By Steve Wittich
With Kiko Porto on the brink of winning the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship, the next big Brazilian star is on their way to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES.
With Helio Castroneves and Tony Kanaan winding down their outstanding careers, the 18-year-old from Recife, Brazil, is poised to grab the torch from the legends.
When the series left the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on Independence day, DEForce Racing sophomore Porto’s lead was a slim 19 points; however, a stellar weekend at the New Jersey Motorsports Park where he outscored chaser Michael d’Orlando (Cape Motorsports) by 30 points means his lead is an almost insurmountable 49 points.
The difference between the two drivers is their consistency and ability to avoid a disastrous result, or as we like to call it, avoiding the single digits.
Porto has not finished below 10th in the first 16 races of the season, meaning the lowest point total he’s scored in a single race is 11. Conversely, d’Orlando has finished outside the top ten on three occasions, scoring only six points combined in those three races.
USF2000 Tale Of The Tape
|KIKO PORTO||MICHAEL D’ORLANDO|
|Recife, Brazil||Hometown||Hartsdale, NY|
|100%||% Laps Completed||95.4%|
|5.0||Fastest Lap Avg.||7.9|
One thing that d’Orlando has going for him is his past results on the 2.258-Mile, 13-Turn Mid-Ohio Road Course. In nine previous USF2000 starts, the Cape Motorsports driver has three wins, six podiums an average finish of 3.3.
Over those same nine races, Porto has one win, two podiums, and an average finish of 8.0.
The championship, Hyperco Rookie Of The Year, and Team Championships (see below for the latter pair) are the main prizes, but finishing strong and setting the tone for next season can be just as important.
Much like fellow veteran d’Orlando, Pabst Racing’s Yuven Sundaramoorthy lacked the consistency to challenge for the championship, but that shouldn’t take away from an outstanding season that saw the University of Wisconsin freshman prove he’s ready for the next step on the Road To Indy.
The 18-year-old’s three wins and four poles trail only Porto, and his eight podiums equal the series-best with the points leader.
Sundaramoorthy’s Pabst Racing teammate has done everything but win a race during his sophomore season of USF2000 action. Still only 15-years-old, the Oregonian is one of six drivers to complete every lap, has stood on five podiums, and could still grab third in the championship with a good weekend at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
Josh Green, a Team USA Scholarship winner and Turn 3 Motorsport sophomore, has had a consistent season and is coming off his first podium of the season at the New Jersey Motorsports Park.
Championship leader Porto’s DEForce Racing teammates, Prescott Campbell and Nolan Siegel, each have one win and three podiums this season and are ready to make a move up the ladder.
2021 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship points standings
|7||Spike Kohlbecker – r||210||-158|
|8||Jace Denmark – r||203||-165|
|10||Thomas Nepveu – r||192||-176|
|12||Billy Frazer – r||167||-201|
|14||Myles Rowe – r||119||-249|
|16||Dylan Christie – r||111||-257|
|17||Ely Navarro – r||94||-274|
|18||Peter Vodanovich – r||63||-305|
|19||Jackson Lee – r||61||-307|
|20||Erik Evans – r||54||-314|
|21||Evan Stamer – r||53||-315|
|22||Christian Weir – r||44||-324|
|25||Trey Burke – r||41||-327|
|26||Grant Palmer – r||38||-330|
|27||Kent Vaccaro – r||38||-330|
|28||Andre Castro – r||27||-341|
|29||Nathan Byrd – r||10||-358|
|30||Chase Hyland – r||3||-365|
Interesting USF2000 finale note: The Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course is the fifth different venue to play host to the USF2000 finale in the past five seasons, joining St. Petersburg Street Course (2020), WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca (2019), Portland International Raceway (2018), and Watkins Glen International (2017). If you go back to 2010 and the rebirth of the series, only WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca has hosted multiple finales (2015, 2016, and 2017). Also hosting a single finale was Road Atlanta (2010), Baltimore Street Circuit (2011), Virginia International Raceway (2012), Houston Reliant Park (2013), and Sonoma Raceway (2014).
Hyperco Rookie Of The Year
The championship battle between the veterans at the top of the points table isn’t the only title that will conclude on Sunday. Four drivers still have a chance to take home the prize for the top newcomer, with the leading trio separated by only 18 points.
Ignite Autosport w/Cape Motorsports rookie Spike Kohlbecker has accomplished what every rookie should; the 18-year-old has been consistent and clean all season long and brings a seven-point lead to the final pair of races.
The native of St. Louis, Mo., is one of six drivers to complete all 349 laps contested so far this season and has not finished worse than 11th in the first 16 races of the season.
Pabst Racing rookie Jace Denmark is riding a string of ten straight top-ten finishes to move to within seven points of Kohlbecker as the best newcomer.
The 17-year-old is coming off his best event of the year at the New Jersey Motorsports Park and has outscored Kohlbecker by 22 points in the last two events at NJMP and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Denmark has also completed all 349 laps contested in 2021.
Montreal, Canada’s Thomas Nepveu trails Kohlbecker by 18 points and will need to rebound from disappointing results in the Garden State last time out.
The 17-year-old Cape Motorsports newcomer is one of two rookies to win this year, standing on the top step of the podium at Road America.
Eighteen-year-old Billy Frazer will need some bad luck to befall his competitors to erase the 43 point deficit that he has to Kohlbecker.
The Kiwi scored the second-most points over the last two events among the rookie drivers and had some success when he visited the 2.258-Mile, 13-Turn Mid-Ohio Road Course in July.
The Exclusive Autosport rookie finished a season-best fourth and collected two of his six top tens at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
Other rookies we are watching include:
The reigning Lucas Oil Formula Car Race Series champion Ely Navarro is coming off his best race weekend at the New Jersey Motorsports Park and is one of six drivers who complete 100% of the laps contested this season.
Race winner in the wet at New Jersey Motorsports Park Myles Rowe. The Force Indy finally broke through with a good result after showing strong pace all season long.
Trey Burke, a rookie for Joe Dooling Autosports, has continued to get quicker all season and scored his best two results of the season the last time he was in a car. The open-wheel standout is returning to a track for the first time and has a chance to show that his learning curve is continuing at a steep pace.
Christian Weir, at only 14-years-old, made his USF2000 debut at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course with Turn 3 Motorsport in July and was impressive in his second event a month later, twice finishing in the top ten at New Jersey Motorsports Park. Weir recently competed in the F4 United States Championship Powered By Honda series at Virginia International Raceway, scoring a podium with Gonella Racing.
Jackson Lee returns to Jay Howard Driver Development after missing the last round of the series. The rookie, an F1600 Championship Series winner at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, set the fastest lap race in the weekend’s second race.
2021 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship rookie standings
|1||Spike Kohlbecker – r||210|
|2||Jace Denmark – r||203||-7|
|3||Thomas Nepveu – r||192||-18|
|4||Billy Frazer – r||167||-43|
|5||Myles Rowe – r||119||-91|
|6||Dylan Christie – r||111||-99|
|7||Ely Navarro – r||94||-116|
|8||Peter Vodanovich – r||63||-147|
|9||Jackson Lee – r||61||-149|
|10||Erik Evans – r||54||-156|
|11||Evan Stamer – r||53||-157|
|12||Christian Weir – r||44||-166|
|13||Trey Burke – r||41||-169|
|14||Grant Palmer – r||38||-172|
|15||Kent Vaccaro – r||38||-172|
|16||Andre Castro – r||27||-183|
|17||Nathan Byrd – r||10||-200|
|18||Chase Hyland – r||3||-207|
Team bragging rights
Team points are distributed as follows to a teams top two finishers in each race – 1st is 22 points, 2nd is 18 points, 3rd is 15 points, 4th is 12 points, 5th is 10 points, 6th is 8 points, 7th is 6 points, 8th is 4 points, 9th is 2 points, and 10th+ is 1 point.
DEForce Racing, led by the championship favorite Kiko Porto, is on the cusp of winning their first Road To Indy team championship.
The Angleton, Texas team lead by David and Ernesto Martinez – the D and E in DEForce – leads in the win (six), pole (seven), and podium (tied at 14) categories with the two races remaining at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. In addition, the family-run team is the only squad that has had three different drivers win a race.
The following two teams on the championship table have won a dozen team championships. Pabst Racing, winners of three team championships in a row between 2017 and 2019, are trailing DEForce Racing by 40 points. A further 61 points adrift are last season’s team champions Cape Motorsports, who have won the team crown nine times.
2021 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship team championship standings
|5||Turn 3 Motorsport||154||-230|
|8||Joe Dooling Autosports||64||-320|
|9||Miller Vinatieri Motorsports||60||-324|
|10||Michael Myers Racing||52||-332|
|11||Velocity Racing Development||49||-335|
|12||Jay Howard Driver Development||45||-339|
If DEForce Racing holds on to win their first championship, it will end almost a decade of dominance by Cape Motorsports and Pabst Racing, who have won the last nine team titles.
USF2000 team champions
|2004||Andersen Walko Racing|
Double the celebration
In 33 seasons of USF2000 competition, the champion has won the season finale on 18 occasions.
The last driver to accomplish that feat was current Indy Lights championship contender Kyle Kirkwood, who won the final race of the season at Portland International Raceway, his 11th series win a row.
In 1990, Vince Puleo won his fourth race of the season on the one-mile oval at Phoenix International Raceway, the final race of the USF2000 season.
USF2000 champs that have won the final race of the year
|1993 USAC East||Chris Simmons|
|1992 USAC West||Greg Moore|
|1992 USAC East||Chris Simmons|
Previously at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course
- Part of the VP Racing Fuels Championship Weekend Presented By Cooper Tires, the two races will be the 64th and 65th USF2000 races held at the central Ohio natural terrain road course.
- There are 23 drivers on the entry list for the Cooper Tires USF2000 Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio Presented by VP Stay Frosty doubleheader.
- Thirty-eight drivers representing 23 teams have won USF2000 races at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
Past USF2000 race winners at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course
|2021 Race #3||Michael d’Orlando||Cape Motorsports|
|2021 Race #2||Kiko Porto||DEForce Racing|
|2021 Race #1||Michael d’Orlando||Cape Motorsports|
|2020 Race #6||Christian Rasmussen||Jay Howard Driver Development|
|2020 Race #5||Reece Gold||Cape Motorsports|
|2020 Race #4||Michael d’Orlando||Cape Motorsports|
|2020 Race #3||Christian Rasmussen||Jay Howard Driver Development|
|2020 Race #2||Christian Rasmussen||Jay Howard Driver Development|
|2020 Race #1||Christian Rasmussen||Jay Howard Driver Development|
|2019 Race #2||Hunter McElrea||Pabst Racing|
|2019 Race #1||Christian Rasmussen||Jay Howard Driver Development|
|2018 Race #3||Kyle Kirkwood||Cape Motorsports|
|2018 Race #2||Kyle Kirkwood||Cape Motorsports|
|2018 Race #1||Kyle Kirkwood||Cape Motorsports|
|2017 Race #2||Parker Thompson||Exclusive Autosport|
|2017 Race #1||Oliver Askew||Cape Motorsports|
|2016 Race #3||Anthony Martin||Cape Motorsports|
|2016 Race #2||Anthony Martin||Cape Motorsports|
|2016 Race #1||Anthony Martin||Cape Motorsports|
|2015 Race #3||Nico Jamin||Cape Motorsports|
|2015 Race #2||Nico Jamin||Cape Motorsports|
|2015 Race #1||Nico Jamin||Cape Motorsports|
|2014 Race #3||Florian Latorre||Cape Motorsports|
|2014 Race #2||Jake Eidson||Cape Motorsports|
|2014 Race #1||RC Enerson||Team E Racing|
|2013 Race #3||Garett Grist||Andretti Autosport|
|2013 Race #2||Neil Alberico||Cape Motorsports|
|2013 Race #1||Neil Alberico||Cape Motorsports|
|2012 Race #2||Scott Anderson||Belardi Auto Racing|
|2012 Race #1||Spencer Pigot||Cape Motorsports|
|2011 Race #2||Petri Suvanto||Cape Motorsports|
|2011 Race #1||Petri Suvanto||Cape Motorsports|
|2006 Race #4||JR Hildebrand||Cape Motorsports|
|2006 Race #3||JR Hildebrand||Cape Motorsports|
|2006 Race #2||JR Hildebrand||Cape Motorsports|
|2006 Race #1||JR Hildebrand||Cape Motorsports|
|2005 Race #4||Jay Howard||Aiken Racing|
|2005 Race #3||Joey Foster||Cape Motorsports|
|2005 Race #2||Jay Howard||Aiken Racing|
|2005 Race #1||Jay Howard||Aiken Racing|
|2004 Race #4||Adam Pecorari||Andersen Walko Racing|
|2004 Race #3||Adam Pecorari||Andersen Walko Racing|
|2004 Race #2||Adam Pecorari||Andersen Walko Racing|
|2004 Race #1||Andre Prendeville||Andersen Walko Racing|
|2003 Race #4||Jonathan Bomarito||PR1 Motorsports|
|2003 Race #3||Jonathan Bomarito||PR1 Motorsports|
|2003 Race #2||Westley Barber||Cape Motorsports|
|2003 Race #1||Tonis Kasemets||Pabst Racing|
|2002 Race #3||Ross Fonferko||Cape Motorsports|
|2002 Race #2||Bryan Sellers||Cape Motorsports|
|2002 Race #1||Tonis Kasemets||Pabst Racing|
|2001 Race #3||Jason LaPoint||Richard Morgan Racing|
|2001 Race #2||Doug Bell||Cape Motorsports|
|2001 Race #1||Tonis Kasemets||Tonis Kasemets|
|1999 Race #2||Jeff Wright||Cape Motorsports|
|1999 Race #1||Dan Wheldon||Primus Racing|
|1998 Race #2||David Besnard||Primus Racing|
|1998 Race #1||David Besnard||Primus Racing|
|1997||Zak Morioka||Hayes Motorsports|
|1996||Steve Knapp||Miller Miling/Elite Engines|
|1995 Race #2||Jeret Schroeder|
|1995 Race #1||Memo Gidley||Cape Motorsports|
|1993||Chris Simmons||SOTARE Racing|
- With 32 victories, 28 pole starts, and 67 podiums, no team comes close to matching Cape Motorsports record at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
- The averaging finishing position of the pole sitter is 1.6, and they have won 39 of the 63 previous races.
- The average finish position of the pole-sitter at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course is 3.7, and they have failed to finish the race six times.
- Only twice in 63 previous races has the winner taken a yellow and checkered flag simultaneously.
- The closest finish, 0.171 seconds, occurred in 2003 Race #2 when Westley Barber beat Charlie Kimball to the checkered flag.
USF2000 weekend schedule
Saturday, October 2
- 8:40am – 9:10am – USF2000 Practice #1
- 11:45am – 12:15pm – USF2000 Qualifying #2
- 3:50pm – 4:30pm – USF2000 Race #1
Sunday, October 3
- 8am – 8:30am – USF2000 Qualifying #2
- 11am – 11:40am – USF2000 Race #2
Don’t miss any of the Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires action:
- download the Road To Indy TV app from the Apple App Store or on Google Play to get video, audio, timing & scoring, news from TSO Ladder and much more – you can also get Road To Indy TV via Apple TV, Amazon Video, Roku or Microsoft Xbox One
- live timing – Road To Indy TV – Indy Lights – Pro Mazda – USF2000 – IndyCar Race Control
- on twitter – TSO Ladder – Team Cooper Tire – Road To Indy TV – Indy Lights – Indy Pro 2000 – USF2000
- on all social media channels via the #TeamCooperTire and #RoadToIndy hashtags