Kyle Kirkwood took the lead off the start of the 2018 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda season opener, and never looked back en route to a perfect debut victory in the championship.

The Jupiter, Fla. driver, in his No. 8 Cape Motorsports Tatuus USF-17 Mazda, started second but immediately shot to the lead in the first of two races on the Cooper Tires USF2000 Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Presented by Allied Building Products weekend.

The 20-lap race featured one caution and a frantic amount of action throughout the field.

Off the green flag, Kirkwood got a good run on polesitter Jose Sierra (DEForce Racing) to power past him on the outside into Turn 1.

Behind them, there was a pair of incidents that involved two of the three Exclusive Autosport entries. Igor Fraga spun in the middle of the road, but was fortunate to not get collected by another car. Teammate Manuel Cabrera spun in avoidance on the outside of the corner, and into the oncoming path of Newman Wachs Racing’s Oscar DeLuzuriaga. Fraga restarted with no damage, DeLuzuriaga also restarted with a broken front wing, but Cabrera was done on the spot.

After the first full-course yellow, the race restarted at the end of Lap 3, to begin Lap 4.

Kirkwood led from Sierra while Jamie Caroline was quickly on the move. Caroline leapt ahead of Darren Keane and Calvin Ming for third. They’d started seventh, eighth and 14th respectively.

With Kirkwood’s lead north of 3.5 seconds by Lap 8, Caroline passed Sierra to get up to second. But the BN Racing driver’s race quickly came unglued a few laps later when he pitted, with the right rear tire having white walled the barriers. He joined Cabrera out of the race.

Several other drivers had incidents in the following laps, including David Osborne, Zach Holden and Russell McDonough.

On-track, Fraga led those putting together incredible recovery drives. In his first ever street course race, Fraga (qualified fourth) made it back to ninth place from 21st on Lap 11, with Mathias Soler-Obel driving up from last on the grid to 11th, Kyle Dupell advancing from 18th to eighth and Kaylen Frederick recovering from 23rd to 13th.

Kirkwood was able to pull away up front, never headed and winning by 5.495 seconds, with Sierra second and Keane third. It’s the first USF2000 podium for Sierra and Keane, who each drove partial seasons in 2017.

Ming stayed fourth with Julian Van der Watt in fifth. Colin Kaminsky, in his repaired DEForce Racing entry, along with Bruna Tomaselli, Fraga, Dupell and Rasmus Lindh completing the top 10. Kaminsky and Tomaselli scored career best finishes as well ahead of the three debutantes.

TSO Ladder will have more to follow in a bit.

Cooper Tires USF2000 Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Presented by Allied Building Products Race #1 Unofficial Results

1 8 Kyle Kirkwood Cape Motorsports 20 laps
2 12 Jose Sierra DEForce Racing -5.4945
3 36 Darren Keane Newman Wachs Racing -12.2561
4 21 Calvin Ming Pabst Racing -15.2582
5 80 Julian Van der Watt Team Pelfrey -15.5706
6 27 Colin Kaminsky DEForce Racing -20.8132
7 82 Bruna Tomaselli Team Pelfrey -23.1378
8 91 Igor Fraga Exclusive Autosport -24.4335
9 81 Kyle Dupell Team Pelfrey -26.6204
10 23 Rasmus Lindh Pabst Racing -30.9835
11 24 Kaylen Frederick Pabst Racing -35.511
12 5 Mathias Soler-Obel Sol.O Racing -36.2571
13 22 Lucas Kohl Pabst Racing -36.732
14 30 Keith Donegan ArmsUp Motorsports -38.0968
15 31 Sabre Cook Team Benik -44.6499
16 51 Michael d’Orlando Team Benik -49.4592
17 93 Jayson Clunie Exclusive Autosport -58.8536
18 37 David Osborne Newman Wachs Racing -59.1782
19 11 Kory Enders DEForce Racing -1 lap
20 38 Oscar DeLuzuriaga Newman Wachs Racing -2 laps
21 10 Zach Holden DEForce Racing -2 laps
22 19 Alex Baron Swan-RJB Motorsports – 4 laps
23 29 Russell McDonough BN Racing -7 laps
24 28 Jamie Caroline BN Racing -10 laps
25 90 Manuel Cabrera Exclusive Autosport -20 laps

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