Denmark’s Christian Rasmussen was a dominant force in today’s second leg of the Indy Pro 2000 Grand Prix of Alabama Presented by Cooper Tires, but it was New Zealander Hunter McElrea who claimed the victory spoils following a dramatic 30-lap contest. Rasmussen was first to the checkered flag despite a quick spin in the closing stages, but the Dane was adjudged to have unfairly impeded his rival, McElrea, as he attempted to maintain his lead following the error. The resulting 5-second penalty dropped Rasmussen to second in the final results, handing McElrea his second Indy Pro 2000 victory for Pabst Racing after also claiming the final race of the 2020 season in St. Petersburg.
Russia’s Artem Petrov finished third for Exclusive Autosport, chased across the line by American teammate Braden Eves, who still leads the standings following his victory in yesterday’s opening round.
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Rasmussen, the winner of last year’s Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship, started from the pole position and soon took control of the race for Jay Howard Driver Development. As with Eves yesterday, Rasmussen was content to build his speed steadily in the early stages, which allowed McElrea to stay in touch, but a series of 11 incrementally faster laps enabled the Dane to extend his lead to over two seconds.
Rasmussen continued to extend his advantage to over six seconds before making an uncharacteristic mistake on Lap 23 in Turn 5. He was able to regain control of the car but made several blocking maneuvers in order to make sure there was no way for McElrea to slip past. He was successful in that quest but the moves did not escape the purview of race control, which soon issued a 5-second penalty in accordance with the regulations which expressly prohibit drivers from making any “reactionary” moves to maintain position.
Rasmussen put his head down and seemed to be on course possibly to overcome the time penalty as he completed Lap 28 with an advantage of 3.8 seconds over McElrea after resetting fastest lap of the race — and his own lap record, which he had set on Saturday — at 1m16.6098s. But his next lap was fully three-quarters of a lap slower, and McElrea was able to complete the final lap within 3.6s of Rasmussen to assure himself of the win by 1.4102s.
McElrea’s efforts moved him to third in the championship points table, just six shy of Eves, and secured a first PFC Award of the Indy Pro 2000 season for Augie Pabst as the winning car owner.
Rasmussen had to be content with second place and his second The Ticket Clinic Fastest Lap Award in as many days.
Teammates Petrov and Eves were embroiled in a spirited battle for third following an inspired opening lap from the Russian which vaulted him from sixth on the grid and was enough to assure him of the Tilton Hard Charger Award.
Jacob Abel (Abel Motorsports) also made up ground on the first lap, moving from seventh to fifth which he maintained to the finish despite intense pressure from Wyatt Brichacek (Jay Howard Driver Development) and Colin Kaminsky (Pabst Racing). Manuel Sulaiman (Juncos Racing) and Enaam Ahmed (RP Motorsport USA) also were in close attendance by the finish. Ahmed, in particular, posted an impressive charge after losing a couple of positions on the opening lap but then recovering from 13th to ninth.
The Indy Pro 2000 contenders will return to action in just a few days when they take on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla.