LEXINGTON, Ohio – An unexpected but hard-earned victory for Denmark’s Christian Rasmussen in Saturday’s VP Racing Lubricants Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio Presented by Cooper Tires was almost enough to ensure the Jay Howard Driver Development star this year’s Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires.
All Rasmussen, from Copenhagen, Denmark, who won last year’s Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship crown, now needs is to start Sunday’s 18th and final race of the season to assure himself of a second successive Road to Indy championship and a scholarship valued at over $700,000 to graduate into Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires in 2022.
Russia’s Artem Petrov finished second after leading the early stages from the pole, with Exclusive Autosport teammate Braden Eves, from New Albany, Ohio, taking third.
Petrov took his first Cooper Tires Pole Award of the season after setting the pace in qualifying this morning. He made full use of it by maintaining his advantage at the start over Rasmussen, who started second. Behind, Eves, who was the only rival with a realistic chance of wresting away the title from Rasmussen, had his work cut out to remain ahead of a hard-charging Reece Gold (Juncos Hollinger Racing), from Miami, Fla.
Petrov and Rasmussen traded fastest laps during the early stages before the Russian encountered a momentary electrical glitch in Turn One on the eighth lap which caused him to slow abruptly and enabled Rasmussen to sweep past into the lead. Petrov recovered quickly and kept the pressure on until Rasmussen reeled off two successive fast laps to extend his advantage to 1.7 seconds with only six laps remaining.
Unfortunately, Petrov was afflicted by the same issue twice more in the closing stages, costing him any chance of chasing down Rasmussen, although the Dane eased off on the final lap to secure victory by an unrepresentative less than half a second.
In addition to virtually wrapping up the championship, Rasmussen snagged a seventh PFC Award for Jay Howard as the winning car owner.
Eves was chased throughout the 25-lap race by Gold, but even that wasn’t enough to keep him within striking range of the championship with just tomorrow’s race remaining.
There was some consolation for Michael Duncalfe’s Exclusive Autosport team for which two more podium finishes were enough to clinch a first Team Championship.
Christian Brooks, from Santa Clarita, Calif., capped an impressive Indy Pro 2000 debut by finishing a strong fifth for Exclusive Autosport after stepping up from USF2000 for the first time. He finished just over one second shy of Gold while remaining under intense pressure from Jacob Abel (Abel Motorsports), from Louisville, Ky., and New Zealander Hunter McElrea (Pabst Racing).