Robb Takes Indy Pro 2000 Points Lead with Indy Perfection
 September 4, 2020| 
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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Sting Ray Robb and Juncos Racing enjoyed a perfect week at the Indianapolis Grand Prix road course. Robb, from Payette, Idaho, swept all three races that comprised the Cooper Tires Indy Pro 2000 Indy Grand Prix and now leads the Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires with 10 of 17 races in the books. He could barely have chosen a better way to celebrate his 19th birthday.

Robb was chased home this morning by Italian-Canadian Devlin DeFrancesco (Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport), winning by just under two seconds, and was even more convincing later this afternoon as he again led from start to finish before taking the checkered flag almost three seconds clear of New Zealander Hunter McElrea (Pabst Racing).

Robb’s Russian teammate, Artem Petrov, claimed a pair of third-place finishes today.

Juncos Racing’s excellent weekend continued this morning with a separate qualifying session to set the grid for Race Two. Robb this time turned the tables on Petrov, yesterday’s polesitter, by snagging the Cooper Tires Pole Award, and immediately asserted his authority at the rolling start.

RTI_IMS_092020_L_6378Robb defended the inside line assertively on the drag race to Turn One to ensure there was no way anyone could even think about making a move to the inside under braking. Job done. Behind him, as Petrov was immediately swallowed up by the pack, championship leader DeFrancesco emerged from Turn One squarely in second place despite having started on the outside of the second row of the grid.

In stark contrast to the day before, the remainder of the 20-lap race was surprisingly uneventful. Robb made good his escape, lapping with pace and consistency at the front of the field to gradually inch clear of DeFrancesco. The margin grew only incrementally but Robb had achieved his goal perfectly. His third win of the season seemed almost effortless. And for good measure, Robb snagged the pole position for the final race of the week by posting the fastest race lap.

The final margin of victory was a fraction less than two seconds, allowing Robb to close within four points of DeFrancesco in the chase for a scholarship valued at over $600,000 to graduate next year into Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires.

Petrov chased gamely in third place, with Canadian Parker Thompson (DEForce Racing) also remaining close behind in fourth place.

Singapore’s Danial Frost (Turn 3 Motorsport) couldn’t quite match the leaders’ pace but just did enough to hold off Hunter McElrea (Pabst Racing) for fifth.

Mexican Moises de la Vara earned the Tilton Hard Charger Award by rising four positions during the 15-lap race to finish seventh for DEForce Racing.

Robb barely survived a three-wide moment under braking for Turn One on the opening lap of the final race but, once he had emerged in the lead, there was no catching him as he romped to his third victory of the weekend – and fourth in his last six starts. He duly romped clear to ensure yet another PFC Award for Ricardo Juncos as the winning car owner.

Behind, though, there was mayhem as erstwhile points leader DeFrancesco’s attempt to pass McElrea into Turn Seven, at the end of Tony Hulman Boulevard, went awry and he slid wide onto the grass at the exit, losing several positions.

McElrea couldn’t match Robb’s pace but he had just enough speed to keep Petrov behind him for the entire 20 laps. In fact, he even edged clear in the closing stages to secure his fourth second-place finish in his last six starts.

An enterprising Sulaiman emerged from the opening-lap fracas to vault all the way from 11th on the grid to fourth to secure the Tilton Hard Charger Award, just ahead of teammates Thompson and de la Vara.

Rookie Jacob Loomis, from Corinth, Texas, finished seventh for BNRacing with Team Benik, having held off a race-long challenge from DeFrancesco, who wisely decided that discretion was the better part of valor.

The Indy Pro 2000 contenders expect to be back in action next weekend pending final confirmation for a pair of races at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio, in conjunction with the NTT INDYCAR SERIES – an event which was postponed from earlier in the year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Reigning Cooper Tires USF2000 Champion Braden Eves (Exclusive Autosport), from New Albany, Ohio, was unable to race today following a serious accident yesterday. From Dr. Geoff Billows, INDYCAR Medical Director: Braden was transported to IU Methodist Hospital for evaluation and treatment following injuries sustained during the Indy Pro 2000 race yesterday. He was admitted for observation and continued evaluation of his injuries. I anticipate he will be released from the hospital in the next day or two and expect him to make a full recovery.

Provisional championship points after 10 of 17 rounds:

1. Sting Ray Robb, 256

2. Devlin DeFrancesco, 240

3. Artem Petrov, 207

4. Danial Frost, 199

5. Hunter McElrea, 184

6. Parker Thompson, 170

7. Braden Eves, 163

8. Manuel Sulaiman, 150

9. Colin Kaminsky, 131

10. Antoine Comeau, 119

Sting Ray Robb (#2 Firehouse-Goodheart Animal Health Centers-Juncos Racing Tatuus PM-18): “These two races were my fourth and fifth time starting on pole and luckily I wasn’t hit from behind like I have been before. The guys kept it clean behind me, at least against me. I got a good jump and cleared the draft in both races and was able to stay out in front.

“But it’s still all going through my head right now, figuring out what I need to feel. I feel like I’m back in my karting days, when we were able to run up at the front every weekend and started winning – hopefully we’re getting back into that position where I can be challenging for wins every weekend. As (voice of the Road to Indy) Rob Howden said back at Mid-Ohio, hopefully that was the floodgates opening! Huge thank you to the team; they gave me a great car all week.”

Devlin DeFrancesco (#17 Steinbrenner Autosport Tatuus PM-18): “We were joking in the truck about sending it in Turn 1 on Lap 1 and that’s exactly what we did. We had good speed, but we knew there were a few more things we could do to catch Sting Ray; they’ve been very quick all week.

“But this really is a special place. It’s not something you can appreciate fully until you actually race here. The road course is special, but I can’t wait to race the oval one day!”

Artem Petrov (#42 Road to Success-Bell-226ers-Juncos Racing Tatuus PM-18): “I didn't have the best start for the second race, as I lost two positions. I was able to overtake one car when he lost a bit of control by going too much on the outside, then the rest of the race was pretty much set from there. I was trying not to make any mistakes. It was the same way in the third race, just getting through the early incidents and trying to make up time. Overall, I am happy to be back on the podium and add some more points to the championship. I want to thank the team for giving me a great car.”

Hunter McElrea (#18 Giltrap Group/Miles Advisory Partners/Doric NZ/Bell-Pabst Racing Tatuus PM-18): “Sting Ray was on new tires and he was fast all week – the Juncos cars were best this weekend. But I think we had the second-best car and we maximized every opportunity. It’s been a big learning year for myself and the team and I can’t thank them enough. We’re chipping away at it. It’s my fourth second-place finish so I hope that first win is close. I had some good battles today, including a first-lap battle in the third race with DeFrancesco. He was aggressive but he gave me a car width, and I made sure to do the same. But these races are so close. I think this is the strongest Indy Pro 2000 field ever and you have to make hay in the first laps. I’m happy. I’ll keep my head down and keep working hard.”

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