By Steve Wittich
The 2021 Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires season kicked off with an impressive green-to-checkered flag victory by Pabst Racing veteran Yuven Sundaramoorthy.
The trip to victory lane for Sundaramoorthy was the 18-year-olds first USF2000 win. It’s the 24th win for a driver representing Pabst Racing.
“This feels so great, it’s been so long coming, so long in the works,” said Sundaramoorthy after getting out his Pabst Racing No. 22. “To finally do this, and to do it from pole, feels great. I didn’t get fast lap, so I didn’t get the grand slam of points, but I’ll take it! I knew Prescott would burn his tires up in the aero wash so I just waited for him to fall back and focused on putting my laps together with no mistakes. It was a lot of pressure so mistakes were my biggest worry, but everything worked out. And having my teammate on the podium, with plenty of points for the team, makes it that much better. The Pabst team put everything together and the Cooper tires held up perfectly.”
Continuing a streak of good runs that began at the end of the 2020 USF2000, Prescott Campbell (DEForce Racing) put early pressure on Sundaramoorthy but had to settle for second place, his second career USF2000 podium.
Josh Pierson put tremendous pressure on Campbell in the second half of the 20-lap race, but the Pabst Racing 15-year-old could not make the pass, finishing in third, his first career USF2000.
On an interesting note, all three podium drivers began their USF2000 careers with Exclusive Autosport.
Completing the all-veteran top five were d’Orlando (Cape Motorsports) and Christian Brooks (Exclusive Autosport).
The top finishing rookie was Kiwi Billy Frazer (Exclusive Autosport), who crossed the finish line in sixth place.
The win is first at Barber Motorsports Park for Pabst Racing, and the two podiums were the third and fourth at the Birmingham, Ala circuit for the Oconomowoc, Wisc. based team. Campbell’s podium is the first at Barber Motorsports Park for DEForce Racing.
The race featured 102 on-track passes, with Miller Vinatieri Motorsports rookie Kent Vaccaro leading the way, with nine overtakes.
Pole sitter for this afternoon’s race, Nolan Siegel (DEForce Racing), turned the quickest race lap. His 14th of 20 laps was timed at 81.5837 seconds, almost two seconds under the seven-year-old USF2000 track record during a race.
The 26 Elite Engine prepared 2.0L power plants were fired at 7:55 am. The skies were cloudy, and the ambient temperature was 57F when the front row of Sundaramoorthy and Campbell was shown the green flag to get the 2021 USF2000 season underway.
Sundaramoorthy, the pole-sitter, got a good jump on the rest of the field, and the 27 drivers got cleanly through the left-hand, down-hill Turn 1 and the first complete lap of the 2.3-mile, 17-turn natural terrain road course.
Just after the first lap was completed, Rowe, Christie, and Round -Garrido had an incident in the Alabama Roller Coaster. The No. 99 Force Indy machine of Rowe stopped in the gravel in Turn 8, and the No. 92 Exclusive Autosport machine of Round-Garrido had significant damage, stopping in Turn 2.
Rowe and Round-Garrido were checked and released by the INDYCAR medical staff.
Christie was able to continue but finished many laps down.
The running order under yellow was Sundaramoorthy, Campbell, Pierson, d’Orlando, Denmark, Brooks, Kohlbecker, Green, Frazer, Lee, Porto, Siegel, Nepveau, Vodanovich, Garg, Evans, Palmer, Sikes, Burke, Vaccaro, Castro, Stamer, Navarro, Rowe, Round-Garrido and Christie.
The green flag came back out to start lap six. The leader got through the first four laps with a lead, with Campbell putting pressure on Sundaramoorthy. The No. 22 took the defensive inside line and held off Campbell in the No. 11.
On Lap eight, Denmark went four wheels off in Turn 13, losing two spots, falling from fifth to eighth.
Things settled in for the next five laps, with Campbell hounding Sundaramoorthy upfront. Sundaramoorthy, who had led every lap, had a 0.6 second lead over Campbell after turning the race’s quickest lap. Pierson was right on the rear wing of Campbell in third.
d’Orlando was just over two seconds back in fourth place and was being pressured immensely by Brooks. Frazer, who was up six spots, was sixth, with Kohlbecker, Denmark, Green, and Porto rounding out the top ten.
With six laps remaining, former Exclusive Autosport teammates, Campbell and Pierson were battling for second, which allowed Sundaramoorthy to pull a 1.5-second gap upfront.
Behind the podium positions, d’Orlando, Brooks, and Frazer were nose-to-tail in fifth, sixth, and seventh.
Sundaramoorthy’s lead to start lap 17 was a comfortable 1.6 seconds. Campbell had pulled a half-second gap over Pierson in third. Behind them, d’Orlando, Brooks and Frazer were going hammer and tong for the fourth spot.
The pole-sitter took the white flag with a comfortable 2.1-second lead.
Note: The No. 6 of Bijoy Garg (Jay Howard Driver Development), who originally finished 14th, was disqualified for running afoul of rule:
14.31.1. Car Weight – The minimum car weight shall include all fuel, lubricants, coolants, cameras, Driver weight and meet the following minimums:
(a) All Events – 1295 pounds.
Cooper Tires USF2000 Grand Prix Of Alabama Race #1 results
|1||22||Yuven Sundaramoorthy||Pabst Racing||—|
|2||11||Prescott Campbell||DEForce Racing||2.3321|
|3||24||Josh Pierson||Pabst Racing||2.7285|
|4||4||Michael d’Orlando||Cape Motorsports||5.8890|
|5||44||Christian Brooks||Exclusive Autosport||6.3881|
|6||91||Billy Frazer||Exclusive Autosport||6.7071|
|7||5||Spike Kohlbecker||Cape Motorsports||7.2986|
|8||23||Jace Denmark||Pabst Racing||8.6904|
|9||33||Josh Green||Turn 3 Motorsport||9.3802|
|10||12||Kiko Porto||DEForce Racing||11.1377|
|11||10||Nolan Siegel||DEForce Racing||11.5673|
|12||8||Jackson Lee||Jay Howard Driver Development||13.4546|
|13||2||Thomas Nepveu||Cape Motorsports||18.4392|
|14||90||Grant Palmer||Exclusive Autosport||18.9926|
|15||29||Erik Evans||Velocity Racing Development||19.9779|
|16||20||Simon Sikes||Legacy Autosport||27.1247|
|17||16||Kent Vaccaro||Miller Vinatieri Motorsports||27.4056|
|18||1||Ely Navarro||DEForce Racing||29.6553|
|19||3||Evan Stamer||Cape Motorsports||33.2251|
|20||63||Trey Burke||Joe Dooling Autosports||38.1265|
|21||34||Dylan Christie||Turn 3 Motorsport||5 LAPS|
|22||19||Andre Castro||Legacy Autosport||16.2362|
|23||9||Peter Vodanovich||Jay Howard Driver Development||4.1042|
|24||99||Myles Rowe||Force Indy||5.6030|
|25||92||Matt Round-Garrido||Exclusive Autosport||7.5750|
|26||6||Bijoy Garg||Jay Howard Driver Development||DQ|
The second USF2000 race of the day is set to get the green flag at 3:50 pm. (central)