By Steve Wittich
Welcome to our 2023 coverage of the USF Pro Championships Presented By Cooper Tires. With much thanks to Chris Pantani and Cooper Tire, we are back to provide the fans of the ladder series with the only on-site media coverage of the USF Juniors, USF2000 and USF Pro 2000 championships, starting this weekend in St. Petersburg, Fla.
The 20 drivers entered in the 2023 USF Pro 2000 Presented By Cooper Tires season-opener all have their eye on the $664,500 advancement scholarship to move up to INDY NXT by Firestone.
The car of choice for the series is a Tatuus full carbon composite and aluminum honeycomb monocoque with a halo. The IP-22, introduced last year, features upgraded side impact panels, front and rear impact structures, HANS-compliant INDYCAR head restraint, front and rear wheel tethers, upgraded uprights and front bulkhead structure to meet the unique demands of street circuits and ovals.
Power comes from an Elite Engine developed Mazda MZR 2.0-liter based 250hp powerplant. Reliability is outstanding, with no engine failures in the previous two seasons.
Slicks and rain tires are manufactured and branded by long-time series partner Cooper Tires.
Racing in the Sunshine City
Saturday’s (11:15 am Eastern) and Sunday’s (3 pm Eastern) 25-lap races will be the series’ 25th and 26th races – the second most of any USF Pro 2000 track since 1999 – on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn St. Petersburg street circuit.
Sixteen different drivers representing ten teams have stood on the top step of the podiums on the shores of Tampa Bay.
Previous USF Pro 2000 Presented By Cooper Tires winners in St. Petersburg, Fla.
|2022 Race #2||Nolan Siegel||DEForce Racing|
|2022 Race #1||Josh Green||Turn 3 Motorsport|
|2021 Race #2||Christian Rasmussen||Jay Howard Driver Development|
|2021 Race #1||Braden Eves||Exclusive Autosport|
|2020 Race #2||Hunter McElrea||Pabst Racing|
|2020 Race #1||Sting Ray Robb||Juncos Racing|
|2019 Race #2||Parker Thompson||Abel Motorsports|
|2019 Race #1||Parker Thompson||Abel Motorsports|
|2018 Race #2||Rinus VeeKay||Juncos Racing|
|2018 Race #1||Rinus VeeKay||Juncos Racing|
|2017 Race #2||Anthony Martin||Cape Motorsports|
|2017 Race #1||Anthony Martin||Cape Motorsports|
|2016 Race #2||Aaron Telitz||Team Pelfrey|
|2016 Race #1||Patricio O’Ward||Team Pelfrey|
|2015 Race #2||Neil Alberico||Cape Motorsports|
|2015 Race #1||Neil Alberico||Cape Motorsports|
|2014 Race #2||Spencer Pigot||Juncos Racing|
|2014 Race #1||Spencer Pigot||Juncos Racing|
|2013 Race #2||Matthew Brabham||Andretti Autosport|
|2013 Race #1||Matthew Brabham||Andretti Autosport|
|2012 Race #2||Jack Hawksworth||Team Pelfrey|
|2012 Race #1||Connor De Phillippi||Juncos Racing|
|2011||Connor De Phillippi||Team Pelfrey|
|2010||Conor Daly||Juncos Racing|
St. Pete notes:
- The average starting position of the race winner is 2.0, and the lowest starting position of any winner was eighth (Matthew Brabham in 2013 Race #1 and Rinus VeeKay in 2018 Race #1).
- The winner started from the pole in 18 of 24 races.
- Juncos Hollinger Racing leads all teams with seven wins.
- Active teams DEForce Racing (one), Exclusive Autosport (one), Pabst Racing (one) and Turn 3 Motorsport (one) have also won.
- Eighteen drivers representing nine teams have started from the pole.
- The average finishing position of the pole sitter is 1.6, and the lowest a pole winner has finished fifth.
- Juncos Hollinger Racing leads all teams with eight poles.
- Active teams DEForce Racing (one), Exclusive Autosport (one), Pabst Racing (one) and Turn 3 Motorsport (one) have also started from the pole.
- Fourteen teams have sent drivers to the podium, with Juncos Hollinger Racing leading with 23 top-three finishes.
- Active teams Exclusive Autosport (five), Jay Howard Driver Development (three), Pabst Racing (three), and Turn 3 Motorsport (three) and DEForce Racing (one) have also finished on the podium.
- The 20 races since 2013 have averaged 1.1 cautions and 2.6 yellow flag laps.
- Three cautions (twice – 2018 & 2022) and seven yellow flag laps (twice – 2015 & 2021) are the highs in those categories.
- None of the 25 races have finished under caution
- The most significant margin of victory was Matthew Brabham crossing the finish line 9.980 seconds ahead of Diego Ferreira in 2013.
- In 2018, Parker Thompson crossed the line only 0.3309 seconds ahead of Rinus VeeKay, the closest finish in St. Petersburg.
- The 1.8-mile, 14-turn St. Petersburg street circuit is hosting the first USF Pro 2000 Presented By Cooper Tires race of the season for the tenth time, tying it with the Sebring International Raceway.
- Saturday’s first race of the season will be the 20th time in 25 seasons (since 1999) that the USF Pro 2000 championship will begin in the Sunshine State.
- Since 1999, seven drivers that won the first race of the season went on to win the championship, with the last being current NTT INDYCAR SERIES driver Rinus VeeKay in 2018.
- The eventual champion has finished on the podium in 70.8% (17 of 24) of season openers.
- The average finish of the championship winner in the season’s first race is 5.0.
- 2004 champion Michael McDowell was disqualified from the season opener at Sebring International Raceway, finishing 32nd.
- Juncos Hollinger Racing leads all teams with four wins in the season’s first race. Active teams with wins in the season opener include Turn 3 Motorsport (two) and Exclusive Autosport (one).
- The average championship finishing position of the season’s first winner is 2.9.
- Eighteen of the 24 season-opening winners have finished in the top three of the championship, and all have finished in the top ten.
Does testing speed translate to championship results?
Pabst Racing rookies Myles Rowe and Jace Denmark capped off a successful spring training for Pabst Racing, who also led USF2000 testing with Simon Sikes.
Combined USF Pro 2000 spring training timesheet
|RANK||CAR NO.||DRIVER||TEAM||SESS.||BEST LAP||DIFF.|
|1||99||Myles Rowe||Pabst Racing w/Force Indy||3||118.669|
|2||20||Jace Denmark||Pabst Racing||3||118.755||-0.086|
|3||12||Kiko Porto||DEForce Racing||3||118.826||-0.157|
|4||1||Michael d’Orlando||Turn 3 Motorsport||3||119.058||-0.389|
|5||3||Christian Brooks||Turn 3 Motorsport||3||119.142||-0.473|
|6||19||Jordan Missig||Pabst Racing||3||119.148||-0.479|
|7||10||Lirim Zendeli||TJ Speed Motorsports||2||119.451||-0.782|
|8||55||Francesco Pizzi||TJ Speed Motorsports||2||119.472||-0.803|
|9||6||Reece Ushijima||Jay Howard Driver Development||4||119.541||-0.872|
|10||92||Joel Granfors||Exclusive Autosport||3||119.598||-0.929|
|11||91||Salvador De Alba||Exclusive Autosport||3||119.640||-0.971|
|12||40||Jack William Miller||Miller Vinatieri Motorsports||3||119.655||-0.986|
|13||2||Jonathan Browne||Turn 3 Motorsport||4||119.966||-1.297|
|14||32||Christian Weir||TJ Speed Motorsports||1||119.973||-1.304|
|15||47||Jackson Lee||Turn 3 Motorsport||3||120.060||-1.391|
|16||4||Ricardo Escotto||Jay Howard Driver Development||3||120.103||-1.434|
|17||7||Bijoy Garg||DEForce Racing||3||120.293||-1.624|
|18||90||Yuven Sundaramoorthy||Exclusive Autosport||4||121.042||-2.373|
|19||93||Lindsay Brewer||Exclusive Autosport||4||122.827||-4.158|
|20||81||Nicholas Monteiro||NeoTech Motorsport||4||122.835||-4.166|
Rowe led two of the four sessions, with Lirim Zendeli (TJ Speed Motorsports) and Kiko Porto (DEForce Racing) each leading one session apiece.
How champions fared in spring training:
- In 2022, eventual champion Louis Foster had the third-best time during spring training at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
- In 2021, eventual champion Christian Rasmussen had the second-best time during spring training at Barber Motorsports Park.
- In 2020, eventual champion Sting Ray Robb had the second-best time at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course during the final test before the season started.
- In 2019, eventual champion Kyle Kirkwood had the third-best time during spring training at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
- In 2018, eventual champion Rinus VeeKay had a mechanical issue at Barber Motorsports Park during the final test before the season started.
- In 2017, eventual champion Victor Franzoni did not participate in spring training at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
- In 2016, eventual champion Aaron Telitz led spring training at Barber Motorsports Park.
How spring training leaders fared in the title hunt
- In 2022, Wyatt Brichacek led spring training at Homestead-Miami Speedway and finished 13th on the championship table.
- In 2021, Manuel Sulaiman led spring training at Barber Motorsports Park and finished ninth on the championship table.
- In 2020, Danial Frost led the final test at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course before the season started and finished third on the championship table.
- In 2019, Sting Ray Robb led spring training at Homestead-Miami Speedway and finished fourth on the championship table.
- In 2018, David Malukas led the final test at Barber Motorsports Park before the season started and finished fourth on the championship table.
- In 2017, Anthony Martin led spring training at Homestead-Miami Speedway and finished second on the championship table.
- In 2016, eventual champion Aaron Telitz led spring training at Barber Motorsports Park.
Building a champion
There is no one formula or mixture of ingredients to build the perfect racing driver. Instead, champions are born from intangible and tangible elements influenced by split-second decisions. Below are some measurable factors that will go into building the next USF2000 Championship Presented By Cooper Tires champion.
Age and experience
- Since 1999, the average age of the USF Pro 2000 Presented By Cooper Tires champion has been 20.3.
- Since 2010, the average age of the USF Pro 2000 champion has been 20.1.
- John Edwards was the youngest champion at 17 years, seven months, and seven days old when he won the 2008 title. Adrian Carrio (2006) and Rinus VeeKay (2018) were also 17 when they won their championships.
- Championships by season
- Rookie – 11 titles – the last rookie champion was Louis Foster in 2022.\
- Second season – 11 titles – the last sophomore champion was Victor Franzoni in 2017
- Third season – one title – Luis Schiavo in 2003
- Fourth season – one title – Sting Ray Robb in 2020
- Five drivers have won the championship as 19 and 20-year-olds, the most of any age.
- Fourteen champions since 1999 have been American, with drivers from the United Kingdom (three), Brazil (Two), Venezuela, France, Uruguay, the Netherlands and Denmark also winning championships.
- Six of the American champions called California home, the most of any state.
- The average number of wins for the USF Pro 2000 champion all-time is 5.5
- The average number of wins for the USF Pro 2000 champion since 2010 is 7.0
- The average win percentage of the USF Pro 2000 champion all-time is 42.3%
- The average win percentage of the USF Pro 2000 champion since 2010 is 45.9%
- The fewest wins by a USF Pro 2000 champion since 2010 is three by Santi Urrutia in 2015.
- The most wins by a USF Pro 2000 champion since 2010 is 13 by Matthew Brabham in 2013.
- The average number of poles for the USF Pro 2000 champion all-time is 5.1.
- The average number of poles for the USF Pro 2000 champion since 2010 is 6.1.
- The average pole percentage of the USF Pro 2000 champion all-time is 39.6%.
- The average pole percentage of the USF Pro 2000 since 2010 is 40.5%
- The fewest poles by a USF Pro 2000 champion since 2010 is one by Christian Rasmussen in 2010.
- The most poles by a USF Pro 2000 champion since 2010 is 11 by Jack Hawksworth in 2012.
- The average number of podiums by the USF Pro 2000 champion all-time is 9.0.
- The average number of podiums by the USF Pro 2000 champion since 2010 is 10.8.
- The average podium percentage of the USF Pro 2000 champion all-time is 70.5%.
- The average podium percentage of the USF Pro 2000 champion since 2010 is 71.7%.
- The fewest podiums by a USF Pro 2000 champion since 2010 are six by Tristan Vautier in 2011.
- The most podiums by a USF Pro 2000 champion since 2010 is 15 by Matthew Brabham in 2013.
- Since 1990, championship-winning drivers have driven for 16 different teams.
- Juncos Hollinger Racing, who will not be on the USF Pro 2000 Presented By Cooper Tires grid this season, leads all teams with five drivers championships.
- Jay Howard Driver Development (Christian Rasmussen in 2021) and Exclusive Autosport (Louis Foster in 2022) are the only active teams to win a driver’s championship.
- Since 2006, the team that won the driver’s championship has also won the team championship in eight of 17 seasons.