The penultimate level of the Road to Indy features a class of exciting rookies that step up from USF2000, as well as a few potential future stars from across the pond. F1 Feeder Series gets you up to speed ahead of the Indy Pro 2000 season kick-off in Florida this weekend. Our Indy Lights preview follows tomorrow!
By Jeroen Demmendaal
While USF2000 will see a slightly smaller field than in 2021 due to the creation of USF Juniors, and matters have become somewhat shaky in the lower rungs of Indy Lights, nothing of the sorts is troubling the Indy Pro 2000 field. Compared to 2021, which saw only nine drivers complete the full season, 2022 should be a lot better with at least fifteen full-time entries.
It could have been even better, but F1 Feeder Series learned earlier this year that despite an announcement in December, Newman Wachs Racing has decided to scrap its planned return to the Road to Indy with two cars. A surprising and disappointing decision for sure, but it is what it is.
That leaves us with eight teams, six of which enter two cars or more. As Spring Training showed, it’s difficult to point out a firm favourite ahead of the season, with Exclusive Autosport, Jay Howard Driver Development (JHDD) and Juncos Racing all showing strong form. In other words, the stage is set for an exciting battle for the championship and that all-important Indy Lights scholarship.
Two strong three-car squads
So, is this Braden Eves’ year then? The 2019 USF2000 champion is set for his third season in Indy Pro 2000, but in reality, it’s only his second full year after his rookie year got cut short by that horrific crash at Indianapolis. Last year, he bounced back and finished second behind Christian Rasmussen, and instead of following him to Indy Lights, Eves has joined JHDD for one more title challenge.
The same thing might be true for his teammate, Wyatt Brichacek. While he finished tenth overall last season, Brichacek was an unexpected stand-out during Spring Training. Keeping in mind the perennial truth about the reliability of testing times, it remains to be seen whether he can carry that form into the first few races, but the Indiana sophomore is worth keeping an eye on.
The third JHDD driver is an exciting debutant from Mexico. Already last summer, Salvador de Alba drew interest from Andretti Autosport and tested an Indy Lights car. However, the grapevine tells us that budget considerations has made the NASCAR Mexico champ join Indy Pro 2000 instead. He was still finding his stride during Spring Training, but De Alba is a very promising addition to the grid.
The strongest line-up in the field might very well be that of Exclusive Autosport. The Canadian team has signed up the relative experience of Matt Round-Garrido, who steps up for a full season after several years on-and-off competition in USF2000 and Indy Pro, and has also added two very exciting rookies in the form of Louis Foster and Christian Brooks.
Foster joins the series from Euroformula Open, where he finished as runner-up last year, and has been very impressive in pre-season. Don’t be surprised if he challenges for the title in his rookie year. The same can be said for Brooks, who was a front-runner in USF2000 for two years and made a strong Indy Pro debut in the final round of 2021 with two top-5 finishes.
The other potential frontrunners
While Juncos Racing has temporarily shut down its Lights team, it still comes out in full force in Indy Pro 2000. With Reece Gold, it has an instant title favourite. The Floridian, still only 17 years of age, was a strong rookie last year, finishing fifth overall with one win and six more podiums. Seeing as only Eves is left of last year’s top-four, expect Gold to be a pacesetter from the start.
The other Juncos car is filled by the returning Enaam Ahmed, who had to break off his rookie season last year due to financial issues. Now the British driver is back for the whole year, and if he can build on his regular top-five form from 2021, he too should be a front runner.
DEForce Racing also shows up with two rookies, but one of them is reigning USF2000 champion Kiko Porto. The Brazilian is entering his fourth consecutive season with the team, and no doubt they’ll be looking to win a third championship together. Whether that happens in 2022 is the big question, but the team has the pedigree to run up front and the mutual familiarity should be a big plus.
His teammate is only 17 years old, but joins Indy Pro after three full seasons in USF2000. Nolan Siegel took a big step forward there in 2021, finishing eighth overall and taking his first win. If his career trajectory in USF2000 is anything to go by this year will be a learning exercise for him, but time is on his side.
Expansion at Turn 3 and Pabst
Looking at the remainder of the entry list, Turn 3 Motorsport has another USF2000 graduate in the form of Josh Green. The 19-year-old finished fifth overall last year and won the last race of the season for Turn 3, so he is a logical choice to fill the seat left by Indy Lights-bound James Roe.
Even better news is that Turn 3 expands to two cars this year and has signed another Irishman to fill it. Jonathan Browne is the 2019 Formula Ford Festival winner and competed in GB3 last year, scoring one podium finish. Both rookies offer a lot of promise and Turn 3 team manager Peter Dempsey is a proven winner.
Pabst Racing also expands and fields three cars this year, with Yuven Sundaramoorthy stepping up after finishing third in USF2000. Jordan Missig comes over from Formula Regional Americas, where he came fifth overall in 2021. Given the fact that both are rookies and Pabst is a relatively new arrival in Indy Pro 2000, expect a learning year for both drivers, aiming for consistent top-10 runs.
The third Pabst machine is filled by returning driver Colin Kaminsky. The former ice hockey goalie started the 2021 season alongside Hunter McElrea but dropped out after the Indianapolis round. Here’s hoping he’s along for the entire 2022 ride.
As for the single team entries, Jack William Miller returns with his Miller Vinatieri Motorsport after finishing last of the full-time entries in his rookie year. Adding to his tally of one top-five finish in 2021 will be his goal.
Finally, Legacy Autosport was early to announce an entry for YouTuber Casey Putsch, but F1 Feeder Series understands that Putsch will only run a part-time schedule and is unlikely to be on the grid in St Pete due to budgetary constraints.
If you want to follow the Indy Pro 2000 sessions and races this year, make sure to download the Road to Indy TV app to follow your favourite driver. If you don’t have access to the app, you can also check the Road to Indy social channels or the Roadtoindy.tv website.
Check out our Road to Indy preview podcast down below, starring Kyle Kirkwood and Rob Howden.
Header photo credit: Gavin Baker Photography