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Thursday was the busiest day of the weekend for the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, which prepares for a pivotal three-race weekend as it usually does at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

On Thursday, three test sessions were scheduled ahead of the first and only official practice session. Qualifying took place then on Friday morning before the first race of the weekend.

The story heading into the weekend is the championship battle between Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing drivers Parker Thompson and Anthony Martin, with the Canadian sophomore getting the upper hand on the Australian second-year driver after Thompson’s trip home to Canada.

Though he hails from Red Deer, Alberta and not in Toronto proper, Thompson banged out a third and a win in his two races. Meanwhile Martin crashed during Friday’s practice, which left him fighting a hand injury for the remainder of the weekend. He fought through the rest of it but crashed out late in Saturday’s race one, before rebounding to second place in race two.

The two had entered Toronto tied but leave Mid-Ohio separated by 20 points (270-250), Thompson now ahead before the Mid-Ohio triple – a race weekend swept by Cape’s Nico Jamin last year.

The 22-car grid for the weekend featured a few changes. Notably, Ayla Agren is back after missing Toronto in the lead No. 33 John Cummiskey Racing entry. That car had been utilized by Jordan Lloyd of Pabst Racing in Toronto in Agren’s absence; TSO will have more on the JCR/Pabst “musical car” swap later in the weekend.

Elsewhere Christian Munoz has been added in a second Afterburner Autosport entry. Blake Mount was listed to run the test sessions only for ArmsUp Motorsports and Joey Selmants, a local driver, had tested here a few weeks ago and was initially set to debut in the National class, but was withdrawn once the formal entry list came out.

Practice Recap:

Martin and Thompson led the way in the unofficial test sessions, and therefore those two along with Cape teammates Nikita Lastochkin and Jordan Cane didn’t actually set times in the official first practice later today. Neither did the last two Mazda scholarship recipient drivers, Dakota Dickerson (Afterburner) and Luke Gabin (JAY Motorsports).

The fact no Cape cars took official times shouldn’t have detracted from Agren’s great first day back in the car after missing the Toronto race. The talented young driver of Norwegian and Swedish background topped the official charts Thursday with a best time of 1:22.1304, which wasn’t even as quick as she ran in testing.

This is a track where Agren had success in the F1600 ranks in the past, and coupled with that and on the heels of her best result this season (fourth at Road America race two) makes her a candidate to finally secure her first career USF2000 podium this weekend – and the first for the team since Martin did so at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in 2015.

ln second was Victor Franzoni (ArmsUp), and the Brazilian who sits 42 points back of the Cape twins needs a big weekend to properly mount a championship charge as the third and really last realistic driver with a shot.

Young 16-year-old Robert Megennis, who on Thursday was also named a candidate for Jeremy Shaw’s Team USA Scholarship, continued with his good run of form by ending in third for Team Pelfrey.

Proving the Cummiskey pace wasn’t a fluke, Brazilian rookie Lucas Kohl was fourth with Lloyd fifth on the charts.

Of note and as discovered by the voice of the Mazda Road to Indy, Rob Howden, USF2000 veteran Jake Eidson also made a comeback in a setup and advisory for RJB Motorsports, to help the rookie team that runs Michai Stephens and Clint McMahan.

Practice times are below. Of the 15 cars that did take official times, all ran between 10 and 17 laps.

P No Name FTime Diff Laps
1 33 Ayla Agren 1:22.130 0.000 13
2 9 Victor Franzoni 1:22.165 0.0345 10
3 80 Robert Megennis 1:22.196 0.0654 16
4 34 Lucas Kohl 1:22.307 0.1764 15
5 21 Jordan Lloyd 1:22.376 0.2453 16
6 92 Cameron Das 1:22.406 0.2758 10
7 22 Garth Rickards 1:22.539 0.4082 17
8 23 Yufeng Luo 1:22.914 0.7832 16
9 77 Sam Chastain 1:22.940 0.8095 15
10 5 Austin McCusker 1:22.954 0.8234 16
11 72 Tazio Ottis 1:23.240 1.1101 15
12 19 Michai Stephens 1:23.913 1.7824 14
13 20 Clint McMahan 1:23.965 1.8346 17
14 17 Christian Munoz 1:24.104 1.9732 14
15 12 Eric Filgueiras 1:24.424 2.2940 10
16 2 Parker Thompson No Time
17 3 Nikita Lastochkin No Time
18 4 Jordan Cane No Time
19 8 Anthony Martin No Time
20 18 Dakota Dickerson No Time
21 91 Luke Gabin No Time

Qualifying Recap:

Perhaps as expected, the Cape twins resumed back on top of the timesheets once it came time to qualify for the first of three USF2000 races at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Martin seized the momentum over Thompson, with the driver of the No. 8 car clocking in a 1:21.047 best time to secure the pole position. Thompson was second in the No. 2 car at 1:21.319.

In third, and scoring what is easily his best qualifying position of his rookie season, is Afterburner’s Dakota Dickerson in the No. 18 car. Dickerson posted a 1:21.654 to edge Garth Rickards, top of the three Pabst Racing entries, in fourth at 1:21.681.

Franzoni (ArmsUp) completed the top five, ahead of Australians Gabin and Lloyd. Official practice one leader Agren clocked in a perhaps disappointing 12th place in the session.

The first of three 30-minute USF2000 races runs in the 1:00 to 1:45 p.m. window later this afternoon, with the potential of rain hitting around the 2 p.m. hour.

Qualifying times are below.

P No Name FTime Diff Laps
1 8 Anthony Martin 1:21.047 0.000 19
2 2 Parker Thompson 1:21.319 0.2713 19
3 18 Dakota Dickerson 1:21.654 0.6066 15
4 22 Garth Rickards 1:21.681 0.6335 17
5 9 Victor Franzoni 1:21.791 0.7440 17
6 91 Luke Gabin 1:21.949 0.9015 17
7 21 Jordan Lloyd 1:21.991 0.9434 18
8 80 Robert Megennis 1:22.029 0.9819 18
9 3 Nikita Lastochkin 1:22.096 1.0482 19
10 4 Jordan Cane 1:22.126 1.0790 17
11 23 Yufeng Luo 1:22.193 1.1456 18
12 33 Ayla Agren 1:22.264 1.2171 20
13 92 Cameron Das 1:22.365 1.3171 15
14 34 Lucas Kohl 1:22.401 1.3534 19
15 5 Austin McCusker 1:22.474 1.4263 19
16 77 Sam Chastain 1:22.759 1.7119 16
17 72 Tazio Ottis 1:23.269 2.2217 19
18 17 Christian Munoz 1:23.274 2.2268 16
19 19 Michai Stephens 1:23.298 2.2506 13
20 20 Clint McMahan 1:24.268 3.2206 12
21 12 Eric Filgueiras 1:24.566 3.5190 13