because it was raining a little bit before, it was more slippery than I thought it would be so both me and Reece missed the braking (point). So we went back to, like, ninth and 10th, but I had a good car and I fought my way back to third, which I’m happy about. I’ve missed out on a few podiums this year due to crashing and a few things unlucky, but I’m happy to be back.”