By Steve Wittich
A considerable crowd of friends and family enthusiastically cheered Myles Rowe (Pabst Racing) as he drove into victory lane at Barber Motorsports Park. This park-like race track started his desire to become a racer. The win is Rowe’s second straight in 2022 and third overall in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship.
The 21-year-old, who calls New York City home, went flag to flag after winning his first pole the day before, becoming the 14th pole sitter in 17 USF2000 races to claim victory.
“It is awesome to win here; I have so much family here – I had no idea so many of them were here,” said a beaming Rowe. “It means so much to me since I saw my first open-wheel race at Barber when I was 16. I remember watching Will (Power) and Helio (Castroneves) – they talked to me after the race, and Helio invited me into the transporter. That was such a revolutionary moment for me, and my passion for racing skyrocketed after that. I fell in love with racing more than I thought possible here at Barber, so to win here is so amazing.
“The pressure was on right from the start. I want to apologize to Jagger, and I had no idea he was trying to stick with me on the outside. It was a great pace, great consistency – huge thanks to Pabst Racing for giving me such a great car. Today was all about starting well, keeping it out front, and managing the race from there. I gained a good bit of confidence at St. Pete – being the first race of the year and a street course, you know that if you do well there, you have good adaptability, and you’ll probably do well everywhere. It was good to know the pace was there. It’s just about executing from there.”
The win moves Rowe into a tie for the championship lead with his Pabst Racing teammate Jace Denmark.
The Augie Pabst led Pabst Racing squad from Oconomowoc, Wisc., won for the second time at Barber Motorsports Park and for the 30th time as a USF2000 team.
Pabst Racing now has six podiums at Barber Motorsports Park, including Rinus VeeKay, the NTT INDYCAR SERIES that just won the pole for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.
Rowe is the eighth pole-sitter in the 11 USF2000 races on the 2.3-mile, 17-turn natural terrain road course to drive to victory lane.
After a spectacular pass (see the second half of video in this Instagram post) in the Museum Complex of corners, Exclusive Autosport veteran Billy Frazer finished for the second time this season.
It’s the second time an Exclusive Autosport driver has finished on the podium at Barber Motorsports Park and the 19th career podium for the Brownsburg, Ind. squad with Canadian roots.
The second-place finish leaves Frazer five points from the championship lead heading to Sunday’s race.
Frazer’s move was one of 49 passes for position. The Kiwi, along with Jay Howard Driver Development rookie Jorge Garciarce were the biggest movers of the race, each finishing four spots ahead of their starting positions.
After a pair of solid fourth-place finishes to begin his USF2000 season, championship hopeful Michael d’Orlando came to Alabama hunting for podiums.
The 20-year-old raced better than he qualified for the third straight race, gaining two spots from his inside third row starting spot and turning the quickest lap in the race for the third time in his USF2000 career.
The driver of the Focused Project Management/UFC Gym sponsored No. 4 now has 14 career USF2000 podiums.
“My start wasn’t terrible, but it could have been way better, explained d’Orlando. “I started on the inside of Row 3, so I wasn’t in the best position. Jagger went, then Billy went around the outside, and I was a sitting duck.
“I made up one position and sat in fourth for most of the race. I was trying to chase them (Sikes and Frazer) down, so I got the fastest race lap, but I focused on being smooth and safe. Simon went off late, and I found myself in P3. I’m super proud of that race, and I’m looking for more tomorrow.”
Bijoy Garg (DEForce Racing) continued his solid start to the season, bringing his brilliant blue and white with neon yellow trimmed No. 12 home in the fourth spot, his second top-five in the first three races of the 2022 season.
Despite his late off-track excursion, Legacy Autosport veteran Simon Sikes held onto his second USF2000 top-five of the season and the seventh in his career.
The second caution-free race of the 2020 USF2000 and only second series race with a yellow flag at Barber Motorsports Park resulted in the fastest ever race on the 2.3-mile, 17-turn natural terrain road course with an average speed of 99.721mph.
49 passes for position Billy Frazer 6th to 2nd Jorge Garciarce 18th to 14th
Impressively, all 19 starters finished on the lead lap, and the top eight drivers were within 10 seconds of race winner Rowe.
The command to fire the USF2000 engines was given by a guest of Andersen Interior Contracting.
Rowe and Garg led 19 car field to the green flag for the first of two Cooper Tires Grand Prix of Alabama races at Barber Motorsports Park.
The start was slow, with several drivers jumping out of line. Race control announced that the start was under review and eventually penalized Jackson Lee (Cape Motorsports) and Danny Dyszelski (Jay Howard Driver Development) for getting out of line. From Avon, Ind., Lee had the sixth quickest lap of the race but, without a caution, could not use that speed to make up positions.
Rowe got the jump, arriving at Turn 1 before the rest of the field. The first lap was green, but it wasn’t super clean.
Outside front row starter Garg lost a few spots in the Alabama Roller Coaster, while Jones, who started third, attempted an outside pass in Turn 3, running out of room and bouncing through the grass. As a result, the third-generation driver dropped down the running order, barely remaining in the top ten.
The running order after the first lap was Rowe, Simon Sikes (Legacy Autosport), Billy Frazer (Exclusive Autosport), Nicholas d’Orlando (Cape Motorsports), Bijoy Garg (DEForce Racing), Thomas Nepveu (DEForce Racing), Christian Weir (Turn 3 Motorsport), Nicky Hays (Cape Motorsports), Dylan Christie (DEForce Racing), Jagger Jones (Cape Motorsports), Spike Kohlbecker (Turn 3 Motorsport), Jace Denmark (Pabst Racing), Jacob Douglas (Exclusive Autosport), Viktor Andersson (Velocity Racing Development), Jackson Lee (Cape Motorsports), Danny Dyszelski (Jay Howard Driver Development), Yeeroo Lee (Jay Howard Driver Development), Trey Burke (Joe Dooling Autosports) and Jorge Garciarce (Jay Howard Driver Development).
On Lap 2, Christie had a spin in Turn 8, dropping down the field from ninth to 18th. However, he was able to continue.
Later on the lap, the No. 7 of Yeeroo Lee had an off in Turn 15
Early in the 20-lap race, Rowe was unable to pull away, with Sikes and Frazer within two seconds of the leader.
Rowe’s lead when he crossed under the crossed flags to signify the halfway mark of the race was 1.2 seconds, but there were several terrific battles behind him.
Sikes was driving defensively to hold back Frazer and d’Orlando for second. Also, Hays, Jones, and Kohlbecker were within a second of each other for eighth.
There were still 11 drivers within ten seconds of leader Rowe with five laps remaining.
Rowe had a semi-comfortable 1.1 second lead over Sikes. However, the Legacy Autosport driver was facing heavy pressure from Frazer.
The battle between the two came to a head in Turns 8 and 9 on Lap 17. Kiwi Frazer got a better drive off Turn 5. The Metalloid/Sturgis Finishing/Group6Gear sponsored No. 19 of Sikes moved to the right to block the inside run down to Turn 8. The Corpay Cross-Border Solutions sponsored No. 90 made a brave double move, faking to the left before diving back to the right, to give the Kiwi the inside line into Turn 8. Frazer was able to complete the pass while Sikes pushed into the grass at the exit of Turn 9. Sikes also lost spots to d’Orlando and Garg, dropping to fifth.
“Barber has a reputation as a difficult track to pass at, but I think I proved that wrong today,” said the 19-year-old Frazer. “Sixth to second, I’m super proud of myself and of the team.
“I was greedy on the first lap and it almost cost me – we were three-wide for most of it. I went onto the grass on the museum corner, but I kept it together and was able to pressure Simon into a late mistake. We faced adversity earlier in the weekend, in quali two, so I know I have a tough job ahead of me in Race Two tomorrow, but as the guys said on the radio, these are the races that win championships.”
After the 46 miles of racing, Rowe crossed the line 1.7632 seconds ahead of Frazer.
Cooper Tires Grand Prix of Alabama Race #1 Unofficial Results
|1||22||Myles Rowe||Pabst Racing||20 LAPS|
|2||92||Billy Frazer||Exclusive Autosport||-1.7632|
|3||4||Michael d’Orlando||Cape Motorsports||-2.3057|
|4||12||Bijoy Garg||DEForce Racing||-7.4099|
|5||19||Simon Sikes||Legacy Autosport||-7.9317|
|6||10||Thomas Nepveu||DEForce Racing||-9.1071|
|7||32||Christian Weir||Turn 3 Motorsport||-9.9166|
|8||5||Nicky Hays||Cape Motorsports||-10.7225|
|9||3||Jagger Jones||Cape Motorsports||-11.35|
|10||33||Spike Kohlbecker||Turn 3 Motorsport w/Ignite Autosport||-12.5246|
|11||23||Jace Denmark||Pabst Racing||-12.8344|
|12||90||Jacob Douglas||Exclusive Autosport||-16.1635|
|13||30||Viktor Andersson||Velocity Racing Development||-16.5913|
|14||9||Jorge Garciarce||Jay Howard Driver Development||-17.3721|
|15||11||Dylan Christie||DEForce Racing||-18.7114|
|16||63||Trey Burke||Joe Dooling Autosports||-24.3967|
|17||2||Jackson Lee||Cape Motorsports||-37.196|
|18||7||Yeoroo Lee||Jay Howard Driver Development||-49.775|
|19||8||Danny Dyszelski||Jay Howard Driver Development||-52.197|
Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship points after three rounds.
|T1||Myles Rowe||Pabst Racing||67|
|T1||Jace Denmark||Pabst Racing||67|
|3||Billy Frazer||Exclusive Autosport||65|
|4||Michael d’Orlando||Cape Motorsports||61|
|T5||Jagger Jones||Cape Motorsports||47|
|T5||Bijoy Garg||DEForce Racing||47|
|7||Simon Sikes||Legacy Autosport||46|
|8||Thomas Nepveu||DEForce Racing||38|
|9||Spike Kohlbecker||Turn 3 Motorsport||35|
|T10||Christian Weir||Turn 3 Motorsport||32|
|T10||Nicky Hays||Cape Motorsports||32|
|12||Jackson Lee||Cape Motorsports||27|
|13||Dylan Christie||DEForce Racing||26|
|14||Jacob Douglas||Exclusive Autosport||24|
|15||Trey Burke||Joe Dooling Autosports||22|
|16||Jorge Garciarce||Jay Howard Driver Development||20|
|T17||Viktor Andersson||Velocity Racing Development||18|
|T17||Yeeroo Lee||Jay Howard Driver Development||18|
|19||Frederik Lund||Jay Howard Driver Development||11|
|20||Danny Dyszelski||Jay Howard Driver Development||2|