By Steve Wittich

Does this test set the stage for the upcoming season?

That would be an empathetic maybe in Indy Lights and Indy Pro 2000 and a more likely in USF2000.

Last year Santi Urrutia led the Indy Lights portion of the test, and the two title combatants, Patricio O’Ward and Colton Herta were third and seventh, respectively.

In 2017, the eventual series champion Kyle Kaiser had the third quickest test, while Herta led the way and finished third in the championship. The winner of the first race in St. Petersburg, Fla., Aaron Telitz was only eighth quickest.

In Indy Pro 2000, 2018 champion Rinus van Kalmthout (Rinus VeeKay), was only the eighth quickest during testing while his closest contender for the title Parker Thompson was fifth fastest.

The year before that, Anthony Martin led testing and finished second in the championship. Eventual scholarship winner Victor Franzoni didn’t take part in the Homestead-Miami Speedway test.

Last year in USF2000 the testing results mimicked the final championship standings with Cape Motorsports Kyle Kirkwood leading Pabst Racing’s Rasmus Lindh and Lucas Kohl.

In 2017, eventual USF2000 champion Oliver Askew was the quickest driver while his closest championship contender VeeKay was the third fastest.

However, that doesn’t mean that there is nothing to be learned by the drivers and teams.

The Homestead-Miami Speedway road course is an excellent venue for a driver and engineer to work together to implement meaningful changes, something that is particularly important for rookies and drivers with new teams and engineers.

Inevitably a team has some new crew members, and testing gives team managers a chance to work on cohesiveness.

Due to an abrasive track surface and a high number of slow speed corners, tire wear on the 14-turn circuit is significant. The test provides an excellent opportunity to learn how to save your tires and also how to keep a consistent pace on worn tires.

I had a chance to catch-up with Dominic Cape from Cape Motorsports. The team decided to shutter there Indy Pro 2000 team this year, selling those cars to Abel Motorsports and expanding their championship-winning USF2000 team from one car to three entries.

Dominic and his brother Nicholas have also been busy with their “hobby,” The Cape Brothers Speed Shop where they build hot rods and rat rods.

Check out the Cape Brothers Speed Shop Facebook Page for photos of their unique creations. I might be a little bit in love with the ’54 Buick Wagon.

And, if you are at the race in St. Petersburg, check out the 1950 Cadilac and 1957 Chevrolet they will have on display.

A few of the USF2000 and Indy Pro 2000 teams have stuck around to use the garages at Homestead-Miami Speedway to get their cars prepped for St. Petersburg. Those two series are on track just after lunch on Thursday, giving them only a few days of prep.

The teams that didn’t stick around are headed to The Florida International Rally & Motorsports Park, colloquially known as The FIRM in Starke, Fla to utilize the 1.6-mile road course that does an excellent job of mimicking a street circuit.

T here are some former Road To Indy, IndyCar and Formula One drivers serving as coaches in the Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires this year.

Here is a partial list so far:

  • Rubens Barrichello with USF2000 driver Eduardo Barrichello
  • Shelby Blackstock with Indy Pro 2000 driver Jacob Abel
  • Matthew Brabham with the Cape Motorsports USF2000 drivers
  • RC Enerson and Michai Stephens with USF2000 rookie Nate Aranda
  • Darren Manning with Indy Lights driver Dalton Kellett
  • Roberto Moreno with Indy Lights driver Lucas Kohl
  • Ozz Negri with USF2000 driver Darren Keane

Steve’s travel and social report

I (Steve) flew into Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on Friday afternoon, the first of ten straight days in the Sunshine State. My pair of flights were completely uneventful and we arrived as scheduled.

I have a love/hate relationship with Ultimate Choice at Hertz. I love being able to choose my own car, I hate actually deciding when there is more than one interesting choice like was the case on this trip. I ended up with a Toyota 4-Runner and so far, I’m happy with that choice.

The 55-mile drive to my Air BnB in Homestead, Fl. quickly reminded me why I don’t think I would like living in Florida. The 55-mile drive on a Friday afternoon took almost two hours.

My Air BnB is a self-contained unit in the garage of a 1980’s ranch. Sounds weird right? It’s actually perfect for what I need. The room has a private bathroom, a fridge, a sitting area with a table, a TV and most importantly a comfortable bed. It’s also one-third of the price of the hotels in the area.

***Advertisement*** If you haven’t yet given Air BnB a shot, I highly recommend it. There are options for all budget levels and I’ve had the opportunity to meet some amazing people. My one tip is to make sure the property has at least five reviews. Someone has to be the guinea pig, but it doesn’t have to be you. If you use any of links I’ve included to sign up, you’ll receive a $40 credit towards your first stay. (In full disclosure, I’ll also receive a $25 stay credit).

After getting settled in, I decided to head out for some Cuban food. I chose Mario’s Family Restaurant and had the traditional Churrasco (charbroiled skirt steak) with rice and beans. It was a great way to start my trip to South Florida.

On Saturday night, I asked friend and colleague Bruce Martin for his dining choices in Homestead and he suggested Richard Accursio’s Capri Restaurant. The old school Italian Restaurant has been in business since 1958 and it was a tremendous recommendation.

I started off with a glass of Chianti followed by an appetizer of crabmeat stuffed mushrooms. Then came a classic Caesar Salad with swimmers (anchovies) followed by my main course.

I decided on the Italian Sampler which consisted of Cheese Ravioli, Chicken Parmigiana, and Eggplant Rollatini. The portions were a perfect size, I left full but not stuffed and the red sauce was outstanding.

On Sunday night, Mexican food was the call and I decided to try El Rincon de Jalisco with a friend.  I went with a combination plate featuring a tostada, taco, and enchilada and he went with the Carne Asada. We were both happy with our orders.

Morning’s have consisted of a stop at one of the many traditional Cuban bakeries for a café con leche and pastry.

(so much for the 25 pounds I lost in the off-season)