By Steve Wittich
For the second straight race, Christian Rasmussen made a first lap pass for the lead after starting on the outside of the front row.
The Jay Howard Driver Development driver survived a Lap 3 restart, steadily and consistently driving away from an intense battle for second. The 20-year-old crossed the finish line with a healthy 9.5753 second gap over the pole sitter Hunter McElrea.
McElrea, spent 13 laps battling Matthew Round-Garrido for second, finally passing the BN Racing driver with four laps to go. After the race, McElrea was less than pleased with some of the Englishman’s defensive driving maneuvers.
Combine the three extra points earned by that pass with an eighth place finish by championship leader Braden Eves and the Kiwi starts Sunday’s race 13 points closer to the points lead. The margin between first and second is now 28 points.
McElrea’s Pabst Racing teammate Colin Kaminsky was able to get around Round-Garrido at the same time, finishing on the podium for the third time this year.
The call to start the 17 2.0L Elite Engines powering the 17 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship entries came as scheduled at 4:01 pm. The ambient temperature was 84F, the track temperature was 115F and the humidity was a comfortable 45%.
The front row of McElrea and Rasmussen brought the field to the green flag on the front straight. McElrea got a decent jump, with Rasmussen ducking in behind the Soul Red No. 22. The Dane was able to grab the lead in Turn 4 on the first lap.
At the back of the field, the No. 77 of Timmy Pagliuso, went way too deep into Turn 4, spinning and getting stuck in ‘China Beach.’ The yellow flag came out before the first lap was completed.
The running order at the end of first lap was Rasmussen, McElrea, Round-Garrido, Tomaselli, Kaminsky, Yuven Sundaramoorthy, Jak Crawford, Braden Eves, Manuel Sulaiman, Darren Keane, Eduardo Barrichello, Zach Holden, Jack William Miller, Reece Gold, Christian Bogle, Nolan Siegel and Pagliuso.
The green flag came back out to begin Lap 4. Rasmussen jumped out to a big lead. Behind him, Round-Garrido was able to get past McElrea for second with an outside Turn 4 pass.
On Lap 6, Kaminsky made a move on Tomaselli for fourth, immediately putting pressure on his teammate McElrea.
Rasmussen crossed the line 1.8 seconds ahead his former Jay Howard Driver Development teammate Round-Garrido. The Pabst Racing foursome of McElrea, Kaminsky, Tomaselli, and Sundaramoorthy were running nose to tail in third through sixth.
By Lap 8, McElrea was all over the gearbox of Round-Garrido, looking to the outside of the BN Racing driver in Turn 4, but thinking better of it and tucking back in behind him.
The Mazda Road To Indy 200K Scholarship winner faked to the outside again on the next lap, but once again, dropped in behind Round-Garrido.
Out front Rasmussen had built a 3.99 second lead.
Only three seconds covered second place Round-Garrido, to eighth place Eves.
On Lap 11, McElrea looked to inside of Round-Garrido, but once again, was unable to complete the pass.
Rasmussen had a 5.3 second lead with five to go. Behind him, ten cars were running line-astern, proving that the passing at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course isn’t easy.
The JHDD/CSU|One Cure/Lucas Oil sponsored No. 6 in the hands of Rasmussen was turning incredibly consistent laps out front.
With four laps remaining, Round-Garrido made a mistake, falling off the podium to fourth after being passed by McElrea and Kaminsky.
Further back in the field an inter team battle between a trio of Cape Motorsports teammate was underway. Newcomer Crawford was defending against Eves and Keane.
The 14-year-old was able to hold off his older teammate to bring the RE/Max, Am Cap Home Loans home sponsored No. 4 in seventh place.
Cooper Tires USF2000 Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio Race #1 Unofficial Results
|1||6||Christian Rasmussen||Jay Howard Driver Development||20 LAPS|
|2||22||Hunter McElrea||Pabst Racing||9.5753|
|3||23||Colin Kaminsky||Pabst Racing||10.7498|
|4||27||Matt Round-Garrido||BN Racing||11.2931|
|5||24||Bruna Tomaselli||Pabst Racing||12.7114|
|6||21||Yuven Sundaramoorthy||Pabst Racing||13.2952|
|7||4||Jak Crawford||Cape Motorsports||13.8461|
|8||8||Braden Eves||Cape Motorsports||14.0798|
|9||2||Darren Keane||Cape Motorsports||14.5044|
|10||14||Zach Holden||Legacy Autosport||15.1382|
|11||12||Manuel Sulaiman||DEForce Racing||15.6301|
|12||3||Reece Gold||Cape Motorsports||27.0755|
|13||40||Jack William Miller||Miller Vinatieri Motorsports||27.4602|
|14||41||Eduardo Barrichello||Miller Vinatieri Motorsports||28.6715|
|15||7||Christian Bogle||Jay Howard Driver Development||29.2901|
|16||36||Nolan Siegel||Newman Wachs Racing||32.1383|
|17||77||Timmy Pagliuso||Legacy Autosport||18 LAPS|
Sunday’s final 20-lap or 40-minute Cooper Tires USF2000 Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio race is scheduled to get underway at 11:05 am.