ST. PETERSBURG, Florida – Pole sitter Zachary Claman fended off a late charge Saturday to secure a flag-to-flag victory in the season-opening race of Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires – the top rung of the Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires ladder sanctioned by INDYCAR.
Piloting the No. 13 Belardi Auto Racing Dallara IL-15, the 20-year-old Canadian managed a clean getaway on the 1.8-mile temporary street course and held a comfortable gap for most of the 35 laps. Late in the race, Indy Lights rookie Toby Sowery (No. 2 BN Racing / Team Pelfrey) began to close in on the race leader, Claman’s pace proved too great and he finished 0.7271 of a second ahead of the 22-year-old Brit.
“In the beginning, I got away and I thought I'd be able to maintain the gap, but I didn't,” Claman said. “In the end, I was getting a little bit nervous and we managed to hold on enough for him not to catch us.”
The win comes in Claman’s first Indy Lights race after he competed in a total of 10 NTT IndyCar Series races in late 2017 and 2018. Saturday’s win marked his second in Indy Lights.
Third-place finisher Oliver Askew (No. 28 Andretti Autosport) will start Sunday’s second act of the doubleheader weekend from pole. The race airs at 10:05 a.m. ET on INDYCAR Pass on NBC Sports Gold, with timing and scoring available at RaceControl.IndyCar.com.
Eves benefits from late incident to win USF2000 race
Braden Eves dodged chaos on the final lap to take the victory and grab the doubleheader weekend sweep in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship opening weekend at St. Pete.
The 19-year-old Ohio native was running third in the No. 8 Cape Motorsports Tatuus USF-17 when teammate and pole sitter Darren Keane (No. 2 Cape Motorsports) got on the power too quickly trying to fend off Christian Rasmussen (No. 6 Jay Howard Driver Development) and spun entering the final corner of the 1.8-mile street circuit. The frontrunners collected each other and Eves eked past to pick up his second win in his fourth career start.
“Christian was definitely really close to Darren, and Christian was all over Darren the last couple of corners,” Eves said. “Darren seemed to just go in a bit too deep. I don’t know if there was contact or not – we’d have to look at the video – but Darren ended up spinning, and when he spun he took out Christian.
“So I just went to the inside and both of them washed out and I was able to take the lead in the last corner.”
Eves crossed the finish line 0.6638 of a second ahead of Hunter McElrea (No. 22 Pabst Racing), while Zach Holden (No. 27 BN Racing) finished third to complete the podium.
Thompson sweeps weekend in Indy Pro 2000
Pole sitter Parker Thompson cruised to a comfortable flag-to-flag victory Saturday to sweep the doubleheader weekend in the Indy Pro 2000 Championship presented by Cooper Tires.
The 21-year-old Canadian, piloting the No. 8 Abel Motorsports Tatuus, led all 30 laps en route to his fifth career victory in the middle rung of the Road to Indy development ladder. The win also marked his first sweep of a race weekend in Indy Pro 2000.
“Finally! We get this thing checked off with a full weekend sweep: two poles (and) two wins,” Thompson said.
“You can’t ask much more of not only a rookie team, but myself coming in here and, honestly, I can’t do much more to prove that I belong in the Road to Indy. I really hope for the future that I’m here.
“I’ve got some work to go do to raise some sponsorship back home, but it can’t get much better than two poles, two wins and a (qualifying) track record.”
Kyle Kirkwood (No. 28 RP Motorsport Racing) rebounded from Friday’s disastrous last-place result to take the runner-up spot, finishing 1.4334 seconds behind the race winner.
Indy Pro 2000 and USF2000 aren’t scheduled to race again until the INDYCAR Grand Prix weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway from May 9-11.