(Photos by Ray MacAloney/cdn-r.com ©2019)
Exclusive Autosport Release:
LEXINGTON, OH (July 28, 2018) – Exclusive Autosport returned to the highly technical Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio this past weekend for Rounds 10 and 11 of the Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires. The team went into the weekend with confidence, coming off their recent win on the streets of Toronto. Both Nikita Lastochkin and Danial Frost were focused on using the experience they have on the 2.258-mile track to tackle the doubleheader. Lastochkin drove with determination and in attack-mode all weekend, as the Russian-born, Los Angeles resident equaled his best finish of the season in fourth. Frost was taken out in an early-race incident in Race 1, and powered back from the tail of the field after a questionable penalty sent him to the back in Race 2. Danial made some incredible passes to finish a stunning sixth.
“Mid-Ohio was an interesting weekend,” admitted Michael Duncalfe, Team Principal.
“As a team, we topped the overall time sheets during the official test (two weeks ago), and we showed solid pace throughout the weekend. However, luck just did not seem to be on our side this weekend. Both Danial and Nikita worked incredibly hard on and off track and I believe both our drivers had the speed and potential to be on the podium for rounds 10 and 11, but I guess it was just not meant to be. Mirl Swan and the entire crew continue to impress, as the Exclusive Autosport cars are phenomenally prepped. Our sights are now focused on Gateway in a few week’s time.”
The event began first thing Friday morning with the one and only official 30-minute practice of the weekend, followed by Qualifying 1 later that afternoon. Both, Nikita and Danial got right to work, setting some fast laps, ultimately timing in sixth and ninth for Race 1.
Saturday’s Indy Pro 2000 action would kick-off with qualifying for Race 2 and both drivers improved their pace, Danial significantly, posting a time to put him on the outside of row one. Nikita would drop his time as well to give him the starting spot on the outside of row four.
The opening race of the weekend would begin late in the afternoon as the sun dropped behind the hills of Lexington. Both drivers moved up within the first three laps, but Frost was pinched by another driver during an overtaking attempt, sending him off the track and into the concrete wall, which caused extensive damage that prevented him to finish the race. Lastochkin fought hard all race long, maintaining hold of the lead pack. Late in the race, Nikita was able to make a pass on Sting Ray Robb to earn his second fourth place finish of the year.
The second race of the doubleheader weekend began the Road to Indy events on Sunday morning, and after the first attempt to start, the race needed to be waved off, race officials deemed that Frost was responsible for the aborted attempt and sent him the back. Believing firmly that this call was an error, the team attempted to protest the decision, but this effort was not heard. Due to the chaos at the start, Nikita was hit from behind by another car, bending the rear suspension, and puncturing his left rear tire, requiring a trip to the pit lane for repair. Thankfully, his suspension was not bent enough to be undrivable and Nikita was able to catch the rear of the field for the restart and maintain the fight for a better finishing position. Starting from the tail of the field, the two EA drivers would not only battle other drivers in the series, but each other as well. When the dust settled in this highly competitive series, Frost made his way back to sixth, while Lastochkin recovered to finish seventh. Considering all the adversity at the beginning of the race, the team was happy with the results.
In the Indy Pro 2000 Presented by Cooper Tires championship standings, Lastochkin firms up his place in the sixth position, having closed the gap significantly to the fourth and fifth place drivers. After a tough weekend for Frost, he sits fourth place in the championship, but is now 59 points behind the leader.
The next stop for the Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires will be the 1.25-mile oval in Madison, Illinois. World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway will host Round 12 of the Indy Pro 2000 presented by Cooper Tires championship on Saturday, August 24.