By Steve Wittich
To say that Kyle Kirkwood has an early stranglehold on the 2018 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda might actually be an understatement.
The Cape Motorsports rookie currently holds a 59 point advantage through the first five rounds of the 14 race USF2000 championship. To put that lead into perspective, Alex Baron who now sits second on the points table has 56 point lead over 16th place Mathias Soler-Obel.
The 19-year-old has three wins, three poles, four podiums, and led 84 straight and 104 of 138 laps so far this season.
“We still have the same approach as always,” asserted Kirkwood, whose own streak of five consecutive top-five finishes, including three wins, has taken him to a commanding 61-point lead in the chase for a $325,000 Mazda Scholarship to advance to Pro Mazda in 2019. “I think this entire year we’ve been pretty risk-less. So I believe our current strategy is quite good… in any situation. Technically, we only have to maintain, but we will always strive for wins.”
Current Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda points.
|1||Kyle Kirkwood – R||154|
|3||Jose Sierra – R||90|
|4||Igor Fraga – R||76|
|6||Rasmus Lindh – R||74|
|11||Julian Van der Watt – R||58|
|12||Keith Donegan – R||49|
|14||Manuel Cabrera – R||41|
|15||Jamie Caroline – R||40|
|16||Mathias Soler-Obel – R||39|
|18||Zach Holden – R||32|
|19||Kyle Dupell – R||30|
|20||James Roe – R||26|
|21||David Osborne – R||22|
|22||Oscar DeLuzuriaga – R||20|
|23||Sabre Cook – R||18|
|24||Russell McDonough – R||16|
|25||Max Peichel – R||15|
|26||Michael D’Orlando – R||13|
Saturday Afternoon’s Cooper Tires Grand Prix of Road America Powered by Mazda will be the 25th USF2000 race held on the 4.014-mile, 14-turn natural terrain road course. The series first visited the Kettle Moraine region of Central Wisconsin where Chris Simmons won from pole.
Cape Motorsports has been the dominant USF2000 team for almost two decades. Drivers from the St. Petersburg, Fla. based squad have won ten times, started on pole nine times, and finished on the podium 22 times.
Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda winners at Road America.
|2017 Race #2||Rinus VeeKay||Pabst Racing|
|2017 Race #1||Rinus VeeKay||Pabst Racing|
|2016 Race #2||Anthony Martin||Cape Motorsports|
|2016 Race #1||Anthony Martin||Cape Motorsports|
|2012 Race #3||Scott Anderson||Belardi Auto Racing|
|2012 Race #2||Matthew Brabham||Cape Motorsportsm|
|2012 Race #1||Matthew Brabham||Cape Motorsports|
|2011 Race #2||Petri Suvanto||Cape Motorsports|
|2011 Race #1||Spencer Pigot||Andretti Autosport|
|2010 Race #2||Sage Karam||Andretti Autosport|
|2010 Race #1||Sage Karam||Andretti Autosport|
|2006 Race #2||J.R. Hildebrand||Cape Motorsports|
|2006 Race #1||Dane Cameron||Cape Motorsports|
|2005 Race #2||Jay Howard||Aiken Racing|
|2005 Race #1||Joey Foster||Cape Motorsports|
|2004 Race #2||Bobby Wilson||Cape Motorsports|
|2004 Race #1||Adam Pecorari||Andersen Racing|
|2003 Race #2||Charlie Kimball||PR1 Motorsports|
|2003 Race #1||Charlie Kimball||PR1 Motorsports|
|2001 Race #2||Tonis Kasemets||Pabst Racing|
|2001 Race #1||Tonis Kasemets||Pabst Racing|
|2000 Race #2||Marc-Antoine Camirand||Key Motorsports|
|2000 Race #1||Aaron Justus||Cape Motorsports|
|1993||Chris Simmons||SOTARE Racing|
Here are some highlights from the year 2000.
Pabst Racing and ArmsUp Motorsports will be hoping a little home cooking kick starts their seasons.
Pabst Racing has had the pace this year, Kaylen Frederick and Rasmus Lindh have the third and fourth best race lap average, but the results so far have been lackluster.
Four of the six podium spots during the pair of inaugural USF-17 races at Road America were scored by Pabst Racing drivers, including a pair of wins by Rinus VeeKay. The first of two Badger State teams entered this weekend is located in Oconomowoc, and has decades of experience at “America’s National Park of Speed.”
Founder Augie Pabst, Jr has extensive experience at Road America winning two SCCA US Road Racing Championship races in 1963 and 1964. Current team principal Augie Pabst, III, raced at Road America in Sports Car Club of America events and was also a winner at Road America in a Shelby Can-Am car. The team-wide success has not just been limited to team ownership. Engineer and driver coach Tonis Kasemits has one Atlantic Series win to go along with two additional podiums. The Estonian born Kasemits has also has made one IndyCar, and some USF2000 starts at Road America.
The team has a total of four wins at Road America (a pair by VeeKay last year and a pair by Kasemits) and drivers Kaylen Frederick, and Lucas Kohl turned in the quickest lap times at the recent test.
Veteran Kohl and his rookie teammate Rasmus Lindh are currently tied for fifth in the championship, with the Swedish 16-year-old Lindh using the “Month of May” to move up from 18th after St. Petersburg.
Calvin Ming, who had second and fourth place finishes at Road America last year is currently seven points behind his teammates.
Headquartered just 10 miles from Road America in Sheboygan Falls, Wisc., ArmsUp Motorsports will be fielding a pair of cars in their home race.
Keith Donegan, the Mazda Road to Indy USF2000 $200K Scholarship Shootout winner is coming off his best two finishes of the young season and will be joined by Max Peichel who made his Mazda Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires debut with the team on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
Baron, Sierra, and Fraga need to start winning races
Alex Baron has had better pace than championship leader Kyle Kirkwood, but a pair of DNF’s have negated his two trips to victory lane. The Swan-RJB Motorsports driver was only the 12th quickest driver at the recent test and will have to find some more pace during practice. More importantly, the Frenchman must start finishing races and finishing races ahead of Kirkwood.
Outside of a mechanical issue in the second race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, DEForce Racing pilot Jose Sierra has shown the pace and racecraft needed to win races and stay in championship contention. Qualifying up front, as the 19-year-old Mexican did in the season-opening race, would go a long way to helping with that.
Exclusive Autosport rookie Igor Fraga has shown potential to be a front-runner in USF2000 but seems to need that extra push to become a consistent podium finisher. That kick this weekend could come from a new teammate (see below).
Other drivers, we’re watching.
After a disappointing 19th place finish in the season opener, Sierra’s DEForce Racing teammate Kory Enders has three top ten finishes. And, after ending the open test last week with the fourth quickest lap, the 20-year-old is well positioned to capture his first Mazda Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires podium.
Darren Keane, who is only five points out of fourth place in championship chase had a forgettable opening race at on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway recovered nicely with a fourth-place finish in race two and an impressive eighth-place finish in his first career oval race.
The Team Pelfrey driver ready for a break out performance is Julian Van der Watt, who recovered nicely from a disappointing race on the oval at Lucas Oil Raceway to collect the sixth quickest lap at last weeks open test. If the South African driver has shown, he has the race craft to fight for podiums but just needs to find that few tenths to qualify in the first few rows.
Jacob Abel and the family-run Abel Motorsports have been regulars in the F4 United States Championship Powered By Honda the past two seasons. The Cooper Tires Grand Prix of Road America Powered by Mazda twin-bill we be the first time the team has crossed over to the Mazda Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires, but Abel did make two USF2000 starts with Newman Wachs Racing racing at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in 2017. The Louisville, Ky. based pilot finished the recent test at Road America with the 15th quickest time.
Danial Frost will be making his USF2000 debut with Exclusive Autosport at Road America this weekend. Despite being only 16-years-old, the Singaporean has made 74 starts across the Formula 4 South East Asia Championship, the F4 Japanese Championship, Formula Masters Asian Series, F4 Danish Championship and MRF Challenge series. A combination of nine wins and 32 podiums have resulted in three top-six championship finishes. It will be interesting to see how the young driver adapts to the Mazda powered Tatuus which should be reasonably similar to the Formula Masters car, which is also a Tatuus chassis powered by a 2.0L engine.
- The pole sitter has won 13 of the 24 USF2000 races at Road America, and the winner has only come from outside of the first two rows on one occasion, in 2006 when J.R. Hildebrand won from 13th on the grid.
- In the 11 races at Road America since Dan Andersen resurrected the series in 2010, the pole sitter has won eight times, finished second twice and third once.
- Before 2010, the pole sitter finished outside of the top ten on five occasions.
Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda schedule
8 AM – 8:30 AM – Practice #1
11:10 AM – 11:40 AM – Autograph Session
12:45 PM – 1:15 PM – Qualifying #1
5:35 PM – 5:55 PM – Qualifying #2
1:10 PM – 1:50 PM – Race #1
8 AM – 8:40 AM – Race #2