By Steve Wittich
Game on for the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship. Cape Motorsports rookie Braden Eves won four of the first five races of the season to build a 44 championship lead over Hunter McElrea as the “Month of May” came to an end.
McElrea, the Mazda Road To Indy 200K Shootout Winner has turned the tables though, winning twice in the last six races and outscoring Eves by 36 points in those half-dozen races.
With a trip to the top step of the podium from the pole and the quickest lap of the race, the American born Kiwi scored 33 points, the maximum on offer.
Eves finished outside of the top five for the third straight race, meaning his points lead over McElrea is now only nine points. It’s the first time that McElrea has been with single digits of Eaves all season.
Christian Rasmussen, who started second for his third consecutive race was not able to repeat his first lap heroics from the Sunday’s race in Toronto and Saturday’s race at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. It is the Dane’s fourth straight race standing on one of the top two steps of the podium.
For the fourth time this season, Pabst Racing veteran Colin Kaminsky wheeled his Slick Locks sponsored No. 23 to a podium position.
Before the race note: Darren Keane, Reece Gold, Braden Eves, Manuel Sulaiman, Bruna Tomaselli, and Nolan Siegel were all penalized two grid spots for failing to slow by at least 15% in an area with a local yellow.
The front row of McElrea Rasmussen brought the 17 2.0L powered Tatuus chassis to the green flag, and unlike their big siblings, got their 20 lap race started cleanly.
McElrea got a good jump, but Rasmussen was able to close enough to take a look around the outside in the Keyhole but had to pull back in line and could not get a run down the back straight.
The running order at the end of the first lap was McElrea, Rasmussen, Kaminsky, Sundaramoorthy, Holden, Round-Garrido, Eves, Crawford, Miller, Gold, Sulaiman, Barichello, Siegel, Bogle, Tomaselli, Keane and Pagliuso.
On Lap 2, Siegel had to come to pit road to repair a damaged front wing.
On Lap 3, Jack William Miller made a daring pass of championship leader Eves on the inside of Turn 8. Eves pushed wide, and lost three more spots, dropping to 11th.
McElrea’s lead with six laps remaining was a slim 0.6553 seconds over Rasmussen. Behind the front four, Sundaramoorthy lost two spots to Matthew Round-Garrido and Jak Crawford.
On Lap 8, Eves was able to gain two spots to move back into the top 10. He passed Sulaiman on track and earned another spot when Miller went off track in Turn 10 and 11.
At the half-way point of the race, McElrea’s lead was 1.2 seconds over Rasmussen, who had a safe gap over Kaminsky. Holden was running fourth, with Round-Garrido running fifth. The BN Racing driver had the rest of the top ten – Crawford, Sundaramoorthy, Gold, Eves and Keane nose-to-tail behind him.
On Lap 12, Eves lost a spot to his Cape Motorsports teammate Keane to fall to tenth.
Round-Garrido was making his car wide, but on the next lap lost the fifth spot to Cape Motorsports 14-year-old Crawford.
With six laps remaining, Keane was able to pass his teammate gold to move up to the eighth spot.
McElrea’s lead with five laps remaining was 1.1 seconds. Behind him, Keane, who started last was working on Sundaramoorthy for the seventh spot, getting around him and immediately putting pressure on Round-Garrido.
Keane was able to gain one more spot in the final three laps to end up finishing 11 places higher than he started.
With two laps remaining, McElrea’s lead over the Jay Howard Driver Development rookie was under one second and was 0.7 seconds when they got the white flag.
On lap 19, Sundaramoorthy and Round-Garrido made contact in Turn 5, dropping them down to 14th and 13th respectively.
In the chaos, Eves was able to get past his teammate gold, moving from 10th at the start of the white flag lap to take the checkered flag in seventh. Bookmark, those three spots, we’ll come back to them when the championship comes to a close at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in September.
Cooper Tires USF2000 Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio Race #2 Unofficial Results
|1||22||Hunter McElrea||Pabst Racing||20 LAPS|
|2||6||Christian Rasmussen||Jay Howard Driver Development||0.5652|
|3||23||Colin Kaminsky||Pabst Racing||8.1742|
|4||14||Zach Holden||Legacy Autosport||8.6937|
|5||4||Jak Crawford||Cape Motorsports||14.3891|
|6||2||Darren Keane||Cape Motorsports||17.2252|
|7||8||Braden Eves||Cape Motorsports||20.7171|
|8||12||Manuel Sulaiman||DEForce Racing||21.1403|
|9||3||Reece Gold||Cape Motorsports||25.9813|
|10||24||Bruna Tomaselli||Pabst Racing||26.3793|
|11||41||Eduardo Barrichello||Miller Vinatieri Motorsports||28.1250|
|12||40||Jack William Miller||Miller Vinatieri Motorsports||28.5486|
|13||27||Matthew Round-Garrido||BN Racing||33.9488|
|14||21||Yuven Sundaramoorthy||Pabst Racing||33.9488|
|15||7||Christian Bogle||Jay Howard Driver Development||41.5165|
|16||77||Timmy Pagliuso||Legacy Autosport||– 1 LAP|
|17||36||Nolan Siegel||Newman Wachs Racing||– 1 LAP|
The lowest rung of the Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires is back in action at the Portland International Raceway on Labor Day weekend.