Road to Indy
February 28, 2019 | 9:30 AM
A change in name for the middle step on the Road to Indy ladder, known previously as Star Mazda and then Pro Mazda, will have no effect on the level of competition as a talented field takes aim at a scholarship valued at almost $600,000 to move up to Indy Lights in 2020.
A few high-profile names are still to announce their plans for the upcoming season, but there’s no doubt that Kyle Kirkwood, from Jupiter, Fla., must be considered a major contender after winning 12 of the 14 USF2000 races in 2018 en route to the championship crown.
“I’m beyond ecstatic to start this new season,” said Kirkwood. “I don’t have much time in the Indy Pro 2000 car but I have enough to say the car feels amazing and I can’t wait to see how I stack up against the rest of the stout field at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
“I am incredibly thankful and honored to drive one of the Soul Red Mazda scholarship cars. I hope I can prove my worth and make Mazda and past Mazda Scholarship drivers proud to have me following in their footsteps. If not for them, Andersen Promotions and Cooper Tires, none of this would be possible.”
Among those whose contracts have been finalized for some time, the Juncos Racing pair of Sting Ray Robb and Rasmus Lindh are expected to be among the front-runners, both of them with expectations of following in the footsteps of Rinus VeeKay, who won the championship in 2018 for the Indianapolis-based team.
Robb, still just 17, from Payette, Idaho, will be contesting his third season at this level, while Sweden’s Lindh displayed immense promise on his way to second place in last year’s USF2000 championship as a rookie. Lindh also emerged with the fastest time from a series test at Homestead-Miami in December.
Canadian-based Exclusive Autosport has entered three of the Tatuus PM-18 cars – which shattered a series of track records upon its introduction last year – for series veteran Nikita Lastochkin and rookies Danial Frost and Parker Locke.
Lastochkin, who hails originally from Moscow, Russia, but is now based in Los Angeles, Calif., is looking to build upon his experience as Frost, from Singapore, steps up from a partial season in USF2000. Locke, from San Antonio, Texas, moves over from F4 and F3 after also competing in the Toyota Racing Series in New Zealand during January and February.
Mexico’s Moises de la Vara, who finished fourth last year at Gateway during a handful of outings, will return with DEForce Racing, while Jacob Abel, from Louisville, Ky., will be part of a two-car Abel Motorsports team.
Italian-based RP Motorsports Racing also will be at Homestead with a pair of cars, with Pserra Racing in conjunction with Jay Howard Driver Development entering a single Tatuus PM-18 for young Canadian Antonio Serravalle and FatBoy Racing! returning with Charles Finelli.
As with Indy Lights, more driver announcements are forth coming.
Both the Indy Pro 2000 and USF2000 fields will have a total of four hours of track time spread over the weekend, March 2-3, while Indy Lights will have five hours of testing on Monday, March 4. Drivers from all three series also will benefit from traditional Spring Training staples such as dedicated photoshoots and a Media Seminar hosted by Kevin Lee, well-known host and pit lane reporter for NBCSN’s coverage of both IndyCar and Indy Lights as well as play-by-play announcer for NFL and college basketball.
Cooper Tires will have special presentations as well, which will continue its popular hashtag program for a sixth successive year, and RoadtoIndy.TV, will continue to provide extensive and exclusive coverage of the entire ladder system in 2019.
Content and image courtesy of Road to Indy.