Mixed weekend at mid-Ohio for Sabré Cook in IndyPro 2000
Despite improved pace and closer racing, it still wasn't the weekend Sabré Cook had wished for her Mid-Ohio triple header in the IndyPro 2000 championship, as the American racer finished just outside the top-10.
"Focused, ready to go - it’s race week!"
The only American W Series driver was back in a race car this week, as the Colorado-native entered the second round of the Indy Pro 2000 championship at Mid Ohio, part of the Road to Indy Program.
Sabré Cook claimed two top-10 results at the Road America season opener and was eyeing more progresses in such a competitive field, together with her team BN Racing / Benik.
Cook, who has seen her 2020 W Series season cancelled due to the pandemic, had announced a partial campaign in the US-based series, but plans beyond the Mid-Ohio rounds are still unclear for the talented lady - thus putting extra pressure on for the races at Lexington.
On the 3.86 km Mid Ohio Sports Car Course, the battle for pole was a matter between two drivers: Braden Eves and Danial Frost. The two drivers alternated at the top of the standings several times, but it was Eves to finally set the ultimate lap time and Frost - just as the rest of the field - could not beat the Exclusive Autosport driver, despite the gap was barely over one tenth of a second. Behind them, Sting Ray Roberts took third place and Sabré Cook took the start from P14.
Eves had a great start and defended his first position from the attacks of Frost. Eves continued to lead, but Frost never gave up the fight and stayed very close behind.
The Singaporean driver coudn't ultimately find a way past Eves, but the pair was just separated by 0,3024 seconds at the finish line.
Robb, who started third, dropped back into the mid-field at the beginning of the race and wasn´t lucky with the restart after a short caution was brought out by Nate Aranda's spin.
He dropped down the order and outside the top-10, but then managed to pass Sabré Cook for 10th position. Cook finished the first race of the weekend in eleventh place.
"P11 in yesterday’s race!" - wrote Sabé. "Pace is getting closer and closer so pushing for more steps forward today! Thanks to Team Benik / BN Racing for the great car and hard work!", she added.
Early in the second qualifying session, Russian Artem Petrov set the fastest lap, but then Eves fought back. Robb was in the fight as well and was beaten by just 0,0208 seconds by Eves at the end of the session. Third on the grid was Danial Frost, while Sabré Cook started from the 14th grid slot.
It was an action-filled race as Eves had an early crash with Parker Thompson and could only finish the race in 9th. But there was more drama: Petrov, who started fourth on the grid, dropped back to fifth before managing to overtake both Thompson and Frost to complete his comeback with a third place.
This was not the end of Petrov's charging mission - the Juncos Racing driver moved up on Sting Ray Robb and took the lead as he passed Eves around the outside. Second at the chequered flag was Devlin DeFrancesco, who recovered from eighth, while Robb and Frost collided on the last lap. Robb was able to hold on to third place, but Frost dropped down to 8th.
Sabré Cook finished the race in 12th position, again barely outside the top ten: she showed good pace, but a miscommunication with her team prevented her to further advance in the final race standings.
The third and final race at Mid Ohio marked Robb's first seasonal victory, after the Juncos driver had started from fifth on the grid.
Jacob Loomis took pole position and led the race after the start as the grid was set according to the second race's fastest laps.
Behind him, Frost and Colin Kaminsky collided and dropped down the order, but both could continue the race. Robb's biggest opponents were this time too far to engage in direct battles: Frost drove in 12th positon after the crash and Eves had to perform an additional pit stop following some more contacts on the first lap.
Unchallenged, Robb won the race ahead of Hunter McElrea and Loomis - but the latter was disqualified after the race due to a technical infringement.
Sabré Cook was also involved in the hectic first lap action and collided with Nate Aranda. She was classified in 15th place, 9 laps down and was additionally handed a 30-second time penalty as too many people were spotted on the Team Benik pit wall.
"Yesterday wasn’t the day we hoped for." - explained Cook. "Race 2 we had good pace and were running inside the top 10 but a miscommunication within the team put us back to P12. I was looking to redeem our efforts in Race 3 but was taken out in Turn 2 on Lap 1 by another driver and had to retire the car."
"Luckily all can be repaired and Team Benik / BN Racing are on top of it! Happy to have a chance at it again next week when we return to Mid-Ohio alongside Battery Tender Global MX-5 Cup and Indy Car".
EDIT: The next round at Mid-Ohio will be postponed to September or October this year.
"Sadly we won’t be returning to Mid Ohio for the #Honda200 next week." - commented Sabré following Indycar's statement, which reads that "this decision was made through communication with local health officials given the current environment."
"I’m not sure when I’ll be back on track again but I’ll be sure to keep you guys updated! Thank you all for the support!"