By Steve Wittich
After a string of five podiums in six races that included three-runner up finishes, Cape Motorsports sophomore Reece Gold broke through for his first USF2000 win with a brilliant last lap set-up and execution to get past the race leader.
“This is awesome, exclaimed a pumped up Gold. “It feels so good to get the win after so many seconds and thirds! I was happy to make it through the first lap: this is the kind of track where you have to gain spots and get away from the mess because, with the draft, things happen. Thankfully, we got a great start and just focused forward. Halfway through the race, I didn’t think we could get there, but something happened mid-race, and we started to reel Jack in. From there, I was able to take advantage of the chance to grab the lead. I’m really happy to finally get the win.”
The win for Cape Motorsports is the Brownsburg, Ind. based teams tenth win on the IMS Road Course.
Gold’s win, combined with Barrichello’s fifth-place finish, moves him into second place. Gold’s stellar weekend means that he has knocked 37 points off Rasmussen’s title lead, with the gap going from 87 points to 50 points.
After another strong opening lap that propelled Exclusive Autosport rookie Christian Brooks from seventh to fourth place, the 19-year-old could take advantage of other’s mistakes and finish with his best career result of second. With a pair of podium finishes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Santa Clarita, Calif. driver has moved into fourth place in the championship and is now the highest place rookie, with a five-point advantage of Josh Green (Cape Motorsports).
“In the second race, I was chasing down Gold and Miller until that late incident,” said the driver of the Hot Wheels/Chaco Flato/Bell Helmets No. 44). “We started P7 and to get up to second; we’re steadily getting there. We have a race car that can contend up front, so first and foremost, thanks to Exclusive Autosport – the progress we’ve made over the past weeks and even over the past day, they’ve been working so hard to give me the best car they could. We’ve been searching for this first podium for a few races so now we’re shooting for the top step.
“And of course, I’m thinking about (Indy Pro 2000 driver) Braden Eves. He’s a teammate and a good friend and to see what happened to him yesterday, I’m glad he’ll be okay. That really hurt but I know he’d be proud of me and I’m glad to put this trophy in the truck for him.”
After leading 17 laps, Jack William Miller (Miller Vinatieri Motorsports) lost that lead on the last lap, crossing the start-finish line. However, the 17-year-old was penalized five-seconds for an improper re-entry to the track and fell back to fourth.
That moved DEForce Racing rookie Kiko Porto onto the podium for the second time during the event. Despite missing the first round of the season at Road America, the Brazilian moved into a tie for ninth in points after a strong weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“Rasmussen had a problem at the start and I had to really get on the brakes to avoid him, so I lost time,” said Porto after being informed he was being promoted to the podium. “I was able to make a few passes, but Christian (Brooks) and Reece were quicker than me on new tires. On the last lap, I was able to get third position. I’m very happy with the weekend, to get two third-place finishes and two poles, so thank you to the team. It was great to share this with Dudu, he’s more than a friend – he’s a brother. I’m so happy for him, it’s a big part of my weekend. Hopefully more podiums together.”
As the front row of Barrichello and Rasmussen brought the field onto the front straight, the JHDD, CSU | One Cure/Lucas Oil sponsored No. 6 of the championship leader, was hit from behind by Michael d’Orlando.
When the green flag flew, and Rasmussen hit the go pedal, it didn’t go. Thankfully, the rest of the field could get around him, and he limped back to the pits.
The Jay Howard Driver Development crew quickly went to work to fix the damage to the car’s left rear corner. The Dane could get back out on the track but was three laps down, and with no further retirements, finished the race in last place, scoring only a single point.
The No. 4 of d’Orlando also came to the pit road to replace the damaged nose when he made contact with Rasmussen.
The outside front row starter’s issue gave pole-sitter Barrichello the opportunity to arrive at the ever-dangerous Turn 1 with a significant gap to the rest of the field.
The top five as they crossed the ‘yard of bricks’ for the first time were Barrichello, Miller, Gold, Brooks, and Porto.
Also of note on the first lap was the move by Legacy Autosport newcomer Simon Sikes, who put pressure on Porto for fifth. However, race control judged that Sikes and Kyle Dupell (Cape Motorsports) both jumped the initial start, and they were forced to serve drive-through penalties.
On Lap 2, Miller quickly caught the winner of the first two USF2000 races of the event and began Lap 3, right under the second-generation driver’s gearbox.
In a power move, Miller went to the outside of Barrichello in Turn 1, staying beside the Pabst Racing driver and having the preferred line in Turn 2. That allowed Miller to complete the pass and lead for the first time in his Road To Indy career.
Barrichello was immediately under attack from Gold, Brooks, and Porto, falling to fifth by the time they got to Turn 12.
After two laps out front, the Indy Dental Group/LLC/Lumist sponsored No. 40 with Miller behind the wheel had already built a one-second gap to Gold.
For the next five laps, things calmed down out front, with driver’s biding their time.
The running order to start the second half of the 20 lap race was Miller, who held a one-second lead over Gold, followed by Brooks, Porto, Barichello, Green, Shields, Round-Garrido, Kaeser, Garg, Campbell, Sundaramoorthy, Brichacek, Siegel, Peirson, Bogle, Myers, Sikes, Dupell, d’Orlando, and Rasmussen.
On Lap 13, Miller’s lead over Gold was 1.2 seconds. Brooks was within a second of Gold, but also had his mirrors full of Porto, who was eying his second podium of the weekend.
Miller’s lead over the next two laps was 1.5 seconds and 1.3 seconds, with five laps remaining.
Behind the top three, Barrichello was putting pressure on his best friend Porto for the fourth spot.
Gold was able to eat into Miller’s lead by 0.3 seconds on the next lap, with the gap dropping to one second on Lap 16.
As Lap 17 began, Miller’s lead was down to 0.8 seconds, with the first three covered by less than 1.5 seconds.
Gold made up ground on Miller in Turns 7 through 14, and the next time the top two crossed the start/finish line, the gap was down to 0.5 seconds, with two more laps of the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course to complete.
When he was shown the white flag from the starter’s stand, Miller’s lead was down to 0.3 seconds, with Gold’s Ticket Clinic sponsored No. 3 closing quickly on the long run down to Turn 1.
Gold, who was looking for his first career win in 24 starts, faked a move to the inside of Miller before moving back in line. That distracted Miller, who was also looking for his first win, who was too late and the brakes and missed the corner.
After the race, Gold told TSO Ladder that all of his podium finishes in the last month had taught him patience, never give up, and what moves to make to win.
Miller took the escape road, but instead of following it to get back on track, he cut through the grass and gravel, bounding back onto the asphalt behind Gold and just in front of Brooks.
In Turn 7, Brooks was able to execute on over-under move, getting past Miller for the second step on the podium.
Miller crossed the line in third and visited the podium, but after the race, the second-generation racer was told over the radio that a visit to the race director was required.
After the race, Miller was penalized five seconds for an unsafe re-entry, dropping him to fourth and elevating Porto to his second podium finish of the event.
Miller was also penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct and put on probation.
Behind the top four, the early leader and pole-sitter Barrichello crossed the line only 0.0083 seconds ahead of green for fifth.
Cooper Tires Indy Pro 2000 Indy Grand Prix race #3 results
|1||3||Reece Gold||Cape Motorsports||20 LAPS|
|2||44||Christian Brooks||Exclusive Autosport||0.8651|
|3||12||Kiko Porto||DEForce Racing||2.1702|
|4||40||Jack William Miller||Miller Vinatieri Motorsports||6.3097|
|5||22||Eduardo Barrichello||Pabst Racing||7.7897|
|6||2||Josh Green||Cape Motorsports||7.7980|
|7||10||Cameron Shields||DEForce Racing||11.8759|
|8||41||Max Kaeser||Miller Vinatieri Motorsports||17.9552|
|9||23||Matt Round-Garrido||Pabst Racing||19.2605|
|10||1||Prescott Campbell||Exclusive Autosport||19.6974|
|11||18||Bijoy Garg||Jay Howard Driver Development||20.0568|
|12||16||Josh Pierson||Exclusive Autosport||21.0259|
|13||5||Wyatt Brichacek||Jay Howard Driver Development||21.1726|
|14||21||Yuven Sundaramoorthy||Pabst Racing||25.4135|
|15||7||Christian Bogle||Jay Howard Driver Development||29.9210|
|16||20||Simon Sikes||Legacy Autosport||30.0418|
|17||24||Michael Myers||Legacy Autosport||31.3354|
|18||8||Kyle Dupell||Cape Motorsports||40.5311|
|19||4||Michael d’Orlando||Cape Motorsports||1 LAPS|
|20||9||Nolan Siegel||Jay Howard Driver Development||1 LAPS|
|21||6||Christian Rasmussen||Jay Howard Driver Development||3 LAPS|
The bottom rung of the Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires ladder will be back in action again in a few days for their fourth, fifth, and sixth races of the year at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.