Saturday – MRTI Update #6 – USF2000 and Pro Mazda – Baron, VeeKay score Race 2 poles

Alex Baron’s stop-and-start career in the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires has restarted again, with another return to the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda in the revitalized Swan-RJB Motorsports team.

Despite being the 25th and last car added to the initial entry list, Baron and Swan-RJB start first in the second race of the weekend, the Cooper Tires USF2000 Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Presented by Allied Building Products.

Alex Baron and his Swan-RJB Motorsports No. 19 scored pole for the second Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda race (Photo courtesy of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography)

Baron, the 23-year-old from Narbonne, France, took his No. 19 Tatuus USF-17 Mazda to the second new track record in USF2000 qualifying in as many days. He laid down a 1:12.2574 around the 1.8-mile street circuit, which eclipsed Jose Sierra’s prior mark of 1:12.5493 set on Friday.

Baron ran a pair of USF2000 weekends with the Afterburner Autosport team in 2013, when he won two poles (both at Laguna Seca Raceway) and two races (one apiece at Laguna Seca and Houston). His last pole and win came in his final Indy Lights start, at Toronto in 2014 with Belardi Auto Racing. Baron made yet another return last year when he drove several weekends with ArmsUp Motorsports, and had a best finish of fourth place at Iowa Speedway.

And yes, to make this story even more intriguing, Swan-RJB Motorsports has former Atlantic champion and IndyCar race winner Alex Barron as the team’s driver coach. This means there are two people with the same name in the same team, but with different nationalities and last name spellings.

Igor Fraga will start alongside on the front row, a highly impressive outing in his first ever street course race weekend. The Japanese-born Brazilian took the No. 91 Exclusive Autosport entry to a best time of 1:12.494.

With Kyle Kirkwood third, Lucas Kohl fourth, Jamie Caroline fifth and Julian Van der Watt sixth, this makes six different teams in the top six on the grid. Cape Motorsports, Pabst Racing, BN Racing and Team Pelfrey join the party up front. After Van der Watt, Bruna Tomaselli posted an impressive run to qualify seventh in the second of three Pelfrey entries, in a career best start.

DEForce Racing, which will start on pole for today’s first race, was unable to replicate its Friday pace this morning. Its four-car lineup is close though, with Jose Sierra eighth, Zach Holden ninth, Kory Enders 11th and Colin Kaminsky 12th. Unfortunately for Kaminsky, he had an incident at Turn 8 to bring out the red flag in the final three minutes and provide a premature end to the session.

Beyond Kohl in fourth, none of the other three Pabst Racing drivers could better 10th this session.

The first of two Cooper Tires USF2000 Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Presented by Allied Building Products races rolls off at 10:15 am today, while tomorrow’s second race isn’t until 5:25 p.m.

Cooper Tires USF2000 Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Presented by Allied Building Products Qualifying Session #2 timesheet

P No Name Team FTime Diff Laps
1 19 Alex Baron Swan-RJB Motorsports 1:12.257 –.—- 12
2 91 Igor Fraga Exclusive Autosport 1:12.494 0.2362 13
3 8 Kyle Kirkwood Cape Motorsports 1:12.704 0.4468 11
4 22 Lucas Kohl Pabst Racing 1:12.813 0.5556 12
5 28 Jamie Caroline BN Racing 1:12.819 0.5612 11
6 80 Julian Van der Watt Team Pelfrey 1:12.852 0.5946 13
7 82 Bruna Tomaselli Team Pelfrey 1:12.938 0.6805 13
8 12 Jose Sierra DEForce Racing 1:12.952 0.6950 12
9 10 Zach Holden DEForce Racing 1:12.961 0.7033 12
10 24 Kaylen Frederick Pabst Racing 1:12.981 0.7238 12
11 11 Kory Enders DEForce Racing 1:13.099 0.8419 12
12 27 Colin Kaminsky DEForce Racing 1:13.216 0.9584 11
13 21 Calvin Ming Pabst Racing 1:13.348 1.0903 12
14 23 Rasmus Lindh Pabst Racing 1:13.375 1.1177 12
15 36 Darren Keane Newman Wachs Racing 1:13.421 1.1633 12
16 81 Kyle Dupell Team Pelfrey 1:13.502 1.2449 13
17 90 Manuel Cabrera Exclusive Autosport 1:13.543 1.2851 13
18 30 Keith Donegan ArmsUp Motorsports 1:13.676 1.4182 12
19 29 Russell McDonough BN Racing 1:13.774 1.5168 13
20 5 Mathias Soler-Obel Sol.O Racing 1:14.248 1.9910 11
21 37 David Osborne Newman Wachs Racing 1:14.256 1.9983 13
22 51 Michael d’Orlando Team Benik 1:14.362 2.1042 9
23 31 Sabre Cook Team Benik 1:15.060 2.8027 13
24 93 Jayson Clunie Exclusive Autosport 1:15.107 2.8496 13
25 38 Oscar DeLuzuriaga Newman Wachs Racing 1:15.694 3.4366 12



The second Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires qualifying session of the weekend packed a lot of punch into a compressed timeframe, after two red flags interrupted the 20-minute session.

When the checkered flag flew, Dutch standout Rinus VeeKay captured his first Pro Mazda pole position in the No. 2 Juncos Racing entry, with successive new fastest laps to ensure he’ll start P1 on Sunday in his Tatuus PM-18 Mazda.

VeeKay’s best time of 1:08.1747 was slightly off Oliver Askew’s Friday time at 1:08.1032, but still was enough to fend off a number of drivers who were also vying for the pole.

David Malukas and Askew slot into second and third in the No. 79 BN Racing and No. 3 Cape Motorsports entries, both more than three-tenths of a second adrift.

It took until fourth place to find the first series sophomore behind this trio of USF2000 graduates, with Sting Ray Robb best of Team Pelfrey’s three cars in fourth in his No. 82 entry. Carlos Cunha, who led a majority of the qualifying session until the final, frantic three minutes, fell to fifth.

An early red flag flew barely more than a minute into the session, while a second flew following slight contact for Kris Wright in his No. 78 BN Racing entry.

The first of today’s Pro Mazda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Presented by Allied Building Products races rolls off at 12:10 p.m. today, while tomorrow’s second race is at 4:30 p.m.

Pro Mazda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Presented by Allied Building Products Practice Qualifying #2 timesheet

P No Name Team FTime Diff Laps
1 2 Rinus VeeKay Juncos Racing 1:08.175 –.—- 10
2 79 David Malukas BN Racing 1:08.487 0.3122 10
3 3 Oliver Askew Cape Motorsports 1:08.517 0.3427 8
4 82 Sting Ray Robb Team Pelfrey 1:08.518 0.3431 10
5 1 Carlos Cunha Juncos Racing 1:08.704 0.5290 11
6 90 Parker Thompson Exclusive Autosport 1:08.719 0.5448 8
7 10 Harrison Scott RP Motorsport Racing 1:08.747 0.5727 10
8 9 Robert Megennis Juncos Racing 1:08.876 0.7016 10
9 8 Nikita Lastochkin Cape Motorsports 1:09.082 0.9077 8
10 27 Lodovico Laurini RP Motorsport Racing 1:09.153 0.9785 10
11 81 Andres Gutierrez Team Pelfrey 1:09.202 1.0275 10
12 80 Rafael Martins Team Pelfrey 1:09.260 1.0851 10
13 12 James Raven DEForce Racing 1:09.438 1.2635 10
14 91 Antonio Serravalle Exclusive Autosport 1:10.480 2.3050 11
15 78 Kris Wright BN Racing 1:15.603 7.4282 5
16 83 Charles Finelli BN Racing/Fatboy Racing 3:34.919 2:26.7440 2

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