It was only a matter of time before Darren Keane stood on the top step of the USF2000 podium, but it must have felt like it might never come for the Cape Motorsports pilot.
The 19-year-old was making his 31st USF2000 start but has been the quickest driver of the year, scoring the fastest lap of the race on three occasions.
It’s the 10th win on the 1.786-mile, 11-turn Exhibition Place street circuit for Cape Motorsports.
Until his second-place finish in Saturday’s race, Christian Rasmussen’s results had not matched his pace so far this year. It’s the first podium for the 20-year-old from Denmark as well as the first in Road To Indy competition for Jay Howard Driver Development.
Finishing on the podium for the seventh time in the first eight races of the season was Hunter McElrea. The Pabst Racing rookie recovered from a first practice crash that destroyed the No. 22 USF-17.
Championship leader Braden Eves was able to move up two spots from his sixth starting spot, finishing only one place behind his closest championship competitor, McElrea. The New Albany, the Ohio native, now holds a 38 point championship lead over the Pabst Racing rookie.
Zach Holden, who started 12th after ending qualifying in the barriers, finished the race in an impressive fifth place.
The 2.0L engines powering the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship cars were fired at 11:28 pm, eight minutes late after repairs were needed to the Turn 8 tire barrier.
The running order at the end of the first lap was: Rasmussen, Keane, McElrea, Braden Eves, Reece Gold, Cameron Shields, Colin Kaminsky, Zach Holden, Matthew Round-Garrido, Bruna Tomaselli, Jack William Miller, Manuel Sulaiman, Eduardo Barrichello, Christian Bogle, Jak Crawford, Yuven Sundaramoorthy, and Nolan Siegel.
The biggest mover in the first two laps was Holden, who gained six spots from his 12th starting spot.
On Lap 3, Reece Gold, who started fourth lost a pair of spots to Shields and Holden. Later on that lap, Holden was able to move to fifth, getting by Shields.
On Lap 6, championship leader Eves, who was running fourth had a moment in the final turn, but the Cape Motorsports rookie was able to keep the No. 8 off the wall.
Keane, who dropped over a second and a half behind Rasmussen early began to turn the quickest lap of the race after fastest lap of the competition, and when the duo saw the crossed flags, the lead was only 0.9 seconds.
On Lap 11, Keane was able to take the lead under braking in Turn 3. Only six corners later, Keane had a massive moment in Turn 9 with the rear end stepping out, allowing the JHDD/CSU | One Cure/Lucas Oil No. 6 to remain affixed under Keane’s gearbox.
On the next lap, Rasmussen positioning himself on the outside of Keane on the run down Lake Shore Boulevard, Keane got through the uphill right-hander first, but the two drivers went side-by-side through Turn 4 before Rasmussen smartly conceded the spot.
The battling up-front gave McElrea a sliver of hope in getting back into the fight for the lead.
The Kiwi’s sliver opened a little wider when Rassmussen became the third front runner to have a significant moment in the final three turns, allowing the Mazda sponsored Soul Red No. 22 to move to the second step of the podium.
Keane’s lead over McElrea when they crossed the line with six laps left was 0.8368 seconds. McElrea was still facing enormous pressure from Rasmussen.
Keane, who set his fastest lap of the race on his next circuit saw his lead grow to 0.9508 seconds.
The first and only yellow flag of the race came out on Lap 18 when Cameron Shields made contact with the tire barriers at the exit of Turn 8 after getting a little too deep into the right-hander.
Rasmussen was able to get to the inside of McElrea for the second spot on the podium milliseconds before the yellow flag came out.
The AMR INDYCAR Safety Team was able to get things cleaned up quickly, and the field had one last lap of green to make things happen.
Keane was got a decent jump, but Rasmussen was right under his gearbox on the run down Lakeshore Drive, and the two drivers went through Turn 3 and Turn 4 beside each other before Keane took charge in Turn 5.
The Telcel sponsored No. 12 of Manuel Sulaiman had a quietly good race, finishing seventh after starting 12th.
Cooper Tires Grand Prix Presented by Allied Building Products Race #1 Unofficial Results
|1||2||Darren Keane||Cape Motorsports|
|2||6||Christian Rasmussen||Jay Howard Driver Development||-1.1439|
|3||22||Hunter McElrea||Pabst Racing||-2.4964|
|4||8||Braden Eves||Cape Motorsports||-2.6062|
|5||14||Zach Holden||Legacy Autosport||-2.9959|
|6||23||Colin Kaminsky||Pabst Racing||-3.4755|
|7||12||Manuel Sulaiman||DEForce Racing||-4.0148|
|8||27||Matt Round-Garrido||BN Racing||-4.888|
|9||40||Jack William Miller||Miller Vinatieri Motorsports||-5.407|
|10||7||Christian Bogle||Jay Howard Driver Development||-5.7333|
|11||24||Bruna Tomaselli||Pabst Racing||-5.8477|
|12||52||Jak Crawford||DEForce Racing||-6.4634|
|13||3||Reece Gold||Cape Motorsports||-7.0135|
|14||21||Yuven Sundaramoorthy||Pabst Racing||-8.2286|
|15||41||Eduardo Barrichello||Miller Vinatieri Motorsports||-8.5473|
|16||36||Nolan Siegel||Newman Wachs Racing||-8.8119|
|17||73||Cameron Shields||Newman Wachs Racing||– 5 LAPS|