Hunter McElrea has finished second in the first race of the Indy Pro 2000 championship from Indianapolis Motor Speedway to keep his championship challenge alive.
The race was ultimately won by Sting Ray Robb but was marred by a hefty crash involving McElrea’s USF2000 rival Bradon Eves who flipped after colliding with the wall on the banked final turn.
Eves has since been cleared by medical on site but the damage may be done as it seems unlikely he will be able to get back out in time for the final two races of the weekend.
McElrea was sitting second for the opening stint of the race having made a composed start to avoid an accident involving Bob Kaminsky and Manuel Sulaiman off the start line.
The Safety Car was delpoyed and when racing did resume, pole-sitter and ex-Toyota Racing driver Artem Peteov blasted away from the Kiwi to establish a comfortable lead.
But behind, setting the timing screens alight was Robb who made an effortless pass on Parker Thompson for third before clearing McElrea at the halfway mark.
Robb was electric and Petrov was starting to let the pressure get to me as with nine laps in hand he relinquished the lead.
McElrea followed suit with an incredible move around the outside of Turn 1 but by then Robb had made his bid for freedom and looked insurmountable.
Eves meanwhile had caught up with an ailing Petrov who hadd fallen behind Parker for fourth but began to complain about an unsettling vibration in the car.
His rapid pace immediately began to drop before he crashed at the final corner, flipping onto his roll hoop as debris littered the main straight. The accident yielded the Safety Car who then led the field all the way ti the chequered flag.
The podium is McElrea’s third of the year and all of which have been second-place finishes. It was a solid result for the Kiwi as he rebounds after a disappointing race at Gateway last week, though he insists there is still plenty of work left to be made over the next few races.
“Sting Ray was super quick in the opening laps – I’ve been in that position early in races and I don’t want to battle the guy in front of me so we can both catch the leader. So I let him go and was able to make the move on Artem in Turn One,” said McElrea.
“Now we need to qualify better so we can battle for the win. I’m happy to be on the podium and get good points. I’m not at all where I want to be in the championship but if we can keep doing this, we’ll be in the fight at the end.”
The Indy Pro 2000 field will have two more races at Indianapolis Motor Speedway tomorrow, the first of which gets underway from 4 am NZT.