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After swapping the top step and sweeping the first two spots on the podium in St. Petersburg, Pabst Racing sophomore teammates Jordan Lloyd (58) and Yufeng Luo (56) arrive at Barber Motorsports Park separated by only two points.

Lloyd was quick in Thursday’s practice/testing and should be in contention for the pointy end of the grid, however his teammate Luo struggled to find pace and will have to step his game to keep up with Lloyd.

Cape Motorsports with /WTR teammates Parker Thompson and Anthony Martin began the season as two of the favorites for the 2016 Cooper Tires USF2000 Powered by Mazda title and the Mazda Motorsports Advancement Scholarship that accompanies it. Both drivers had some issues in St. Petersburg, and come to the second event of the season in a hole. Australian Martin is currently fifth in points and Canadian Thompson is seventh.

Thompson led testing/practice and has three top fives in four USF2000 races at Barber Motorsports Park. Martin, who trailed his teammate by only … in testing/practice has even better results in his four Barber races. Martin has a second, third, and two fourths across the 2015 USF2000 Winterfest and regular seasons.

After two solid finishes in St. Petersburg, Luke Gabin (JAY Motorsports) is currently third in the USF2000 standings. The 21 year-old has four previous starts in Birmingham, Alabama, and has qualified well, but struggled when it came time to race.

Gabin’s teammate Cameron Das, who only began racing in 2015, is making his series debut after skipping the first two rounds of the championship. The 17 year-old had the fifth quickest lap-time in testing and it will be interesting to see how he performs when the pressure is turned up for qualifying on Friday morning.

Gabin and Das are working with engineer Daryl Bear, who engineered RC Enerson at Team E in 2014. Enerson had three wins and one second at Barber that season, so it should be no surprise that Gabin and Das are quick out of the box.

Victor Franzoni had a surprisingly slow start in St. Petersburg, but the ArmsUp Motorsports pilot should be able to jump start his season at Barber. The 20 year-old Brazilian has five previous podiums at Barber and finished testing/practice with the third quickest time.

Team Pelfrey struggled at times to find pace with four rookies in 2015. The Florida based team stuck to their guns and begin 2016 with four rookies, and the early results are much improved. Youngsters Robert Megennis and Jordan Cane both scored podiums at the seasons first event, and both were in the top eight of practice.

After showing top five speed in “spring training”, John Cummiskey Racing sophomore Ayla Agren had a disappointing start in the season’s first event. A poor qualifying effort meant the 22 year-old began both races at the back of the grid. She was able to race her way to respectable finishes, but will need to qualify better this weekend to have a shot at top fives she is easily capable of.

What TSO is watching this weekend.

  • Pabst Racing had an impressive opening weekend in St. Petersburg, can they keep their foot on the gas at Barber?  With three sophomore drivers that have experience on the circuit, expect to see them up front.
  • St. Petersburg was all about the Pabst Racing duo of Jordan Lloyd and Yufeng Luo, but don’t sleep on the third member of the team. Garth Rickards, had the pace, but not the luck in St. Petersburg, and a rebound in Alabama is a very good posibility.
  • Cape Motorsports with /WTR has been the dominant Cooper Tires USF2000 Powered by Mazda team over the last five years. They had the pace at the first event of the year, but did not have the results. It will be interesting to watch how the Dominic and Nicholas Cape team respond to being the hunter.
  • Can Team Pelfrey continue to build on their promising opening weekend. Podiums by Robert Megennis and Jordan Cane, solid results by TJ Fischer were off-set somewhat by a disappointing weekend by the very experienced James Munro. Was the New Zealander pressing a little too much to make an impression. Expect him to tone it down this weekend and bank some top results.

Testing/Practice recap:

The Cooper Tires USF2000 Powered by Mazda series had four scheduled sessions on the 2.3-Mile, 17-Turn Barber Motorsports Park Road Course today (Thursday, April 21, 2016). Two of the session were classified as promotor test sessions and two were official practice sessions for the pair of USF2000 Grand Prix of Alabama races that will take place on Friday and Saturday.

The two test sessions were dominated by the Cape Motorsports with /WTR sophomore duo of Parker Thompson and Anthony Martin. Martin led the first session and Thompson led the second session with the young Canadian’s time topping his teammate by only one-tenth of a second.

Thompson and Martin were followed by fellow sophomores Victor Franzoni (ArmsUp Motorsports) and Jordan Lloyd (Pabst Racing), with series debutante Cameron Das (JAY Motorsports) rounding out the top five.

The first official practice session ran under threatening skies, but the circuit did stay dry the entire time. The top three were once again made up of the sophomore trio of Parker Thompson, Victor Franzoni and Anthony Martin. They were joined in the top five by sophomore Ayla Agren (John Cummiskey Racing), while St. Pete podium finisher Robert Megennis (Team Pelfrey) was fifth.

The second official practice, and final session before qualifying at 9:30am was run in drying conditions with only a portion of the field taking to the track. JAY Motorsports rookie Cameron Das led the way, followed by his teammate Luke Gabin, Dakota Dickerson (Afterburner Autosport), Yufeng Luo (Pabst Racing) and Jordan Lloyd (Pabst Racing). With rain forecast during qualifying, doing some laps in wet conditions, could turn out to be a smart move.