Jay Howard Driver Development sophomore Christian Rasmussen on track at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year (Photo Courtesy Of Andersen Promotions)

By Steve Wittich

After a chaotic NTT INDYCAR® SERIES qualifying session that saw former USF2000 series driver Colton Herta grab his the pole, the command to fire engines for lowest rung of the Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires ladder was given by race control at 11:36am. 

Instead of the customary one pace lap, the 21 drivers were given an additional lap behind the pace car to get a feel for track conditions. The clock (30 minutes) and lap counter (20 laps) was started the first time they crossed under the flag stand. All 21 cars were on slick Cooper Tires – it was a mix of used tire and sticker tires

As the the front row of Rasmussen and Sikes brought the double file field onto the front straight, the starter waved the yellow flag because the back of the field was too strung out. 

The field got lined up properly the next time by. Pole-sitter Rasmussen got a good start, getting to Turn 1 first. Sikes got a better run out of Turn 2, getting to Turn 4 first and completing the pass. Rasmussen was quickly under pressure from Gold, who was able to move up from his sixth starting spot. 

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

Sikes had built a decent gap out front over Rasmussen in the first two laps. Behind them, a trio of Cape Motorsports drivers – Gold, d’Orlando and Green – were battling for third. 

Rasmussen went to the inside of Sikes in Turn on on Lap 5. That move backfired, as d’Orlando put went side-by-side with him through the Keyhole, down the back straight, through Turn 4 and Madness, with the points leader pulling ahead before Turn 6.

On the next lap, the Jay Howard Driver Development sophomore was able to pass the Legacy Autosport driver in Turn 4, grabbing the lead. 

Just before starting Lap 7, the yellow flag came out for Josh Sarchet, who was in the gravel in Turn 4. He eventually got going on his own and the field was told they were going green on the next lap. 

The green flag came back out to start Lap 8 with Rasmussen getting a great jump. Behind the leader, d’Orlando was pressuring Sikes, passing him on the inside in Turn 4. 

Just before the halfway point of the race, Miller was defending against Porto and was warned for moving in reaction to the driver behind him. 

At the crossed flags, Rasmussen’s lead over d’Orlando was a slim 0.5 seconds, with Sikes, Gold, Round-Garrido, Shields, Green, Barrichello, Brooks and Miller rounding out the rest of the top ten

Later on that lap, d’Orlando completed an inside pass of Rasmussen, to grab the lead from the points leader. Further back in the field, Shields was able to get by Round-Garrido to move into the top five. 

d’Orlando’s lead as they crossed under the starters stand on the nest lap was 0.6 seconds. Sikes was 1.5 seconds adrift of Rasmussen, with Gold pressuring Sikes. 

As the field started Lap 13, there was just under ten minutes remaining. That means a yellow flag would mean a shortened race. 

d’Orlando started Lap 14 with a 1.2 second lead. The best battle on track was between Sikes and Gold for the final spot on the podium. 

Lap times continued to come down with Rasmussen turning the quickest lap of the race on that same lap, narrowing the gap to 1.1 seconds as they stared Lap 15. 

Later on that lap, Sikes and Gold went side-by-side through Turns 4-6, before the Legacy Autosport rookie pulled back in front. 

As the leader d’Orlando got to the exit of The Carousel, the front end of the No. 4 washed out. He kept it on track, but lost the top spot to Rasmussen, slotting back into second, over 1.5 seconds behind the Jay Howard Driver Development No. 6. 

With five to go, Gold was able to complete the pass of Sikes through Turn 4 and Turn 4, moving to the final spot on the podium. 

As they crossed the line with three laps remaining, d’Orlando turned his quickest lap of the race dropping the gap to 1.4 seconds. The best battle on track was for sixth, with Round-Garrido defending against Barrichello and brooks. 

The gap when they crossed the line to start the penultimate lap was down to 1.3 seconds. 

As he crossed under the white flag, Rasmussen reset the quickest lap of the race, leading d’Orlando by 1.6 seconds. He went even quicker on the next lap, crossing the line 2.2 seconds ahead of d’Orlando. 

It’s the Dane’s seventh win of the season, but more importantly, after five races of moving in the wrong direction, he was able to grow his points lead back to 14 over Gold. 

Cooper Tires USF2000 Grand-Prix of Mid-Ohio Race #2 unofficial results 

1 6 Christian Rasmussen Jay Howard Driver Development 20 laps
2 4 Michael d’Orlando Cape Motorsports 2.2626
3 3 Reece Gold Cape Motorsports 5.3494
4 20 Simon Sikes Legacy Autosport 8.0067
5 10 Cameron Shields DEForce Racing 8.3613
6 23 Matt Round-Garrido Pabst Racing 9.5523
7 22 Eduardo Barrichello Pabst Racing 9.9681
8 44 Christian Brooks Exclusive Autosport 10.1991
9 2 Josh Green Cape Motorsports 13.4327
10 40 Jack William Miller Miller Vinatieri Motorsports 14.8195
11 12 Kiko Porto DEForce Racing 15.1647
12 8 Kyle Dupell Cape Motorsports 16.5631
13 7 Christian Bogle Jay Howard Driver Development 21.9749
14 5 Wyatt Brichacek Jay Howard Driver Development 27.2320
15 1 Prescott Campbell Exclusive Autosport 28.4278
16 21 Yuven Sundaramoorthy Pabst Racing 28.7355
17 24 Michael Myers Legacy Autosport 29.1953
18 16 Josh Pierson Exclusive Autosport 29.6494
19 9 Nolan Siegel Jay Howard Driver Development -1 LAP
20 11 Josh Sarchet DEForce Racing -5 LAPS
21 41 Max Kaeser Miller Vinatieri Motorsports -16 LAPS