By Steve Wittich
DEForce Racing veteran Thomas Nepveu led one of the closest Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship qualifying sessions that we remember. The Canadian grabbed his first pole with a lap of 72.7274 seconds, but it was close.
Nepveau pipped Denmark by eight-thousandths of a second, and eight drivers were within a second of the provisional pole.
Bijoy Garg (DEForce Racing) and Myles Rowe (Pabst Racing) are starting on the second row.
The highest starting rookie is Cape Motorsports’ third-generation rookie, Jagger Jones.
The first qualifying session for the new USF2000 cars got underway at 9:20 am. Like their big brother, the Indy Pro 2000 Series, the 19 drivers had 30 minutes to complete 20 minutes of green flag qualifying.
The sun was shining brightly, the breeze was barely blowing, and the temperature was 72F when qualifying got underway.
d’Orlando set the pace early in the session, leading at the halfway point with a lap at 72.8280 seconds. Fellow veterans Denmark, Nepveu, Kohlbecker, Garg, and Sikes, were within a third of a second of the provisional pole. Jones in ninth was the quickest rookie after ten minutes of running.
Most of the drivers visited pits at the mid-way point of qualifying, with crews making adjustments and bolting on fresh Cooper Tire slicks.
Drivers spent the next five minutes getting their fresh Coopers into the optimal operating temperature for qualifying.
Legacy Autosport veteran Sikes was the first driver to go quicker in the second ten minutes, moved to within a tenth of a second of d’Orlando. Next to go quicker were Nepveu and Jones, who were three-hundredths and six–hundredths quicker, respectively.
With just under three minutes remaining, Denmark grabbed the provisional pole as the timing screens lit up green as drivers continued to get quicker.
Like practice on Thursday, Denmark’s teammate Rowe was less than five-hundredths behind the provisional pole.
A new face jumped to the provisional pole as the checkered flag came out as Nepveu jumped to the top of the timing screens.
Cooper Tires Grand Prix of St. Petersburg unofficial qualifying results
|RANK||CAR NO.||DRIVER||TEAM||FAST LAP||DIFFERENCE|
|1||10||Thomas Nepveu||DEForce Racing||1:12.7274||——|
|2||23||Jace Denmark||Pabst Racing||1:12.7358||0.0084|
|3||12||Bijoy Garg||DEForce Racing||1:12.7555||0.0281|
|4||22||Myles Rowe||Pabst Racing||1:12.7769||0.0495|
|5||3||Jagger Jones||Cape Motorsports||1:12.7800||0.0526|
|6||92||Billy Frazer||Exclusive Autosport||1:12.8251||0.0977|
|7||4||Michael d’Orlando||Cape Motorsports||1:12.8280||0.1006|
|8||19||Simon Sikes||Legacy Autosport||1:12.8398||0.1124|
|9||63||Trey Burke||Joe Dooling Autosports||1:13.0199||0.2925|
|10||33||Spike Kohlbecker||Turn 3 Motorsport w/Ignite Autosport||1:13.0689||0.3415|
|11||11||Dylan Christie||DEForce Racing||1:13.0941||0.3667|
|12||32||Christian Weir||Turn 3 Motorsport||1:13.1541||0.4267|
|13||90||Jacob Douglas||Exclusive Autosport||1:13.3963||0.6689|
|14||2||Jackson Lee||Cape Motorsports||1:13.3989||0.6715|
|15||6||Frederik Lund||Jay Howard Driver Development||1:13.5767||0.8493|
|16||5||Nicky Hays||Cape Motorsports||1:13.6986||0.9712|
|17||9||Jorge Garciarce||Jay Howard Driver Development||1:13.8006||1.0732|
|18||7||Yeoroo Lee||Jay Howard Driver Development||1:13.8818||1.1544|
|19||30||Viktor Andersson||Velocity Racing Development||1:13.9023||1.1749|