For the fourth straight USF2000 race, the Soul Red No. 2 of 200K Mazda Scholarship winner Hunter McElrea will start from the inside of the front row.

The pole for Sunday’s Cooper Tires USF2000 Grand Prix Presented by Allied Building Products race is the American born Kiwi’s fifth of the season. The bonus point, along with the bonus point from yesterday, equates to McElrea trailing championship leader Braden Eves by seven points instead of nine.

TSO caught up with McElrea this morning before qualifying, and he told us that the flowing nature and lack of run-off on the 1.964-mile, 12-Turn Portland International Raceway road course remind him of the Australian tracks he has raced on in the past.

The Gold Coast, Australia resident, just missed out setting the USF2000 track record by 13-thousandths of a second.

It was Pacific Northwest Chamber of Commerce weather that greeted the 18 USF2000 entries when their second qualifying session of the weekend began. There were no clouds in the sky. The ambient temperature was 68Fand the track temperature was 78F.

Early in the session, it was points leader Eves that held the provisional pole.

Some of the quicker drivers – Eves, McElrea, Gold, and Keane, among others – set an early fast lap before coming to pit road for adjustments.

At the half-way point of the 20-minute qualifying session, the provisional pole sitter was Zach Holden with a lap of 71.8790 seconds. Eves, McElrea, Rasmussen, Gold, Crawford, Sundaramoorthy, Keane, Sulaiman, and Siegel were the rest of the top 10.

Things started to change quickly though with Rasmussen and McElrea trading the provisional pole with laps times creeping towards the track record of 70.9038 seconds set by Rasmus Lindh last year.

With five minutes left, it was McElrea at the top of the timing screens, with Eves and Rasmussen both within a tenth of a second of the Pabst Racing driver.

The Soul Red No. 22 on the next lap, was the first driver to go under 71 seconds, turning a lap just shy of the track record.

With just under a minute left, Eves crossed the timing line with his best lap of the session, but it was still not almost two-tenths adrift of McElrea. The Cape Motorsports rookie was not able to go quicker on his final lap.

Late in the session, Kaminsky, Barichello, Sundaramoorthy, and Gold all moved into the top ten.

Unofficial qualifying results for Cooper Tires USF2000 Grand Prix Presented by Allied Building Products Race #2

1 22 Hunter McElrea Pabst Racing 1:10.916 –.—- 15
2 8 Braden Eves Cape Motorsports 1:11.102 0.1854 14
3 6 Christian Rasmussen Jay Howard Driver Development 1:11.229 0.3128 13
4 23 Colin Kaminsky Pabst Racing 1:11.328 0.4111 14
5 4 Jak Crawford Cape Motorsports 1:11.366 0.4498 15
6 2 Darren Keane Cape Motorsports 1:11.449 0.5330 15
7 14 Zach Holden Legacy Autosport 1:11.466 0.5500 13
8 91 Eduardo Barrichello DEForce Racing 1:11.554 0.6376 14
9 21 Yuven Sundaramoorthy Pabst Racing 1:11.562 0.6454 16
10 3 Reece Gold Cape Motorsports 1:11.591 0.6742 14
11 24 Bruna Tomaselli Pabst Racing 1:11.642 0.7255 9
12 12 Manuel Sulaiman DEForce Racing 1:11.644 0.7272 14
13 5 Josh Green Jay Howard Driver Development 1:12.012 1.0954 13
14 36 Nolan Siegel Newman Wachs Racing 1:12.145 1.2283 16
15 40 Jack William Miller Miller Vinatieri Motorsports 1:12.154 1.2378 14
16 77 Ayrton Ori Legacy Autosport 1:12.317 1.4004 16
17 73 Kyle Dupell Newman Wachs Racing 1:12.614 1.6980 16
18 7 Christian Bogle Jay Howard Driver Development 1:12.791 1.8748 13

The bottom rung of the Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires will be back on track at 4:30 pm for their first race of the weekend.