Eduardo Barrichello in the Ale sponsored No. 22 USF-17 from the the Pabst Racing stable during a Friday test at Thunderbolt Raceway at New Jersey Motorsports Park (Photo Courtesy Of Andersen Promotions)

By Steve Wittich

If testing is any indication, Pabst Racing sophomore Eduardo Barrichello will be the driver to beat as the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship teams, and drivers head to the penultimate event at the New Jersey Motorsports Park.

The just-turned 19-year-old blitzed the field, turning a lap timed at 77.3383 seconds, almost three-tenths of a second ahead of championship leader Christian Rasmussen (Jay Howard Driver Development). The second-generation Brazilian pilot led the second and third test sessions.

The rest of the field is bunched more tightly, with ten drivers lap times on the combined time-sheet coming within a half-second of Rasmussen. That includes Rasmussen’s closest championship contender, Cape Motorsports sophomore Reece Gold, who was within two-tenths of the points leader.

The first test session was led by championship leader Rasmussen, with a lap timed at 77.6842 seconds. Christian Brooks (Exclusive Autosport), Yuven Sundaramoorthy (Pabst Racing), Nolan Siegel (Jay Howard Driver Development), and Jack William Miller (Miller Vinatieri Motorsports) made up the remainder of the top five.

The 18 drivers completed a total of 375 laps. Jay Howard Driver Development rookie Wyatt Brichacek was the busiest, completing 28 circuits of Thunderbolt Raceway at New Jersey Motorsports Park.

Barrichello, a two-time race winner in 2020, topped the second USF2000 test session, turning a lap timed at 77.6698 seconds. For the second straight session, Brooks and Sundaramoorthy were the second and third names on the timing screens, with the Pabst Racing sophomore leading the Exclusive Autosport rookie this time. Prescott Campbell and Josh Pierson completed the stellar session for Exclusive Autosport, going fourth and fifth quickest.

A pair of Cape Motorsports pilots, Michael d’Orlando and Josh Green, were the busiest of the drivers, each turning 26 laps. The 18 entries completed 702 miles (312 laps) of the 2.25-mile, 12-turn road course.

Barrichello led the way for the second straight test session. His lap timed at 77.388 seconds was 0.3843 seconds quicker than Rasmussen. The rest of the top five in the session were Siegel, Reece Gold (Cape Motorsports), and Sundaramoorthy.

The 18 drivers completed a total of 362 laps. Championship leader Rasmussen was the busiest driver in the final session, completing 25 laps.

Combined Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship results from New Jersey Motorsports Park (three test sessions)

1 22 Eduardo Barrichello Pabst Racing 77.3883 42
2 6 Christian Rasmussen Jay Howard Driver Development 77.6842 -0.2959 67
3 9 Nolan Siegel Jay Howard Driver Development 77.8618 -0.4735 58
4 44 Christian Brooks Exclusive Autosport 77.8687 -0.4804 59
5 21 Yuven Sundaramoorthy Pabst Racing 77.8747 -0.4864 41
6 3 Reece Gold Cape Motorsports 77.9056 -0.5173 43
7 40 Jack William Miller Miller Vinatieri Motorsports 77.9754 -0.5871 57
8 10 Cameron Shields DEForce Racing 77.9787 -0.5904 64
9 1 Prescott Campbell Exclusive Autosport 78.0705 -0.6822 58
10 16 Josh Pierson Exclusive Autosport 78.1034 -0.7151 54
11 4 Michael d’Orlando Cape Motorsports 78.124 -0.7357 74
12 2 Josh Green Cape Motorsports 78.3005 -0.9122 71
13 23 Matt Round-Garrido Pabst Racing 78.4131 -1.0248 46
14 5 Wyatt Brichacek Jay Howard Driver Development 78.4785 -1.0902 73
15 8 Kyle Dupell Cape Motorsports 78.7184 -1.3301 69
16 11 Nico Christodoulou DEForce Racing 78.7235 -1.3352 66
17 7 Christian Bogle Jay Howard Driver Development 78.7814 -1.3931 53
18 41 Kent Vaccaro Miller Vinatieri Motorsports 79.8341 -2.4458 54

Scholarship chase

After winning the first six races of the 2020 USF2000 season, it looked like Jay Howard Driver Development sophomore Rasmussen might run away with the championship. However, a combination of bad luck, a few mistakes, and a surge by sophomores Gold and Barrichello have tightened the championship gap.

What was an 87 point lead for Rasmussen over Gold after the Freedom 75 was down to a slender three points after the second race at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Rasmussen rebounded in the third race, winning from pole and increasing his gap to Gold to 14 points.

In the fight for the Rookie Of The Year, Brooks currently leads Green by 25 points. Both drivers have a pair of podiums, but Californian Brooks has out ‘top fived’ New Yorker Green by a seven to four margin.

Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship points standings with five races remaining.

1 Christian Rasmussen 287
2 Reece Gold 273 -14
3 Eduardo Barrichello 237 -50
4 Michael d’Orlando 214 -73
5 Christian Brooks – R 201 -86
6 Josh Green – R 176 -111
7 Matthew Round-Garrido 175 -112
8 Cameron Shields 154 -133
9 Jack William Miller 149 -138
10 Kiko Porto – R 140 -147
11 Yuven Sundaramoorthy 127 -160
12 Nolan Siegel 122 -165
13 Christian Bogle 98 -189
14 Kyle Dupell 97 -190
15 Prescott Campbell – R 95 -192
16 Max Kaeser – R 79 -208
17 Wyatt Brichacek – R 78 -209
18 Bijoy Garg – R 72 -215
19 Simon Sikes – R 49 -238
20 Josh Pierson – R 46 -241
21 Ayrton Ori – R 31 -256
22 Michael Myers – R 19 -268
23 Nico Christodoulou – R 14 -273
24 Josh Sarchet 14 -273

Who’s hot

Look no further than the points scored over the past five races to see where Rasmussen substantial championship lead has gone. The Danish driver has only scored the ninth most points over the last five races, including a win.

Of note is Michael d’Orlando. The 18-year-old from Hartsdale, New York, won his first career USF2000 race at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and could play an essential role in the championship by stealing points from Rasmussen.

Also of note is Cameron Shields, who moved to DEForce Racing for round 7 of the championship. Since switching teams, the Aussie has moved from 11th to 8th in the points standings, and he collected the third-most points at the most recent round of races at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

USF2000 points scored over the past five races

1 Reece Gold 123
2 Eduardo Barrichello 100
3 Christian Brooks – R 98
4 Michael d’Orlando 87
5 Kiko Porto – R 80
6 Jack William Miller 78
7 Cameron Shields 76
8 Matthew Round-Garrido 64
9 Christian Rasmussen 61
10 Josh Green – R 56
11 Nolan Siegel 50
12 Simon Sikes – R 44
13 Yuven Sundaramoorthy 43
14 Christian Bogle 40
15 Wyatt Brichacek – R 37
16 Prescott Campbell – R 34
17 Max Kaeser – R 32
18 Josh Pierson – R 21
19 Michael Myers – R 17
20 Kyle Dupell 15
21 Josh Sarchet 14
22 Bijoy Garg – R 12
23 Ayrton Ori – R 0
24 Nico Christodoulou – R 0

Pre-event notebook

  • The USF2000 portion of the weekend will include a trio of The Andersen Companies USF2000 Grand Prix at NJMP 20 lap races.
  • New Jersey Motorsports Park, located in Millville, New Jersey, opened in 2008, and is billed as “Motorsports Entertainment Complex” and features two independent road courses, a karting facility, and VIP garages.
  • The Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires, will be utilizing the Thunderbolt Raceway at New Jersey Motorsports Park, a 2.25-mile, 12-turn road course.

  • Other series that have used New Jersey Motorsports Park include open-wheel categories and other racing categories.
  • Open-wheel categories: F1600 Championship Series, F2000 Championship Series, F4 United States Championship Powered By Honda, Formula Atlantic, Formula BMW, and Formula Regional Americas Championship Powered By Honda and Skip Barber National Series.
  • Other racing categories: Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series, ARCA Racing Series, NASCAR K&N Series, Trans-Am Series, and American Superbikes.
  • The last time that the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship visited the Garden State and New Jersey Motorsports Park were in 2010. Sage Karam (Andretti Autosport) and Patrick McKenna (Cape Motorsports) won races from the pole.
  • Eduardo Barrichello, Brichacek, Jack William Miller, Rasmussen, and newcomer Kent Vaccaro have all made F4 United States Championship Powered By Honda starts at Thunderbolt Raceway at New Jersey Motorsports Park. Vaccaro’s fifth and sixth place finishes are the best of the bunch.
  • Sundaramoorthy and Green were winners in F1600 Championship Series races at New Jersey Motorsports Park.
  • DEForce Racing rookie Kiko Porto, who is 10th on the points table, will miss this round of the championship after testing positive for COVID-19.
  • F4 United States Championship Powered By Honda and Formula Regional Americas Championship Powered By Honda veteran Kent Vaccaro will be making his USF2000 and Road To Indy debut this weekend with Miller Vinatieri Motorsports. The 18-year-old from Plattsburgh, New York, is just starting his freshman year at Purdue University.

“I went to the Lucas Oil Raceway to watch the oval race in August and then to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway event in September and was really impressed,” said Vaccaro. “The level of competition and professionalism is second to none, and I am looking forward to experiencing it as a driver, rather than a spectator. A huge thank you to Jack Miller and Miller Vinatieri Motorsports for the opportunity and to my partners for their continued support.”

The No. 41 of newcomer Kent Vaccaro on track during a Friday test at the New Jersey Motorsports Park (Photo Courtesy Of Andersen Promotions)

Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Saturday Sessions

  • 9am – 9:30am – Practice
  • noon – 12:30pm – Qualifying
  • 3pm – 3:45pm – Race #1