Welcome to the third and final part of our comprehensive Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship preview. Below, you will find a comprehensive team-by-team and driver-by-driver preview for all 26 entries in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Grand Prix of Alabama.
You can read part #1 of our preview here –> The Anatomy of a Champion.
You can read part #2 of our preview here –> Season opener and Barber Motorsports Park information
The 26 entries for the season-opening USF2000 race are four above the season openers’ average since the birth of the Road To Indy in 2010. The 26 entries tie for the third most for the first race of the year in the same time frame.
Note: The portions that are italic are strictly Steve’s opinions. Please feel free to contact him you disagree.
Dominic and Nicholas Cape, better known as Cape Motorsports, have been the USF2000 team to beat for more than 20-years.
The first of the team’s series-best ONE HUNDRED AND THIRTY-ONE USF2000 trips to victory lane came at Portland International Raceway in 1996. The team has won at least one race in 19 straight seasons.
The first of their 13 driver’s championships dates back to Aaron Justus in 2000. Oliver Askew, Kyle Kirkwood, and Braden Eves are recent champions that drove for Cape Motorsports
Jay Howard Driver Development and Christian Rasmussen broke the team’s nine-year vice-like grip on the USF2000 championship in 2020, but we expect them to be back as strong as ever in 2021.
This year, Cape Motorsports is paired up with Ignite Autosport. The St. Louis area team was formed to give winning karters from the Margay Ignite programs a home after graduating from karts.
Thomas Nepveu – Cromwell / Karting Excellence / Home Hardware / Richelieu Hardware / Pétrole Bélanger / Hamster /PL-100 / Ionik / Centre de Médecine Sportive de Laval / King Canada / Festidrag Development sponsored No. 2
Before moving to cars in 2020, Thomas Nepveu had plenty of success in karts, competing internationally and winning multiple Canadian championships.
The 16-year-olds debut in cars included a victory, three podiums, and two quickest laps of the race in six Mexican FIA NACAM Formula 4 championship appearances.
Completing laps, racing cleanly, and racing in the top ten by the end of the year is a reasonable goal for the driver from Oka, Quebec, Canada.
Evan Stamer – Ignite Autosport / Margay Racing / Raceway Gives / KhS Global / Gateway Kartplex / City Scoops Creamery sponsored No. 3
Nineteen-year-old Evan Stamer is the perfect poster karter for the Ignite Autosport team. The SIU-Edwardsville student began his career in the Margay Ignite Junior Championship at Gateway Kartplex, winning many Grand Prix’s including Rock Island, Elkhart, Daytona, and the prestigious Battle At The Brickyard (Indianapolis Motor Speedway).
The Glen Carbon, Ill. resident, has completed Lucas Oil School of Racing and Skip Barber racing schools, but the pair of races at Barber Motorsports Park will be his first in a formula car.
The step from karts to USF2000 is a big one, so we expect Stamer to struggle for pace early. However, he can learn and has excellent racecraft. You don’t win so many marquee kart races without it.
Michael d’Orlando – Focused Project Management / UFC Gym – Mamaroneck / Design Build Collaborative sponsored No. 4
Michael d’Orlando is the lone returnee to Cape Motorsports from the 2020 season. The Hartsdale, N.Y. native will be making his 40th American junior formula start (26 USF2000,11 F4 & 2 F2000) on Saturday in Race #1 at Barber Motorsports Park.
The 19-year-old finished fourth in the 2020 USF2000 championship, winning at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and standing on the podium on five occasions.
The hallmark of d’Orlando’s 2020 season was incredibly consistent race pace. The average of his quickest lap was 4.5, just behind champion Christian Rasmussen, and d’Orlando had one of the ten fastest race laps in all 17 starts.
“The test was very productive. We learned a lot about the car, a lot about the track,” said d’Orlando after spring training at Barber Motorsports Park. “We’d tested here before, but we’re trying to test everything we possibly can before the race weekend. I was super happy with how things went; we made a lot of progress. We have more in our back pocket, but of course, everyone else does as well! The track is fast and fun, like a roller coaster, and it’s so fun. I learned a lot this week about keeping up my minimum speed. I’m taking all the effort I put in last year, all the things I learned. There are a lot of fast drivers in the series, so it will definitely be a fight for every win.”
I have d’Orlando as one of the odds-on-favorites to win the title and the $401,305 scholarship that goes with it. The one thing d’Orlando needs to work on if he wants to win the championship is his qualifying pace. He was out-qualified by at least one of his teammates in all but one race next year. The race pace is fantastic; he just needs to start a little further up the grid to win more races and stand on more podiums.
Spike Kohlbecker – Ignite Autosport / Raceway Gives / Tierpoint / Cfx / Lake Charles Park / MessmerCares / Rsolution / PSL / World Wide Technology Raceway / TrueTitle / Fort Family Foundation / Central Institute for Human Performance / Margay Racing sponsored No. 5
The second Ignite Autosport driver, Spike Kohlbecker, might be classified as a rookie, but he’s actually one of the most experienced racers in the USF2000 field.
Kohlbecker is closing in on 100 junior formula car starts and across the United States, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom.
The native of St. Louis, Mo., finished third in the 2018 Toyo Tires F1600 Championship (aka Ontario Formula Ford), second in the prestigious Avon Tyres National Formula Ford Championship (aka British Formula Ford), and third in the 2020 F4 United States Championship, where he won twice and finished on the podium eight times.
“We worked a lot on set up last weekend and really dialed in some things, car-wise and driving-wise,” said the 18-year-old after spring training at Barber Motorsports Park. “You never stop learning, on and off-track, and that’s what we did last weekend. I’m interested to see where everyone stacks up and where I stack up against the field when we come back here. I’m working on different racing lines and working on the different quirks of the track. I’ve driven here many times, and I know how quickly the track changes, and you have to adapt to that. It takes a lot of work and development to earn the number of championships that the team has, and they’ve really shown that this week.”
Kohlbecker is my dark horse championship contender. He’s with the team that has won the most championships and clearly knows how to win races. He’s been in contention for titles in the past and should not be phased by a pressure-filled situation.
DEForce Racing, a Texas-based team that competes on the first two rungs of the Road To Indy ladder, ended the 2021 USF2000 campaign on a high note. Returnee Kiko Porto won Race #1 at the final event of the year in St. Petersburg, Fla. and both of the team’s drivers qualified upfront.
It was the first USF2000 win for the team, lead by David Martinez and Ernesto Martinez, and capped off a successful 2021 in which the team also had three poles and six podiums.
The team heads into the season with three veteran drivers and one highly touted rookie.
DEForce Racing is coming off a successful spring training that saw them end up with three of the five quickest lap times.
Ely Navarro – Lucas Oil School of Racing sponsored No. 1
As the reigning Lucas Oil Formula Car Series champion, Ely Navarro has earned the honor of racing with the No. 1 and a standout livery matching fellow scholarship winners Christian Rasmussen (Indy Pro 2000) and Sting Ray Robb (Indy Lights).
Navaro, a championship karter at New Castle Motorsports Park, dominated the Lucas Oil Formula Car Series, winning six times and finishing on the podium in 13 of the 18 races.
With three quick and veteran teammates, the 16-year-old is in the perfect place to learn how to become a professional racer. Finishing races and working on race craft should be the early season goals for the Fishers, Ind.-based driver. Once the series gets to the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, it will be time to unleash everything he’s learned.
Nolan Siegel – Menlo Ventures / Aero Paint Technologies sponsored No. 10
Despite being only 16-years-old, Nolan Siegel is one of the most experienced racers in the USF2000 field. Siegel, who is with his third different USF2000 team in three years, has already made 32 USF2000 and 48 North American junior formula car starts. His racing resume includes one pole, three podiums, 18 top-ten finishes, and one fastest lap.
The Palo Alto, Calif. driver, was one of the quickest drivers during spring training at Barber Motorsports Park. He was in the top three in four of the five sessions and was the fastest driver in the final test session.
If Siegel’s improvement between USF2000 seasons #2 and #3 match the gains made between seasons #1 and #2, Siegel could find himself as race winner and championship contender. He’ll have to get more consistent, though. Siegel has the single-lap pace but will need to replicate that lap-after-lap while also cutting down on costly mistakes.
Prescott Campbell – Fluid Logic / Valkyrie Intelligence / Lucas Oil School of Racing sponsored No. 11
Prescott Campbell, who counts The Big Eagle, Dan Gurney as his hero returns for a second season of USF2000 action after finishing 11th as a rookie.
It took the 2019 Lucas Oil Formula Car Series champion a few events to get acclimated to professional racing. Still, he was one of the better racers in the final two events of the season.
Campbell entered the final five races in 15th place in the championship, but an impressive average finish of 7.8 and a podium in those events moved him to 11th.
The Oxford Brookes University student was one of the more consistently quick drivers during spring training, finishing in the top four in the last three sessions.
I’m not sure that as a sophomore, Campbell would be considered a dark horse, but let’s call him that anyway. I have nothing to go by, but Campbell is the type of driver that will be much better during a second season. He’s also the type of cerebral driver that once the confidence flood gates open, he’ll be unstoppable.
Kiko Porto – Banco Daycoval / Petromega sponsored No. 12
Despite missing two events (five races) due to the global pandemic, Kiko Porto finished tenth in the championship. His season ended on a high note with a win in St. Petersburg and included two poles, four podiums, and two races with the quickest lap.
The 2021 USF2000 season will be the Brazilian’s fourth season with DEForce Racing. The 17-year old spent the first two years in F4, where he won three times and finished second in the championship in 2019.
Another race winner from 2020 that has returned to the series equals another of the favorites to win the title and scholarship to move up the Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires ladder to Indy Pro 2000. Porto was much better in his second season of F4, and we’d expect the same growth in USF2000.
With two late additions to their USF2000 roster, Exclusive Autosport is the third team with a quartet of drivers entering the Barber Motorsports Park weekend.
The Canadian-owned team, based in Brownsburg, Ind., made their USF2000 debut and have amassed four wins, four poles, 13 podiums in four seasons of action.
Christian Brooks – Hot Wheels / Chaco Flaco / Bell Racing Helmets / MB2 raceway / Molecule / APSS / Lucky Design USA sponsored No. 44
Christian Brooks, the 2020 USF2000 rookie of the year and Exclusive Autosport returnee, began the 2021 season the way the 2020 season ended. With his name at the top of the timing screens.
The Santa Clarita, Calif. driver, won the final USF2000 race of the season on the Streets Of St. Petersburg and led the combined timesheet during spring training for the 2021 season.
Still, only 20-years-old, Brooks’ journey to the Road To Indy took an unconventional detour. Like most of the USF2000 field, Brooks had a successful karting career, but instead of jumping into a formula car, he went Rally Cross racing for three years.
After two-vice championships in the GRC/American RallyCross Lites category, Brooks made his way back onto the asphalt and formula cars.
In 2019, Brooks won twice and stood on eight podiums on the way to a third-place finish in the F4 United States Championship.
There is no doubt in my mind, especially after leading spring training by two-tenths-of a second; Brooks is one of, if not THE favorite as the 2021 chase for the title and scholarship begins.
Brooks is a racer, finishing higher or equal to where he qualified in 70% of the races in 2020. Yes, that’s a compliment on his racecraft. It’s also a critique of his ability to get the most out of fresh tires in qualifying. If he figures out how to turn on the Cooper Tires and get the most out of them, he’ll be hard to beat.
Grant Palmer – Redline Ace / ND4SPD Car Club / Cars & Coffee STL / STL-US Racegear sponsored No. 90
After spending the 2020 season in the United Kingdom contesting the BRSCC UK Formula Ford 1600 Championship, St. Louis, Mo. area driver Grant Palmer is returning to race in the United States.
Like many St. Louis area racer, Palmer got his start at the Margay Raceway at the Gateway Kartplex before moving onto a karting program with former INDYCAR driver Phil Giebler.
Palmer was a finalist in the Lucas Oil School of Racing karting shootout and took part in a 2019 Lucas Oil Formula Car Series event at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, scoring two podiums in his first races in cars.
“I am very happy to have Grant join the Exclusive Autosport USF2000 program for the start of the 2021 season,” enthused Michael Duncalfe, Exclusive Autosport Team Principal. “Grant has a solid foundation in cars and has shown he knows how to win. He showed well in testing and instantly fit in with the team. We are looking forward to getting the 2021 season underway and seeing the strides Grant can make in the #90 Exclusive Autosport USF2000.”
Palmer had a successful spring training outing at Barber Motorsports Park, getting quicker with each session, ending the final test session with the third fastest lap time. Finishing races should be goal number one for Palmer. Finishing in the top ten early in the season should be goal number two. He will build an excellent foundation to attack for top-fives in the second half of the year if he can do that.
Billy Frazer – Cambridge Global Services / Giltrap Group sponsored No. 91
One of rookie Billy Frazer’s sponsors is the Giltrap Group. If you are a fan of six-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Scott Dixon, that should be a familiar name. Colin Giltrap was one of the Kiwi investors that helped Dixon get his American career started.
From Aukland, New Zealand, Frazer has a career path that closely resembles the Chip Ganassi Racing drivers. Both were successful in New Zealand Formula Vee before winning the countries hotly contested Formula Ford championship.
This year, Frazier took part in a condensed Toyota Racing Series championship, winning once, collecting three podiums, and finishing third in the championship.
Like all other rookies, the 18-year-old must first finish races. He was the second quickest rookie in spring training (ninth overall). If his racecraft is like most Formula Ford veterans – outstanding – don’t be surprised if he’s fighting for top-five and ten finishes early in the 2021 season.
Matthew Round-Garrido – Indigo Medical / Exclusive Autosport sponsored No. 92
The last of the four announced drivers for Exclusive Autosport is veteran Matthew Round-Garrido. The Stourbridge, England native has made 28 previous Road To Indy starts, with one podium, seven top fives, and 19 top-ten finishes.
Before moving to the U.S.A., Round-Garrido was a stand-out Formula Ford racer, winning races and championships in the United Kingdom.
“I’m extremely excited to be representing Exclusive Autosport this weekend at Barber Motorsports Park, said the 21-year-old “Michael (Duncalffe) and I have spoken a couple of times in the past, but never managed to materialize a deal. For us to do one such deal last minute before the first race of the season is quite good. I think their car looks very competitive, and I’m excited to drive it. It’s going to be hard work, seeing as I haven’t done any pre-season testing, but I know I’ll have the right people around me, so we can push forward and keep improving and hopefully, by St. Pete, we’ll be pushing for a win.”
For Round-Garrido to contend for wins and the USF2000 championship, he’ll need the consistency he had early last year, when he strung together several top-fives.
Force Indy, the brainchild of Rod Reid and Jimmie McMillan (Penske Entertainment Corp.’s Chief Diversity Officer), is an exciting new team that will be contesting the 2021 USF2000 season.
Reid, a well-regarded graphic, exhibit, and interior designer during the day, is the founder of NXG Youth Motorsport, an Indianapolis, Ind. driving program to expose the Black community to motorsports.
Reid got his start in Super Formula Vee racing in the 1980s will honor African Americans’ heritage in racing, beginning by running the No. 99.
“It’s so important for us to know where we’ve come from,” explained Reid. “There’s a lot of history. African Americans have been in motorsports ever since the beginning of the car, the sport itself.
“A gentleman in the 1920s by the name of Dewey Gaston, he went by the nickname Rajo Jack. He actually ran No. 33 for a lot of years, was very, very successful with that number.
“He was staging a comeback in the early ’50s, late ’40s. He brought a car that he thought would be extremely successful. That car was a big block engine, thought he was going to put it up front. It was No. 99. He was never able to win in that car. I think he finished the best with like a fourth in one of his races. Then he stopped.
“I thought it would be fitting for us to take on that heritage and use the No. 99 to move forward. With the help of the Penske organization, ourself, we wanted to put No. 99 in the winner’s circle.”
Myles Rowe – Force Indy sponsored No. 99
After an interview and shootout at Circuit of The Americas, the first race seat with Force Indy went to Myles Rowe.
Rowe, a college junior, from Georgia has limited formula car experience due to budget but came to the attention of Force Indy through a recommendation from INDYCAR and Indianapolis 500 champion and current Team Penske driver Will Power. Rowe and Power karted together at GoPro Motorplex in North Carolina, and the Aussie was impressed with Rowe’s skills.
Rowe’s limited formula car experience includes a Winter Series championship and five wins in eight races at the Lucas Oil School of Racing.
The 20-year-old had a productive and successful spring training test at Barber Motorsports Park, turning in the tenth best time and finishing in the top half of each of the final four one-hour test sessions.
It’s been a while since Rowe has raced in anger, so there might be some rust to knock off at the first few events. Don’t be surprised if, later in the season, the No.99 is challenging for top-fives. We checked in with Lucas Oil School of Racing lead instructor and INDYCAR driver RC Enerson to get his opinion on Rowe. Enerson had high praise, telling me Rowe is one of the best that has come through their school and that he expects him to be successful. Like all the other rookies, finishing every race is so important. A seventh to tenth-place championship finish would be an excellent foundation for Rowe and Force Indy to build on.
Jay Howard Driver Development began when USF2000 and Indy Lights champion Jay Howard began a karting team. Now, the Westfield, Ind.-based team is the only entity with a footprint in Indy Lights, Indy Pro 2000, USF2000, FRA, and F4.
Despite the 2021 season being only the team’s third in USF2000, they will be defending Christian Rasmussen’s driver’s title.
The team has 12 wins, ten poles, and 19 podiums in their two seasons of action on the bottom rung of the Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires.
Bijoy Garg – JHDD / CSU – One Cure / Lucas Oil sponsored No. 6
The 2020 USF2000 and F4 seasons were Bijoy Garg’s first season in cars. The 18-year-old made 19 starts across the two series, finishing in the top five once and the top ten five times.
The Stanford, Calif. native only began racing as a 13-year-old, winning races up and down the west coast.
In Garg’s nine USF2000 races in 2020, his race pace was much better than his qualifying pace, something he’ll have to improve on to consistently finish in the top ten. One big positive was Garg’s ability to finish races. That’s always important.
Jackson Lee – Tnemec / Browning Chapman / Spruce Haven / Doug Mockett & Company / JHDD / Caldwell Realty / Cox, Beckman, Goss & Company sponsored No. 8
Jackson Lee, a 2020 Team USA Scholarship winner, will be moving to cars with Jay Howard Driver Development after two successful years of F1600/Formula Ford.
The Avon, the Ind. native, began his racing career in quarter-midgets, winning a pair of USAC Mini Indy championships. The 18-year-old’s next move was to karting at New Castle Motorsports Park.
A fourth-place finish in the 2018 Cooper Tires Lucas Oil School of Racing Karts To Cars shootout led to a season in the Lucas Oil Formula Car Series in 2019. Lee finished fourth with a pair of wins and six podiums.
Lee spent the 2020 season in the F1600 Championship Series, winning twice and holding down second place before leaving for the U.K. and the Formula Ford Festival and Walter Hayes Trophy. Lee made the final in both prestigious events, finishing in the top ten at Brands Hatch in the Formula Ford Festival.
It’s broken record time. Lee’s first goal should be to complete every lap and learn as much as possible. His second goal should be to run consistently in the top half of the deep USF2000 field.
Peter Vodanovich – Giltrap / Goldwise / Crème Insurance sponsored No. 9
The third member of the Jay Howard Driver Development USF2000 squad for the 2021 season is Kiwi Peter Vodanovich.
The 20-year-old didn’t start racing until 2017 and turned his first race laps in a formula car during the 2021 Toyota Racing Series.
Before the move to open-wheel and the USA, Vodanovich was a regular in the New Zealand and Australian Toyota 86 (rear-wheel driver fastback)
His career in the small sports car included nine wins, 23 podiums, and the 2019-2020 Best Bars Toyota 86 Championship New Zealand.
For a driver with minimal laps in a single-seater, Vodanovich could fairly quickly get to within one second of the quickest lap during spring training. With the large fields, top 15 results would be a great way to start his rookie USF2000 season.
The Freeport, Texas-based Joe Dooling Autosports is a new entrant into USF2000, but the Joe Dooling name has a long and storied history in American Open Wheel Racing. Joe Dooling Sr. entered the United States Auto Club (USAC) Sprint Car Championship with legendary shoe Lloyd Ruby. More recently, Ed Carpenter, Bryan Clauson, Brady Bacon, Jerry Coons, Jr., and Kevin Thomas, Jr., have peddled the No. 63 for Joe Dooling, Jr.
Trey Burke – Dooling Machine Products Texas / Texas Micro Optics sponsored No. 63
A legacy race team deserves a legacy driver, and that’s what Joe Dooling Autosports have in a fourth-generation racer, Trey Burke.
Burke, who started his racing career in Junior Sprints as an eight-year-old, quickly made a move to micro sprints. In 2019, Burke moved to the IMCA National Sprint Car Series winged-sprints, where he won rookie of the year.
Burke moved to pavement with formula cars in 2020, winning races in the Lucas Oil School of Racing Formula Car Series and the F1600 Championship Series series.
The step to USF2000 is a big one, and Burke will need to use 2021 as a learning season to complete as many laps as possible and catch up to the drivers that have been road course racing their entire lives. He’s been a winner in everything he’s driven, so we expect him to get quicker and more competitive as the season moves along.
The aptly named Legacy Autosport is a labor of love for Louis “Mike” Meyer and his family. Meyer is a fourth-generation racer, the great-grandson of three-time Indianapolis 500 champion Louis Meyer. His grandfather Sonny was a legendary engine builder, and his dad Butch was also an engine builder and past technical director of the Indy Lights series.
Meyer has spent a large portion of his career working in the Road To Indy with teams like Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Belardi Auto Racing.
The team scored a pair of USF2000 podiums in 2019 with French driver Alexandre Baron and will enter the USF2000 weekend at Barber Motorsports Park with a couple of entries.
Legacy Autosport will be partnering with Marotti Autosport for two USF2000 entries.
“All the pieces for a great team and terrific season are coming together,” said Will Marotti, owner of Marotti Autosport. “We anticipate a major sponsorship announcement soon.”
Andre Castro – Metalloid / Marotti Autosport sponsored No. 19
New Yorker Andre Castro returns to the USF2000 series after a short hiatus and a stint in the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series.
The noted sim racer scored four podiums while behind the wheel of a Chevrolet Camaro in Europe and earned his bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of Chicago.
“The last time I raced In USF2000 was at Barber, so making my comeback at the same track seems very fitting,” said Castro. “My goal is to keep the car clean and become more comfortable throughout the weekend.”
The last time Castro was in an open-wheel car was at the 2018 Chris Griffis Memorial Test, where he was impressive in setting the sixth quickest time. It might take the 22-year-old a few sessions to get back up to speed. Knocking the rust off at Barber Motorsports Park should be goal number one.
Simon Sikes – America’s Pharmacy Source / ERA (Expense Reduction Analysts) / Medi-Share / Metalloid / Group6 Gear sponsored No. 20
Simon Sikes will be returning to Legacy Autosport and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship series after making an appearance in the second half of the 2020 season.
The 20-year-old’s busy 2020 included:
- winning nine races and the F1600 Championship Series
- winning the Formula F (F1600/Formula Ford) category at the SCCA Runoffs at Road America
- winning a Team USA Scholarship
- finishing second in the Formula Continental category at the SCCA Runoffs at Road America
- taking part in eight USF2000 races with one front row start, one top-five, and two top tens.
The budding entrepreneur and inventor founded Group6 Gear, after developing a better rib protector for karters.
Sikes’ karting career included state championships in his home state of Georgia (and Florida) along with national wins.
Sikes’ results in his USF2000 races in 2020 were not representative of his race pace and passing ability. In a deep field, Sikes will have to make sure that he gets the most out of qualifying, not to have to rely on passing his way forward.
The team formed by former INDYCAR driver Jack Miller and recently retired Super-Bowl winning kicker Adam Vinatieri in 2016 made their debut in USF2000 and the Road To Indy in 2018. The 2020 season was the team’s most successful, with driver Jack William Miller scoring two podiums.
Kent Vaccaro – Adirondack Radiation Therapy / P1 Nutrition sponsored No. 16
Kent Vaccaro, who made an appearance with the team at New Jersey Motorsports Park in 2020, joins the Carmel, Ind.-based squad for an entire season of action in 2021.
The Purdue University student has 55 starts across the F4, FRA, and F2000 series, collecting two poles, one podium, two fastest laps, and 18 top-ten finishes.
Vaccaro and the team took part in an extensive off-season testing program and should show improvement throughout the season. Like all rookies, running as many laps as possible will be one of the keys to getting quicker.
Multi-generation racer and Pabst Racing owner Augie Pabst has built a successful USF2000 team by developing loyalty with crews and drivers.
That has equated to 23 wins, 25 poles, and 100 podiums for the 60-year-old team. USF2000 race winners for the team include Tonis Kasemets (6), Jake Eidson (4), Hunter McElrea (4), Eduardo Barrichello (3), Rinus VeeKay (3), Jordan Lloyd (1), Yufeng Luo (1), Will Owen (1).
The Oconomowoc, Wisc. based team has won three team championships (2017-2019) but is still looking for their first driver’s title.
Yuven Sundaramoorthy – S Team Motorsports sponsored No. 22
University of Wisconsin freshman Yuven Sundaramoorthy is returning to his hometown team for a third season of USF2000 action.
In four years of American open-wheel junior formula car action, Sundaramoorthy has made 76 starts, winning four times, standing on the podium 15 times, and finishing in the top ten in 71.1% of those races.
For me, the 18-year-old driver showed some promise with a solid rookie campaign but followed that up with a disappointing second half of his sophomore USF2000 season. With only two DNFs in his 76 race career, Sundaramoorthy has completed one piece of the puzzle complete; he finishes races. Now, he needs some confidence to put another corner of the puzzle in place. A good weekend at Barber Motorsports Park could provide that confidence. Remember when Sting Ray Robb had a breakout last year? It feels like Sundaramoorthy needs a similar type of breakout, and when it happens, the podiums will start piling up.
Jace Denmark – Metal Works Custom Fabrication sponsored No. 23
Rookie Jace Denmark, a high school sophomore from Scottsdale, Ariz., will join a pair of veterans to make up the Pabst Racing three-car USF2000 squad.
The 16-year-old has an extensive background in regional, national and international karting. Denmark was the top finishing American at the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals in Sarno, Italy, in 2019.
Denmark has only made one previous appearance in formula cars, a one-off F4 race weekend at Virginia International Raceway, but that didn’t stop him from turning in the quickest lap of the 14 rookies that took part in USF2000 spring training at Barber Motorsports Park.
“The Pabst Racing team is top-notch, and I feel very fortunate and honored to be driving with them in the 2021 Road to Indy USF2000 series.” Said Denmark. “The season will be full of learning and developing new relationships while taking my experience to the next level. Testing with Pabst has been fantastic, and I’ve already learned so much. I can’t wait for the racing to start!”
With little experience in cars, Denmark’s potential in cars is unknown, but based on spring training, the potential is high. The Arizonan finished the first four sessions in 6th, 4th, 6th, and 5th and was the fastest of the Pabst Racing trio in three of those sessions. If his racecraft matches his pace, Denmark could be primed for a run at USF2000 rookie of the year and a top-five championship finish.
Josh Pierson – TransUnion / iovation sponsored No. 24
After a rookie season with Exclusive Autosport, 15-year-old rookie Josh Pierson moved to Pabst Racing for his sophomore USF2000 season.
Pierson started 16 USF2000 races in 2020, twice finishing in the top ten near the end of the season.
Last year, Pierson lacked pace, but he accomplished goal number one for a rookie, finishing races. He completed 98.6% of the laps in the races he started. A three-year USF2000 program makes sense for Pierson, so the goal for 2021 should be once again to finish races, but this time fight for positions near the top ten. A worthy goal with a large and deep field.
The Mundelein, Ill.-based Turn 3 Motorsport made their Road To Indy debut in the second half of the 2019 Indy Pro 2000 season. The team, with Danial Frost, finished third in their first entire season of Road To Indy action, winning once and grabbing six podiums.
The team, led by Indy Pro 2000 and Indy Lights-winning driver Peter Dempsey, purchased a pair of USF-17s to expand their Road To Indy footprint.
“We are really looking forward to the first event of the year at Barber,” said Team Owner Peter Dempsey. “We have had a busy off-season expanding the team into USF2000 and preparing the drivers for the first race of the season. I’m excited to be to be part of the USF2000 championship with two talented drivers, Josh Green and Dylan Christie. I’m confident in their abilities and I know they will push themselves to the limit.
Josh Green – HG Investment Fund / Business and Leadership Coach Mark Green / Mockett / Stilo / Team USA Scholarship sponsored No. 33
Josh Green, a 2019 Team USA Scholarship winner, returns to the USF2000 series after a sixth-place finish in his rookie season, including three podiums and one race led.
After a successful karting career that included state and national championships, the 18-year-old has made 42 American junior open-wheel starts. Green has eight wins, eight poles, and an outstanding top-five finish percentage of 62%.
“I’m extremely excited for my debut weekend with Turn 3 Motorsport at Barber Motorsports Park,” said Green. “It’s been an amazing off-season and I know we’re well prepared to hit the track running. I’m in the best shape I’ve been in and more importantly the strongest mindset I’ve ever had. I can’t wait to get going and get the ball rolling!”
If Turn 3 Motorsport has an immediate handle on their USF-17s, which they should with Brian Halahan on board to run that program, Green is one of the favorites for the championship and scholarship that goes with it. The Mount Kisco, N.Y. native, isn’t flashy, but he’s consistent and doesn’t make many errors, something that will serve him well in a larger USF2000 field.
Dylan Christie – Turn 3 Motorsport / DCR / Stilo sponsored No. 34
Princeton, New Jersey resident Dylan Christie join his F1600 Championship Series rivals Simon Sikes and Jackson Lee as USF2000 competitors in 2021.
Christie was a standout regional and national karter before making the moves to formula cars in 2020. The 17-year-old spent the season in F1600 equipment, winning four times in the F1600 Championship Series series and three times in SCCA F1600 events.
“I’ve had the entire off-season to look forward to and prepare for this event at Barber Motorsports Park,” said Christie. “The team and I have had many days at Barber to get up to speed and get the car dialed in, so I expect if we give it our all, the results will come. I trust in the training and preparation I’ve put in during the off-season to carry me to good results this weekend, and I’m excited to get the season started.”
Christie was one of the bigger surprises for me at Spring Training. No, he wasn’t as quick as his more experienced teammate, but he was very consistent. Like the other rookies, turning as many laps as possible is essential. If his pace from spring training carries over to race pace, don’t be surprised to see him near the top ten.
Velocity Racing Development
Velocity Racing Development (VRD), based in Georgia, is a newcomer to the Road To Indy, but not to American junior open-wheel racing. Engineer and driver coach Daniel Mitchell owns the team. The British-born, Georgia-based Mitchell has been there, engineered that, in the European junior formula categories. In the last three years, VRD has won eight F4 races along with one FRA race. In 2020, the team won the F4 drivers championship with Hunter Yeany.
Erik Evans – VRD / Storm & Salvage sponsored No. 29
Erik Evans, a 17-year-old Georgian, was a championship-winning karter before a successful transition for formula cars in 2020. The high-school student captured a win, three podiums, and finished in the top ten in 84.6% of his F4 season on the way to a sixth-place championship finish.
Evans had a successful spring training, turning in the eighth quickest time in the first test session, improving to the fifth-best time in the fifth and final session.
Evans is on my rookies to watch radar. With the team and driver new to the series and car, some early top 15s should be considered a successful beginning to their joint leap into the Road To Indy. The pair’s past success together should eventually lead to consistent top tens in the second half of the 2021 season.
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