By Steve Wittich
Exclusive Autosport’s Christian Brooks began the 2021 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship season, the way he ended the 2020 season; at the head of the timing screens.
The 20-year-old winner of the final race of the 2020 USF2000 season was the quickest of the 23 USF2000 drivers in the first test session of the year. His lap of 82.2309 seconds was 0.1448 seconds faster than fellow veteran Yuven Sundaramoorthy (Pabst Racing).
Brooks’ quick lap and the following nine drivers’ quick lap were all below the track record of 83.009 seconds set by Michael Epps (Belardi Auto Racing) during the 2014 Cooper Tires Winterfest.
Rounding out the top five in the first test session were Josh Pierson (Pabst Racing), Josh Green (Turn 3 Motorsports), and Nolan Siegel (DEForce Racing).
The first driver to turn a lap of the 2.3-mile, 17-turn natural terrain road course was newcomer Erik Evans (Velocity Racing Development).
At the one-quarter pole of the test session, Pabst Racing veteran Sundaramoorthy had completed seven laps. The University of Wisconsin student’s lap time was 83.3126 seconds and was the quickest of the 20 drivers that had turned at least one lap.
Sundaramoorthy’s Pabst Racing teammates Jace Denmark and Josh Pierson were also in the top five, along with Nolan Siegel and Kiko Porto.
Not long after the 15-minute mark of the session, Exclusive Autosport veteran Christian Brooks was the first driver under the seven-year-old track record, turning a lap at 82.9327 seconds.
The first and only red flag of the session came out with just under 35-minutes remaining in the session when the No. 16 Miller Vinatieri Motorsports USF-17 of Kent Vaccaro needed some help getting extracted from a gravel trap.
The two Turn 3 Motorsport drivers, Josh Green and Dylan Christie, were the only drivers that had not turned a lap yet.
Brooks still led the way but had lowered his quickest lap time to 82.8113 seconds. Sundaramoorthy, Denmark, Evans, Bijoy Garg (Jay Howard Driver Development), Porto, Pierson, Siegel, Prescott Campbell (DEForce Racing), and Grant Palmer (Exclusive Autosport) made up the remainder of the top 10.
The red flag was withdrawn with 29-minutes remaining, and the track was quickly buzzing with the distinctive note of the Elite Engine prepared 2.0L power plants.
Brooks was flying once he got his Cooper Tires back up to temperature, lowering the lap timekeeping at the top of the timesheet to 82.4736 seconds. Fellow veterans Siegel and Porto were the only other drivers under 83 seconds.
By the time the first USF2000 test session of the season was in the last 15-minutes, six drivers were below the track record, fellow veteran Josh Pierson and rookie Evans joining the party.
The Turn 3 Motorsports duo finally took to the track with just over ten minutes remaining in the session. It didn’t seem to hurt the Peter Dempsey-led team’s pace, though. Green ended the session with the fourth quickest time, and rookie Christie was the 12th fastest.
The 23 drivers completed 505 laps. Pierson and Jay Howard Driver Development rookie Jackson Lee completed 30 circuits, most of the entered drivers.
The Force Indy No. 99 of Myles Rowe was only able to complete five laps after running into electrical issues.
Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship spring training at Barber Motorsports Park test session #1 timesheet.
|RANK||CAR NO.||DRIVER||TEAM||QUICK LAP||DIFFERENCE||TOTAL LAPS|
|1||44||Christian Brooks||Exclusive Autosport||1:22.2309||——||21|
|2||22||Yuven Sundaramoorthy||Pabst Racing||1:22.3757||0.1448||29|
|3||24||Josh Pierson||Pabst Racing||1:22.4977||0.2668||30|
|4||33||Josh Green||Turn 3 Motorsport||1:22.6861||0.4552||5|
|5||10||Nolan Siegel||DEForce Racing||1:22.8192||0.5883||18|
|6||23||Jace Denmark||Pabst Racing||1:22.8837||0.6528||26|
|7||12||Kiko Porto||DEForce Racing||1:22.9457||0.7148||23|
|8||29||Erik Evans||Velocity Racing Development||1:22.9625||0.7316||28|
|9||4||Michael d’Orlando||Cape Motorsports||1:22.9718||0.7409||23|
|10||11||Prescott Campbell||DEForce Racing||1:23.0273||0.7964||20|
|11||5||Spike Kohlbecker||Cape Motorsports||1:23.1233||0.8924||25|
|12||34||Dylan Christie||Turn 3 Motorsport||1:23.1975||0.9666||10|
|13||9||Peter Vodanovich||Jay Howard Driver Development||1:23.1982||0.9673||27|
|14||90||Grant Palmer||Exclusive Autosport||1:23.2003||0.9694||25|
|15||91||Billy Frazer||Exclusive Autosport||1:23.2133||0.9824||23|
|16||6||Bijoy Garg||Jay Howard Driver Development||1:23.3417||1.1108||15|
|17||2||Thomas Nepveu||Cape Motorsports||1:23.5345||1.3036||27|
|18||3||Evan Stamer||Cape Motorsports||1:23.5654||1.3345||27|
|19||8||Jackson Lee||Jay Howard Driver Development||1:23.5808||1.3499||30|
|20||1||Ely Navarro||DEForce Racing||1:23.5830||1.3521||25|
|21||16||Kent Vaccaro||Miller Vinatieri Motorsports||1:24.3252||2.0943||21|
|22||63||Trey Burke||Joe Dooling Autosports||1:24.4599||2.2290||22|
|23||99||Myles Rowe||Force Indy||3:32.8888||130.6579||5|
The bottom rung of the Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires will be back on track for a one-hour session at 2:50 pm.