Cape Motorsports’ Michael d’Orlando on track at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. The 18-year-old won his first USF2000 race during the Honda Indy 200 weekend in 2020. (Photo Courtesy Of Andersen Promotions)

By Steve Wittich

For the third time in the last four races, the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship series had a first-time winner stand on the podium’s top step.

Michael d’Orlando (Cape Motorsports) was able to get around his teammate Reece Gold in Turn 4 on Lap 1 and took advantage of a mistake by pole-sitter Christian Rasmussen, grabbing the victory in Cooper Tires USF2000 Grand-Prix of Mid-Ohio Race #1.

The win is the 29th for Cape Motorsports at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (Mid-Ohio).

Gold spent the entire race pressuring his 18-year-old teammate but could not get close enough to make the pass for the win. The second-place finish is Gold’s seventh podium of the season and fourth straight at Mid-Ohio.

Coming home with his second podium of the season at Mid-Ohio was Jay Howard Driver Development sophomore Nolan Siegel.

Christian Brooks (Exclusive Autosport) just missed out on his third straight podium, gaining nine spots from his 13th place starting spot.

The Californian was able to gain a few more points in the rookie of the year chase, with his closest competition, Josh Green (Cape Motorsports), finishing fifth.

Points leader Christian Rasmussen made a mistake on the first lap, falling to the tail of the field, and only recovering to 14th.

The Dane’s championship lead over Gold, which was 50 points before the 20-lap race started, has fallen to 33 points with seven scheduled races remaining.

The field got through the first seven corners cleanly, but then ‘all the things’ happened simultaneously.

In Turn 10, Rasmussen, who had built a solid gap up front, dropped a wheel into the wet grass, and he missed the next corner, skidding through the grass and nosing into the barriers. He was able to continue to pit road. His Jay Howard Driver Development team replaced his front wing, and he was able to remain on the lead lap but restarted in the 19th spot.

Behind the leader, Kyle Dupell and Jack William Miller, who started eighth and tenth, made contact in Turn 8. The No. 8 Cape Motorsports car of Dupell ended up nosed into the tires and required the aid of the AMR INDYCAR Safety Team to get going again.

That brought out the yellow flag before the first lap was complete.

Miller continued to pit road where his Miller Vinatieri Motorsports crew made repairs and kept the Indiana born driver on the lead lap. He was penalized for avoidable contact with Dupell and had to take the restart at the tail end of the field.

The running order at the end of the first lap was: d’Orlando, Gold, Siegel, Green, Matthew Round-Garrido (Pabst Racing), Brooks, Cameron Shields (DEForce Racing), Yuven Sundaramoorthy (Pabst Racing), Christian Bogle (Jay Howard Driver Development), Kiko Porto (DEForce Racing), Simon Sikes (Legacy Autosport), Wyatt Brichacek (Jay Howard Driver Development), Josh Sarchet (DEForce Racing), Prescott Campbell (Exclusive Autosport), Max Kaeser (Miller Vinatieri Motorsports), Josh Pierson (Exclusive Autosport), Eduardo Barrichello (Pabst Racing), Michael Myers (Legacy Autosport), Rasmussen, Dupell, and Miller.

The biggest mover on the first lap was Brooks, who moved from 13th to sixth. Over the last six races, the Santa Clarita, Calif. driver has gained an impressive 21 spots from his starting positions.

The race restarted to start Lap 4, and the field was able to get through that cleanly, settling in for a clean remainder of the race.

On Lap 8, Brooks was putting pressure on his fellow rookie of the year competitor Green, making the pass in Turn 4 and moving up to fourth.

Further back in the field, Shields was able to get past Round-Garrido for sixth.

At the halfway point of the race, d’Orlando had a 0.6 second lead over his teammate Gold. Siegel, in third, was not quite a second behind Gold. The rest of the top ten were: Brooks, Green, Shields, Round-Garrido, Porto, Sundaramoorthy, and Bogle.

Barrichello, who started at the tail of the field in 21st, had worked his way up to 12th spot, pressuring Brichacek for 11th. He was able to make that pass on the next lap.

At the start of lap 12, d’Orlando’s lead was 0.8 seconds. On that lap, DEForce Racing’s Shields turned the quickest lap of the race to that point, while starting to put pressure on Green for fifth.

Shields went even quicker on the next lap, moving to within one-second of Green. Upfront, d’Orlando ran a lap one-tenth of a second quicker than Gold, with the lead growing to 0.9 seconds.

On Lap 14, Brooks made a mistake, turning a lap eight-tenths of a second slower than Green, allowing the fellow rookie back into the fight.

With five laps remaining, the lead upfront for d’Orlando was 0.8 seconds. The quickest driver on that lap, setting the fastest lap of the race, was Porto.

The lead with four laps remaining was 0.7 seconds. Further back in the field, championship leader Rasmussen set the race’s quickest lap and gained one spot to 15th.

On the next lap, the pair of Cape Motorsports drivers both ran 81.7-second laps. Brooks was again starting to pressure Siegel for the final spot on the podium.

Later on that lap, the No. 1 of Campbell spun in Turn 5. With d’Orlando starting the final lap with a 0.4 second lead of Gold, the green flag remained out.

d’Orlando held on for his first win, crossing under the checkered flag 0.5 seconds ahead of Gold.

On the last lap, Barrichello could get past Bogle to grab the final spot in the top 10.

The lowest rung of the Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires will be back on track for their second race of the day at 1:05 pm.

Cooper Tires USF2000 Grand-Prix of Mid-Ohio Race #1 unofficial results

1 4 Michael d’Orlando Cape Motorsports 20 LAPS
2 3 Reece Gold Cape Motorsports -0.5299
3 9 Nolan Siegel Jay Howard Driver Development -2.7434
4 44 Christian Brooks Exclusive Autosport -3.1205
5 2 Josh Green Cape Motorsports -4.6275
6 10 Cameron Shields DEForce Racing -5.1313
7 12 Kiko Porto DEForce Racing -6.6422
8 23 Matt Round-Garrido Pabst Racing -11.6646
9 21 Yuven Sundaramoorthy Pabst Racing -12.0381
10 22 Eduardo Barrichello Pabst Racing -16.7282
11 7 Christian Bogle Jay Howard Driver Development -17.1615
12 5 Wyatt Brichacek Jay Howard Driver Development -17.6364
13 20 Simon Sikes Legacy Autosport -18.7855
14 6 Christian Rasmussen Jay Howard Driver Development -22.5041
15 40 Jack William Miller Miller Vinatieri Motorsports -28.3439
16 11 Josh Sarchet DEForce Racing -30.4569
17 16 Josh Pierson Exclusive Autosport -30.7837
18 41 Max Kaeser Miller Vinatieri Motorsports -31.0948
19 24 Michael Myers Legacy Autosport -31.4881
20 8 Kyle Dupell Cape Motorsports -1 LAP
21 1 Prescott Campbell Exclusive Autosport -1 LAP