By Tony DiZinno
Exclusive Autosport teammates Christian Brooks and Matt Round-Garrido have locked out the front row for Saturday’s first Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship race of the weekend on the streets of St. Petersburg.
The pole is Brooks’ second of his career in his No. 44 Tatuus USF-17 – both at the 1.8-mile, 14-turn street course – and puts him in excellent position to break the series’ current run of four first-time winners in its last four races dating to the last time the series was at St. Petersburg in October. Brooks, Kiko Porto, Yuven Sundaramoorthy and Prescott Campbell have all secured debut wins in the last four events.
For this session, the two October 2020 winners, Porto and Brooks, were immediately within a tenth of each other on their first two flying laps at 1:12.8259 and 1:12.8489, respectively.
Brooks, the qualifying record holder at St. Pete, then jumped ahead on his third lap ahead of his Exclusive Autosport teammate Round-Garrido in the No. 92 car. Porto briefly fell to third. Both got faster as they continued to work in their sets of Cooper Tires, at 1:12.3460 and 1:12.4504 respectively on their fourth laps.
Just seven minutes into the session, the red flag flew again after it came out twice in practice. Barber race one polesitter and race winner Sundaramoorthy spun in Turn 1 in his No. 22 Pabst Racing entry. The University of Wisconsin – Madison freshman lost his best lap of the session for causing the red flag, but his second best lap was good enough for an inside third row start.
After the session restarted, Brooks lowered the mark to 1:12.1657 before Round-Garrido and Green slotted into second and third.
On his 11th lap, Brooks came within two hundredths of his own qualifying record from last year but came up just shy. His pole time today was 1:11.9887, just off his October time of 1:11.9662.
Round-Garrido came up 0.2924 of a second behind, with Michael d’Orlando third in the No. 4 Cape entry.
Similar to practice, veterans dominated the qualifying charts. Josh Green, Sundaramoorthy, Porto and Josh Pierson completed the top seven all within 0.4306 of a second before the first Florida freshman entered the grid. Billy Frazer, in Exclusive’s third of four cars, slotted in eighth and just 0.7246 off the pace. Myles Rowe in the Force Indy car and Campbell completed the top 10 in qualifying.
The series qualifies for Race 2 later this afternoon at 3:30 p.m. ET.
USF2000 Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by Andersen RacePark Race 1 Qualifying Results
|1||44||Christian Brooks||Exclusive Autosport||1:11.9887||0.0000||13|
|2||92||Matt Round-Garrido||Exclusive Autosport||1:12.2811||0.2924||13|
|3||4||Michael d’Orlando||Cape Motorsports||1:12.3252||0.3365||10|
|4||33||Josh Green||Turn 3 Motorsport||1:12.3489||0.3602||12|
|5||22||Yuven Sundaramoorthy||Pabst Racing||1:12.4032||0.4145||13|
|6||12||Kiko Porto||DEForce Racing||1:12.4039||0.4152||14|
|7||24||Josh Pierson||Pabst Racing||1:12.4193||0.4306||14|
|8||91||Billy Frazer||Exclusive Autosport||1:12.7133||0.7246||12|
|9||99||Myles Rowe||Force Indy||1:12.7203||0.7316||13|
|10||11||Prescott Campbell||DEForce Racing||1:12.7218||0.7331||13|
|11||5||Spike Kohlbecker||Cape Motorsports||1:12.7596||0.7709||10|
|12||23||Jace Denmark||Pabst Racing||1:12.8011||0.8124||13|
|13||6||Bijoy Garg||Jay Howard Driver Development||1:12.8576||0.8689||12|
|14||2||Thomas Nepveu||Cape Motorsports||1:12.8923||0.9036||13|
|15||42||Michael Myers||Michael Myers Racing||1:13.0002||1.0115||13|
|16||19||Andre Castro||Legacy Autosport||1:13.0777||1.0890||12|
|17||9||Peter Vodanovich||Jay Howard Driver Development||1:13.1024||1.1137||12|
|18||34||Dylan Christie||Turn 3 Motorsport||1:13.1045||1.1158||12|
|19||29||Erik Evans||Velocity Racing Development||1:13.1348||1.1461||13|
|20||1||Ely Navarro||DEForce Racing||1:13.1450||1.1563||13|
|21||3||Evan Stamer||Cape Motorsports||1:13.3613||1.3726||13|
|22||63||Trey Burke||Joe Dooling Autosports||1:13.5235||1.5348||13|
|23||8||Jackson Lee||Jay Howard Driver Development||1:13.6172||1.6285||7|
|24||16||Kent Vaccaro||Miller Vinatieri Motorsports||1:14.0816||2.0929||12|
|25||90||Grant Palmer||Exclusive Autosport||1:14.1652||2.1765||8|
|26||10||Nolan Siegel||DEForce Racing||No Time||—||—|