#4: Michael d’Orlando, Cape Motorsports, Focused Project Management. Photo courtesy Gavin Baker Photography/Road to Indy

By Tony DiZinno

Michael d’Orlando switched winning from a delayed day race to a delayed night race at the rebranded Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park from 2021 to 2022. But other than the time of the Cooper Tires Freedom 75 and the name of the track, the driver of the No. 4 Cape Motorsports Tatuus delivered a mirror image of his performance here 12 months ago.

The series veteran moved into the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship lead in the process too, as the championship pays points and a half at the 0.686-mile oval. Despite about an hour delay from the projected start due to annoying and consistent sprinkles, the 17 competitors got going and got the race in all good.

D’Orlando started from pole, led all 75 laps, and won by 0.2328 of a second over Bijoy Garg in the No. 12 DEForce Racing entry. It mirrors what he did last year here, leading all 75 laps from pole and winning by 0.5268 over another DEForce Racing driver, Prescott Campbell. To continue the symmetry, a Pabst Racing driver finished third both years (Jace Denmark last year, Myles Rowe tonight).

While the stats made it seem simple, the drive was anything but for d’Orlando.

Like last year, he expertly navigated through traffic and deftly defended against Garg’s late charge. Garg got to within a tenth while trying to pass d’Orlando low in the turns. But with passing always a challenge on the low line, d’Orlando was able to sustain the pressure and deliver the victory. 

Garg’s second USF2000 podium still is a great result. Rowe got to within a second late in the race but never properly threatened for the top-two. That said, he banked his fifth USF2000 podium.

Jace Denmark held off Jagger Jones for fourth in a race-long battle between the second Pabst and second Cape entries.

The big mover on the night in a night of limited passing was Billy Frazer, who started ninth and advanced to seventh in the top Exclusive Autosport entry. He was just behind Thomas Nepveu in the second DEForce car, who finished sixth.

Simon Sikes, Spike Kohlbecker and Dylan Christie completed the top 10 finishers in a caution-free race, the third straight at this venue. 

As mentioned, d’Orlando’s win propelled him to the points lead. 

Entering the race, Jones led Frazer by one point and d’Orlando by two (132-131-130). Rowe was fourth with 127 and Denmark fifth with 116.

Provisionally leaving this race, d’Orlando now has 177 on the strength of the win, the most laps led and pole bonus point (so 47 of a possible 48 – pipped only by Garg getting a bonus point for fastest lap), with Rowe second on 160, Jones third on 158 with Frazer fourth on 152 and Denmark fifth on 145.

After a week break, the USF2000 competitors reconvene at Elkhart Lake’s Road America June 9-10.

USF 2000 Cooper Tires Freedom 75 – Race – Unofficial Results

P No Name Team Laps Diff
1 4 Michael d’Orlando Cape Motorsports 75 LAP 75
2 12 Bijoy Garg DEForce Racing 75 0.2328
3 22 Myles Rowe Pabst Racing 75 1.0138
4 23 Jace Denmark Pabst Racing 75 6.1757
5 3 Jagger Jones Cape Motorsports 75 6.4224
6 10 Thomas Nepveu DEForce Racing 75 8.0341
7 92 Billy Frazer Exclusive Autosport 75 11.7888
8 19 Simon Sikes Legacy Autosport 75 11.8173
9 33 Spike Kohlbecker Turn 3 Motorsport w/Ignite Autosport 75 12.7748
10 11 Dylan Christie DEForce Racing 75 13.6525
11 32 Christian Weir Turn 3 Motorsport 75 14.6252
12 2 Jackson Lee Cape Motorsports 75 21.5961
13 63 Trey Burke Joe Dooling Autosports-Curb-Agajanian 74 1 LAPS
14 8 Danny Dyszelski Jay Howard Driver Development 74 1 LAPS
15 9 Jorge Garciarce Jay Howard Driver Development 74 1 LAPS
16 90 Jacob Douglas Exclusive Autosport 74 1 LAPS
17 5 Nicky Hays Cape Motorsports 31 In Pit