By Tony DiZinno
Baron edges Kirkwood after intense battle in race one
In only 27-plus minutes and 15 laps of racing, the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda put on a show at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. Ultimately Alex Baron captured the win following an intense battle with Kyle Kirkwood, having started second and first, respectively in the first race of the Royal Purple Synthetic Oil Grand Prix of Indianapolis Supporting the Lupus Foundation of America weekend.
Baron, who drives for Swan-RJB Motorsports, has now ended Cape Motorsports’ win streak in USF2000 competition at this road course. Cape had won six straight races here prior to this result. Nico Jamin swept 2015, Anthony Martin and Parker Thompson split 2016 and Oliver Askew swept 2017. Jamin, Martin and Askew have all gone on to win the series championship at year’s end.
The engines fired on the field of 26 Tatuus USF-17 Mazdas at 2:45 p.m. ET on Friday, under sunny skies and warm ambient and track temperatures hovering in the mid-80s ambient and mid-110s on track.
Off the start, Kirkwood led away from Rasmus Lindh, who got past Baron for second, with Kaylen Frederick and Jamie Caroline completing the top five.
Kirkwood got out to a quick lead of more than 1.4 seconds on Lap 3, but that got erased following the first full-course caution of the race. Three cars were in trouble, as Darren Keane (Newman Wachs Racing) and Michael d’Orlando (Team BENIK) pitted without front wings, and Lucas Kohl (Pabst Racing) got eliminated from the race. Kohl ran eighth, Keane 11th and d’Orlando 21st at the end of the first lap. Under this yellow, Bruna Tomaselli (Team Pelfrey) and Zach Holden (DEForce Racing) also made visits to the pits.
The order under yellow was Kirkwood, Lindh, Baron, Frederick, Caroline, Sierra, Ming, Fraga, van der Watt and Enders in the top 10. Behind them it’s Kaminsky, Roe, Soler-Obel, Holden, Cabrera, Dupell, Donegan, McDonough, Cook, Tomaselli, Peichel, Osborne and DeLuzuriaga with Keane, d’Orlando and Kohl either off or out.
The restart occurred on Lap 7 with Kirkwood working to defend against Lindh and Baron. Lindh, however, slowed exiting Turn 2 and limped around as nearly the entire field went past. Another car needed to take evasive action around the outside of Lindh, going through the gravel.
Baron moved around Kirkwood in the brief green flag period before the second caution period of the race. Lindh’s demise opened the door for Caroline, Sierra and Ming to move up into the top five positions. Fraga, Enders, van der Watt, Cabrera and Soler-Obel moved up into the top 10. Roe, Dupell, Kaminsky, Donegan and Peichel complete the top 15.
The restart comes on Lap 12, and Baron and Kirkwood streak away from the rest of the field, by 1.4 seconds over Sierra who’s gotten past Caroline for third. Fraga has also passed Ming for fifth.
Kirkwood makes it past Baron for the lead through the Turns 1 and 2 complex on Lap 13, but doesn’t hold it through the end of the lap. Baron is back past and leads Kirkwood by just 0.2554 of a second with two laps to go, and Sierra is right there at just 0.8056 of a second behind in third. Caroline is now by himself in fourth and Fraga is fifth, still ahead of Ming, Enders and van der Watt.
The white flag flew at the end of Lap 14 with Baron, Kirkwood and Sierra within 0.8003 of a second and Caroline close but not quite there at 1.6458 seconds back. Enders is now up to fifth with a fading Ming now holding up van der Watt, Fraga, who’s lost a couple spots, Kaminsky and Cabrera in the top 10. Roe is on the fringes of a top-10 finish in his debut.
Swan-RJB Motorsports’ Baron is able to hold off Kirkwood by just 0.4344 of a second to snap Cape Motorsports’ six-race winning streak in USF2000 at the IMS road course. Sierra brings it home in third for DEForce Racing. Caroline is fourth for BN Racing and Enders makes it two DEForce cars in the top five.
Ming holds on for sixth ahead of van der Watt, Fraga, Kaminsky and Holden, up to a top-10 result to make it all four DEForce cars in the top-10. Holden had actually pitted earlier in the race, and as of Lap 7 he was 17th.
The top three in the race are the top three in the championship, albeit not in the same order.
Unofficially Kirkwood has 74 points, Baron 67 and Sierra 63, with no one else having more than 51 (Fraga in fourth).
The second USF2000 race of the weekend comes at 9:15 a.m. ET and local time on Saturday morning.
Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship – Race #1 Unofficial Results
|7||80||Julian Van der Watt||15||6.1918|
|22||24||Kaylen Frederick||14||1 LAPS|
|23||36||Darren Keane||13||2 LAPS|
|24||30||Keith Donegan||8||OFF COURSE|
|25||51||Michael d’Orlando||7||OFF COURSE|
|26||22||Lucas Kohl||2||OFF COURSE|
After raising $6,000 during the Royal Purple Synthetic Oil Grand Prix of Indianapolis Supporting the Lupus Foundation of America last year, the Mazda Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires paddock hopes to raise double that amount over the next few days. You can do your part by donating here —>please make a donation in the #RaceToEndLupus
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