Championship contenders and Pabst Racing teammates – Myles Rowe (left) and Jace Denmark (right) have shared the podium six times in Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship action so far during the 2022 season Photo credit: Gavin Baker Photography/Road to Indy

By Diane Swintal

Two 45-minute test sessions on the schedule today for both the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship and Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, with one 30-minute official practice later in the afternoon. 

Both series are paddocked outside of turn 12, which makes pit lane ingress and egress a bit of a challenge. At the end of the session, the cars line up in the pit lane fast lane, then make a tight U-turn onto the racetrack, counter-course, to return to the paddock. Pit equipment then follows along that same route. It requires a bit of coordination between pit lane and race control, but it works. 


Track records (both set on September 1, 2018): 

  • Race Record  Kyle Kirkwood 1:11.2101 (99.289 mph)
  • Qualifying Record  Rasmus Lindh 1:10.9038 (99.718 mph)

Interesting note: no USF2000 driver has raced at Portland before. Hunter McElrea swept both series races here in 2019, the last time the series visited the northern Oregon circuit (McElrea will compete in the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires series this weekend).

Ambient temperatures were 62F at the start of the first session, under cloudy skies.

Three new faces will take the green flag this weekend – USF Juniors points leader Mac Clark makes his series debut with his DEForce Racing team, while fellow USFJ competitor Ethan Ho join VRD Racing. Lucas Mann will drive for Turn 3 Motorsport.

18 Tatuus USF-22s took to the 1.967-mile, 12-turn racetrack at the drop of the green at 9:00 a.m, missing two Exclusive Autosport entries – Billy Frazer and Jacob Douglas – experienced battery issues leaving false grid, with Frazer unable to make it out of the paddock and Douglas coasting into pit lane. Neither made it out on track during the session. 

As the first cars out on track this weekend, job one was to rid the racing surface of dust and dirt and begin to lay down rubber.

The Pabst Racing duo of Myles Rowe and Jace Denmark quickly went to the top of the time sheets as the track began to warm and rubber up. Michael d’Orlando held the fifth-quickest time but 20 minutes into the session he stopped in turn seven – but continued shortly after the red flag came out. At the checkered flag, Denmark held the quickest time (1:12.221) ahead of Jagger Jones, Rowe, Thomas Nepveu and Evagoras Papasavvas. 

The weather conditions had changed dramatically for the second test session two hours later, under bright sunny skies and ambient temps in the high-60s. Championship contender d’Orlando shot to the top of the speed charts early, but Rowe immediately set a quicker time, making a “whatever you do, I can do better” statement. Christian Weir then Jagger Jones made appearances at the top of the charts, with the top 13 separate by less than a second. Their progress was halted 10 minutes into the session, however, when Lucas Mann landed in the tires in turn 11. 

Once the incident area had been cleared, the series returned to green, with 10 minutes added to the session to make up for the down time. It took Denmark no time to post his own chart-topping time, which was immediately bested by Jones, then Rowe. With 15 minutes remaining, the top four in points were the top four in times, albeit in a different order (1-4-2-3). 

A second red flag came out with six minutes remaining, this time for d’Orlando in the turn five tires. With so little time remaining in the session, race control checkered the session. Rowe set the quickest time of 1:12.071, with the top 15 all under 1:13.

The heat index continued to rise through the afternoon, with temps in the 80s as the Road to Indy readied for its two official practice sessions.

Unfortunately, as the USF2000 cars headed out on track for the 30-minute session, WiFi went down at Portland International Raceway – meaning all timing screens showed no activity. A good lesson about how dependent we are on technology, as we were reduced to watching cars go by out of the media center windows, which show approximately 60 yards of the racetrack as cars head toward turn one. They do offer a lovely view of the Portland start stand – one of the few racing start stands that offers starter Aaron Likens a very well-timed roof over his head (temps are expected to near 90 tomorrow afternoon).

Aaron Likens has a roof over his head in the Portland International Raceway starter stand (Photo Courtesy of Diane Swintal)

The internet returned halfway through the session, showing Rowe back on top, followed by Denmark, Jones, Nepveu, Nicky Hays and Mac Clark (impressive debut today for Clark, who has paced in the top 10 in all three sessions). 

What the timing screens also showed was the absence of d’Orlando, whose No. 4 Tatuus had been damaged at the end of the test session. With less than two hours to go before official practice, the team was unable to repair the car in time – a crushing blow to the driver in second position in the title chase, especially when Rowe took the checkered flag with the fastest time in practice, a 1:12.378, with Denmark right behind. Jones, Nepveu, Clark and Hays rounded out the top six.

Qualifying takes the green at 9:00 a.m. Pacific Friday, with race one at 11:20 a.m. and race two at 4:00 p.m.

Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship practice times

1 22 Myles Rowe Pabst Racing 1:12.3787 —— 20
2 23 Jace Denmark Pabst Racing 1:12.4389 0.0602 18
3 3 Jagger Jones Cape Motorsports 1:12.8207 0.4420 19
4 10 Thomas Nepveu DEForce Racing 1:12.8903 0.5116 21
5 12 Mac Clark DEForce Racing 1:12.9403 0.5616 20
6 5 Nicky Hays Cape Motorsports 1:12.9437 0.5650 20
7 92 Billy Frazer Exclusive Autosport 1:12.9954 0.6167 20
8 32 Christian Weir Turn 3 Motorsport 1:13.0149 0.6362 20
9 11 Dylan Christie DEForce Racing 1:13.0236 0.6449 19
10 90 Jacob Douglas Exclusive Autosport 1:13.0568 0.6781 22
11 33 Spike Kohlbecker Turn 3 Motorsport w/Ignite Autosport 1:13.0974 0.7187 22
12 17 Nikita Johnson VRD Racing 1:13.1506 0.7719 18
13 6 Evagoras Papasavvas Jay Howard Driver Development 1:13.1793 0.8006 20
14 91 Joey Brienza Exclusive Autosport 1:13.2077 0.8290 22
15 8 Danny Dyszelski Jay Howard Driver Development 1:13.2295 0.8508 18
16 93 Nicholas d’Orlando Exclusive Autosport 1:13.5238 1.1451 18
17 9 Jorge Garciarce Jay Howard Driver Development 1:13.6464 1.2677 16
18 34 Lucas Mann Turn 3 Motorsport 1:13.7864 1.4077 24
19 16 Ethan Ho VRD Racing 1:14.3864 2.0077 18
20 4 Michael d’Orlando Cape Motorsports No Time