MILLVILLE, N.J. – Russian Artem Petrov and New Zealander Hunter McElrea each claimed a victory Sunday as the Indy Pro 2000 Grand Prix Presented by The Andersen Companies concluded at New Jersey Motorsports Park.
No one came close to challenging Exclusive Autosport’s Petrov during the opening race, held in tricky wet conditions, and once the track dried in time for the final race of the weekend, McElrea claimed an equally authoritative victory for Pabst Racing.
McElrea also finished second in the opener, chased home by Braden Eves, while Eves moved up to finish second in the nightcap ahead of teammate Petrov.
McElrea began the day in perfect style by securing the Cooper Tires Pole Award during a damp qualifying session this morning. Conditions gradually deteriorated as the morning progressed, such that the 2.5-mile track was fully wet by the time the competitors lined up on the grid for the first of two 25-lap races.
After an exploratory lap behind the Pace Car, Petrov drove imperiously past McElrea at the first corner and simply romped away into the distance. He completed the first racing lap with an advantage of almost two seconds, which he extended to almost half a minute by the time the checkered flag flew. It was one of the most dominant performances in recent memory.
Petrov’s effort earned Exclusive Autosport team principal Michael Duncalfe another PFC Award as the winning car owner.
McElrea was similarly unchallenged in second place, although Eves had to work a little harder to fend off yesterday’s winner Reece Gold.
Jacob Abel capped a solid run to fifth place by snaring The Ticket Clinic Fastest Lap Award on the very last lap.
Wyatt Brichacek finished a lap down in sixth but still did enough to claim the Tilton Hard Charger Award after starting 10th.
The track had dried out in time for the final race of the weekend, which saw McElrea take full advantage of another Cooper Tires Pole Award by immediately pulling clear of Eves and Petrov. McElrea extended his lead to over 12 seconds by the finish to extend his current podium streak to five races, book-ended by a pair of wins. He also secured a third PFC Award for team owner Augie Pabst.
After challenging for position during the first few laps, Petrov settled into third, mindful of teammate Eves’ championship aspirations, as the pair finished well clear of Abel who subsequently received a penalty for avoidable contact which dropped him to seventh.
A couple of incidents on the opening lap put paid to the hopes of both Gold, who tangled with Petrov in turn one, and title aspirant Christian Rasmussen, who damaged his car’s rear suspension in an incident with Irishman James Roe at turn three.
Rasmussen gained some consolation by securing The Ticket Clinic Fastest Lap Award – along with what could be another valuable championship point – following suspension repairs, while Roe survived the early skirmish to earn the Tilton Hard Charger Award having progressed from 10th on the grid to fourth. Brichacek rounded out the top five.
A pair of podium finishes for Eves, combined with a dismal day for Rasmussen, who finished a lap down in the earlier race followed by more contact on the opening lap, will see the contenders separated by just 18 points heading into the championship deciding double-header at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on Oct. 2-3.