Indy Pro 2000: Best result of the season for Lindsay Brewer at Indy
In a bittersweet weekend, Lindsay Brewer returned to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course - where she had made her debut in 2022 - and had a highly positive first race marginally missing out on a top-10, before being crashed out of race 2 in the opening laps.
USF Pro 2000 held the third round of its 2023 season at its most iconic venue - and one where all the drivers on the Road To Indy ladder are eager to return one day, for the biggest event of their careers: the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
At her first full season in USF Pro 2000, American racer Lindsay Brewer made her return to the track where she had made her debut last year in the series, in a part time campaign. At the Grand Prix layout, Brewer had a strong start to her 2022 program with an eighth place at debut - and was eyeing another strong finish last weekend, among an entry list of very competitive international drivers.
Brewer, 26, has in fact started her first full-time campaign in USF Pro 2000 with a positive round at St Petersburg, on the extremely challenging street circuit that caught out several experienced IndyCar, IndyNXT and USF Pro drivers. Brewer made no mistakes and brought home a very respectable 13th place finish in race 1. She then had a more challenging round at Sebring, where she had a best finish of 15th.
The Colorado-native got up to speed in Thursday practice and then qualified P18 on the grid of Race 1, as she struggled to put a lap together. Kiko Porto scored pole position, with a 1:27-7746 lap that put the Brazilian 2 tenths ahead of Jack William Miller.
A light rain made its way onto the Speedway as the lights went out; Brewer had a clean start, as a few cars took the escape road at turn 1 due to the tricky conditions. Porto kept the lead from Miller and d'Orlando, while Brewer made a move stick on Finelli at the end of the first lap, just before the race was neutralized for debris of a front wing end-plate between turn 4 and five.
The race went back to green on lap 5: Porto and d'Orlando battled for the lead but positions remained unchanged at the top. Brewer was faster than Nicholas Monteiro and put pressure on the driver of the #81 machine. She made the pass on lap 7 and, advancing to P16, she soon caught up with Jackson Lee. She got by Jace Denmark, Yuven Sundaramoorthy - that had spun at turn 1 - and Joel Granfors as well on the following lap - who ended his run early after being among the protagonists in the first half of the race of a big recovery from 11th to the top five. Brewer therefore brabbed the 14th place following an action-packed midfield.
At the top of the leaderboard, Porto, d'Orlando and Zendeli tried to pull away - but the German would drop to fifth, promoting Miller and Pizzi.
On lap 10, the race was placed under caution after the rain fell heavily; Brewer made no mistakes and ran well in 14th position showcasing good pace and racecraft in difficult conditions. Eventually, the red flag was waved for the worsening conditions.
Teams bolted on wet weather tires and the action resumed. Kiko Porto, undisputed leader until that moment, had to give up the lead to Miller and d'Orlando, with the two drivers trading positions in an exciting duel.
Brewer had pace to battle in the pack, lost one place to Sundaramoorthy, but fought her way up to P13 on lap 17.
With a spectacular double pass, Brewer was climbing the order: she passed Lee and Zendeli, grabbing P11 with 4 minutes to go.
Ricardo Escotto survived the final battle for the top positions and took victory, as both Kiko Porto and Jack William Miller - who had damaged his front wing - dropped out of contention for the podium. Micheal D'Orlando was third, behind Reece Ushijima - as the latter was able to take advantage from scraps in the top three.
With 12th place in race 1, Lindsay Brewer had a very positive run - topping her best finish of the season so far and confirming her good feeling with Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
"We just finished race 1, I went from P18 to P12 at the end", Brewer said after the first day of racing. "We almost had a top 10 but then we had an issue with my car and a piece was flying up. But I'm happy to have gained some positions and we're starting P13 tomorrow - so let's hope for a top 10."
Unfortunately the final day of the weekend turned out to be less successful for Brewer: the Exclusive Autosport driver was forced to an early retirement after only two laps. Having started from P13, Brewer was running 15th when she was hit at turn 7 by another driver - ending her race.
As the previous day, Saturday's action was characterized by a few cautions: Joel Granfors emerged as the winner, ahead of teammate Salvador de Alba and Jace Denmark.
Despite an unlucky second race, Brewer showcased good speed in race 1, completed good passes and overall proved to have the pace to battle in a competitive pack. With an improved qualifying performance, she should be able to continue the positive trend and score top ten finishes with more consistency.
Indianapolis will also host the next USF Pro 200 event - but on a different racetrack - as the 20 young prospects will tackle the only oval of the season, the Lucas Oil Raceway on May 25-26.