A quartet of 17-year-old racers will continue the climb up the Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires ladder in 2019 after landing rides in the Indy Pro 2000 Championship presented by Cooper Tires.
The Road to Indy is the driver and team development system sanctioned by INDYCAR and featuring three levels of competition. Indy Pro 2000 is the middle rung, with the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship as the entry point and Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires as the top tier for those aspiring to move up and compete in the NTT IndyCar Series.
Juncos Racing announced that two of the 17-year-olds, Sweden’s Rasmus Lindh (pictured above) and American Sting Ray Robb, will join the lineup of the reigning Indy Pro 2000 champions. Lindh, who hails from Gothenburg, Sweden, finished second in the 2018 USF2000 championship when he earned five podium finishes and three poles. He made his first appearance with Juncos Racing at the Chris Griffis Memorial Test on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in September.
“I’m very happy to have the opportunity to go to the next step in the Road to Indy program with a championship-winning team," Lindh said. "I really enjoyed working with Juncos Racing this past fall, so I am happy that we are back together for the 2019 season.”
Robb, from Payette, Idaho, joins Juncos after collecting one podium and four top-five finishes last season in Indy Pro 2000.
“I am excited about the 2019 season as I return to the Road to Indy with the series’ standout, Juncos Racing.” Robb said. “Juncos has proven to be the best in the industry and I’m sure will be challenging me to sharpen and hone my race craft to even higher levels. I am blessed to have the opportunity to be racing among this very deep and talented pool of competitors."
Exclusive Autosport also announced a pair of 17-year-olds for its Indy Pro 2000 lineup, adding Texan Parker Locke and Singapore’s Danial Frost. Locke competed in the full US F4 Championship in 2018 and a trio of races in the F3 Americas Championship. He also competed in this year’s Toyota Racing Series in New Zealand in January and February and was presented with the Most Improved Driver of the Year award.
“I’m very excited to be joining Exclusive Autosport for the 2019 Indy Pro 2000 season,” Locke said. “The Road to Indy series seems to be a very professionally run series with many very competitive and talented drivers. I am looking forward to the competition and to try proving myself in such an accomplished field of drivers. Exclusive Autosport has proven in the past to be top-tier team producing great results throughout the season. I can’t wait to see how much I improve over the course of the season under their guidance.”
Frost raced with Exclusive Autosport in seven USF2000 races last season, racking up an impressive five top-10 finishes with a top result of fourth place in Toronto.
“I’m super-stoked to have been given the opportunity to be working with Exclusive Autosport for this season,” Frost said. “I’ll be working harder than ever to get the results and I’m ready for the next step in Indy Pro 2000.”
USF2000 teams fill out driver rosters
The field for the 2019 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship is starting to take shape, with four teams recently adding drivers for the upcoming season.
Eight-time defending champion Cape Motorsports signed Braden Eves, a 19-year-old from New Albany, Ohio. Eves, who gained experience in F4, F1600 and USF2000 last season, has won some of the biggest karting events in the United States, including the Superkarts! USA Pro Tour. He is eager to take on his first full season of USF2000 competition.
“Cape Motorsports is really a great team, and their history of winning championships speaks for itself,” Eves said. “Coming off a difficult 2018 season, it’s extremely refreshing to have such confidence in the people around me. I’ve been working hard at home to put all of this together, as well as getting my fitness back to 100 percent after my surgeries a few months ago. Preseason testing starts next week, and I can’t wait to get back into the car."
Pabst Racing announced the addition of a pair of drivers: Hunter McElrea and Bruna Tomaselli. McElrea, the 19-year-old California native now residing in Gold Coast, Australia, won the Road to Indy $200,000 Scholarship Shootout to help fund a USF2000 ride.
“I am ecstatic to be on the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship grid this year in the Soul Red Crystal No. 22 Pabst Racing car,” said McElrea, the reigning Australian Formula Ford champion. “Without the amazing support from Mazda Motorsports and my personal sponsors, Doric NZ and Miles Advisory Partners, I would not be here, so I cannot thank them enough for giving me this amazing opportunity.”
Tomaselli is entering her third season in USF2000. The 21-year-old believes her experience will be of benefit this season.
“I’m very excited for this season,” Tomaselli said. “This will be my third season, so I know the car, I know almost all the tracks, and with that experience and with a very competitive car, I hope to achieve great things.”
Another driver joining the USF2000 field is British standout Matthew Round-Garrido, who has signed for Jay Howard Driver Development. Last year, Round-Garrido won the Northern Irish Formula Ford 1600 championship and finished third in the British Formula Ford Championship.
"I'm really excited that I'll be racing in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship with JHDD this season,” Round-Garrido said. “It's been a target of mine to race abroad for a number of years now, and with the Road to Indy scholarship system they've got here, there's no better place to be racing than America right now.”
Newman Wachs Racing has added a pair of talented racers for the 2019 USF2000 season. Cameron Shields, a native of Toowoomba, Australia, and 14-year-old American Nolan Siegel will contest the full season for the Illinois-based team.
“I’m very excited to have Cameron signed with the team for the 2019 season,” said Brian Halahan, NWR's team manager. “I think his racing history speaks for itself and I expect to be fighting for wins right out of the box. The combination of his experience and our engineer John Hayes’ knowledge should be a powerful combination.
“I’m really looking forward to working with Nolan this year,” Halahan added. “I think he’s going to surprise a lot of people throughout the season. He’s been working with Tom Dyer, our driver coach, over the winter months and has also completed a few days of testing, so he should be ready to go at the season opener in St. Pete.”
Shields, who counts Indianapolis 500 winner and fellow Toowoomba native Will Power as a mentor, has built an impressive resume that includes an impressive 52 wins out of 154 races entered, running in Australian Formula 3, Formula 4 and Formula Ford.
“Newman Wachs Racing is a very professional team with a long history of results to back that up, and I am full of confidence that together this season we can continue that trend of success with the ultimate goal of becoming the 2019 Cooper Tires USF2000 champions,” Shields said.
Siegel began racing karts at 8 and steps up to formula cars this year, though he did win the Sonoma Raceway Formula 3 Series last year.
“I am very excited to step up to a new level of competition,” Siegel said, “especially with such a well-known and established team like Newman Wachs Racing. It is going to be a big challenge, but I am ready and itching to get out on track in St. Pete."
All three levels of the Road to Indy open their 2019 seasons with doubleheader race weekends March 8-10 at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.