The Indy Pro 2000 Championship is the second & middle level of the Road to Indy ladder system that gives drivers from all over the world a chance to make the IndyCar Series and race in the famed Indianapolis 500.
The Indy Pro 2000 Championship presented by Cooper Tires is sanctioned by IndyCar and owned and operated by Anderson Promotions. It sits right in between the Cooper Tires U.S. F2000 Championship and Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires. The winner of the series is given a generous scholarship and a chance to advance onto the Indy Lights Series with a guaranteed contract. Right now the scholarship is valued at over $609,000.
All 2021 series-sanctioned race and test events from the season-opener to the finale, entry and test day fees and Cooper tires are covered in the contract as well.
The Indy Pro 2000 Championship actually began as the Star Mazda Championship way back in 1991. In 2013, its name was changed to the Pro Mazda Championship after the Star Mazda Championship ceased its operations in 2012. In December 2012, Star Mazda series founder Gary Rodriguez made the announcement that they had sold the series to Anderson Promotions. Mazda left the Road to Indy series in 2018 and that’s when the rebranding really took full effect with the name, “Indy Pro 2000 Championship” being chosen as the successor.
Different cars are used in different years in the Indy Pro 2000 Championship and the current car is the Tatuus PM-18. It was introduced in 2018 and has been an absolute hit. The PM-18 uses the USF-17 chassis – introduced in 2017 – as the base car to help control the operational costs for teams who wish to move up.
This is what they Indy Pro 2000 Championship has to say about their vehicle:
“Enhancements over the USF-17 include more sophisticated aerodynamics with an adjustable dual-element rear wing and single-plane carbon fiber front wing with adjustable flaps and Indy Pro 2000-specific front and rear endplates; larger Motegi Racing forged Technomesh monoblock alloy wheels with Cooper tires (13″x10″ fronts and 13″x12″ rears); and a 275 HP 2.0-liter Mazda MZR-PM18A motor developed by Elite Engines, utilizing a fly-by-wire throttle system and Cosworth SQ6 engine management system. The power is delivered via a Sadev SL82 six-speed sequential transmission and limited-slip differential.”
The last five winners of the series dating back to 2015 are Matthew Brabham, Spencer Pigot, Santiago Urrutia, Aaron Telitz, Rinus VeeKay and Kyle Kirkwood. Points come from each race with the most points coming from winning an oval race which is valued at 45 points. In an oval race, the point breakdown is as follows:
1st: 45 points total
2nd: 38 points total
3rd: 33 points total
4th: 29 points total
5h: 26 points total
A road and street course race is just as important to win but they do not yield as many points. This is because the oval is considered both the more difficult and challenging of the two categories. The breakdown of points in a road and street course race are as follow:
1st: 30 points total
2nd: 25 points total
3rd: 22 points total
4th: 19 points total
5h: 17 points total
One additional point is awarded for pole position, most laps led and fastest race lap.
There is a rich tradition and history that goes into the Indy Pro 2000 Series Championship. It is a series that truly helps bring some of the sports brightest and finest racers to the forefront and acts as a place for one to catapult their career. Kyle Kirkwood is just the latest example of a racer who could accomplish amazing things down the line but before him came many successful racers who have set records and gone onto amazing accomplishments in the IndyPro Series.
One of the series most impressive racers ever is Matthew Brabham. Brabham owns three different Indy Pro 2000 Series Championship records. He has two qualifying and one race track record at Lucas Oil Speedway. He finished the race at 20.174 and was clocked at 122.415 MPH, setting the course record. Brabham did race one time in the Indianapolis 500 in 2016. He unfortunately wasn’t able to notch a career pole,win or podium in his IndyPro career.
Another very successful racer is Rinus VeeKay. VeeKay set records in qualifying and races at Portland International Raceway. He finished in 1:05.8973 at 107.294 MPH. VeeKay joined the IndyCar Series in 2020 and races with the Ed Carpenter Racing Team. He currently has nine races under his belt, holding down 13th place. So far he has no wins, poles or podiums but time is on the 19-year-old’s side.
One up and comer in the Indy Pro 2000 Championship is Sting Ray Robb. The 19-year-old American has raced in four Indy Pro 2000 Series beginning when he was 17. In 2019, Robb finished third overall capturing six podium finishes and two pole positions with 11 top fives. Robb is a driver who is bound for the Indy Lights eventually and maybe even making it to the IndyCar series on his way to one day racing at the Indianapolis 500.
Kirkwood is the most recent stud out of the Indy Pro 2000 Championship. At just 21-years-old, the Jupiter, Florida native is racing in the Indy Lights and already racing for Andretti Autosport. Kirkwood also won the U.S. F2000 Championship in 2018 and has also won the F3 Americas Championship and Euroformula Open Championship. While there is no “sure thing” in racing, Kirkwood is just about as close as they come to it.
The Indy Pro 2000 is crucial to making sure that the sports best drivers are given the experience, training and wisdom to make it to the next level. Now that IndyCar sanctions the event, beginning in 2018, it seems like there will be even more success in the future with drivers who are participating.