The Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship was the first INDYCAR sanctioned series to officially kick off their season in preparation for the Cooper Tires Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by Andersen RacePark. The sky was a brilliant blue with no clouds and the temperature just cracking 70F.

It was not a surprise two quickest laps of the first USF2000 practice session of the season was led by a pair of veterans. Cape Motorsports’ Darren Keane led the way with a lap of 74.056 seconds. The lap was five-hundredths quicker that track record holder Alexandre Baron.

DEForce Racing rookie Manuel Sulaiman, who is making his first ever start on a street course, ended the session with the third quickest lap.

Rookie Braden Eves (Cape Motorsports) and veteran Colin Kaminsky (Pabst Racing) led a pair of Aussie rookies, Hunter McElrea (Pabst Racing) and Cameron Shields (Newman Wachs Racing).

The first red flag of the session and season came out only five minutes into the lone 30-minute practice session for an incident with Jay Howard Driver Development rookie Matthew Round-Garrido.

At that early part of the session, the top three were Baron, Keane, and McElrea.

The green flag came back out five minutes later and times began to drop as drivers got their Cooper Tire slicks up the correct operating temperature.

The second red flag came out with ten minutes remaining. It was veteran Darren Keane that had the quickest lap at 74.4896 seconds. Baron, MeElrea, Colin Kaminsky and Manuel Sulaiman made up the remainder of the top five.

The track went green again with six minutes remaining and was immediately busy with the buzzing of twenty Elite Engine 2.0 liter power plants.

At the end of the session, 11 of the 19 drivers that turned laps at speed were within one second of Keane’s fast lap.

USF2000 Cooper Tires Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Practice #1 timesheet

1 2 Darren Keane Cape Motorsports 1:14.056 –.—- 16
2 14 Alex Baron Legacy Autosport 1:14.113 0.0571 16
3 12 Manuel Sulaiman DEForce Racing 1:14.253 0.1967 17
4 8 Braden Eves Cape Motorsports 1:14.363 0.3067 16
5 23 Colin Kaminsky Pabst Racing 1:14.378 0.3221 17
6 22 Hunter McElrea Pabst Racing 1:14.389 0.3328 16
7 73 Cameron Shields Newman Wachs Racing 1:14.711 0.6547 16
8 24 Bruna Tomaselli Pabst Racing 1:14.895 0.8387 17
9 40 Jack William Miller Miller Vinatieri Motorsports 1:14.976 0.9196 16
10 41 Eduardo Barrichello Miller Vinatieri Motorsports 1:15.103 1.0466 16
11 27 Zach Holden BN Racing 1:15.138 1.0815 14
12 21 Yuven Sundaramoorthy Pabst Racing 1:15.443 1.3869 16
13 90 Manuel Cabrera Exclusive Autosport 1:15.552 1.4963 15
14 3 Reece Gold Cape Motorsports 1:15.555 1.4994 14
15 28 Anthony Famularo BN Racing 1:16.572 2.5157 15
16 36 Nolan Siegel Newman Wachs Racing 1:16.741 2.6849 15
17 69 Nate Aranda Team E JAY Racing 1:16.781 2.7251 14
18 7 Christian Bogle Jay Howard Driver Development 1:17.111 3.0550 16
19 77 Jose Sierra Legacy Autosport 1:22.714 8.6576 2
20 5 Matt Round-Garrido Jay Howard Driver Development No Time
21 6 Christian Rasmussen Jay Howard Driver Development No Time

The USF2000 series has a twenty-minute qualifying for the Cooper Tires Grand Prix of St. Petersburg rolls off at 4:45 pm.

Parker Thompson, who is on a one event deal with rookie team Abel Motorsports served notice that he left the cold and snow of Red Deer, Alberta, Canada for the warmth of the “Sunshine City,” for one reason. To have fun (and maybe win too).

The 21-year-old’s quick lap at 58.7842 seconds was almost eight-tenths ahead of his next closest competitor, Juncos Racing rookie Rasmus Lindh.

Lindh led a sextet of drivers of drivers covered by a half second that included Lindh, his teammate Sting Ray Robb, Moisés de la Vara (DEForce Racing), Danial Frost (Exclusive Autosport), Kyle Kirkwood (RP Motorsport) and Nikia Lastochkin (Exclusive Autosport).

The second rung of the Road To Indy, the newly renamed Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, took to the 1.8-mile, 14-turn street circuit 15 minutes after the smaller sibling.

The 14 PM-18 entries quickly got to work on the tricky street circuit with veterans Sting Ray Robb, and Nikia Lastochkin joined by rookies Rasmus Lindh and Kyle Kirkwood at the top of the timing screens.

At the half-way point of the 30-minute session, Thompson went to the top of the timesheet with a lap of 69.320 seconds and was joined in the sub-70 second club by Danial Frost (Exclusive Autosport) and Robb. Veterans Moisés de la Vara and Lastochkin rounded out the top five.

With just under five minutes remaining in the session, Thompson was the first driver to turn a lap under 79-seconds and went quicker than that on his next lap.

Indy Pro 2000 Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Presented by Allied Building Products Practice #1 timesheet

1 8 Parker Thompson Abel Motorsports 1:08.784 –.—- 23
2 10 Rasmus Lindh Juncos Racing 1:09.578 0.7941 21
3 2 Sting Ray Robb Juncos Racing 1:09.648 0.8637 22
4 6 Moises de la Vara DEForce Racing 1:09.649 0.8647 23
5 68 Danial Frost Exclusive Autosport 1:09.756 0.9720 23
6 28 Kyle Kirkwood RP Motorsport Racing 1:09.882 1.0982 19
7 90 Nikita Lastochkin Exclusive Autosport 1:09.891 1.1065 23
8 7 Kory Enders DEForce Racing 1:10.107 1.3226 22
9 11 Antonio Serravalle Pserra Racing/Jay Howard Driver Development 1:10.430 1.6459 22
10 51 Jacob Abel Abel Motorsports 1:11.070 2.2853 21
11 5 Damiano Fioravanti RP Motorsport Racing 1:11.398 2.6136 20
12 91 Parker Locke Exclusive Autosport 1:11.866 3.0814 22
13 83 Charles Finelli FatBoy Racing! 1:18.365 9.5812 20
14 98 Phillippe Denes Fatboy Racing! No Time

The Indy Pro 2000 series has a 20-minute qualifying session for the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Presented by Allied Building Products rolls off at 5:20 pm.