By Steve Wittich
Championship leader Braden Eves and his closest competitor Hunter McElrea will both need to put forgettable weekends in Toronto behind them as the chase for the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship heads to the hills of central Ohio and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
Cape Motorsports rookie Eves had a 41 point lead over fellow rookie McElrea before the doubleheader weekend began in Toronto. Both drivers scored a mediocre 29 points, meaning the gap after the last street course races of the season remains at 41 points.
Eves string of eight straight top-five finishes came to an end with a punctured tire in the Turn 3 run-off area in the waning laps of Sunday’s race ‘north of the border.’ The 20-year-old had contact with Colin Kaminsky in Turn 1 while battling for the final step on the podium, before failing to get his No. 8 Cape Motorsports USF-17 slowed down to make the turn from Lake Shore Boulevard to Ontario Drive. Eves got lucky that McElrea had unfortunate contact earlier in the race, and will need to drive smart in the remaining six races to hold onto his comfortable points lead.
Eves, who calls Columbus, Ohio suburb New Albany home, is making his first Road To Indy starts at his home track with a new partner. Tiffin, Ohio based Huston Insurance has come on board to support the Ohioan.
“I am really excited to compete at Mid-Ohio,” exclaimed Eves. “I always have a lot of friends and family that come out to support me there. I really want to be able to win in front of all of them, as well as get a win for my new sponsor, Huston Insurance. Overall though, I have my eyes on the championship, so I am going to make sure I maximize my results every session out.”
McElrea, who stood on the podium for the seventh time this season in the first race in Toronto, bested Eves, making up some ground in the championship. McElrea started the second race in 11th and had moved up to fifth before making contact with the Turn 5 wall while battling for position on Lap 14. A trip to pit road for repairs and a 14th place finish negated any chances the pilot of the No. 22 Soul Red machine had of making up ground on Eves.
Don’t count out Eves Cape Motorsports teammate Darren Keane just yet, the Deerfield Beach, Fla. born driver scored a long-overdue first victory in Toronto and has been the hottest driver in the series over the last three races. Keane has outscored Eves by 25 points over those three races that included the 19-year-old setting the quickest lap of the race each time.
Keane has been the quickest driver in five of nine race so far this year, and the average of his fastest lap is 1.78. His average easily bests McElrea and Kirkwood’s averages of 4.63 and 4.78 respectively.
“I’m going to use the momentum gained from Toronto heading into the weekend,” said Keane going into the crucial weekend of action. “I’m going to use the same approach once again and will be looking for two clean races and some good points. I’ve been working hard on my craft, going back to my roots of karting to become the sharpest I can be. I’m really looking forward to seeing what the Cape Motorsports #2 can do this weekend, and I’m aiming for that top step!”
Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship standings with six races remaining
|1||Braden Eves – R||233|
|2||Hunter McElrea – R||192||-41|
|5||Christian Rasmussen – R||141||-92|
|6||Manuel Sulaiman – R||138||-95|
|7||Cameron Shields – R||137||-96|
|8||Reece Gold – R||104||-129|
|10||Jak Crawford – R||99||-134|
|11||Yuven Sundaramoorthy – R||97||-136|
|12||Matthew Round-Garrido – R||95||-138|
|14||Nolan Siegel – R||80||-153|
|16||Eduardo Barrichello- R||76||-157|
|17||Anthony Famularo – R||67||-166|
|18||Christian Bogle – R||63||-170|
|19||Jack William Miller – R||52||-181|
|23||Nate Aranda – R||2||-231|
Other storylines to follow this weekend
Will a change impact chemistry?
Rapid rookie Jak Crawford, from Houston, Texas makes a move from DEForce Racing to perennial championship winners Cape Motorsports. One of three 14-year-olds in the field, Crawford has a trio of top-five finishes in his seven starts.
It will be interesting to watch how Crawford fits in with Braden Eves, Darren Keane and Reece Gold. The trio has developed real chemistry over the first nine races of the year that has propelled the St. Petersburg, Fla. squad to 43 point lead in the USF2000 team championship.
Crawford is quick, leading the recent testing and Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and could help push the other drivers to get faster. The rookie also benefits by having the opportunity to work with experienced drivers Keane and Eves.
The battle for a spot in the top five
Only 18 points separate a quartet of drivers fighting for the top five on the points table.
Kaminsky, Christian Rasmussen (Jay Howard Driver Development), Cameron Shields (Newman Wachs Racing) and Manuel Sulaiman (DEForce Racing) are long shots to get themselves into the advancement scholarship conversation, but all four drivers have the pace to gun for wins – in the case of Rasmussen and Shields – more trips to the top step of the podium.
Veteran Kaminsky was the quickest of the four drivers at the recent two-day series test on the 2.258-mile, 13-Turn Mid-Ohio Road Course and has also scored the most points in the first four natural terrain road courses of the 2019 season.
2019 USF2000 points through four of ten races on natural terrain road courses
|1||Braden Eves – R||116|
|2||Hunter McElrea – R||101|
|5||Cameron Shields – R||56|
|6||Manuel Sulaiman – R||47|
|8||Eduardo Barrichello- R||45|
|9||Jak Crawford – R||44|
|10T||Reece Gold – R||40|
|10T||Yuven Sundaramoorthy – R||40|
|12||Christian Rasmussen – R||35|
|14||Anthony Famularo – R||33|
|15T||Matthew Round-Garrido – R||31|
|15T||Nolan Siegel – R||31|
|17||Christian Bogle – R||27|
|18||Jack William Miller – R||22|
Other drivers, we’re watching
Zach Holden returns to Legacy Autosport for a second race weekend. The Greenfield, Ind. driver and team had pace in Toronto and could interrupt the podium party at a circuit the 18-year-old has won at in F1600 Championship Series competition.
Pabst Racing rookie Yuven Sundaramoorthy made his USF2000 debut at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course with Exclusive Autosport last year. The 16-year-old was impressive, finishing in the top ten twice. Sundaramoorthy has completed every lap this season and is due for a breakout weekend.
Did we learn anything in testing?
Jak Crawford, who was driving for DEForce Racing, led the recent two-day test at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. But, Braden Eves and Hunter McElrea were both less than a tenth behind the 14-year-old. The top eight drivers were less than a half-second from the top of the time of 81.3106 seconds set by Crawford on the second day of the test.
Crawford, McElrea (twice), Colin Kaminsky, and Darren Keane all led one of the five sessions. The final session was washed out.
Timmy Pagliuso will be pulling double-duty this weekend. The Fishers, Ind. driver, will be making his Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship debut with Legacy Autosport. He’ll also work his ‘day job,’ changing the right-rear tire on Takuma Sato’s No. 30 Mi-Jack / Panasonic Honda during the NTT IndyCar Series sessions.
Some Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course history
The Cooper Tires USF2000 Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio doubleheader will be the 53rd and 54th times that the lowest rung of the Road To Indy has raced on the iconic road course. Yes, you read that right, FIVE-THREE and FIVE-FOUR.
USF2000 winners at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course
|2018 Race #3||Kyle Kirkwood||Cape Motorsports|
|2018 Race #2||Kyle Kirkwood||Cape Motorsports|
|2018 Race #1||Kyle Kirkwood||Cape Motorsports|
|2017 Race #2||Parker Thompson||Exclusive Autosport|
|2017 Race #1||Oliver Askew||Cape Motorsports|
|2016 Race #3||Anthony Martin||Cape Motorsports|
|2016 Race #2||Anthony Martin||Cape Motorsports|
|2016 Race #1||Anthony Martin||Cape Motorsports|
|2015 Race #3||Nico Jamin||Cape Motorsports|
|2015 Race #2||Nico Jamin||Cape Motorsports|
|2015 Race #1||Nico Jamin||Cape Motorsports|
|2014 Race #3||Florian Latorre||Cape Motorsports|
|2014 Race #2||Jake Eidson||Cape Motorsports|
|2014 Race #1||RC Enerson||Team E Racing|
|2013 Race #3||Garett Grist||Andretti Autosport|
|2013 Race #2||Neil Alberico||Cape Motorsports|
|2013 Race #1||Neil Alberico||Cape Motorsports|
|2012 Race #2||Scott Anderson||Belardi Auto Racing|
|2012 Race #1||Spencer Pigot||Cape Motorsports|
|2011 Race #2||Petri Suvanto||Cape Motorsports|
|2011 Race #1||Petri Suvanto||Cape Motorsports|
|2006 Race #4||JR Hildebrand||Cape Motorsports|
|2006 Race #3||JR Hildebrand||Cape Motorsports|
|2006 Race #2||JR Hildebrand||Cape Motorsports|
|2006 Race #1||JR Hildebrand||Cape Motorsports|
|2005 Race #4||Jay Howard||Aiken Racing|
|2005 Race #3||Joey Foster||Cape Motorsports|
|2005 Race #2||Jay Howard||Aiken Racing|
|2005 Race #1||Jay Howard||Aiken Racing|
|2004 Race #4||Adam Pecorari||Andersen Walko Racing|
|2004 Race #3||Adam Pecorari||Andersen Walko Racing|
|2004 Race #2||Adam Pecorari||Andersen Walko Racing|
|2004 Race #1||Andre Prendeville||Andersen Walko Racing|
|2003 Race #4||Jonathan Bomarito||PR1 Motorsports|
|2003 Race #3||Jonathan Bomarito||PR1 Motorsports|
|2003 Race #2||Westley Barber||Cape Motorsports|
|2003 Race #1||Tonis Kasemets||Pabst Racing|
|2002 Race #3||Ross Fonferko||Cape Motorsports|
|2002 Race #2||Bryan Sellers||Cape Motorsports|
|2002 Race #1||Tonis Kasemets||Pabst Racing|
|2001 Race #3||Jason LaPoint||Richard Morgan Racing|
|2001 Race #2||Doug Bell||Cape Motorsports|
|2001 Race #1||Tonis Kasemets||Tonis Kasemets|
|1999 Race #2||Jeff Wright||Cape Motorsports|
|1999 Race #1||Dan Wheldon||Primus Racing|
|1998 Race #2||David Besnard||Primus Racing|
|1998 Race #1||David Besnard||Primus Racing|
|1997||Zak Morioka||Hayes Motorsports|
|1996||Steve Knapp||Miller Miling/Elite Engines|
|1995 Race #2||Jeret Schroeder|
|1995 Race #1||Memo Gidley||Cape Motorsports|
|1993||Chris Simmons||SOTARE Racing|
It should come as no surprise, but Cape Motorsports absolutely dominates the USF2000 statistics at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
The team has won 28 races, over 50% of the races contested. The Cape Brothers first win occurred in 1995 with Memo Gidley winning form the inside of the front row. That win total includes a trip to victory lane in 13 of the last 14 races.
The team also has 27 poles and a ridiculous 55 podiums. Neil Alberico, Oliver Askew, Westley Barber, Matthew Brabham, Doug Bell, Dane Cameron, Wade Cunningham, Jake Eidson, Ross Fonferko, Joey Foster, Peter Gray, Memo Gidley, Scott Hargrove, JR Hildebrand, Trent Hindman, Nico Jamin, Kyle Kirkwood, Florian Latorre, Anthony Martin, Chris Meredith, Spencer Pigot, Bryan Sellers, Petri Suvanto, Aaron Telitz, Parker Thompson, Bobby Wilson and Jeff Wright are the drivers that have stood on the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course podium for Cape Motorsports.
The pole-sitter has won 39 of 52 races. The furthest back a winner has started was sixth (Jake Eidson in 2014). The average starting position of the winner is 1.6.
The pole-sitter has failed to finish in only six of 52 races, including Kaylen Frederick in Race #2 last year. Jimmy Chianas finished 30th in 1995 Race #1, the worst finish by a pole winner. The average finishing position of the driver who starts on the inside of the front row is 4.0.
The previous 52 races have occurred over 20 seasons, and the eventual series champion has won at least one race at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in 17 of those years. Only the 2013 (Scott Hargrove), 2012 (Matthew Brabham) and 2004 (Bobby Wilson) champions failed to win a race on the 2.258-mile, 13-Turn Mid-Ohio Road Course.
Race weekend basics
Race name: Cooper Tires USF2000 Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio
Race #1 length: 20 laps or 40 minutes
Race #2 length: 20 laps or 40 minutes
Qualifying Record: 80.250 seconds by Matthew Brabham in 2012
Race Record: 81.2979 seconds by Kyle Kirkwood 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 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
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.
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 Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course races.
Don’t miss any of the Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires action
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