Thomas Nepveu (DEForce Racing) concentrates in the Cromwell/Karting Excellence/Home Hardware sponsored No. 10 Photo credit: Gavin Baker Photography/Road to Indy

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

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