By Tony DiZinno
Sometimes one last lap is all it takes to change the course of qualifying. And that was the story of qualifying for the second Cooper Tires USF2000 race of the weekend at St. Petersburg, as DEForce Racing’s Kiko Porto grabbed the pole from Exclusive Autosport’s Christian Brooks on the final lap of the 20-minute session. It’s his third career pole and seventh in the series for DEForce Racing.
Porto also denied Exclusive a three-for-three pole position sweep across two Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires series on Friday. Brooks (USF2000) and Braden Eves (Indy Pro 2000) took the top spots on the grid earlier in the day.
Porto was one of 10 drivers in the top 15 on the grid who set their fastest laps on their last of the session, anywhere from their ninth to 13th lap completed. Porto’s lap of 1:12.0840 around the 1.8-mile, 14-turn circuit was 0.0188 of a second clear of Brooks.
And showing the depth of the field, just 0.3711 of a second covered the top eight and just 0.9305 of a second covered the top 19 drivers in the 26-car field.
The frantic finish to the session occurred after a red flag flew with just over seven minutes remaining in the session, for Ely Navarro running off course at Turn 10 in his No. 1 DEForce car. The reigning Lucas Oil Formula Car Series champion was 20th at time of the red flag.
Brooks led Michael d’Orlando, Yuven Sundaramoorthy, Spike Kohlbecker and Porto, all covered by 0.3919 of a second. Just 0.9117 of a second covered the top 16.
But there was enough time for drivers to get at least one more hot lap as the green flag flew with just under three minutes remaining. Indeed that is when the intensity ramped up.
Porto, third-placed Matt Round-Garrido, fourth-placed Josh Green, seventh-placed Myles Rowe, ninth-placed Thomas Nepveu and 10th-placed Andre Castro all set their best laps on their last lap.
One other note in the DEForce camp: Nolan Siegel made it out after not posting a time the first two sessions, but the driver of the No. 10 DEForce Racing entry spun at Turn 14 on his out lap. It was still good to see the 16-year-old and one of the Barber polesitters back on course. Showing how deep the field is and how much can change in a week, he’ll start 26th and 24th for the two races here.
The two USF2000 races, Rounds 3 and 4 of the season, are Saturday at 10:55 a.m. and 5:20 p.m. ET.
USF2000 Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by Andersen Interior Contracting Race 2 Qualifying
|1||12||Kiko Porto||DEForce Racing||1:12.0840||1:12.0840||12|
|2||44||Christian Brooks||Exclusive Autosport||1:12.1028||0.0188||12|
|3||92||Matt Round-Garrido||Exclusive Autosport||1:12.1754||0.0914||13|
|4||33||Josh Green||Turn 3 Motorsport||1:12.2396||0.1556||10|
|5||4||Michael d’Orlando||Cape Motorsports||1:12.3690||0.2850||9|
|6||22||Yuven Sundaramoorthy||Pabst Racing||1:12.4360||0.3520||12|
|7||99||Myles Rowe||Force Indy||1:12.4538||0.3698||13|
|8||5||Spike Kohlbecker||Cape Motorsports||1:12.4551||0.3711||9|
|9||2||Thomas Nepveu||Cape Motorsports||1:12.5853||0.5013||9|
|10||19||Andre Castro||Legacy Autosport||1:12.5880||0.5040||11|
|11||24||Josh Pierson||Pabst Racing||1:12.6075||0.5235||12|
|12||23||Jace Denmark||Pabst Racing||1:12.6285||0.5445||12|
|13||6||Bijoy Garg||Jay Howard Driver Development||1:12.7618||0.6778||11|
|14||34||Dylan Christie||Turn 3 Motorsport||1:12.8376||0.7536||12|
|15||29||Erik Evans||Velocity Racing Development||1:12.9313||0.8473||11|
|16||11||Prescott Campbell||DEForce Racing||1:12.9384||0.8544||8|
|17||9||Peter Vodanovich||Jay Howard Driver Development||1:12.9442||0.8602||12|
|18||91||Billy Frazer||Exclusive Autosport||1:12.9622||0.8782||13|
|19||8||Jackson Lee||Jay Howard Driver Development||1:13.0145||0.9305||12|
|20||3||Evan Stamer||Cape Motorsports||1:13.1863||1.1023||12|
|21||90||Grant Palmer||Exclusive Autosport||1:13.1989||1.1149||13|
|22||1||Ely Navarro||DEForce Racing||1:13.2557||1.1717||8|
|23||42||Michael Myers||Michael Myers Racing||1:13.2727||1.1887||13|
|24||10||Nolan Siegel||DEForce Racing||1:13.4073||1.3233||13|
|25||63||Trey Burke||Joe Dooling Autosports||1:13.6027||1.5187||12|
|26||16||Kent Vaccaro||Miller Vinatieri Motorsports||1:14.2549||2.1709||9|