[ Photos and article by Rick Pettine ]
October 11, 2020 – Millville, NJ — The Road to Indy, the ladder program for IndyCar professional open-wheeled racing, returns for a weekend of racing to the 2.25-mile, 12-turn New Jersey Motorsports Park Thunderbolt road course after a 10-year hiatus.
The weekend included 8 races from 3 different racing series, including the Global Mazda MX5 Cup, the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship, and Indy Pro 2000 Championship. The open-wheeled drivers are fighting for over $1M in scholarship funding to move from the Road to Indy USF2000 to Indy Pro 2000 series, and from Indy Pro 2000 to Indy Lights, which is the last step before the IndyCar pinnacle series.
On Saturday, the USF2000 podium for Race-1 was Eduardo Barrichello (#22) from San Paulo Brazil taking the win, with series points leader Christian Rasmussen (#6) from Copenhagen Denmark in 2nd, and Michael d’Orlando (#4) from New York in 3rd place. Barrichello is the son of Rubens Barrichello, the former Ferrari, Williams, and Honda Formula-1 driver (and 1 year with IndyCar.)
For Saturday’s Indy Pro 2000 event, Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport rookie driver Devlin DeFrancesco (#17) from Miami, FL led the entire race and picked up his second win of the season, in front of series points leader Sting Ray Robb (#2) from Payette, Idaho, and Manuel Sulaiman (#8) from Mexico City, Mexico. And yes, Sting Ray is his real first name – derived from his ancestor’s home in Stirlingshire, Scotland and his grandfather Ray. (But we all know it’s really from his parent’s love of the Corvette!)
Sunday was a different story, with challenging weather and on-track incidents shuffling the deck. After several drivers slid off the track when rain began to fall late in USF2000 Race-2, Rasmussen took the win in front of Cameron Shields (#10) from Australia in 2nd, and Barrichello in 3rd place.
Later in the day on rain tires, Rasmussen dominated the USF2000 Race-3 to not only take the checkered flag, but also to clinch the series championship! Rookie Josh Green (#2) from Mount Kisco, NY came in 2nd, and rookie Prescott Campbell (#1) from Newport Beach, CA took 3rd.
In the Mazda MX-5 Race-1, Jared Thomas (#96) took 1st place, followed by Gresham Wagner (#5) and Robert Noaker (#13). In Race-2, Wagner captured the win, followed by Michael Carter (#8) in 2nd, and Selin Rollan (#87) in 3rd.
Back to the open-wheeled Indy Pro 2000 Race-2, Sting Ray led every lap and took the win, with Parker Thompson (#9) from Canada earning 2nd, in front of Artem Petrov (#42) from Saint Petersburg Russia in 3rd. DeFrancesco and Sulaiman tangled on the first lap pushing them both back in the pack.
The final race of the weekend, Indy Pro Race-3, was masterfully won (in the wet conditions) by Sulaiman. DeFrancesco and Petrov crashed forcing them both out of the race. Rookie Colin Kaminsky (#19) from Joliet, IL took an impressive 2nd place finish, while Sting Ray rounded out the podium. With that 3rd place finish, Robb also clinched the series championship to graduate to Indy Lights in 2021!
The Road to Indy wraps up the 2020 season in St. Petersburg, FL the weekend of October 23rd.
– See below for a sample album of Sunday’s track and pit action – (contact Photographer for use of the full-resolution photos)