By Steve Wittich
The drivers and teams of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda are back in action after a two-month break from competition.
Cape Motorsports rookie Kyle Kirkwood, who won his first USF2000 start in St. Petersburg, Fla., has a seven-point championship lead, and a lot of pressure to extend a six-race winning streak for his team.
“To be the championship leader after my debut weekend, to me, is quite an amazing feeling,” says Kirkwood. “We’re very strong at the moment, so it’s definitely a relief knowing that Cape Motorsports and I are carrying over our momentum from last year.
“IMS is a special track to me,” he continues. “We obviously had great success there last year in the F4 US Championship and so did Oliver Askew and Cape. No doubt it is one of my favorite tracks we will race this year.”
Following Kirkwood is a pair of fellow rookies. Jose Sierra (DEForce Racing) and Igor Fraga (Exclusive Autosport) are both within ten points of the championship lead.
Seeing rookies Oliver Askew and Rinus VeeKay shine with a new USF-17 last year was not a surprise, but traditionally the USF2000 championship has been dominated by veteran drivers.
It’s still early though, and veterans Alex Baron (Swan-RJB Motorsports), Calvin Ming (Pabst Racing), Darren Keane (Newman Wachs Racing), Lucas Kohl (Pabst Racing), Kaylen Frederick (Pabst Racing) and Bruna Tomaselli (Team Pelfrey) all lurking within 20 points of second place, the rookies will need to watch their backs.
Baron, who won the second race in ‘St. Pete’ had the fastest lap in both races, and if he can temper his aggressive nature just a little bit, could quickly emerge as one of the favorites to win the Mazda Motorsports Scholarship.
Another driver who’s performance that TSO will be watching this weekend include BN Racing’s rookie Jamie Caroline. The British teenager who won 10 races on the way to claiming the 2017 F4 British Championship crown, was quick in the opening event but was forced to retire due to contact in race #1.
Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda point standings headed into the three-race “Month of May.”
|1||Kyle Kirkwood – R||48|
|2||Jose Sierra – R||41|
|3||Igor Fraga – R||38|
|8||Julian Van der Watt – R||27|
|11||Jamie Caroline – R||20|
|12||Kyle Dupell – R||18|
|14||Keith Donegan – R||15|
|15||Zach Holden – R||15|
|16||Mathias Soler-Obel – R||14|
|18||Rasmus Lindh – R||12|
|19||Sabre Cook – R||10|
|20||Michael D’Orlando – R||6|
|21||David Osborne – R||6|
|23||Oscar DeLuzuriaga – R||3|
|24||Russell McDonough – R||2|
|25||Manuel Cabrera – R||2|
There are two new names entered in this weekend’s doubleheader. James Roe, Jr. has been tabbed to join Swan-RJB Motorsports, and ArmsUp Motorsports is adding Max Peichel to team with Keith Donegan.
James Roe, Jr. is a second-generation driver from Naas, Co. Kildare in Ireland that was recommended to the team by Indy Lights pilot Aaron Telitz. The 19-year-old has multiple wins in the Formula Ford competition and recently scored a podium in an F2000 Series Championship event at Road Atlanta.
“This is an amazing opportunity for me, one that wouldn’t have come about if not for Aaron Telitz and Fred Edwards,” Roe admitted. “Aaron called a week ago and asked was I free to drive at Indy and explained what was going on. I immediately jumped at the opportunity and cannot thank him, Fred Edwards, Mirl Swan and the guys at Swan-RJB, enough for this. I also have to thank Gregg Borland from ArmsUp Motorsports for letting me do this, as it clashes with our F2000 race at Watkins Glen, we are aiming to do both. It’s going to be a huge challenge this weekend, but I am looking forward to it.”
With the final USF2000 race early on Saturday morning and the first F2000 race late on Saturday afternoon, Roe, Jr. will attempt to make both races.
Roe, Jr’s father Michael, was a successful Formula Ford and Formula 3 racer in the United Kingdom before moving to the United States (US) to race. His experience in the included Can-Am, IMSA GTP and also four Indy car races with Hemelgarn Racing in 1985.
Max Peichel spent last season competing in the F4 United States Championship Powered By Honda with Jay Howard’s team. The teenager from Edina, Minn. also tested at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with Newman Wachs Racing during the Chris Griffis Memorial Test last October.
For the second straight year, Royal Purple will team up with the Mazda Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires to raise money and awareness about lupus.
The difficult to diagnose chronic autoimmune disease has no cure, and the silent illness impacts the daily lives of 1.5 Million Americans, including some people close to the Mazda Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires paddock.
“My mom has lupus, and it really does impact your life,” said Pro Mazda driver Oliver Askew. “Not many people understand the disease so to use racing to raise awareness by having the Lupus Foundation of America as part of the INDYCAR GP weekend is so important. I’ll be doing my part to help spread the word. Last year was the first year that Royal Purple joined with the Foundation for this weekend to promote what they do and we saw a huge involvement, so if we can build on that and keep spreading the word about this disease, it will really help us fight it.”
Belardi Auto Racing, spearheaded by team owner Brian Belardi and team manager John Brunner, has been a staunch supporter of the Lupus Foundation of America for some years.
“It’s awesome to be able to bring the awareness of lupus to racing,” explained Brunner. “That’s how I got involved. The daughter of a friend in racing, Dave Hunt, was diagnosed and I had no idea what it was. From that moment on, I tried to educate myself. Brian (Belardi) has a connection as well, and we ran a decal for the Lupus Foundation of America on our cars years ago. To see the relationship between Royal Purple and the Lupus Foundation of America last year was great and we look forward to continuing that and growing.
“We raised over $6,000 last year, and I think we can double that this year. Our hope is that this brings awareness and needed funds – it’s a mystery disease, but it’s amazing how many friends I have who have a personal connection, with family members or friends who have been diagnosed with this disease. We’re proud to do what we can to help.”
Watch for all of the entries across the three series to have this special on the nose of their race cars this weekend.
You can show your support by using the #RaceToEndLupus hashtag this weekend, or better yet you can donate at this special page on the Lupus Foundation of America website.
Outside of a pair of wins in inclement weather 2014 by Adrian Starrantino (JAY Motorsports) and Will Owen (Pabst Racing) in 2014, the top step of the podium at the 2.439-mile, 14-turn Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course has belonged to drivers from the Cape Motorsports stable.
The St. Petersburg, Fla. based team has won six straight USF2000 races to begin the “Month of May” for the lowest rung of the Mazda Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires.
USF2000 race winners on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course
|2017 Race #2||Oliver Askew||Cape Motorsports|
|2017 Race #1||Oliver Askew||Cape Motorsports|
|2016 Race #2||Parker Thompson||Cape Motorsports with /WTR|
|2016 Race #1||Anthony Martin||Cape Motorsports with /WTR|
|2015 Race #2||Nico Jamin||Cape Motorsports with /WTR|
|2015 Race #1||Nico Jamin||Cape Motorsports with /WTR|
|2014 – Race #2||Adrian Starrantino||JAY Motorsports|
|2014 – Race #1||Will Owen||Pabst Racing|
Cape Motorsports drivers have also dominated the inside front row starting spot on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, starting seven of the eight races from pole.
Despite an average of one lead change in each of the eight USF2000 races, the pole sitter has won the last seven races in a row. And, the pole sitter in the very first USF2000 race at the iconic “Brickyard,” Florian Lattore, finished fourth.
Other nuggets of info
- The Royal Purple Synthetic Oil Grand Prix of Indianapolis Supporting the Lupus Foundation of America doubleheader will be the 9th and 10th visits that the USF2000 series has made to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. Six different drivers have won in the first eight races.
- All of the USF2000 races on the IMS road courses, expect the second race in 2015, has had a least one caution.
- The cautions have come on Lap 1 (three times), Lap 3 (three times) and Lap 2 (two times).
- The eight races have seen a total of eight lead changes, with the four lead changes during the first race in 2014 setting the high water mark.
- All eight races have finished under green flag conditions.
- Will Owen crossed the finish line 15.9994 seconds ahead of second place Jacob Eidson in the wet race #1 in 2014. That stands as the largest USF2000 margin of victory on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
- 2014 also produced the closest margin of victory when Adrian Starantino finished only 0.3394 seconds ahead of Florian Latorre.
- The only caution free event, race #2 in 2015, has the quickest average race speed at 98.979mph.
- The longest USF2000 race on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course race was 51.22 miles (21 laps), and the shortest race was 36.585 miles (15 laps).
Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda schedule
Friday, May 11
|8:05 AM – 8:25 AM||USF2000 Qualifying #1|
|10 AM – 10:30 AM||USF2000 Autograph Session (Fan Village)|
|11:10 AM – 11:30 AM||USF2000 Qualifying #2|
|2:45 PM – 3:20 PM||USF2000 Race #1|
Sautrday, May 12
|9:15 AM – 9:55 AM||USF2000 Race #2|
Don’t miss any of the action:
- live timing – Indy Lights, Pro Mazda, USF2000, and IndyCar Race Control
- on twitter –Indy Lights, Pro Mazda, USF2000, Cooper Tire, Mazda Racing and TSO Ladder
- via the Road To Indy TV app – Android or Apple iOS
- on all social media channels via the #TeamCooperTire and #MRTI hashtags