By Tony DiZinno
The Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship will hit the halfway point of its 2022 season with Rounds 9 and 10 this weekend at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis. The Cooper Tires Grand Prix of Road America powered by Elite Engines caps off a stretch of eight USF2000 races since April 29, after the season-opener in St. Petersburg was back in February.
Cape Motorsports’ Michael d’Orlando seized momentum of the championship lead with a win on the oval at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park two weeks ago, and with points and a half for that race, he’s now 17 points clear of Myles Rowe coming into this weekend (177-160).
Rowe will be hoping for momentum for Oconomowoc, Wis.-based Pabst Racing at its home venue; recent wins from the team at this track have come in 2019 with Hunter McElrea and in 2017 with Rinus VeeKay. The VeeKay one was a weekend sweep.
Jace Denmark (Pabst, test 1, 2:11.1855) and series debutante Nikita Johnson (Velocity Racing Development, test 2, 2:11.0399) led Thursday’s pair of test sessions but neither topped the timesheets in Friday’s lone official practice session before qualifying.
Those honors went to Billy Frazer of Exclusive Autosport, posting a best time of 2:11.2917 in his No. 92 Tatuus. With Thomas Nepveu (DEForce Racing), Myles Rowe (Pabst) and Michael d’Orlando (Cape) in tow, that meant there were four different teams in the top-four positions. Nepveu won Race 2 here last year for Cape; DEForce won Race 1 last year with series champion Kiko Porto.
Thursday pacesetters Denmark and Johnson were fifth and 12th, respectively. Behind Denmark, Bijoy Garg, Christian Weir, Jackson Lee, Jagger Jones and Dylan Christie completed the top 10. Lee is due a bit of luck this weekend and beating teammate Jones in opening practice is a good sign of his potential.
Johnson, 14, isn’t the only driver making his series debut this weekend. D’Orlando’s brother Nicholas makes his debut in another VRD car, while Evagoras Papasavvas is in one of the Jay Howard Driver Development cars. The field is at 23 cars this weekend, but Johnson’s presence in VRD’s No. 17 car means Englishman Alex Quinn isn’t back to win more races after sweeping the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course tripleheader last month.
USF2000 qualifying takes place from 10:30 to 11 a.m. CDT and local time.
USF2000 Cooper Tires GP of Road America – Practice
|1||92||Billy Frazer||Exclusive Autosport||2:11.2917||2:11.2917||11|
|2||10||Thomas Nepveu||DEForce Racing||2:11.5806||0.2889||10|
|3||22||Myles Rowe||Pabst Racing||2:11.6204||0.3287||13|
|4||4||Michael d’Orlando||Cape Motorsports||2:11.7804||0.4887||11|
|5||23||Jace Denmark||Pabst Racing||2:11.8400||0.5483||10|
|6||12||Bijoy Garg||DEForce Racing||2:11.9506||0.6589||11|
|7||32||Christian Weir||Turn 3 Motorsport||2:11.9820||0.6903||11|
|8||2||Jackson Lee||Cape Motorsports||2:12.0294||0.7377||8|
|9||3||Jagger Jones||Cape Motorsports||2:12.0407||0.7490||9|
|10||11||Dylan Christie||DEForce Racing||2:12.0419||0.7502||11|
|11||61||Nicholas d’Orlando||VRD Racing||2:12.0783||0.7866||11|
|12||17||Nikita Johnson||VRD Racing||2:12.1488||0.8571||8|
|13||30||Viktor Andersson||VRD Racing||2:12.1698||0.8781||10|
|14||91||Joey Brienza||Exclusive Autosport||2:12.3211||1.0294||11|
|15||9||Jorge Garciarce||Jay Howard Driver Development||2:12.3224||1.0307||13|
|16||33||Spike Kohlbecker||Turn 3 Motorsport w/Ignite Autosport||2:12.5337||1.2420||11|
|17||8||Danny Dyszelski||Jay Howard Driver Development||2:12.6462||1.3545||12|
|18||90||Jacob Douglas||Exclusive Autosport||2:12.6701||1.3784||12|
|19||63||Trey Burke||Joe Dooling Autosports||2:12.8253||1.5336||8|
|20||6||Evagoras Papasavvas||Jay Howard Driver Development||2:12.9655||1.6738||10|
|21||5||Nicky Hays||Cape Motorsports||2:13:0965||1.8048||9|