Capping off a dominant and authoritative weekend at Portland International Raceway, Pabst Racing’s Hunter McElrea led flag-to-flag from pole for his third consecutive victory and fourth overall in the 2019 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship season.
Additionally, today’s win moved McElrea into a provisional six-point lead over his closest title rival, Braden Eves, with one more race weekend remaining at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
McElrea’s win in the final Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires race of the weekend ensured five of six races here were won by “Soul Red” scholarship recipients a year ago. McElrea and Kyle Kirkwood (Indy Pro 2000) swept their respective series, while Rinus Van Kalmthout (VeeKay) had a first and second in the two Indy Lights races.
“To win here is extremely difficult; there are so many talented drivers and teams. To be P1 in every session has been a dream,” McElrea said on the podium.
After a full day of waiting, the 18 USF2000 competitors finally got their 2.0L Elite Engines fired just after 4 p.m. PDT and local time.
Just one point separated Eves from McElrea entering the race. The two championship protagonists rolled off right next to each other, with McElrea leading the field in his soul red No. 22 Pabst Racing Tatuus USF-17 and Eves second in his white No. 8 Cape Motorsports entry.
After a single pace lap the field came out of Turn 12, formed up and took the green flag. The field made it through the Festival Curves, perhaps mercifully, without incident.
At the end of Lap 1 the order was McElrea, Eves, Kaminsky, Crawford, Holden, Gold, Keane, Barrichello, Sundaramoorthy and Sulaiman in the top 10 with Tomaselli, Siegel, Green, Bogle, Miller, Dupell and Ori completing the first lap. Rasmussen, who started third, headed to pit lane with an issue.
Holden had delivered quite an impressive early race charge in his No. 14 Legacy Autosport car, up to fifth at the start and around Crawford for fourth by Lap 2. Keane also made a move around his Cape teammate Gold for sixth.
By Lap 3 Holden was the fastest car on the track and closing down on Kaminsky for third. Further back in the pack, Sulaiman got Sundaramoorthy for ninth.
He got past Kaminsky for third on the fourth lap and was within 1.6 seconds of Eves for second.
Keane got past Crawford for fifth on Lap 6 with a bold and aggressive move to the inside at Turn 10, showing his race craft in earnest.
Kaminsky responded to Holden’s pace with the fastest lap on Lap 6, while the McElrea/Eves battle at the front of the field remained static. Sulaiman passed young Barrichello for eighth on the same circuit.
Holden and Kaminsky’s battle for third continued to rage while McElrea set the new fastest lap on Lap 8, and extended his lead to Eves to more than 2.1 seconds.
Gold was having a great battle with the DEForce teammates of Sulaiman and Barrichello for seventh, with the teenager holding back the pair of blue cars.
At the conclusion of Lap 10, the order was still McElrea ahead of Eves by 3.1 seconds, with Holden, Kaminsky and Keane the top five. Crawford was sixth ahead of Sulaiman and Barrichello, who both got Gold, and then Tomaselli completed the top 10.
Tomaselli later passed Gold for ninth. Green, Sundaramoorthy and Siegel were also closing on the fourth of four Cape cars to try to demote him further down the order.
At Lap 13, halfway home, McElrea’s lead was 3.6839 seconds with no further changes in the top 10 and all 18 cars still circulating.
Sundaramoorthy had a quick trip through the Festival Curves runoff and dropped a spot from 12th to 13th, with Siegel moving ahead of him in the Newman Wachs car.
With less than 10 laps to go, the McElrea lead remained steady at 3.7 seconds and change.
With five laps to go, Holden had to fight harder to hold Kaminsky at bay for the battle for third. McElrea’s lead over Eves stretched north of 4.7 seconds.
Kaminsky remained locked on Holden’s gearbox with just two laps to go, close but unable to make a passing attempt to get around him.
McElrea took the white flag still well clear of Eves, north of 5.5 seconds.
He took the checkered flag by a final margin of victory of 5.5127 seconds over Eves. Holden secured the final podium position by just over a tenth of a second over Kaminsky. This is Holden’s second podium finish of the season, having also finished third at St. Petersburg race two back in March.
There were a few other late-race changes involving the Jay Howard Driver Development group. Green made it to 10th after a checkered flag and after racing the entire event playing catch-up after his first lap pit stop, Rasmussen passed teammate Bogle for 17th on the final lap. He’d also set the fastest race lap.
Cooper Tires USF2000 Portland Grand Prix – Race #2 Unofficial Results
|1||22||Hunter McElrea||Pabst Racing||25|
|2||8||Braden Eves||Cape Motorsports||25||5.5127|
|3||14||Zach Holden||Legacy Autosport||25||7.0539|
|4||23||Colin Kaminsky||Pabst Racing||25||7.2444|
|5||2||Darren Keane||Cape Motorsports||25||9.3538|
|6||4||Jak Crawford||Cape Motorsports||25||13.7975|
|7||12||Manuel Sulaiman||DEForce Racing||25||17.1918|
|8||91||Eduardo Barrichello||DEForce Racing||25||19.0390|
|9||24||Bruna Tomaselli||Pabst Racing||25||19.3233|
|10||5||Josh Green||Jay Howard Driver Development||25||21.1953|
|11||3||Reece Gold||Cape Motorsports||25||21.3304|
|12||36||Nolan Siegel||Newman Wachs Racing||25||22.7133|
|13||40||Jack William Miller||Miller Vinatieri Motorsports||25||26.9590|
|14||21||Yuven Sundaramoorthy||Pabst Racing||25||30.5474|
|15||73||Kyle Dupell||Newman Wachs Racing||25||31.8179|
|16||77||Ayrton Ori||Legacy Autosport||25||58.1400|
|17||6||Christian Rasmussen||Jay Howard Driver Development||25||58.6857|
|18||7||Christian Bogle||Jay Howard Driver Development||25||59.1202|