By Steve Wittich
Every season, in most racing series, there is the possibility of two different winners only once. Saturday’s 20-lap Cooper Tires USF2000 Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio Presented by VP Stay Frosty Race #1 was that race for the lowest rung of the Road To Indy.
The first winner was Yuven Sundaramoorthy, who stood on the top step of the podium for the fourth time in 2021. The Pabst Racing veteran moved to 18 points of second place in the championship after the 18-year-old made a first lap pass on pole-sitter Michael d’Orlando and survived a late-race restart.
“It felt great to get back to that top step,” exclaimed the University of Wisconsin student. “I knew the championship was done, so I wanted to win races to end the season. The new tires helped, though his (d’Orlando’s) came in faster so those first few laps were a bit sketchy! He got loose and I got a good draft past him. I had a good gap to him, so I wasn’t happy to see the caution, but I knew we had pace on him. I was driving a bit conservatively, so I was fine at the end. Pabst always gives me a great car and today was no exception.”
The second winner was Kiko Porto, who clinched the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship and the $401,305 scholarship that goes to the winner. (more on Porto’s championship in a separate post).
Porto finished the race in third place, his ninth podium of the season, tied for the series high with Sundaramoorthy.
Cape Motorsports’ d’Orlando started from the pole, needing a win and a poor finish from Porto to remain in championship contention. Instead, the 18-year-old finished second, his eighth podium of 2021.
The trio of Saturday podium celebrants have combined for 26 (51%) of 51 possible USF2000 podiums to date, so, surprisingly, it took until the 15th race for the trio to share a podium.
After the race, d’Orlando said:
“That was a fantastic race. Huge congratulations to both Yuven and Kiko. Yuven made the right move to new tires so there wasn’t anything I could do. I’m glad to take home another podium. We fought hard with Kiko and Yuven all season long; congratulations to Kiko on the championship title. We have one more race to go tomorrow, and the weather could be a factor, so we’ll do the best we can to bring home another win for the Cape team.”
Road To Indy TV analyst and winner of seven USF2000 races, Parker Thompson, gave an emphatic call to fire the 22 Elite Engine prepared 2.0L powerplants by
Just as the field got the green flag, the accordion effect reared its ugly head at the rear of the field with the No. 63 of Trey Burke climbing over the back of Evan Stamer’s Ignite Autosport w/Cape Motorsports No. 3. Both cars could continue, but there was debris in the middle of the front straight right in front of the flag stand.
Race control allowed the field to race through the first seven corners before slowing them down with the yellow flag.
Before the caution, Sundaramoorthy, who started outside the front row, got a great exit out of The Keyhole and executed a textbook outside pass in Turn 4. The driver, who started from the outside of the front row, utilized the banking around the rim of Turn 4 to stay even with d’Orlando, giving himself the preferred inside line into Madness.
The running order after one lap of action was Sundaramoorthy, d’Orlando, Prescott Campbell (DEForce Racing), Jace Denmark (Pabst Racing), Kiko Porto (DEForce Racing), Green Thomas Nepveu (Cape Motorsports), Rowe, Billy Frazer (Exclusive Autosport), Josh Pierson (Pabst Racing), Christian Weir (Turn 3 Motorsport), Spike Kohlbecker (Ignite Autosport w/Cape Motorsports), Dylan Christie (Turn 3 Motorsport), Ely Navarro (DEForce Racing), Andre Castro (Legacy Autosport), Bijoy Garg (Jay Howard Driver Development), Kent Vaccaro (Miller Vinatieri Motorsports), Michael Myers (Michael Myers Racing), Jackson Lee (Jay Howard Driver Development), Burke and Stamer.
The big gainer on the first lap was rookie Frazer, who went from 19th to tenth.
The restart came on Lap 2, with Frazer getting aggressive again, gaining two spots, getting by fellow rookies Nepveu and Rowe, going to eighth.
Rowe wasn’t happy losing that position, coming back at Frazier. The race winner at New Jersey Motorsports Park and Kiwi went side-by-side through Turns 4 and 5 before the Force Indy No. 99 grabbed the eighth spot back.
At the front of the field, d’Orlando continued to stalk the Pabst Racing veteran, staying within one second of the lead. When the starter showed the field the crossed flags, Sundaramoorthy held a 0.5 second lead over d’Orlando.
On Lap 11, Denmark was pressuring Campbell, with the rookie looking to the inside of the 2019 Lucas Oil Formula Car Race Series champion, locking up the tires on the Metal Works Custom Fabrication sponsored No. 23 into Turn 9 and making contact with Campbell’s Fluid Logic/Valkyrie Intelligence sponsored No. 11. Campbell and his car bounced through the gravel before making significant contact with the tire barrier at the exit of the right-hander.
The top ten under the yellow flag were Sundaramoorthy, d’Orlando, Porto, Green, Rowe, Siegel, Frazer, Nepveu, Weir, and Kohlbecker.
The green flag came back out with five laps remaining. Rookie Nepveu was the only driver who moved on the restart, getting around Frazer for seventh after a multi-corner battle.
With two laps remaining, Sundaramoorthy’s lead over d’Orlando was just over one second, with Porto another second back. The presumptive champion Porto had his mirrors full of Green, Rowe, Siegel, and Nepveu.
Cooper Tires USF2000 Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio Presented by VP Stay Frosty Race #1 Results
|1||22||Yuven Sundaramoorthy||Pabst Racing||20 LAPS|
|2||4||Michael d’Orlando||Cape Motorsports||-0.7094|
|3||12||Kiko Porto||DEForce Racing||-2.0474|
|4||33||Josh Green||Turn 3 Motorsport||-2.8783|
|5||99||Myles Rowe||Force Indy||-3.5594|
|6||10||Nolan Siegel||DEForce Racing||-3.777|
|7||2||Thomas Nepveu||Cape Motorsports||-4.3198|
|8||91||Billy Frazer||Exclusive Autosport||-5.7089|
|9||32||Christian Weir||Turn 3 Motorsport||-6.1159|
|10||5||Spike Kohlbecker||Ignite Autosports w/Cape Motorsports||-6.4284|
|11||24||Josh Pierson||Pabst Racing||-6.7511|
|12||34||Dylan Christie||Turn 3 Motorsport||-7.1662|
|13||1||Ely Navarro||DEForce Racing||-8.036|
|14||19||Andre Castro||Legacy Autosport||-8.7661|
|15||6||Bijoy Garg||Jay Howard Driver Development||-10.7364|
|16||16||Kent Vaccaro||Miller Vinatieri Motorsports||-11.1641|
|17||63||Trey Burke||Joe Dooling Autosports||-11.425|
|18||8||Jackson Lee||Jay Howard Driver Development||-12.9421|
|19||42||Michael Myers||Michael Myers Racing||-13.4291|
|20||23||Jace Denmark||Pabst Racing||-1 LAP|
|21||11||Prescott Campbell||DEForce Racing||-9 LAPS|
|22||3||Evan Stamer||Ignite Autosports w/Cape Motorsports||-19 LAPS|
2021 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship points with one race remaining
|7||Spike Kohlbecker – r||221|
|8||Thomas Nepveu – r||206|
|9||Jace Denmark – r||204|
|12||Billy Frazer – r||180|
|14||Myles Rowe – r||136|
|15||Dylan Christie – r||120|
|17||Ely Navarro – r||102|
|18||Jackson Lee – r||64|
|19||Peter Vodanovich – r||63|
|20||Christian Weir – r||56|
|21||Erik Evans – r||54|
|22||Evan Stamer – r||54|
|23||Trey Burke – r||45|
|26||Grant Palmer – r||38|
|27||Kent Vaccaro – r||38|
|28||Andre Castro – r||34|
|29||Nathan Byrd – r||10|
|30||Chase Hyland – r||3|
The remainder of the USF2000 weekend schedule is as follows:
Sunday, October 3
- 8am – 8:30am – USF2000 Qualifying #2
- 11am – 11:40am – USF2000 Race #2
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