Ricardo Escotto led a Jay Howard Driver Development one-two in a bizarre opening USF Pro 2000 race on Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s road course.
Escotto started 12th on the grid, with Kiko Porto and Jack William Miller sharing the front row for the rolling start. Porto tried to make that start as slow as possible, but his strategy only enabled Miller to immediately get ahead of him on the outside.
However Porto was able to reclaim the lead by having the inside line for the opening corner, with Turn 3 Motorsport’s Michael d’Orlando slotting into third and joining a top three breakaway.
Several people went off on lap one, then there was more drama on lap two due to debris on track and a full course yellow period was called after d’Orlando had passed Miller for second into turn one. Bijoy Garg pitted at the end of the lap due to losing his front wing in contact with another driver, while Escotto sat in 10th.
The FCY turned into a full caution period, and racing resumed on lap six. Porto had to hold off d’Orlando into turn one, and again on the next lap, while there was a big battle for fourth between TJ Speed drivers Francesco Pizzi and Lirim Zendeli.
Even messier battles took place behind, with Joel Granfors retiring and Yuven Sundaramoorthy falling to the back, but Escotto did not benefit much and was still 10th when rain arrived on lap 11 of a scheduled 25.
Pizzi was attacking Miller for third before a FCY period was called, then on lap 13 the race was red flagged so everyone could switch to grooved tyres for the wet conditions.
The field was led back out by the pace car for lap 14, then there was nine more laps of racing.
D’Orlando got inside Porto at turn one for the lead on the second green flag lap, but Porto had enough grip on the outside to actually be back ahead into turn two. That then enabled Miller to make it a three-way fight, and d’Orland emerged on top over Miller and Porto by the turn 5/6 chicane.
Escotto rose to sixth on that lap, and on the next moved up to fifth. Up front Miller started attacking d’Orlando and took the lead at turn 10 on lap 18 of 23. D’Orlando reclaimed first place at turn one next time by, and they now had Escotto chasing them down in third.
Escotto passed Miller at the final corner, and took less than a lap to then clear d’Orlando before pulling away by over a second a lap for an unexpected win.
The positions were constantly changing behind, with JHDD’s Reece Ushijima rising through the field and passing d’Orlando for second. Jonathan Browne demoted Miller to fifth, and Salvador de Alba came from near the back of the order to finish sixth.
Port ended up in seventh, while a pit stop to put slick tyres back on left points leader Myles Rowe down in a twice-lapped 18th but with the fastest lap. The publishing of the race result was delayed by a 30-second penalty for Sundaramoorthy due to having “too many men over the wall”.
Race result (23 laps)
|3||Michael d’Orlando||Turn 3 Motorsport||+6.1318s|
|4||Jonathan Browne||Turn 3 Motorsport||+9.1486s|
|5||Jack William Miller||Miller Vinatieri Motorsport||+10.3787s|
|6||Salvador de Alba||Exclusive Autosport||+13.4759s|
|7||Kiko Porto||DEForce Racing||+16.5469s|
|8||Christian Weir||TJ Speed||+22.6736s|
|9||Jackson Lee||Turn 3 Motorsport||+23.4175s|
|10||Francesco Pizzi||TJ Speed||+27.4545s|
|11||Lindsay Brewer||Exclusive Autosport||+27.8108s|
|12||Charles Finelli||FatBoy Racing!||+28.1154s|
|13||Lirim Zendeli||TJ Speed||+29.7156s|
|14||Nicholas Monteiro||NeoTech Motorsport||+39.2138s|
|15||Yuven Sundaramoorthy||Exclusive Autosport||+53.0139s|
|16||Jace Denmark||Pabst Racing||+1m51.1553s|
|17||Bijoy Garg||DEForce Racing||+1 lap|
|18||Myles Rowe||Pabst Racing||+2 laps|
|19||Jordan Missig||Pabst Racing||+6 laps|
|Ret||Joel Granfors||Exclusive Autosport|
|Fastest lap: Rowe, 1m23.1938s