Hunter McElrea has enjoyed a successful weekend at Portland International Raceway thus far and continued it with an authoritative victory in the first Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship race of the weekend. He’s provisionally closed to within one point of Braden Eves for the championship lead thus far.
“It’s a mega feeling. It’s been an incredible weekend. We’ve topped every session. The car the Pabst Racing guys have given me have made my job rather easy thus far,” McElrea said on the podium after controlling the race in his No. 22 Tatuus USF-17, adorned in the soul red colors of Mazda Motorsports.
After a thrilling NTT IndyCar Series qualifying session, the 18 USF2000 drivers had a tough act to follow in the first race of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Grand Prix Presented by Allied Building Products.
The call to fire the 2.0L Elite Engines came at 4:25 pm.
After a single pace lap, the front row of McElrea and Eves brought the nine rows of two to the start finish line.
McElrea got the jump on Eves and was the first driver to clear the Festival Curves. In fact, all 18 drivers made it cleanly through the yellow inducing sector. The only glitch was Nolan Siegel, who bumped over the curb on the inside of Turn 2, but was able he was able to continue.
Yuven Sundaramoorthy spun at the west end of the track and the two rookies who had issues early on the opening got together In Turn 11. Both drivers were able to continue, but the No. 36 Newman Wachs Racing machine of Siegel lost a lap.
Rasmussen, who had originally qualified third, but because he did not slow at least 15% in a sector with a local yellow (Rule 126.96.36.199), was given a two spot grid penalty, meaning the Dane started in fifth. It only took him the first lap to make his way back into the third spot.
The running order at the end of the first lap was: McElrea, Eves, Rasmussen, Jak Crawford, Colin Kaminsky, Manuel Sulaiman, Darren Keane, Zach Holden, Eduardo Barrichello, Reece Gold, Bruna Tomaselli, Josh Green, Kyle Dupell, Christian Bogle, Ayrton Ori, Jack William Miller, Sundaramoorthy, and Siegel.
McElrea’s lead over Eves to begin lap five was only 0.8 seconds. Rasmussen was a second behind the second place driver. Behind them, things were static.
However McElrea set a new fastest lap at 1:11.8728 on Lap 10 to increase his lead to 1.3031 seconds.
Crawford passed Kaminsky for fourth on Lap 11 to break up the stasis.
At the halfway point of the race, Lap 13 of 25, McElrea led Eves, Rasmussen, Crawford and Kaminsky, with Sulaiman, Keane, Holden, Barrichello and Tomaselli in the top 10. Gold was 11th ahead of Green, Dupell, Miller, Bogle, Ori, Sundaramoorthy and Siegel.
Tomaselli later got around Holden for ninth on Lap 17.
With five laps to go the order remained unchanged up front. McElrea extended his lead over Eves to more than four seconds, with Rasmussen third and Kaminsky back around Crawford for fourth. Keane got Sulaiman for sixth while Barrichello, sensing the opportunity, tried to get his new DEForce Racing teammate and gain another position himself.
Rasmussen was now within four tenths of Eves for second with McElrea’s lead now well north of 4.4 second.
Keane got past Crawford for fifth as further down the order, one of the Legacy Autosport cars (Ori) went off course and through the pits.
McElrea took the white flag with a 4.6 second lead over Eves, who was holding on with everything to keep Rasmussen at bay.
He brought it home to the checkered flag by 4.8713 seconds, with Eves able to hang on to second over Rasmussen. Kaminsky and Keane completed the top five.
Crawford, Sulaiman, Barrichello, Tomaselli and Holden rounded out the top 10 finishers.
Cooper Tires USF2000 Grand Prix Presented by Allied Building Products Race #1 – Unofficial Results
|1||22||Hunter McElrea||Pabst Racing||25|
|2||8||Braden Eves||Cape Motorsports||25||4.8713|
|3||6||Christian Rasmussen||Jay Howard Driver Development||25||5.4358|
|4||23||Colin Kaminsky||Pabst Racing||25||16.1443|
|5||2||Darren Keane||Cape Motorsports||25||17.6402|
|6||4||Jak Crawford||Cape Motorsports||25||19.5516|
|7||12||Manuel Sulaiman||DEForce Racing||25||19.8186|
|8||91||Eduardo Barrichello||DEForce Racing||25||20.5335|
|9||24||Bruna Tomaselli||Pabst Racing||25||22.1288|
|10||14||Zach Holden||Legacy Autosport||25||22.6569|
|11||5||Josh Green||Jay Howard Driver Development||25||24.2893|
|12||3||Reece Gold||Cape Motorsports||25||24.5648|
|13||40||Jack William Miller||Miller Vinatieri Motorsports||25||33.0238|
|14||73||Kyle Dupell||Newman Wachs Racing||25||34.3752|
|15||21||Yuven Sundaramoorthy||Pabst Racing||25||49.6012|
|16||7||Christian Bogle||Jay Howard Driver Development||25||57.9336|
|17||36||Nolan Siegel||Newman Wachs Racing||24||1 LAPS|
|18||77||Ayrton Ori||Legacy Autosport||24||1 LAPS|
Tomorrow’s second race caps off the weekend activity, starting at 4:15 p.m. PDT and local time.