DEForce Racing rookie Kiko Porto celebrates his first USF2000 in St. Petersburg, Fla. (Photo Courtesy Of Andersen Promotions)

It would have been understandable if Kiko Porto experienced flashbacks to September 3 and a race on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

On that day, the DEForce Racing rookie had a late lead with his best friend Eduardo Barrichello (Pabst Racing) chasing him. In that race, the second-generation driver Barrichello got the best of Porto.

Fast forward seven weeks to the 1.8-mile, 14-turn street circuit, and once again, Porto had Barrichello filling his mirrors. This time, the 17-year-old was able to hold off Barrichello to grab his first career USF2000 victory.

“I can’t describe this feeling! I’ve worked so hard this year, and so many things have happened – I couldn’t get to the United States, and then I got COVID,” said a smiling Porto. “But the team has worked so hard, and the car was so good today. And I’m so happy for Dudu, my brother, I am so happy to be first-second with him. I’ve loved this track from my first lap here so I’m glad we were able to come back; it’s one of my favorites. I pushed hard the whole time and it was a very difficult race, especially that first corner, so to bring home the win means so much. I will remember this moment for the rest of my life!”

Porto’s win is the first in St. Pete for DEForce Racing. The Texas-based team now has three podiums in this event.

Reece Gold (Cape Motorsports) was a late addition to the battle for the lead but had to settle for third place. The American’s 10th trip to the podium in 2020.

Gold’s podium is the 22nd for Cape Motorsports in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Barrichello’s second-place finish was his eighth podium of the year, and by finishing ahead of Gold, he takes a two-point advantage in the battle for second place into the final race of the season.

“It was a very difficult start – it’s very tricky because of the paint on the surface,” explained the Pabst Racing sophomore about the start of the race. “But it’s a street course, so that’s part of the game. We were trying to get close to Kiko but it’s really, really hard in the dirty air. There’s no room for error here, especially since I was tied with Reece in the championship. It’s so good to see Kiko win, but even though we’re friends, I would have tried a move, but I couldn’t get close to him. But I’m going to try again tomorrow!”

Barrichello’s podium is the 13th in the ‘Sunshine City” for Pabst Racing.

Rounding out the top five were Gold’s Cape Motorsports teammates Josh Green and Michael d’Orlando.

Pole sitter Cameron Shields led the first nine laps but unfortunately suffered a mechanical issue, forcing him to pit road and dropping him nine laps behind Porto.

The command to start the 21 Elite Engine 2.0L engines behind the USF2000 drivers was given at 4:55 pm. That was 15-minutes late due to a long but entertaining NTT INDYCAR® SERIES qualifying session.

After one pace lap behind the Road To Indy pace car, the all-DEForce Racing front row of Shields and Porto brought the 21 starters to the green flag on the 3676 foot Runway 7/25 at the Albert Whited Airport.

After being warned to take care of each other in Turn 1, the drivers did not take heed.

There was chaos as Yuven Sundaramoorthy, who started seventh, ran into the back of Christian Brooks on the inside line. The Pabst Racing sophomore went over the rear wing of the No. 44 and hitting the 2020 champion, Christian Rasmussen. Also dropping back was Wyatt Brichacek, who spun while trying to avoid the incident.

The Wisconsin born Sundaramoorthy was asked to report to the race director after the conclusion of the day’s Road To Indy activity.

The running order under yellow was Shields, Porto, Barrichello, Gold, Green, Simon Sikes (Legacy Autosport), Michael d’Orlando (Cape Motorsports), Bijoy Garg (Jay Howard Driver Development), Jack William Miller (Miller Vinatieri Motorsports), Matthew Round-Garrido (Pabst Racing), Christian Bogle (Jay Howard Driver Development), Josh Pierson (Exclusive Autosport), Kyle Dupell (Cape Motorsports), Gil Molina (DEForce Racing), Nolan Siegel (Jay Howard Driver Development), Prescott Campbell (Exclusive Autosport), Mike Myers (Legacy Autosport) and Wyatt Brichacek (Jay Howard Driver Development)

The biggest gainer throughout the chaos was Garg, who moved from his 20th starting spot to eighth.

The green flag came back out to start Lap 4. That lap was completed cleanly, with the running order after the first green lap was Shields, Porto, Barrichello, Gold, Green, d’Orlando, Sikes, Miller, Garg, Dupell, Pierson, Molina, Campbell, Siegel, Brichacek, Myers, Rasmussen (out), Brooks (out) and Sundaramoorthy (out).

As they started Lap 6, Shield’s lead over his teammate was 0.7 seconds. Barrichello and Gold were pressuring Porto.

Just before receiving the crossed flags signifying the 20 lap race’s the halfway point, Shields slowed on the front straight, with Porto getting by him before the next lap began.

The Aussie fell to the back of the pack, coming to pit road and the attention of his DEForce Racing crew.

That turned the lead over to his teammate Porto, who had Barrichello right on his gearbox. The lead to start Lap 13 was 0.3 seconds.

With five laps remaining, Porto’s lead was only 0.4 seconds over his best friend. However, the quickest driver on track was Gold, who was within a second of the driver he is fighting for second.

Further back in the field, d’Orlando and Miller were putting pressure on Green for fourth. Also, Sikes had his mirrors full of Round-Garrido. On the next lap, Round-Garrido got around Sikes to move up to seventh.

The gap between the front two had decreased to 0.3 seconds, with two laps remaining.

The top three – Porto, Barrichello, and Gold – saw the white flag covered by less than one second.

Barrichello and Gold put immense pressure on Porto but couldn’t get around him for the lead, with all three drivers seeing the checkered flag within 0.9 seconds of each other.

USF2000 Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Presented By Andersen Racepark Race Results

1 12 Kiko Porto DEForce Racing 20 laps
2 22 Eduardo Barrichello Pabst Racing -0.4933
3 3 Reece Gold Cape Motorsports -0.9149
4 2 Josh Green Cape Motorsports -4.9596
5 4 Michael d’Orlando Cape Motorsports -5.4106
6 40 Jack William Miller Miller Vinatieri Motorsports -6.3099
7 23 Matt Round-Garrido Pabst Racing -12.6815
8 20 Simon Sikes Legacy Autosport -15.8646
9 8 Kyle Dupell Cape Motorsports -19.9508
10 7 Christian Bogle Jay Howard Driver Development -24.0468
11 18 Bijoy Garg Jay Howard Driver Development -24.3977
12 1 Prescott Campbell Exclusive Autosport -24.6633
13 11 Gil Molina DEForce Racing -24.9444
14 9 Nolan Siegel Jay Howard Driver Development -25.3782
15 16 Josh Pierson Exclusive Autosport -25.7242
16 5 Wyatt Brichacek Jay Howard Driver Development -26.4606
17 24 Michael Myers Legacy Autosport – 8 LAPS
18 10 Cameron Shields DEForce Racing – 11 LAPS
19 6 Christian Rasmussen Jay Howard Driver Development – 20 LAPS
20 44 Christian Brooks Exclusive Autosport -20 LAPS
21 21 Yuven Sundaramoorthy Pabst Racing -20 LAPS

The bottom rung of the Road To Indy will be back on track Sunday at 9:30 am for their final race of the 2020 season.