By Patrick Stephan
Before we get to USF Pro 2000 presented by Cooper Tires Race #2 we need to clean up a couple notes from yesterday’s Race 1.
Recall that 7 cars didn’t make it through the first corner, and after the event, race control penalized Ricardo Escotto, Nicholas Monteiro, and Salvador de Alba 30 seconds each for Avoidable Contact.
Escotto has also been excluded from Race #2 – “Exceeded Driver Penalty Points.”
The start of Race #2 was much better with the field getting through the chicane with Michael d’Orlando keeping the lead from the pole, and Lirim Zendeli, jumping from 6th up to second, followed by Rowe and Johnson.
On Lap 2, Nikita Johnson gets by Myles Rowe for the 3rd spot. Notably that’s where Johnson just finished in the USF 2000 race which ended about 15 minutes before the USF Pro 2000 started.
Salavador de Alba drops from about 11th to 17th on Lap 3, though we haven’t heard why just yet.
Lap 4 has d’Orlando leading Zendeli by 0.84. Further back, Danny Dyszelski passes Frankie Mossman for 13th.
The biggest mover as of Lap 5 is Zendeli from 6th to 2nd. Jace Denmark is up 2 spots to 6th from 8th and Jordan Missig has moved up to 12th from his 16th starting spot.
The championship battle has Myles Rowe in 4th, with Kiko Porto in 5th. Recall that the gap entering the race between Rowe and Porto is 52 points.
Michael d’Orlando leads Zendeli by 1.08 on Lap 8, with Johnson just a half second back and pushing the second place driver. Lap 9, the gap from Zendeli to Johnson is 0.2. Johnson looked inside at Turn 1, but did not make the pass on Lap 10, with the gap expanding slightly the next time by.
Back in the field, whatever issue de Alba suffered earlier was not terminal as he has passed Lindsay Brewer and then Mossman on consecutive laps and is now 14th.
Nikita Johnson gets by Lirim Zendeli on Lap 14, with Myles Rowe also coming along and moving to 3rd place.
The Lap 15 order is now d’Orlando by 2.9 seconds over Johnson, Rowe, Zendeli, Porto, Denmark, Garg, Browne, Miller, and Pizzi is 10th.
Frankie Mossman brings his Jay Howard Driver Development machine to pit lane on on Lap 17, with de Alba not up to 13th.
Jack William Miller passes Jonathan Browne for 8th on Lap 19.
Lap 20 – with 10 to go – has d’Orlando leading by 2.15 over Johnson with Rowe still in P3. Zendeli and Porto are 4th and 5th. Denmark, Garg, Miller, Browne, and Pizzi complete the Top 10.
The closest battle on the track looks to be for 4th as Zendeli has Porto 0.5 behind and Denmark is 0.9 further back.
de Alba and Dyszelski get by Missig on Lap 25 for the 11th and 12th spots.
Up front Porto is still close to Zendeli, but the Top 5 remains d’Orlando by 1.2, over Johnson, Rowe, Zendeli and Porto.
Avery Towns, running 16th spins at Turn 12, but is able to get pointed the right direction and continue.
Lap 28, d’Orlando leads by 0.8915
Lap 29, d’Orlando leads by 0.6120, which is about 4 car lengths at Turn 1 as they are working through the final lap.
Johnson, to repeat, is racing in both USF2000 and USF Pro 2000 this weekend and will finish the race 0.2529 behind d’Orlando.
This is d’Orlando’s 4th victory of 2023 to go along with wins at Road America, Mid-Ohio and Toronto.
Down in the chicane run-off area, Myles Rowe does some donuts to celebrate winning the 2023 USF Pro 2000 Championship. From Brooklyn, New York, Rowe was “discovered” by Indycar driver Will Power while go karting in Mooresville, North Carolina. After the race, Power was one of the many in the iNDYCAR community to come over and congratulate Rowe including several members of the Penske organization – both race team and Penske Entertainment.
This title provides the scholarship funding for Rowe to move to INDY NXT by Firestone in 2024.
d’Orlando said on the podium that this has been a very up and down year for him as he thanked his sponsors and particularly his family for being with him through thick and thin.
USF Pro 2000 by Firestone Portland Race #2 Unofficial Results:
|1||1||Michael d’Orlando||30||LAP 30||1||Turn 3 Motorsport|
|2||17||Nikita Johnson||30||0.2529||2||VRD Racing|
|3||99||Myles Rowe||30||2.2758||3||Pabst Racing|
|4||10||Lirim Zendeli||30||7.3161||6||TJ Speed Motorsports|
|5||12||Kiko Porto||30||7.8438||4||DEForce Racing|
|6||20||Jace Denmark||30||8.6828||8||Pabst Racing|
|7||7||Bijoy Garg||30||10.5367||5||DEForce Racing|
|8||40||Jack William Miller||30||11.8868||11||Miller Vinatieri Motorsports|
|9||2||Jonathan Browne||30||15.2052||7||Turn 3 Motorsport|
|10||55||Francesco Pizzi||30||15.7746||12||TJ Speed Motorsports|
|11||91||Salvador de Alba||30||17.43||9||Exclusive Autosport|
|12||44||Danny Dyszelski||30||20.1891||13||Turn 3 Motorsport|
|13||19||Jordan Missig||30||22.622||16||Pabst Racing|
|14||3||Louka St‑Jean||30||29.636||10||Turn 3 Motorsport|
|15||93||Lindsay Brewer||30||38.2532||14||Exclusive Autosport|
|16||95||Avery Towns||26||Mechanical||18||Exclusive Autosport|
|17||6||Frankie Mossman||16||Mechanical||15||Jay Howard Driver Development|
|18||32||Nicolas Monteiro||‑‑‑||DNS||17||TJ Speed Motorsports|