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.
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
|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
|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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