Joel’s arrival on the American racing scene in 2023 featured a very distinctive highlight: winning on the hallowed grounds of Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Joel hit the front in round three of the USF Pro 2000 campaign, which played out on the IMS road course in conjunction with INDYCAR’s GMR Grand Prix in mid-May.
He emerged victorious from the second and final race of the weekend, overcoming the challenge of a lowly P18 grid slot – a knock-on effect of retiring early in the opening race of the meeting (where lap times count towards the Race 2 grid).
Joel’s voyage to victory began immediately as the race went underway, as he instantly stormed through on the opening lap to settle into the top ten.
His rise then kicked into top gear on the first of two restarts, where he avoided confusion to spectacularly haul himself into P2.
The lead was then finally assumed with a pass on team-mate Salvador de Alba following a second restart with 15 laps to go, Joel never looking back again and driving off to a resounding first U.S. victory.
”What a race!” Joel said afterwards. “It’s a dream come true to win here at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I never thought in my life that I’d be here. I’m so, so happy for my first win here in the USA. I had a good start, an even better restart, and then once I got past Salvador I managed to build a gap and bring it home.”
De Alba completed a 1-2 for Exclusive Autosport, earning the team a remarkable double atop the world-famed IMS Victory Podium.
Joel Granfors will not contest the final two rounds of the USF Pro 2000 Presented by Cooper Tires campaign, opting to redirect efforts towards 2024.
In a decision made with the full support of his team Exclusive Autosport, Granfors will sit out the season-ending rounds at Circuit of the Americas (COTA) and Portland to instead gather fresh momentum for his future racing programme.
“Of course it would have been nice to close out the season, but all things considered, this is the right decision for the longer term,” says Joel Granfors. “We have thought it through carefully together with the team and everybody else who needed to be involved in this decision, and we all share the common view that this is for the greater good. I wish the team all the best for these final races.”
Granfors currently sits fifth in the USF Pro 2000 standings following a strong rookie campaign in U.S. single-seater racing. With only two rounds to go and a runaway points leader out front in the scholarship chase, however, Granfors is opting to shuffle resources accordingly.
“I’m here to race, but more than anything I’m here to win,” Joel Granfors continues. “This will put me in the best possible position to try and do that in 2024 and beyond. I’m grateful to Exclusive Autosport, Corpay and all my sponsors for their support and I look forward to being back on track again soon!”
Granfors arrived in the USA this season after finishing second in the UK-based GB3 Championship last year. Despite an entirely new palette of tracks and a brand new environment on the INDYCAR support ladder, the Swede managed to win at the hallowed Indianapolis Motor Speedway back in May and has scored another two podiums in 2023.
“It has been an honour having Joel pilot the #92 Exclusive Autosport with Corpay car this year in the USF Pro 2000 championship,” says team owner Michael Duncalfe. “We collectively feel that it’s in everyone’s best interest at this time to re-focus efforts and resource towards the 2024 season. Consequently, Joel will unfortunately not be at COTA or Portland, but we’re all looking forward to seeing him back in the car in the off-season.”
One of the youngest drivers in the USF Pro 2000 field at just 18 years of age, other highlights for Granfors in 2023 have included making both his oval and street course debuts, finishing on the podium at the Lucas Oil Raceway oval and setting the fastest lap on the streets of St. Petersburg.
// Swede features in close podium scrap in dry/wet Canadian opener // Retires from Race 2 in start incident
Joel Granfors lived through a weekend of mixed emotions as USF Pro 2000 set camp in Toronto for the last round before the series’ summer break.
Taking on the tight and twisty Canadian street course for the first time of his career, Granfors proved aptly able to adapt, going fourth fastest in Friday’s free practice session.
The Swede then qualified in the upper half of the field, in sixth and seventh respectively, for the weekend’s two races.
In Race 1, Granfors worked his way into podium contention on a dry track early on, before the race was stopped in the closing stages as rain started to fall on the treacherous street circuit.
After all cars were called into pitlane for a change to wet-weather Cooper tyres, the race resumed with a few laps to go. Granfors kept out of trouble in a wild fight for the podium with Exclusive Autosport team-mate Salvador de Alba (Mexico) and Germany’s Lirim Zendeli, coming home P4.
“I think we did a solid job in that first race,” says Joel Granfors. “I managed to get up into fourth early on, and then after the restart I was battling hard for the podium. I decided to play it a bit safe, which I think was the right thing to do having never driven the track in the wet before. It gave us some important championship points and the pace was very strong in both the wet and dry.”
In Race 2 on Sunday, however, the curtains came down on Granfors’ hopes just moments after the start, as a Turn 1 clash with fellow rival Christian Weir inflicted suspension damage to the #92 Corpay Exclusive Autosport car and sent both drivers into instant retirement.
“A very short race today,” Joel Granfors concludes. “From my perspective, I felt like I gave up plenty of room on the outside, but unfortunately we made contact as we rounded Turn 1. My front suspension got bent and we both hit the wall. It’s one of those first-lap things, I guess.
“It’s a real shame as the pace has been strong this weekend, and I was really adamant that we could challenge for the podium today. Still, I take a lot of positives from this weekend and my first visit to this track.”
Granfors now sits tied for fourth in the USF Pro 2000 standings.
The INDYCAR feeder series now enters a six-week summer break, resuming in Austin, Texas, on August 26-27.
USF Pro 2000 Presented by Cooper Tires Rd. 7 – Streets of Toronto (Canada)
// Swede braced for second street course event of the season // Series rookie currently holding third in championship standings
Joel Granfors heads to Canada and Toronto this weekend for the second and last street course event of the USF Pro 2000 season.
Granfors’ street track debut coincided with the Swede’s first-ever race on American soil earlier this year, on a mixed weekend for the Exclusive Autosport rookie in St. Petersburg, Florida back in March.
A pitlane collision forced Granfors to sit out qualifying, leaving him at the back of the grid for that weekend’s pair of races – in which he later stormed through to salvage important points and even set the fastest lap of the entire meeting.
Since then, Granfors has established himself as one of the frontrunners in the USF Pro 2000 pack, racking up three podiums and one victory en route to third place in the current championship standings.
Heading into Toronto, the Swede is keen for more.
“I’m looking forward a lot to this weekend,” says Joel Granfors. “I’ve never been to Toronto, so it’s yet another new track for me. I feel like we have some unfinished street track business from St. Pete and that unfortunate qualifying issue. The pace was there for much more than what we got, so hopefully this weekend we can build on that and have a more straightforward event with a strong result.”
The 1.7-mile Toronto street course is laid out in the heart of the Canadian city, proving a fan favourite for decades.
“From what I’ve heard, Toronto is even tighter and more technical than St. Pete, so this will be an interesting weekend,” Joel Granfors concludes. “There appears to be even less room for mistakes and it’s very narrow, especially in the second half of the lap. Qualifying will probably be crucial this weekend as starting up front will be a big advantage.”
Two races are set to be contested in USF Pro 2000 this weekend, one on Saturday and one on Sunday. In third overall, Joel Granfors currently trails second-placed Brazilian driver Kiko Porto by a mere two points in the standings, with several others also in close proximity.
// Swede picks up steady points score at Mid-Ohio //Exclusive Autosport rookie features in ultra-close pole position scrap
Joel Granfors is back in the championship top three in USF Pro 2000 following a decent points score at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course this weekend.
Granfors racked up a pair of top ten finishes in the two races staged in Lexington, Ohio, taking fourth in Race 1 and ninth in Race 2.
The Swede featured prominently in an exciting battle for pole position in qualifying for the opening race, eventually ending up third – a mere 0.07s off the ultimate pace. In the race itself, he then overcame a red-flag stoppage for rain and an ensuing change to wet-weather tyres to eventually finish fourth, as the top non-American.
In Race 2, Granfors’ fate was essentially sealed when traffic in Qualifying 2 rendered a ninth-place grid slot, translating into the same result by the chequered flag.
“A decent weekend, and certainly a big step forward from Road America where we struggled,” says Joel Granfors. “It was a little hit-and-miss with the balance of the car in practice, but we got it right for qualifying and very nearly got the pole for Race 1. It’s very hard to overtake at this track, which I experienced particularly in Race 2. I felt a lot quicker than the cars ahead but just couldn’t find a way past.”
Granfors now moves up from fourth to third in the USF Pro 2000 standings.
“We did better than the drivers immediately around us in the championship this weekend, but we also did lose a little bit of ground to the leader,” Joel Granfors concludes. “We gained some in the first race, but it was a shame with that traffic in second qualifying that put us down the grid for Race 2. That cost us quite a bit this weekend. All in all, a decent performance, but we are here to win.”
The next USF Pro 2000 round takes place in Toronto, Canada, on July 14-16.
USF Pro 2000 Presented by Cooper Tires Rd. 6 – Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (USA)
// Swede looking to bounce back in USF Pro 2000 //Heating up: six different nationalities represented in championship top six
Joel Granfors targets a quick return to front-running form when USF Pro 2000 descends on Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio, for a fresh pair of races this weekend.
Granfors, who celebrated his 18th birthday last week, has clinched three podiums – including a breakthrough win at Indianapolis Motor Speedway – so far in his rookie campaign in U.S. single-seater racing.
A more difficult weekend last time out at Road America, however, meant Granfors and his Exclusive Autosport squad did not add to their podium tally in Wisconsin.
A swift return to the rostrum, consequently, will be high up the wish list as racing resumes at Mid-Ohio. “We had a tough weekend at Road America, but we believe that was track specific and we actually had a much better test, at Mid-Ohio, just a few days later,” says Joel Granfors. “We just need to press on and I’m confident we’ll be right back up there this weekend.”
Just over halfway through the season, the USF Pro 2000 championship race continues to gain momentum with six drivers of six different nationalities currently running each other close in the standings.
Out front, local American Myles Rowe leads the way ahead of Italy’s Francesco Pizzi, Brazil’s Kiko Porto, fourth-placed Granforsof Sweden, Mexico’s Salvador de Alba and Ireland’s Jonathan Browne.
The top six is currently separated by 67 points – almost the exact same amount (66) on offer for a clean-sweep this weekend alone in Mid-Ohio. Factor in subsequent meetings in Toronto, Texas and Oregon, and it’s clear to see the scholarship race is still very much a wide-open affair.
This weekend’s USF Pro 2000 event at Mid-Ohio takes place across Thursday-Saturday. First up are a pair of test sessions on Thursday, followed by qualifying day on Friday. Both races are staged on Saturday.
// Learn and forget in Road America hardship //Swede pockets team’s best result on difficult weekend
Joel Granfors picked up Exclusive Autosport’s best result of the weekend in a challenging USF Pro 2000 event at Road America.
Granfors scored a best finish of sixth in the concluding second race of the double-header meeting in Wisconsin, where an uncharacteristic lack of pace halted the Swede’s run of podiums from each of the previous three championship rounds.
“It’s been a really tough weekend for us, but what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” says Joel Granfors. “We simply didn’t have the pace here, and that in turn makes you more vulnerable to incidents in the pack. It’s a vicious circle. I had a drive-through penalty in the first race, which obviously didn’t help, but mainly we were just not quick enough. We will learn from this weekend, and then we will move on.”
USF Pro 2000 resumes at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on July 1-2. Already this coming week, however, Granfors and Exclusive Autosport will travel to the Ohio road course for a scheduled test that is now set to bear added significance.
“It’s great to have a test scheduled in just a few days,” Joel Granfors concludes. “We need that at the moment to find out what went wrong here. It has been very difficult, but that’s motor racing sometimes and what counts is how you recover. We know we’re a lot better than this, and we will be back to prove it.”
Joel Granfors entered the weekend sitting second in the USF Pro 2000 standings, but now slips to fourth with half the season completed.
USF Pro 2000 Presented by Cooper Tires Rd. 5 – Road America (USA)
// Swede determined to extend podium run // Road America up next as championship enters critical summer swing
Joel Granfors is looking to exploit the momentum of a triple-podium stretch when USF Pro 2000 hits its halfway mark this weekend at the picturesque Road America circuit in Wisconsin.
Racing the #92 Corpay Exclusive Autosport car, 17-year-old Swede Granfors has burst immediately onto the scene in his first season in U.S. motorsport.
After championship leader Myles Rowe opened up a substantial gap in the early parts of the campaign, the winds have changed in recent rounds as Granfors has started to close in, making steady headway in the standings to currently sit in second place.
As a matter of fact, Granfors is the only driver in the USF Pro 2000 field to have graced the podium at each of the last three championship meetings, picking up top-three finishes at Sebring, Indianapolis Motor Speedway (where he scored his first win) and last time out on the oval at Lucas Oil Raceway.
With the title chase firmly on, Granfors is understandably in good mood as the season reaches half time this weekend – simultaneously phasing in a crucial, high-paced summer swing for the INDYCAR-supporting junior series.
With three championship rounds and six races (two per event) packed into the coming month, there is plenty to play for as drivers bid to position themselves for the season-ending events in August/September. “We’ve grown stronger and stronger in the first part of the season, and the aim is clearly to build on that and keep closing the gap in the standings,” says Joel Granfors. “This is an important month in the championship and I’m really excited about it. We’ll take it one race at a time, but this is a good moment for us and a great opportunity to keep upping the pressure.”
Hosting this weekend’s races, the undulating, 14-turn Road America circuit is one of the USA’s most classic motorsport venues. Laid out in the beautiful countryside of Wisconsin, the four-mile track is also the longest on the entire USF Pro 2000 calendar. “We did go to Road America for a test a while ago, but unfortunately it rained out after just a handful of laps,” Joel Granfors concludes. “So, practically, it’s basically a brand new track for me once again this weekend. I did get a first small impression of it, though, and that was very positive with a lot of fast and flowing corners. I think it will be a really cool weekend.”
The USF Pro 2000 field will take to the track for the first time on Thursday for a pair of one-hour test sessions. Official practice is scheduled for Friday, with two qualifying sessions and two races then staged across the weekend.
// Swede backs up first win with new rostrum visit in USF Pro 2000 // Rookie defies inexperience to climb to second in championship standings
Joel Granfors overcame a lack of experience to break immediately onto the podium in the first oval race of his career this weekend, as the Swede continues to make headway in the USF Pro 2000 standings.
After claiming his first victory in U.S. single-seater racing last time out, Granfors continued to feature among the frontrunners as the USF Pro 2000 field regrouped at Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Raceway for the only oval event of the year.
17-year-old Granfors raised eyebrows in the paddock with a committed run to P2 – a mere 0.03 seconds adrift of pole position – as he tackled the two-lap oval qualifying system for the very first time, lining up on the front row for Friday night’s sole race of the weekend.
Once in the race, Granfors initially dropped to fourth at the start, but patiently bided his time to recover position later in the race.
The Swedish rookie efficiently picked off lapped traffic – an inevitable feature around the short, 20-second lap of Lucas Oil Raceway – and entered the final ten laps right on the tail of leading Exclusive Autosport team-mate Salvador de Alba (Mexico).
A late incident further down the field eventually saw the race finish under caution, disarming a potential victory charge from Granfors, but second place still marked a very solid start to life as an oval racer.
“That was an intense race! I’m really happy with P2 in my first oval race,” says Joel Granfors. “I wanted to get the lead at the start but dropped down too low, which opened up the high line. A bit of a rookie mistake on my part, but I’ll learn from that. Once we settled in, the pace was great and I managed to get back up to second. I always race to win and we were a bit unfortunate it ended under yellow, but obviously we’re super thrilled with this performance.”
It marks the second straight 1-2 victory for Exclusive Autosport, with the roles reversed after Granfors led home de Alba to win in the previous race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway two weeks ago.
As the sole oval round of the season, this weekend’s race awarded extra championship points, making the success yet more important for Granfors – who now climbs to second in the overall standings.
“It has been a great experience racing on the oval this week and we’re making steady progress in the championship, so things are really looking on the up,” Joel Granfors concludes. “Big thanks to all the guys at Exclusive Autosport for giving us such a strong package here.”
The next USF Pro 2000 round is scheduled for June 16-18 at Road America and will mark the halfway point of the championship.
USF Pro 2000 Presented by Cooper Tires Rd. 4 – Lucas Oil Raceway (USA)
1: Salvador de Alba (MEX), 90 laps 2: Joel Granfors (SWE), +0.517s 3: Jack William Miller (USA), +1.047s 4: Francesco Pizzi (ITA), +1.947s 5: Myles Rowe (USA), +4.311s
Joel performed a convincing run in his first-ever oval qualifying session, taking a front row slot for tomorrow’s Freedom 90 at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis.
Tackling the oval qualifying format – which features drivers running one by one over a two-lap average attempt – for the first time of his life, Joel proved immediately at home with the concept.
While his two laps ultimately came up a mere 0.03 seconds shy of pole-setter Jack William Miller, Joel’s performance leaves him ideally placed for Friday’s race, as he bids for his second straight USF Pro 2000 victory.