Braden Eves, making only his third Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship start, was the 13th driver in 19 races on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn street circuit to win from the pole.
The 19-year-old gave St. Petersburg, Fla. based Cape Motorsports their eighth home race victory and to go along with the 20 podiums from 12 different drivers.
“It’s an incredible feeling,” said Eves. “I was really focused on getting a good start and making sure there wasn’t any pressure going into Turn One. After the final yellow, I was able to make sure Manuel didn’t go on the inside of me and from there I focused on not making mistakes and keeping it clean. Cape has such a winning history so to continue that on, from what Kyle Kirkwood was able to do last year – and at their home grand prix – feels great. People think it’s a lot of pressure on me, but they give me and my teammates an incredible amount of support and that really helps.”
Manuel Sulaiman, who rebounded from contact in the morning qualifying session stood on the second step of the podium in his first race. It’s the second podium in “St. Pete” for DEForce Racing.
“The team did an amazing job to get the car ready in such a short amount of time,” explained Sulaiman. “The car was settled really well to get this result. It was a very stressful race but it was a good experience and gives us good confidence for the championship.”
Rounding out the all-rookie podium was Hunter McElrea, who survived early contact to wheel his Soul Red No. 22 to the final spot on the podium.
Rounding out the top five and making it five different teams in the top five were Jay Howard Driver Development pilot Christian Rasmussen and BN Racing’s Zach Holden.
The disjointed race that featured three cautions and one red flag began with a first lap caution for the eighth time in 19 races on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn street circuit. It was not just any caution though as veteran Legacy Autosport pilot executed a snap barrel roll and landed back on four wheels.
Baron was uninjured and is cleared to drive tomorrow.
The spectacular Lap 1, Turn 1 incident involved Alexandre Baron, Zach Holden, and Hunter McElrea. Baron got a good jump from his seventh starting spot and as the No. 14 Legacy Autosport car first bounced off Holden on his right before making contact with McElrea and taking flight.
Holden and McElrea were both able to continue.
As the field was circulating under yellow rookie Team E-JAY driver Nate Aranda made contact with Jack William Miller. The No. 69 “caught air” and slammed back into the track.
With two incidents to clean-up, the race was red flagged.
Aranda was tended to by the AMR INDYCAR Safety Team and was taken the six blocks to Bayfront Health St. Petersburg for evaluation. The 18-year-old was complaining of back pain and has not been cleared to drive.
The top 10 when the red flag came out were Eves, Sulaiman, McElrea, Christian Rasmussen (Jay Howard Driver Development), Holden, Colin Kaminsky (Pabst Racing), Yuven Sundaramoorthy (Pabst Racing), Manuel Cabrera (Exclusive Autosport), Reece Gold (Cape Motorsports) and Jose Sierra (Legacy Autosport).
When the field went back to green on Lap 5, Eves was able to get a good start and pull out to a comfortable lead.
The New Albany, Ohio native, saw his lead disappear when the yellow flag came out for Cabrera. The No.90 stopped on track in Turn 5, and the Mexican driver was forced to retire from the race with mechanical issues.
Went back to green Eves got a good start.
The top ten when the race went back to green on Lap 9 were Eves, Sulaiman, McElrea, Holden, Rasmussen, Bruna Tomaselli (Pabst Racing), Kaminsky, Sierra, Sundaramoorthy, and Gold.
Kaminsky and Sierra were fighting for the sixth position when the two made contact in Turn 1 and collected an innocent Tomaselli. All three drivers were able to continue, but Kaminsky lost a lap after pitting for repairs, while Sierra was given a drive-thru penalty for avoidable contact.
Darren Keane (Cape Motorsports), who was forced to start 19th after a malfunctioning transponder in the first qualifying session had moved into the top ten by this point in the race and ended up finishing seventh. The 19-year-old ended up with the fastest lap of the race at 73.1602
Eves held a comfortable 1.8 second lead over Sulaiman with five minutes left in the race that was initially scheduled for 20 laps or 40-minutes. McElrea and Rasmussen were filling up the Mexican driver’s mirrors.
Eves was forced to make one more restart when Miller had an incident in Turn 10. The AMR INDYCAR Safety Team was able to clear the No. 40 quickly and the green and white flags were shown from the starters stand.
Eves was able to hold off Sulaiman one last time, and no positions changed in the one-lap run to the checkered flag.
St. Petersburg Grand Prix Presented by Andersen RacePark Race 1 results
|1||8||Braden Eves||Cape Motorsports||18 Laps|
|2||12||Manuel Sulaiman||DEForce Racing||0.4372|
|3||22||Hunter McElrea||Pabst Racing||1.3548|
|4||6||Christian Rasmussen||Jay Howard Driver Development||1.4754|
|5||27||Zach Holden||BN Racing||1.9761|
|6||24||Bruna Tomaselli||Pabst Racing||3.1984|
|7||2||Darren Keane||Cape Motorsports||3.6570|
|8||21||Yuven Sundaramoorthy||Pabst Racing||4.1889|
|9||28||Anthony Famularo||BN Racing||4.7059|
|10||3||Reece Gold||Cape Motorsports||5.0711|
|11||73||Cameron Shields||Newman Wachs Racing||5.3804|
|12||5||Matt Round-Garrido||Jay Howard Driver Development||5.6822|
|13||41||Eduardo Barrichello||Miller Vinatieri Motorsports||6.0659|
|14||36||Nolan Siegel||Newman Wachs Racing||6.9499|
|15||7||Christian Bogle||Jay Howard Driver Development||7.3308|
|16||23||Colin Kaminsky||Pabst Racing||-1 LAP|
|17||77||Jose Sierra||Legacy Autosport||-2 LAPS|
|18||40||Jack William Miller||Miller Vinatieri Motorsports||-4 LAPS|
|19||90||Manuel Cabrera||Exclusive Autosport||-13 LAPS|
|20||69||Nate Aranda||Team E JAY Racing||-17 LAPS|
|21||14||Alex Baron||Legacy Autosport||-18 LAPS|
The St. Petersburg Grand Prix Presented by Andersen Interior Contracting Race 2 gets the green flag at 12:20 pm tomorrow.