With only five of fifteen rounds of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship completed, it is likely a little too early to focus on the chase for the advancement scholarship that will be handed out in three months.
But, at the same time, it is also hard not to be impressed by the substantial 44 point lead the Braden Eves has built up at the one-third point of the season.
The Cape Motorsports rookie won the first four races of the season before overcoming some adversity at the Lucas Oil Raceway Oval event. The 20-year-old lacked some speed in qualifying, starting the lone oval race of the season on the outside of the sixth row. However, Eves recovered nicely, finishing a superb fifth after a steady and consistent 75-lap drive. The New Albany, Ohio native, is one of only five drivers to complete every lap so far this season.
It’s safe to say that in most seasons, starting the season with four straight wins would yield an even bigger points lead, but Eves’ edge has been mostly kept in check by another impressive rookie that has also completed every lap so far this season.
Pabst Racing rookie Hunter McElrea started the season with four straight podiums before a mistake on a qualifying run that was projecting to the pole relegated him to the final starting spot in the 19-car field. The Kiwi able to move up eight spots – passing one more car than his rival Eves – but unfortunately still lost ground to his opponent.
McElrea needs to win some races, and Road America is just the track for a breakthrough from the American born New Zealander. Since the USF-17 was introduced two seasons ago, Pabst Racing, McElrea’s home state team, has been the dominant USF2000 squad on the 4.014-mile, 14-turn natural terrain road course.
Drivers from the Oconomowoc based team have started pole three times, visited victory lane twice, stood on the podium seven times and led 33 of a possible 50 laps to lead all teams in those categories.
The lowest rung on the Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires ladder is visiting the Kettle-Moraine region for the 14th year to contest their 26th and 27th races at Road America. Cape Motorsports, represented by nine different drivers have won a dozen of those races, including a sweep of both races last year by Kyle Kirkwood.
A scant four points separate the five drivers directly behind McElrea in the championship, Darren Keane (86 points), Colin Kaminsky (86 points), Alexandre Baron (85 points), Cameron Shields (84 points) and Manuel Sulaiman (83 points).
Previous Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship winners at Road America
|2018 Race #2||Kyle Kirkwood||Cape Motorsports|
|2018 Race #1||Kyle Kirkwood||Cape Motorsports|
|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|
Eves’ Cape Motorsports teammate Keane heads to Road America needing some results that match the mega quick pace of the 19-year-old. Keane has twice had the fastest lap of the race, and his average rank over five races is 2.0, well ahead of McElrea (5.6) and Eves (6.0). Keane will be making his fifth and sixth starts on the Road America road course. His previous four starts include two top tens and two DNFs.
“I’m really looking forward to Road America this weekend,” said the University of Florida engineering student. “It’s one of my favorite tracks and I love the high-speed corners. I’m ready for a great weekend and looking to score some really good points.”
Kaminsky, from Homer Glen, Ill. made his first start in cars at Road America during the 2015 SCCA June Sprints. The University of Pittsburgh Business Administration major scored his first podium in the last race at Lucas Oil Raceway, carrying meaningful momentum to his home track this weekend. In four previous Road America starts, the 19-year-old has three top tens, including a fourth-place finish in last year’s second race.
A second place finish in the lone oval race of the season allowed veteran French pilot Alexandre Baron to move from ninth to fifth in the points standings. The 24-year-old, who is piloting a lone Legacy Autosport entry this weekend, had two seventh-place finishes in a pair of USF2000 races last year. Baron needs a couple of clean finishes on the podium to continue to move up the points table.
Only Eves has scored more points than Newman Wachs Racing rookie Shields during the “Month of May” in Indianapolis, Ind. The 19-year-old will be making his first appearance at Road America. The team started by Paul Newman and Eddie Wachs for the 2006 Atlantic Championship season visited victory lane in a 2008 Atlantic Championship race with Jonathan Summerton at the wheel.
“After a fantastic last race at Lucas Oil Raceway, everybody at Newman Wachs Racing and myself are ready to go and continue our line of success for this weekend’s racing in USF2000 at Road America to support the NTT IndyCar Series,” said the Australian who is coming off his first USF2000 victory on the oval at Lucas Oil Raceway. “Both myself and Nolan have yet to drive around the track so, with just 30 minutes of practice before qualifying, we will be looking to make the most of it ensure we have the best chance at taking pole position. It’s a very big track with long straights, so I’m sure it will produce some of this year’s best racing over Saturday and Sunday, and I am definitely looking forward to it!”
DEForce Racing teammates Sulaiman and Jak Crawford spent last weekend battling each other at in the sixth round of the NACAM Formula 4 Championship at Autódromo Miguel E. Abed just east of Puebla, Mexico. Sulaiman has won eight of the first 14 races headed into last weekends action to build a significant lead over Crawford. However, a pair of wins and three podiums by Crawford combined with Sulaiman finishing behind him in all three races, brought the Texas native back into the title fight with two rounds (six races) remaining.
We’ll be curious to see how the 18-year-old responds to being bested by his 14-year-old teammate in the past five races (two in USF2000 and three in NACAM F4).
The DEForce Racing duo weren’t the only drivers busy last weekend. Matthew Round-Garrido and Yuven Sundaramoorthy were both part of the Formula F (F1600) field in the SCCA Junes Sprints at Road America.
Round-Garrido, who is making a move from Jay Howard Driver Development this weekend to BN Racing, finished second in a dry race on Saturday before winning in the wet on Sunday.
Sundaramoorthy had an impressive run in the dry on Saturday, moving up eight spots from his 12th starting spot. The native of Oconomowoc, Wisc. gained a single place on Sunday, finishing the wet race in sixth.
Editorial note from Steve – I’d like to take a little time-out to commend a trio of young rookies for an impressive start to the season.
Only five of the 23 drivers that have contested USF2000 races this season have completed 100% of the 153 laps contested so far this season. All five are rookies, but three of them stand out to me, and also make me feel really old because their combined age doesn’t equal my advanced number of years on this planet.
Through the first five races of the season, 14-year-olds Reece Gold (Cape Motorsports) and Nolan Siegel (Newman Wachs Racing) along with 16-year-old Sundaramoorthy (Pabst Racing) have exhibited race-craft well beyond their years.
Round-Garrido’s teammate at BN Racing, Anthony Famularo has been consistent, finishing the four road and street course races in between eighth and tenth. The Juan Montoya mentored 16-year-old should benefit from having an older teammate to push him to get quicker.
Jay Howard Driver Development, who as a team is also running in the F4 United States Championship Powered By Honda championship at the Pittsburgh International Race Complex will have Christian Rasmussen and Christian Bogle on hand at Road America.
Christian Rasmussen is another driver whose pace has not translated into results. The 19-year-old has the fourth best quickest race lap average but is still looking for his first podium.
Eduardo Barrichello and Jack William Miller round out the 18-car grid, looking to gain experience and turn as many laps as possible at Road America.
“We had highs and lows last month in Indianapolis, but we have taken these couple of weeks to focus and regroup to come back strong,” said Miller Vinatieri Motorsports team principal Jack Miller. “Both Jack and Eduardo are still in their rookie seasons, and at every track, we go to, we have been able to learn and gain experience. Speed has been there, and we have been able to improve throughout the season to date.”
Other USF2000 notes
- Eventual champion Chris Simmons was a winner the first time USF2000 visited Road America in 1993. Scott Dixon’s race engineer is joined by Aaron Justus (2000), Bobby Wilson (2004), Jay Howard (2005), JR Hildebrand (2006), Sage Karam (2010), Petri Suvanto (2011), Matthew Brabham (2012), Anthony Martin (2016) and Kyle Kirkwood (2018) as USF2000 champions that have won at Road America.
- Cape Motorsports leads all teams at Road America with 24 podiums, but since the introduction of the USF-17 two season ago, trails Pabst Racing seven to three in that category.
- The 12 DNFs in Race #2 last year was the most in a USF2000 race at Road America since 14 drivers failed to finish the first race in 2000.
- The closest finish in the 25 previous USF2000 races at Road America came in 2004 when Adam Pecorari beat Bobby Wilson to the line by 0.143 seconds.
- At just over 3,600 feet long, the Moraine Sweep a run downhill from Turn 3 through a forest to Turn 5 is one of the quickest spots (not on an oval) that the drivers will experience all year. Oscar DeLuzuriaga’s trap speed just before Turn 5 in Race #1 last year was 148.221 mph.
Race weekend basics
Race name: Cooper Tires Grand Prix of Road America Powered by Elite Engines
Race #1 length: 12 laps or 40 minutes
Race #2 length: 12 laps or 40 minutes
Qualifying Record: 129.656 seconds by Scott Anderson in 2012
Race Record: 129.2583 seconds by Rasmus Lindh in 2018
Each entry can utilize three new sets of Cooper Tire slicks as well as one set of used/scuffed tires from the race weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course.
Drivers failing to slow at least 15% in a timing sector with a local yellow will be subject to a two-place grid spot penalty
Drivers who fail to heed the checkered flag at the end of a session will receive a two-grid spot penalty
In order to avoid a red flag and penalty (see below) during qualifying you must park your disabled vehicle in a safe area (determined by the race director)
Causing one red flag during a session will result in a driver losing their fastest lap
Causing a second red flag during the same session will wipe out all of drivers laps and they will be parked for the remainder of the session
Driver points are distributed as follows: 30 – 25 – 22 – 19 – 17 – 15 -14 – 13 – 12 – 11 – 10 – 9 – 8 – 7 – 6 – 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 – an additional one point will be awarded to the pole sitter, to the driver who leads the most laps, and to the driver who turns the quickest race lap
Watch the 2018 Road America races:
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