PORTLAND, Ore. – Louis Foster and Reece Gold each scored a clear victory and a second-place finish during today’s pair of Cooper Tires Indy Pro 2000 Grand Prix races at Portland International Raceway. But that tally proved more than enough for Foster, a 19-year-old rookie from Basingstoke, England, to clinch the Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires for the Exclusive Autosport team. Foster also claimed a champion’s scholarship valued at $614,425 to graduate into Indy Lights, the top step on the Road to Indy open-wheel driver development ladder, in 2023.
Gold’s Juncos Hollinger Racing teammate, Pakistan’s Enaam Ahmed, finished third in the opening race while last year’s Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship winner, Kiko Porto (DEForce Racing), from Recife, Brazil, completed the podium in Race Two.
Foster entered the final event of the season with a commanding 77-point championship lead, which he promptly extended by one more point by virtue of claiming his series-leading fifth Cooper Tires Pole Award of the season during qualifying this morning.
Foster was briefly challenged by Gold under braking for the Festival Curves chicane on the opening lap, but after weathering that storm, he quickly settled into a smooth rhythm at the front of the field. Gold remained hot on his heels for the first 12 laps or so, before Foster’s potent blend of speed and consistency enabled him to gradually extend his advantage to as much as three seconds. The Englishman then cruised home to secure his seventh win of the season and put the championship title beyond the reach of his rivals.
Gold was relatively content with second, 2.1474 seconds in arrears at the finish line, especially with the knowledge he would start the second of today’s races from the pole position by virtue of having turned the best of every drivers’ second-fastest lap in qualifying.
Gold’s teammate, Ahmed, emerged from the first corner in third following an incident involving DEForce Racing teammates Nolan Siegel, from Palo Alto, Calif., and Kiko Porto, from Recife, Brazil, plus Miller Vinatieri Motorsports’ Jack William Miller, from Carmel, Ind. Ahmed couldn’t match the leaders’ pace but proved comfortably faster than the next pack of cars, led by Australian Marcos Flack (Jay Howard Driver Development), who somehow contrived to vault from 16th on the grid to fourth place by the completion of the opening lap.
Flack, who earned the Tilton Hard Charger Award, held off a race-long challenge from Dublin, Ireland’s Jonathan Browne (Turn 3 Motorsport), who was in turn chased by Jordan Missig (Pabst Racing), from Channahon, Ill., who overtook Braden Eves (Jay Howard Driver Development), from New Albany, Ohio, on the final lap.
Race Two this evening, the penultimate round in the 18-race season, saw a complete role reversal as Gold, from Miami, Fla., started from pole position and quickly asserted his superiority.
He was helped by the fact Porto slotted in ahead of front row starter Foster on the opening lap. Gold pulled out a commanding lead of 4.7 seconds inside the first seven laps, and even though Foster finally found a way through into second place and posted the fastest lap of the race, Gold managed his lead expertly before taking the checkered flag 3.5502 seconds clear of the new series champion.
Ahmed finished close behind in fourth as Miller completed the top five.
Missig finished seventh after another strong run. He also claimed the Tilton Hard Charger Award after working his way from 13th on the grid.
The two PFC Awards were shared by Michael Duncalfe and Ricardo Juncos as the winning car owners.
Juncos Hollinger’s third win of the season was enough to clinch the coveted Team Championship with one race remaining tomorrow (Saturday). The green flag is set to fly at 2:20 p.m.
Provisional championship points after 17 of 18 rounds:
1. Louis Foster, 435
2. Reece Gold, 358
3. Enaam Ahmed, 319
4. Nolan Siegel, 311
5. Braden Eves, 294
6. Josh Green, 285
7. Salvador De Alba, 275
8. Kiko Porto, 265
9. Jack William Miller, 234
10. Yuven Sundaramoorthy, 235
Louis Foster (#90 Copart.com/Novara Technologies-Exclusive Autosport Tatuus PM-22): “Obviously, it was a really good race today. I managed to get pole position and Reece challenged me quite hard going in to Turn One but I managed to get him back in Turn Two. From there, it was really just preserving tires. This track is really hard on tires and it was quite hot today as well. I was just waiting for his tires to drop off and, once they did, the gap opened up to three seconds. In winning the race, I became the 2022 champion. It has been an amazing day so far and there is still one race to go and I am going to try to win that one as well. I can’t thank the team enough for this year. They have been amazing and the series has been amazing. I have really enjoyed my first year in the States.”
Reece Gold (#55 The Ticket Clinic-Juncos Hollinger Racing Tatuus PM-22): “It was a good start, kept it clean, I almost had him in Turn One but couldn’t quite get it done. I caught him a little bit the first 10 laps but it’s just so hard to pass here. Then he picked up the pace a little and the gap kind of stayed the same and I couldn’t really do anything, but I’m happy with the pace and we start first for the next race, so looking forward to it.”
Enaam Ahmed (#47 Clear Capital Market/The Support of Pakistan-Juncos Hollinger Racing Tatuus PM-22): “It was a good race for me. I started fifth and ended on the podium. As I am fighting for third in the championship with Siegel, it was points that I needed so I am very happy with the result. I would like to thank Juncos and everyone that is supporting me back in Pakistan. I know they are suffering a lot right now, and I will be with you guys soon – straight after the race.”
Reece Gold (#55 The Ticket Clinic-Juncos Hollinger Racing Tatuus PM-22): “That was one of the best birthday presents I’ve ever had! The team gave me a great car as always, and we got the clean start we needed. I knew we had the pace to run our own race, (so) super happy with the result. I couldn’t see Louis but my team was giving me the gap, so I was able to manage the numbers. I was fighting for second in the championship and I think we secured that – a couple of bad weekends cost us the title but I’m still super happy. This is my best result in a Road to Indy championship, so I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
Louis Foster (#90 Copart.com/Novara Technologies-Exclusive Autosport Tatuus PM-22): “It was a huge weight off my shoulders, to clinch the championship – that move on Kiko, I don’t know if I would have tried that if I’d still been in the championship fight! It is nice to have it done, to just enjoy these last couple of races. I’m annoyed that we missed the start – Reece and the others were on new tires and I wasn’t, but I was faster than all of them. Glad to get back to P2 and get the podium.
“It still hasn’t sunk in, that might happen tomorrow – I’m sure I’ll have a different mindset then!”
Kiko Porto (#1 Banco Daycoval/Petromega-DEForce Racing Tatuus PM-22): “We had a good car but in that first race, it went wrong early. On the start, I tried to go outside my teammate (Nolan Siegel), but Jack Miller crashed into him and he came into me. Not his fault, but it’s disappointing because we knew we could have had a good race. This afternoon, it was just about staying focused through the delay – and then managing a completely different car. The INDYCAR rubber really changed the racetrack and I had a big oversteer. I was able to adapt and it turned out great. We’ll make some changes and be ready for tomorrow.”