MILLVILLE, N.J. – Reece Gold has been knocking on the door of victory lane all season.
On Saturday, less than a week shy of his 17th birthday, Gold led from green flag to checkered flag to score his maiden victory in the first of three races that will comprise the Indy Pro 2000 Grand Prix Presented by The Andersen Companies at New Jersey Motorsports Park.
It was also the first win of the season for the recently renamed Juncos Hollinger Racing team, which guided Sting Ray Robb to the Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires in 2020.
New Zealand’s Hunter McElrea chased gamely in second place for Pabst Racing as Denmark’s Christian Rasmussen extended his championship lead for the Jay Howard Driver Development team by finishing a solid third.
For a season-leading fifth time this season, Gold secured the Cooper Tires Pole Award by virtue of posting the fastest time during qualifying this morning.
Gold led the field toward the starter’s flag at a very leisurely pace before jumping on the loud pedal and leading outside front row starter McElrea comfortably toward turn one. A strong early pace saw Gold extend his lead to more than two seconds inside the opening two laps. He also turned what was to stand as the fastest lap of the 25-lap race, earning The Ticket Clinic Fastest Lap Award for the third time this year and ensuring a maximum haul of 33 points from the day.
The gap from first to second grew to as much as 2.4 seconds after nine laps. Thereafter, McElrea whittled away at the deficit as Gold continued to turn a string of consistent laps as the two leaders gradually extended their advantage over Rasmussen in third.
McElrea closed to within striking range of Gold with seven laps remaining but Gold was up to the challenge, managing his pace to perfection before taking the checkered flag just under a second to the good. In addition to claiming his long overdue maiden victory, Gold nabbed another PFC Award for Ricardo Juncos and Brad Hollinger as the winning team owners.
Rasmussen finished more than 7.6 seconds adrift of McElrea in third having held off a late challenge from Jack William Miller, from Carmel, Ind., who made up two positions at the start to claim the best finish thus far in his rookie season for Miller Vinatieri Motorsports.
Jacob Abel also made a strong start, vaulting from eighth on the grid to fifth, where he remained to assure himself of his first Tilton Hard Charger Award.