Archives for USF2000 News/Results

Nicholas d’Orlando Leads VRD Racing Sweep of Top 3 in USF2000 Practice at Mid-Ohio

By Patrick Stephan

#61 Nicholas d’Orlando, Velocity Racing Development, DB Collaborative/Focused Project Management (Credit: Road to Indy Photo credit: Gavin Baker Photography/Road to Indy)

The Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship took to the track at 8:45am for their lone practice session of the day, with most of the field (perhaps all) out on used tires.

Jace Denmark and Myles Rowe from Pabst Racing were quickest at the halfway mark of the 30 minute session which saw Denmark at 1:23.2244 with his 11th lap.

Lochie Hughes moved to 3rd and then first with about 7 minutes remaining in his Jay Howard #7.  That wouldn’t last though as the timesheet started to shuffle over the final few minutes with Nicholas d’Orlando from Hartsdale, New York going 1:22.6827 to take P1 with a little over 5 minutes remaining in his VRD Racing machine.

Viktor Anderson also with VRD would slot in at P2 for the moment, followed by Nikita Johnson – making it VRD Racing in the top three spots.

With just 2:00 minutes to go, the track went red for Myles Rowe who had gone off in to the gravel trap in Turn 9.  With so little time remaining, the session was checkered, clearly catching many  teams/drivers out as they didn’t get a time to post their quick/late lap.

Rowe’s car was towed back to the pits behind an AMR INDYCAR Safety team truck, with no easily apparent damage, but it also wasn’t running – so we’ll head down to the paddock in a bit to take a look.

Jace Denmark – currently 3rd in the standings with 192 points would finish the session in 8th. Denmark, who turns 18 today, trails Michael d’Orlando (217) and Myles Rowe (211) heading in to this weekend’s triple header.

The Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship will be back on the track at 11:10 for qualifying. They will contest this weekend’s first race at 5:15pm tonight – following the NTT INDYCAR Series first practice session. The other two races of the triple header will run tomorrow at 10:45 and 5:00pm.

With the late caution preventing quick laps for so many competitors, I’m not sure how much stock I put on this timesheet as we head to qualifying – but here is how things finished up:

Pos Car # Driver Best Time Diff Total Laps Best Lap Team
1 61 Nicholas d’Orlando 1:22.6827 1:22.6827 14 14 VRD Racing
2 30 Viktor Andersson 1:22.9223 0.2396 17 16 VRD Racing
3 17 Nikita Johnson 1:23.0661 0.3834 16 15 VRD Racing
4 7 Lochie Hughes 1:23.1351 0.4524 16 12 Jay Howard Driver Development
5 10 Thomas Nepveu 1:23.1835 0.5008 16 15 DEForce Racing
6 4 Michael d’Orlando 1:23.1972 0.5145 18 15 Cape Motorsports
7 22 Myles Rowe 1:23.2143 0.5316 14 13 Pabst Racing
8 23 Jace Denmark 1:23.2244 0.5417 14 11 Pabst Racing
9 92 Billy Frazer 1:23.3405 0.6578 11 10 Exclusive Autosport
10 3 Jagger Jones 1:23.4450 0.7623 14 8 Cape Motorsports
11 12 Bijoy Garg 1:23.4603 0.7776 14 13 DEForce Racing
12 32 Christian Weir 1:23.4972 0.8145 14 9 Turn 3 Motorsport
13 11 Dylan Christie 1:23.5142 0.8315 14 11 DEForce Racing
14 33 Spike Kohlbecker 1:23.5172 0.8345 12 9 Turn 3 Motorsport w/Ignite Autosport
15 90 Jacob Douglas 1:23.5624 0.8797 18 17 Exclusive Autosport
16 5 Nicky Hays 1:23.6827 1 17 11 Cape Motorsports
17 9 Jorge Garciarce 1:23.9200 1.2373 16 14 Jay Howard Driver Development
18 2 Jackson Lee 1:23.9929 1.3102 15 10 Cape Motorsports
19 8 Danny Dyszelski 1:24.1141 1.4314 16 15 Jay Howard Driver Development
20 6 Evagoras Papasavvas 1:24.8091 2.1264 14 8 Jay Howard Driver Development

USF2000 Road America Race #2 Qualifying Results

By Patrick Stephan

Kiko Porto – Photo credit: Gavin Baker Photography/Road to Indy

For the second time today, the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship took to the Road America circuit for qualifying.

Lots of drivers again waiting before heading out, though the track was pretty busy by the time we got to five minutes remaining. At this point, Kiko Porto was P1 with a lap of 2:10.8258, followed by Prescott Campbell and Michael d’Orlando.

Nolan Siegel jumped to P2 with 90 seconds remaining in the session, putting DEForce Racing in the Top 3 spots with Porto, Siegel and Campbell.

When the checkered fell and everyone finished their final lap, Porto’s had his second pole of the day. He came in to the weekend 7 points behind Yuven Sundaramoorthy in the championship chase, but with the pair of poles is now just 5 back as they head to their first race tomorrow morning at 11:15am Central Time.

Sundaramoorthy qualified just 9th for race 2 and will start 5th in race 1, so he will certainly be one to watch tomorrow and Sunday as he tries to hang on to his point lead.

Michael Myers again missed the qualifying session as we’ve now heard from Rob Howden (broadcast) that he suffered some wing and rear suspension damage in an incident in today’s practice session.

Race 2 Road America Qualifying Results:

Pos Car # Driver Best Time Diff Total Laps Best Lap Gap Team
1 12 Kiko Porto 2:10.8258 7 4 0.000 DEForce Racing
2 10 Nolan Siegel 2:11.0489 0.2231 7 6 0.2231 DEForce Racing
3 11 Prescott Campbell 2:11.1961 0.3703 6 4 0.1472 DEForce Racing
4 4 Michael d’Orlando 2:11.2097 0.3839 4 2 0.0136 Cape Motorsports
5 24 Josh Pierson 2:11.3603 0.5345 6 4 0.1506 Pabst Racing
6 33 Josh Green 2:11.5109 0.6851 8 5 0.1506 Turn 3 Motorsport
7 2 Thomas Nepveu 2:11.6342 0.8084 4 2 0.1233 Cape Motorsports
8 5 Spike Kohlbecker 2:11.6420 0.8162 5 3 0.0078 Ignite Autosports w/Cape Motorsports
9 22 Yuven Sundaramoorthy 2:11.6717 0.8459 6 4 0.0297 Pabst Racing
10 19 Simon Sikes 2:11.7209 0.8951 6 2 0.0492 Legacy Autosport
11 1 Ely Navarro 2:11.7222 0.8964 8 7 0.0013 DEForce Racing
12 6 Bijoy Garg 2:11.7865 0.9607 8 8 0.0643 Jay Howard Driver Development
13 92 Matt Round-Garrido 2:11.8276 1.0018 8 5 0.0411 21:57.5644 Exclusive Autosport
14 23 Jace Denmark 2:11.8307 1.0049 6 2 0.0031 Pabst Racing
15 44 Christian Brooks 2:11.9143 1.0885 6 6 0.0836 Exclusive Autosport
16 34 Dylan Christie 2:11.9469 1.1211 8 1 0.0326 Turn 3 Motorsport
17 29 Erik Evans 2:12.0633 1.2375 5 3 0.1164 Velocity Racing Development
18 99 Myles Rowe 2:12.3209 1.4951 6 2 0.2576 Force Indy
19 3 Evan Stamer 2:12.3526 1.5268 5 2 0.0317 Ignite Autosports w/Cape Motorsports
20 8 Jackson Lee 2:12.3542 1.5284 4 3 0.0016 Jay Howard Driver Development
21 9 Peter Vodanovich 2:12.5087 1.6829 8 8 0.1545 Jay Howard Driver Development
22 91 Billy Frazer 2:12.6009 1.7751 8 6 0.0922 Exclusive Autosport
23 63 Trey Burke 2:12.7169 1.8911 8 8 0.1160 Joe Dooling Autosports
24 16 Kent Vaccaro 2:13.1860 2.3602 7 5 0.4691 Miller Vinatieri Motorsports
25 42 Michael Myers No Time –.— Michael Myers Racing

Road America – Friday Morning Session Results

By Patrick Stephan

Steve Wittich is attending to a family matter, so I will be pinch hitting on the side today.  And unfortunately, I was on an airplane (and then in the rental car) from Denver to Milwaukee when the first three official sessions of the weekend were completed.

Here is a quick recap of those sessions (please note, I didn’t actually see them so I can’t comment on red flags, etc.)

I’ll be covering the rest of today’s Road to Indy action live (and more completely of course) now that I am here at beautiful Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.

The first session of the day was Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship practice #1  at 8:00am.

That session was led by Matt Round-Garrido, followed by Prescott Campbell and Spike Kohlbecker.

Pos Car Driver Best Time Speed Diff Gap Best Lap Total Laps
1 92 Matt Round-Garrido 02:11.4794 109.906 –.—- –.—- 9 9
2 11 Prescott Campbell 02:11.4888 109.898 0.0094 0.0094 4 9
3 5 Spike Kohlbecker (R) 02:11.4974 109.891 0.0180 0.0086 9 10
4 12 Kiko Porto 02:11.5092 109.881 0.0298 0.0118 10 10
5 4 Michael d’Orlando 02:11.5577 109.841 0.0783 0.0485 5 5
6 10 Nolan Siegel 02:11.5648 109.835 0.0854 0.0071 10 10
7 2 Thomas Nepveu (R) 02:11.5964 109.808 0.1170 0.0316 9 9
8 22 Yuven Sundaramoorthy 02:11.6383 109.774 0.1589 0.0419 10 10
9 29 Erik Evans (R) 02:11.7183 109.707 0.2389 0.0800 8 9
10 33 Josh Green 02:11.7932 109.645 0.3138 0.0749 8 8
11 24 Josh Pierson 02:11.8265 109.617 0.3471 0.0333 8 9
12 6 Bijoy Garg 02:11.9036 109.553 0.4242 0.0771 8 8
13 34 Dylan Christie (R) 02:11.9388 109.524 0.4594 0.0352 8 8
14 23 Jace Denmark (R) 02:12.3850 109.154 0.9056 0.4462 9 9
15 1 Ely Navarro (R) 02:12.6691 108.921 1.1897 0.2841 4 4
16 99 Myles Rowe (R) 02:12.6802 108.912 1.2008 0.0111 9 9
17 19 Simon Sikes 02:12.6832 108.909 1.2038 0.0030 3 8
18 91 Billy Frazer (R) 02:12.7994 108.814 1.3200 0.1162 9 9
19 8 Jackson Lee (R) 02:13.0741 108.589 1.5947 0.2747 8 8
20 9 Peter Vodanovich (R) 02:13.2325 108.460 1.7531 0.1584 7 7
21 3 Evan Stamer (R) 02:13.3902 108.332 1.9108 0.1577 8 9
22 44 Christian Brooks 02:13.6922 108.087 2.2128 0.3020 2 3
23 16 Kent Vaccaro (R) 02:13.8744 107.940 2.3950 0.1822 6 6
24 63 Trey Burke (R) 02:13.9112 107.910 2.4318 0.0368 8 8
25 42 Michael Myers 02:14.0283 107.816 2.5489 0.1171 9 9

The Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship would get back on the track at 11:30am for Race #1 Qualifying.

This time it was Kiko Porto, the 17 year old from Brazil, that picked up the pole position for DE Force Racing. He will start the race alongside his teammate Nolan Siegel, with Michael d’Orlando starting third.

Porto goes in to today’s 3:30pm Central Time race trailing 5th starting Yuven Sundaramoorthy by just 7 points (177-170). Spike Kohlbecker will start the race in 4th.

d’Orlando is tied for third in the points, with Christian Brooks, who will have to come from the 12th starting spot.

Porto has a win already this season on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

Pos Car # Driver Best Time Diff Total Laps Fast Lap Team
1 12 Kiko Porto 2:10.7892 6 3 DEForce Racing
2 10 Nolan Siegel 2:11.0411 0.2519 5 2 DEForce Racing
3 4 Michael d’Orlando 2:11.2916 0.5024 6 3 Cape Motorsports
4 5 Spike Kohlbecker 2:11.3259 0.5367 5 2 Ignite Autosports w/Cape
5 22 Yuven Sundaramoorthy 2:11.3968 0.6076 5 2 Pabst Racing
6 11 Prescott Campbell 2:11.4094 0.6202 6 4 DEForce Racing
7 24 Josh Pierson 2:11.5483 0.7591 5 2 Pabst Racing
8 33 Josh Green 2:11.5819 0.7927 5 2 Turn 3 Motorsport
9 23 Jace Denmark 2:11.6630 0.8738 5 2 Pabst Racing
10 92 Matt Round-Garrido 2:11.7005 0.9113 7 6 Exclusive Autosport
11 6 Bijoy Garg 2:11.7744 0.9852 6 2 Jay Howard Driver
12 44 Christian Brooks 2:11.8479 1.0587 6 2 Exclusive Autosport
13 2 Thomas Nepveu 2:11.8565 1.0673 3 2 Cape Motorsports
14 34 Dylan Christie 2:11.9074 1.1182 5 3 Turn 3 Motorsport
15 1 Ely Navarro 2:12.1118 1.3226 6 3 DEForce Racing
16 19 Simon Sikes 2:12.1244 1.3352 7 4 Legacy Autosport
17 8 Jackson Lee 2:12.2632 1.4740 5 5 Jay Howard Driver
18 29 Erik Evans 2:12.3180 1.5288 7 4 Velocity Racing Development
19 99 Myles Rowe 2:12.3203 1.5311 6 3 Force Indy
20 63 Trey Burke 2:12.4888 1.6996 7 5 Joe Dooling Autosports
21 9 Peter Vodanovich 2:12.5592 1.7700 5 4 Jay Howard Driver
22 91 Billy Frazer 2:12.7529 1.9637 6 6 Exclusive Autosport
23 3 Evan Stamer 2:12.7715 1.9823 7 6 Ignite Autosports w/Cape
24 16 Kent Vaccaro 2:13.7131 2.9239 8 4 Miller Vinatieri Motorsports
25 42 Michael Myers 2:14.2880 3.4988 7 5 Michael Myers Racing

IndyPro 2000 presented by Cooper Tires took to the track at 9:45am, and Artem Petrov just bested his Exclusive Autosport teammate Braden Eves by 0.0333 of a second. Reece Gold was third quickest.

Point leader Christian Rasmussen was 5th quick, but is only 0.0849 off the fast time. In fact, the Top-5 are within a tenth of a second and 11 of the 12 cars here are within a single second. That’s amazingly close, especially for a 4.014 mile 14 Turn race course.

These same drivers will be back out at 1:45pm Central Time for their first qualifying session.

Pos Car # Driver Best Time Diff Total Laps Best Lap Gap Team
1 42 Artem Petrov 2:05.3626 8 6 0.000 Exclusive Autosport
2 91 Braden Eves 2:05.3959 0.0333 9 4 0.0333 Exclusive Autosport
3 55 Reece Gold 2:05.4019 0.0393 8 8 0.0060 Juncos Racing
4 22 Manuel Sulaiman 2:05.4268 0.0642 9 7 0.0249 Juncos Racing
5 1 Christian Rasmussen 2:05.4475 0.0849 6 4 0.0207 Jay Howard Driver Development
6 40 Jack William Miller 2:05.6263 0.2637 9 6 0.1788 Miller Vinatieri Motorsports
7 21 Kyffin Simpson 2:05.7644 0.4018 9 9 0.1381 Juncos Racing
8 51 Jacob Abel 2:05.8131 0.4505 9 7 0.0487 Abel Motorsports
9 3 James Roe 2:05.9182 0.5556 9 3 0.1051 Turn 3 Motorsport
10 18 Hunter McElrea 2:05.9571 0.5945 10 10 0.0389 Pabst Racing
11 5 Wyatt Brichacek 2:06.1943 0.8317 8 5 0.2372 Jay Howard Driver Development
12 11 Hunter Yeany 2:06.4782 1.1156 10 4 0.2839 Velocity Racing Development


The drivers in the incredibly tight Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires points battle made it’s way on to the track at 10:30am this morning, but it was 9th in the season standings Robert Megennis that topped the practice session over Alex Peroni and Toby Sowery.

Point Leader Linus Lundqvist was 7th quick. Trailing him by just a single point coming in to this weekend is David Malukus, who was 9th. Third (by 4 points) Kyle Kirkwood was 4th quickest.

The Indy Lights drivers will be back on the track at 2:30pm for their first qualifying session of the weekend.

Pos Car # Driver Best Time Diff Total Laps Fast Lap Team
1 27 Robert Megennis 1:56.0097 14 4 Andretti Autosport
2 5 Alex Peroni 1:56.2950 0.2853 8 5 Carlin
3 51 Toby Sowery 1:56.7138 0.7041 12 3 Juncos Racing
4 28 Kyle Kirkwood 1:57.0261 1.0164 14 3 Andretti Autosport
5 7 Christian Bogle 1:57.1973 1.1876 13 3 Carlin
6 17 Devlin DeFrancesco 1:57.3066 1.2969 12 3 Andretti Steinbrenner
7 26 Linus Lundqvist 1:57.3943 1.3846 14 10 Global Racing
8 68 Danial Frost 1:57.4236 1.4139 5 5 Andretti Autosport
9 79 David Malukas 1:57.6210 1.6113 14 7 HMD Motorsports
10 2 Sting Ray Robb 1:57.8748 1.8651 14 4 Juncos Racing
11 59 Nikita Lastochkin 1:57.9368 1.9271 16 7 HMD Motorsports
12 24 Benjamin Pedersen 1:58.0628 2.0531 17 4 Global Racing
13 11 Antonio Serravalle 1:58.3118 2.3021 16 5 Pserra Racing

Stand-out Canadian karter Thomas Nepveu joins Cape Motorsports for 2021 USF2000 season


Thomas Nepveu with Nicholas and Dominc Cape at the Cape Motorsports shop in Brownsburg, Ind. (Photo Courtesy of Thomas Nepveu)

By Steve Wittich

Stand-out Canadian karter Thomas Nepveu announced this morning that he would be joining perennial championship contending Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship squad Cape Motorsports for the upcoming 2021 season.

In his eight-year karting career, the Montreal, Quebec native was a consistent winner in Canada, the United States, and internationally, representing Team Canada.

The 16-year-old made his debut in cars in the NACAM Formula 4 Championship at Autódromo de Querétaro, winning once and finishing on the podium in all three races. Nepveu also made three starts in the F4 United States Championship Powered By Honda, consistently running in the top ten during an October event at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Thomas Nepveu gets prepared to get in the car during his debut in cars (Photo Courtesy of Thomas Nepveu)

“I am thrilled to be moving up to single seaters for the 2021 season, and especially with Cape Motorsports, one of the best team in the USF2000 series,” said an excited Nepveu. “Preseason testing with them has convinced me that their knowledge and winning experience will put me in the best possible position to quickly develop my racecraft and driving skills. I have a great professional team working to assist with my development, and I also want to thank my parents, Coy Arbour and all those who have helped me reach this point in my career.”

Nepveu joins a Cape Motorsports powerhouse that has won the USF2000 drivers championship 13 times. The Brownsburg, Ind. based team is coming off a 2020 season that included three wins, a series-best 18 podiums, placing three drivers in the top six at the end of the season, and their sixth team championship since 2010.

“We are extremely delighted to welcome Thomas into our program for 2021,” shared Dominic and Nicholas Cape. “Thomas’ skills come with a dedicated approach to the hard work needed, which is clearly what we are looking for at this level. We can’t wait to start preparing for the season ahead!”

Thomas Nepveu and the No. 2 Cape Motorsports USF-17 during a recent test (Photo Courtesy of Thomas Nepveu)

Nepveu and Cape Motorsports have begun their off-season testing program, with the 2021 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship season officially kicking off during ‘spring training’ at Homestead-Miami Speedway on February 22-23, 2021.

The first race weekend of the season gets underway on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., on March 5, 2021.

You can follow along with Thomas’ career on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.


Team Penske to mentor new team as it launches competition in 2021 USF2000 Series

INDIANAPOLIS (Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020) – African American business leader and former team
manager Rod Reid has announced the formation of Force Indy, a race team set to compete in
the 2021 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship.

For 30 years, USF2000 has been the formative step of the popular Road to Indy Presented by
Cooper Tires ladder system, which culminates in scholarship opportunities in the NTT INDYCAR
SERIES. This program has grown into a proven pipeline for open-wheel racing’s future stars.

Force Indy Team Principal Reid brings years of karting and auto racing experience and a recently
expanded relationship with NXG Youth Motorsports Inc., which has introduced more than 2,300
students from under-represented communities, ages 11 to 15, to the educational benefits of
the sport. Force Indy’s race team will focus on hiring and developing Black American men and
women mechanics, engineers, staffers and drivers.

“I started a race team in 1984, and I have always had a desire to have a team of talented
individuals who look like me in the professional ranks of the sport,” Reid said. “I have been in
and around the sport for 40 years, and this is just the culmination of years of hard work. I
simply cannot wait to see this race team on the track this spring.”

The Force Indy announcement includes a mentorship from the legendary Team Penske, winners
of a record 18 Indianapolis 500’s and 16 NTT INDYCAR SERIES championships. During its first
season, Force Indy will be based in Concord, North Carolina, as it receives guidance from Team
Penske’s key personnel.

“When the IMS and INDYCAR acquisition happened a year ago, I was pleased to learn of the
work Rod Reid was doing,” Indianapolis Motor Speedway Chairman Roger Penske said. “To lend
our support to an effort like this is a natural. Together, we’ll work to not only get this new team
off the ground but continue to support it and its mission as it continues down a path to
compete at the top level.”

Force Indy will make its debut at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, March 5-7, 2021.
The team will use No. 99 on the car in honor of the late Dewey “Rajo Jack” Gatson, who drove a
roadster with that number toward the end of his career in 1951. Gatson, one of the winningest
African American drivers and mechanics in racing history, never received an opportunity to race
in the Indianapolis 500.

Overall, the initiative is part of a broader picture in the INDYCAR and Indianapolis Motor
Speedway “Race for Equality & Change,” announced in July. The goals include recruiting and
developing a diverse workforce throughout all levels of INDYCAR and IMS, ultimately creating a
community that fundamentally transforms the sport.

“Rod is a passionate leader and talented team builder who has demonstrated a fundamental
commitment to equality and opportunity in our sport,” IMS President J. Douglas Boles said.
“IMS has been privileged to be a partner with Rod and NXG for more than a decade, and we
know he’ll bring the same commitment and drive for excellence to Force Indy.”

Sponsorship and driver for Force Indy’s inaugural season will be announced at a later date.

“We are fortunate to have Team Penske offer guidance and race-winning experience,” Reid
said. “Roger’s experience will be an invaluable resource in creating a successful organization.
There’s no better time than now to start a team.”

For additional information, please visit the team’s website:

Andersen Promotions Confirms 2020 USF2000/Indy Pro 2000 Schedules

Andersen Promotions Confirms 2020 USF2000/Indy Pro 2000 Schedules
Modified Calendar Continues 18 Races for Each Series

PALMETTO, Fla. (June 1, 2020) – With the final pieces of the current puzzle falling into place, Andersen Promotions today announced a revised 2020 schedule for the first two rungs of the Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires. Announced in March, the season-opener at Road America alongside INDYCAR will stand, leading the way for a full slate of 18 races for competitors in the Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship.

The cancellation due to the COVID-19 pandemic of the Honda Indy Toronto event and the addition of a joint INDYCAR/NASCAR event on July 4 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which already has a full schedule, has resulted in two standalone events for USF2000 and Indy Pro 2000. These will take place at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on July 29-30 and at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course on September 3-4. Both will be tripleheader events.

Revised 2020 Indy Pro 2000/USF2000 Schedule

July 9-10 Road America Double Header Rounds
July 29-30 Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course Triple Header Rounds
August 7-9 Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course Double Header Rounds*
August 21 Lucas Oil Raceway Single Race Event
August 28-29 World Wide Technology Raceway Single Race Event Indy Pro 2000
September 3-4 Indianapolis Motor Speedway (road course) Triple Header Rounds
September 11-13 Portland International Raceway Double Header Rounds
September 18-20 WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca Double Header Rounds
October 23-25 Streets of St. Petersburg Double Header Rounds
*Triple Header Round for USF2000

A schedule of test dates will be released shortly. All but the standalone events are in support of INDYCAR, including the Carb Night Classic “The Race Before the 500” held at Lucas Oil Raceway alongside USAC on Miller Lite Carb Day. The season-ending awards banquet for USF2000 and Indy Pro 2000 will take place on October 26 in St. Petersburg at a venue to be announced.

“It took some maneuvering, but I am happy to be able to provide our teams and drivers with a full schedule of 18 races in these challenging times and I want to thank everyone for their patience,” said Dan Andersen, Owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions. “Our Spring Training 2.0 at Mid-Ohio the end of this month will be a chance to shake off some cobwebs and prepare for our season-opener at Road America. Like many racing series, it really will be non-stop once we hit July and all of us are excited to return to the track and showcase the talented drivers we have in these two series.

“Following confirmation of the two standalone events, we are working with our promoter partners on the details which will be announced soon.”

An extensive preview of the 2020 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship season and

By Steve Wittich

There have been two constants since Dan Andersen started the reimagined Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship in 2010. The first of those is the presence and support of Cooper Tires, and the second is a race on the Streets Of St. Petersburg.

TSO note: A quick thank you to Cooper Tires, for coming back for another season as the presenting sponsor of TSO Ladder. If you need tires, get some Cooper Tires. I love having them on my truck and wife’s car.

Friday’s 20 lap or 40 minute USF2000 Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Presented by Andersen RacePark and Saturday’s 20 lap or 40 minute USF2000 Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Presented by Cooper Tires will be the 21st, and 22nd USF2000 races held on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn street circuit.

The 2020 season opener marks the eighth year that St. Petersburg has played host to the first race of the season. It will be the 18th time that the USF2000 season has got underway in the sunshine state. Other Florida tracks to host season openers include Homestead-Miami Speedway, Sebring International Raceway, and Walt Disney World Speedway.

Previous USF2000 winners in St. Petersburg, Fla.

2019 Race #2 Braden Eves Cape Motorsports
2019 Race #1 Braden Eves Cape Motorsports
2018 Race #2 Alex Baron Swan-RJB Motorsports
2018 Race #1 Kyle Kirkwood Cape Motorsports
2017 Race #2 Oliver Askew Cape Motorsports
2017 Race #1 Robert Megennis Team Pelfrey
2016 Race #2 Yufeng Luo Pabst Racing
2016 Race #1 Jordan Lloyd Pabst Racing
2015 Race #2 Jake Eidson Pabst Racing
2015 Race #1 Jake Eidson Pabst Racing
2014 Race #2 RC Enerson Team E
2014 Race #1 Victor Franzoni Afterburner Autosport
2013 Race #2 Scott Hargrove Cape Motorsports
2013 Race #1 Scott Hargrove Cape Motorsports
2012 Race #2 Spencer Pigot Cape Motorsports
2012 Race #1 Spencer Pigot Cape Motorsports
2011 Race #2 Petri Suvanto Cape Motorsports
2011 Race #1 Spencer Pigot Andretti Autosport
2010 Race #2 Sage Karam Andretti Autosport
2010 Race #1 Sage Karam Andretti Autosport

Current NTT INDYCAR SERIES drivers, Oliver Askew and Rinus VeeKay celebrate with 2017 St. Pete race winner Robert Megennis, a current Indy Lights sophomore (Photo Courtesy Of Andersen Promotions)

Win the opener, win the championship?

It certainly doesn’t hurt to win at the first race of the season, but it’s not the end of the world if a driver doesn’t make it to victory lane. The eventual champion won the first race of the season in 14 out of 33 seasons. That does include the last two USF2000 champions, Braden Eves (2019) and Kyle Kirkwood (2018). It does not include 2017 champion and current NTT INDYCAR SERIES driver Oliver Askew.

Staying out of trouble – early AND often

There have been 20 USF2000 races on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn street circuit, and only twice has a race gone caution-free in ‘St. Pete.’

Last year, the pair of races combined for 13 laps ran under caution with a total of six total yellow flag periods—the average USF2000 race in ‘St. Pete’ has 1.5 cautions, and 4.4 laps run under caution.

Half of the 18 races with a caution period, had a caution on the first lap, and most of those occurred in Turn 1.

It’s cliche, but the legendary Juan Manuel Fangio nailed it when he said, “to finish first, you must first finish.” It’s the first race weekend of the season; you’ll want to make sure you finish.

Start up front, finish up front.

The average starting position of the winner in St. Petersburg, Fla. is 1.4, and the victor has started on the front row in 19 of 20 races. The only time a non-front row starter won? Yufeng Luo won for Pabst Racing starting on the inside of the front row in 2016.

Home town dominance

Sort of. Up until last month, Cape Motorsports called St. Petersburg, Fla. home, but have recently moved to a shop in Brownsburg, Ind.

The team leads all categories in the 20 USF2000 races in St. Pete.

Six different drivers (Oliver Askew, Braden Eves, Scott Hargrove, Kyle Kirkwood, Spencer Pigot, Petri Suvanto) have nine wins.

Six different drivers (Matthew Brabham, Braden Eves, Scott Hargrove, Darren Keane, Spencer Pigot, Petri Suvanto) have started from the pole in seven races.

A dozen different drivers (Oliver Askew, Matthew Brabham, Jake Eidson, Braden Eves, Josh Fielding, Scott Hargrove, Kyle Kirkwood, Nico Jamin, Patrick McKenna, Spencer Pigot, Petri Suvanto, Aaron Telitz) have stood on the podium a total of 21 times. The next closest team is Pabst Racing, who have 12 podiums in St. Pete.

Seven different drivers (Oliver Askew, Braden Eves, Scott Hargrove, Darren Keane, Kyle Kirkwood, Spencer Pigot, Petri Suvanto) have led 175 of the possible 409 laps in the 20 previous USF2000 races.

And now, here is our team-by-team and driver-by-driver preview of the 2020 USF2000 season.

Pabst Racing

Pabst Racing has won the last three USF2000 team championships but is still looking for their first driver’s championship. They have been close though, taking home a quartet second place championship finishes (Hunter McElrea, Rasmus Lindh, Rinus VeeKay & Jake Eidson) in the last five seasons.

Augie Pabst, a second-generation team owner, has assembled an impressive team of three sophomores in an attempt to wrest the driver’s championship away from Cape Motorsports.

Note from TSO Ladder: This is one of the most heated and fun to watch rivalries from weekend-to-weekend. Both teams know who their competition is and badly want to win.

The lone returnee to the Wisconsin based team is Badger state born Yuven Sundaramoorthy. The high school senior was one of only three drivers to complete all 352 laps in 2019 and collected five top tens on the way to a 12th place championship finish.

The 17-year-old spent the off-season racing in the MRF Challenge Formula 2000 Championship, where he won twice and finished on the podium four times.

Sundaramoorthy made three USF2000 starts at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in 2018, and that was where he had his best race weekend in 2019, so don’t be surprised to see him be near the pointy end of the grid as he returns to events for the second time.

“Confidence is key in this series, and with a solid year under my belt, I’m excited to return with Pabst Racing and tackle 2020,” said Sundaramoorthy. “I developed some good chemistry with the crew, and I tried to absorb learnings at each racetrack. Even in this recent October test at IMS, I could feel so many improvements. I know it’s going to be a successful year.

Second generation pilot Eduardo Barrichello confirmed that he would be joining the Oconomowoc, Wisc. based team. The 18-year-old spent the 2018 USF2000 season with two different teams where he finished in the top 10 on seven occasions. The Brazilian who calls Orlando, Fla. home, spent the 2018 season in the F4 United States Championship Powered By Honda championship.

Barrichello led three of the five sessions and ended up second on the combined timesheet during the recent two-day test held on the Homestead-Miami Speedway road course. With increased pace, comes increased expectations.

“I had no expectations going into St. Pete last year, but this year I’m more relaxed,” Barichello said. “I know what I need to do to get it right, and with experience comes confidence. Street courses are special because you have to get the car to the limit, but you can’t get it wrong. It’s hard to get that perfect lap because you’re trying to avoid the walls, but I enjoy that! And it’s great to be so close to IndyCar – it’s an extra boost because we all want to be there. It’s great motivation.”

Before his rookie Road To Indy campaign, Matthew Round-Garrido was well known to Formula Ford fans in the United Kingdom. The oldest of the Pabst Racing trio at 19, Round-Garrido spent three years in the popular category, finishing 3rd in the hotly contested 2018 Avon Tyres National Formula Ford Championship.

The mechanical issue meant that the native of Stourbridge in the United Kingdom got off to a forgettable start to his rookie season, where he raced in two series and for two different teams. The highlight of his season split across USF2000, and Indy Pro 2000 was a podium finish in Toronto.

Pabst Racing team-owner Augie Pabst at the Portland International Raceway (Photo Courtesy Of Andersen Promotions)

What TSO Ladder is watching

1) It will be interesting to see how the addition of an Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires program impacts the team’s successful USF2000 program.

2) Last year’s four-driver USF2000 squad had a chemistry that was fun to watch from the outside. All four drivers were clearly having fun and equated to fun results on track. Will the 2020 trio be able to replicate the on and off-track chemistry?

Cape Motorsports

Until proven otherwise, the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship drivers championship runs through Cape Motorsports. The team, founded and run by brothers Nicholas and Dominic Cape, has won a baker’s dozen USF2000 driver’s championships, including the last nine in a row.

The team that made a move from St. Petersburg, Fla. to Brownsburg, Ind. during the off-season, will once again run a quartet of cars. A trio of veteran drivers, Michael d’Orlando, Kyle Dupell, and Reece Gold, will be joined by rookie Josh Green.

Gold, still only 15-year-old, returns to the team for a second straight season. The Floridian, who was the 2018 Lucas Oil Formula Car Series, finished the 2019 USF2000 season in 10th place. Gold was one of only three drivers to complete all 352 laps year, had eight top 10 finishes. If Gold can improve his qualifying pace, his consistency should allow him to be in championship contention.

“I’m super happy to be back with Cape for 2020,” Gold offered. “With the team having just won another championship, I am feeling ready to give it my all this year and try to continue that success. After a lot of learning in my rookie year, I feel that I can fight for wins and podiums this season. Thank you to Cape Motorsports and to my sponsor – The Ticket Clinic – for their continued support.”

At 21-years-old, Kyle Dupell is the eldest and most experienced of the Cape Motorsports quartet, making 18 USF2000 starts during the 2018 and 2019 seasons. The Oregonian finished 15th in his rookie season, a full-campaign with Team Pelfrey that included four top 10 finishes. Duppel returned to USF2000 action with Newman Wachs Racing for the final four races of the 2019 season.

Michael d’Orlando returns to USF2000 competition after a partial season of F4 United States Championship Powered By Honda action that saw the 18-year-old nab five top 10 finishes, including a trip to the podium at Circuit of The Americas in the final race of the year. The Hartsdale, New York native, took part in nine USF2000 races with Team Benik.

The final member of the Cape Motorsports squad is Team USA Scholarship winner Josh Green. Before taking part in the USF2000 event at Portland International Raceway last year, Green completed a full season of F1600 Championship Series action. The 17-year-old had eight wins, five poles, and 18 podiums on the way to a second-place championship finish.

“I’m extremely excited to join Cape Motorsports for the 2020 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship,” said Green. “The team has an enormous pedigree, and, after testing with them earlier this year, I’m super excited to continue working with them and get my head down for the 2020 championship. I’m extremely lucky to have had so many things come my way over the course of this last year, and I’m hugely thankful for all the opportunities that have been given to me. Being given a chance to work with such a prestigious team as Cape Motorsports is a huge honor.”

TSO Ladder quick thought

All four drivers showed some pace in the open test at Homestead-Miami Speedway and if that is any indication of what to expect this season. The inner squad battle to determine who the team number one is could take the whole season.

Jay Howard Driver Development

The second four-car team on the grid, Jay Howard Driver Development, finished an impressive rookie USF2000 campaign with three wins, one pole, seven podiums, and 15 top-ten finishes.

Returnee Christian Rasmussen finished third in the championship, but was most impressive in the second half of the season, outscoring all other drivers in the final four events (eight races) of the year.

“We have just been running our own show, to be honest,” said Rasmussen after finishing testing at Homestead-Miami Speedway with the fourth quickest time. “We haven’t been that focused on lap time; we’ve just been doing our prep for St. Pete. We are 100 percent focused on next weekend – there are no points awarded for testing. I think we’ll be very competitive next weekend and that was the main goal for this weekend. I definitely feel more confident this year going into St. Pete. I had the fastest lap last year, so I’m looking forward to getting back there and competing for the top spot. I love the street circuits, and I love coming to Florida – it’s cold back home!”

Christian Rasmussen and team-owner Jay Howard celebrate after a win at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca (Photo Courtesy Of Andersen Promotions)

The second Jay Howard Driver Development driver is another returnee and is also named Christian. At 6’ 4”, Christian Bogle is the tallest Road To Indy driver, and is planning on another busy season of racing. The 19-year-old competed in both the USF2000 championship and F4 United States Championship Powered By Honda, with a pair of race wins in the latter series.

The driver from Louisiana was new to racing in 2018 and is once again planning a joint USF2000 and F4 program, with some Indy Lights testing thrown in to help his development.

The third sophomore to join the team is Nolan Siegel, who spent the 2019 USF2000 season with Newman Wachs Racing. The former stand-out karter, who is still only 15-years-old will look to build on a successful test at Homestead-Miami Speedway where he ended up with the seventh quickest time, less than one-tenth off championship favorite and teammate Rasmussen.

Rounding out the team is another 19-year-old and native Hoosier. Wyatt Brichacek made his USF2000 debut in the finale at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in September. His move to the Road To Indy comes after two seasons of F4 United States Championship Powered By Honda competition and a season spent in the Lucas Oil Formula Car Series.

What TSO Ladder is watching

1) We’re curious to see how Rasmussen reacts to being the clear championship favorite to start the season.

2) While Rasmussen is the clear leader at the team, it will be fascinating to see which of the other three drivers becomes Rasmussen’s wingman.

DEForce Racing

The D and E in DEForce Racing are David and Ernesto Martinez, who founded the team in 2016.

David is a former Indy car driver, who finished in the top 10 in three of his four starts. Ernesto was stand-out karter, team manager in is known for his ability to develop drivers.

In addition to a four-car Indy Pro 2000 effort, the Angleton, Texas-based team has entered a pair of drivers in the lowest rung on the Road To Indy ladder. Last year, a trio of drivers combined for two podiums, and ten top-five finishes.

Despite being only 16-years-old, Francisco Porto, who is better known as Kiko, has made 31 F4 starts in North America, including three wins and eight podiums on the way to a second-place finish in the 2019 F4 United States Championship Powered By Honda title chase.

Porto was the ninth quickest driver during the recent USF2000 testing at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Mathias Ramirez, who is one of the best shifter kart pilots in the U.S.A., is making the jump to cars. The pair of races in his home state of Florida will be the first race in cars for the 18-year-old.

What TSO Ladder is watching

Given their past success, it’s clear that both drivers have plenty of talent. How quickly they adapt to USF2000 will determine their ceilings during their rookie seasons.

Legacy Autosport

Last year, Legacy Autosport ran a total of six different drivers in their two USF-17s and, despite the rotating amongst the seats, had solid results, with the sextet combining for two podiums and a dozen top-ten finishes. The team added experienced NTT INDYCAR SERIES engineer Matt Curry to help move the program forward this year.

Returning to the series after missing the last three events is Cameron Shields. The Aussie, who is mentored by Will Power, won the Freedom 75 on the Lucas Oil Raceway oval last May.

When his season ended, the 19-year-old from Toowoomba, Australia, was seventh in points with a win, two podiums and five top-ten finishes in nine starts.

Shields was the quickest driver in the final test session at Homestead-Miami Speedway and ended the two-days of testing fifth on the combined timesheet.

High school freshman Ayrton Ori returns to Legacy Autosport after contesting the final four races of the 2019 USF2000 season with the team. The native of Orlando, Florida, has extensive experience in F1600 machinery.

What TSO Ladder is watching

It was clear that Shields was dejected after his rookie season came to a premature end. However, Shields kept coming to the race track, and through hard work, was able to put together a deal for this season. In a year that should have a wide-open battle for the advancement scholarship, TSO Ladder will be watching to see if the perseverance Shields has shown off the track translates to the same fire on the track.

Miller Vinatieri Motorsports

Back for a second year of action is Miller Vinatieri Motorsports and lead driver Jack William Miller.

The team owned by former Indy car driver Jack Miller and NFL kicker Adam Vinatieri will run a pair of cars for the second straight season.

A native Hoosier, Miller, is still only 16-years-old and will be starting his fourth season in formula cars. His rookie season of USF2000 action followed a season and a half of the F4 United States Championship Powered By Honda competition.

Pairing with Miller will be Max Kaeser, a fellow 16-year-old who resides in Keystone Colo. Kaeser tested with the team at the Chris Griffis Memorial Test last fall after two seasons of SCCA Formula F competition.

“I think we have achievable goals set for 2020 and will reset them halfway through the year,” said team co-owner Jack Miller. “We have a new engineering program for this season and think we are on a good path. The goal is to, of course, win, but if not, we want to put ourselves in the best possible position for solid results.”

What TSO Ladder is watching

After four DNFs and an avoidable contact penalty in his first five races, Miller settled in and finished nine of the last ten laps. “JWM” clearly has the pace but needed to slow down to speed up. That mission was accomplished in the final two-thirds of the season, and TSO Ladder will be watching to see if the pace comes back with the improved race-craft.

Exclusive Autosport

Last but certainly not least. (I went by the 2019 team standings)

After three wins, nine podiums, and a third (Parker Thompson in 2017) and fourth (Igor Fraga in 2018) place championship finishes, Exclusive Autosport only took part in the first five rounds of the 2019 championship with a single driver.

This year, the Canadian team with a shop in Brownsburg, Ind. is back on the grid in a big way, signing a roster of three potential race-winning drivers.

In what we hope becomes a tradition, Prescott Campbell will be carrying the No. 1 as the Lucas Oil Formula Car Series champion. The 19-year-old Campbell was able to win the hotly contested championship despite missing a round with a broken leg sustained in a karting mishap.

Campbell, a 19-year-old Californian who is pursing a motorsport engineering degree at Oxford-Brookes University, was the fastest driver during the recent test at Homestead-Miami Speedway, but understand that he has a lot to learn.

“This is a big confidence booster going into St. Pete,” Campbell explained. “Coming into this Spring Training test, I didn’t know what to expect from myself compared to my competitors. It’s the first time we’ve tested against the full grid. I think I surpassed my expectations and some other expectations as well.

“There will be a lot to learn next weekend, but, of course, the goal will be to keep the car clean. It’s a great opportunity to perform in front of a crowd, and it will be great to be part of such a huge event.”

A second 19-year-old Californian, Christian Brooks, will hope to duplicate his previous career success. A stand-out karter with multiple marquee wins, Brooks made a move into formula cars last year. He collected a pair of wins and eight podiums on the way to a third-place finish in the 2019 F4 United States Championship Powered By Honda.

Returning to the team for a third season is a third 19-year-old. The Mexican driver has shown flashes of speed in his previous 12 USF2000 starts, including running in the top three at the Freedom 75 before being taken out by another driver.

What TSO Ladder is watching

What is the ceiling for the team that has a talented Campbell and Brooks on board, a pedigree of winning races in USF2000, and a successful final test at Homestead-Miami Speedway? Can the Canadian squad join Pabst Racing and Cape Motorsports as championship contenders?

Don’t miss any of the Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires action:

Eduardo Barrichello and Pabst Racing lead a tight first day of USF2000 testing

By Steve Wittich

The winner, barely, of the first day of Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship testing was Pabst Racing sophomore Eduardo Barrichello. The second-generation pilot of the Bib’s Chocolate sponsored #22 Pabst Racing USF-17 turned in a quick lap of 84.3979 seconds.

Pabst Racing USF2000 sophomore Eduardo Barrichello on track for spring training at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Photo Courtesy Of Andersen Promotions)

The top four drivers were covered by less than one-tenth of a second, and the top 15 were all within the Brazilians best lap on the 2.21-mile, 14-turn Homestead-Miami Speedway roval.

Rounding out the top five on Saturday were fellow USF2000 veterans Reece Gold (Cape Motorsports), Yuven Sundaramoorthy (Pabst Racing), Christian Rasmussen (Jay Howard Driver Development) and Cameron Shields (Legacy Autosport).

Josh Green (Cape Motorsports) was the quickest rookie and had the sixth-fastest time of the day, going only two-hundredths quicker than Exclusive Autosport’s Prescott Campbell.

The 20 drivers completed 845 laps (1,867.5 miles) of testing.

Session #1

Sophomore Barrichello led the first one-hour USF2000 session with a quick lap timed at 84.485 seconds.

Not surprisingly, the top five was made up of drivers representing Pabst Racing and Cape Motorsports. Gold (2nd), Green (3rd), and d’Orlando (5th) for Cape Motorsports. Barichello (1st) and Matthew Round-Garrido (4th) for Pabst Racing.

Green was the quickest of the rookies, followed by Campbell (Exclusive Autosport) and Christian Brooks (Exclusive Autosport).

The 20 drivers completed 445 laps of the 2.21-mile, 14-turn Homestead-Miami Speedway roval. Californian Campbell was the busiest driver, completing 31 circuits in the Lucas Oil School of Racing sponsored No.1 Exclusive Autosport USF-17.


Session #2

Once again, it was Barichello that found himself at the top of the timesheets when the checkered flag came out to end the final USF2000 session of Road To Indy Spring Training. Gold found himself just behind Barrichello again. It was a two-tenth of a second gap in session #1, but the difference dropped to razor-thin five-hundredths in the final session of the day.

The top five were rounded out by Sundaramoorthy, Rasmussen, and Shields, who were all within one-tenth of a second of Barrichello.

The top 15 drivers were all within one second of the Pabst Racing sophomore.

A trio of Cape Motorsports drivers, Gold, Green, and d’Orlando, were the busiest drivers, each turning 26 laps. The 20 drivers completed 400 circuits of the 2.21-mile, 14-turn Homestead-Miami Speedway roval.

The Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship series is back on track tomorrow (Sunday) for a trio of 45-minute sessions.

A pair of Cape Motorsports drivers, Reece Gold and Josh Green were quick in USF2000 testing at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Photo Courtesy Of Andersen Promotions)

Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship testing – combined timesheet

1 22 Eduardo Barrichello Pabst Racing 1:24.398 –.—- 30
2 3 Reece Gold Cape Motorsports 1:24.452 0.0545 53
3 21 Yuven Sundaramoorthy Pabst Racing 1:24.488 0.0899 34
4 6 Christian Rasmussen Jay Howard Driver Development 1:24.492 0.0945 27
5 20 Cameron Shields Legacy Autosport 1:24.512 0.1139 40
6 2 Josh Green Cape Motorsports 1:24.560 0.1619 53
7 1 Prescott Campbell Exclusive Autosport 1:24.585 0.1873 53
8 44 Christian Brooks Exclusive Autosport 1:24.623 0.2249 39
9 12 Kiko Porto DEForce Racing 1:24.696 0.2982 47
10 4 Michael d Orlando Cape Motorsports 1:24.747 0.3490 53
11 5 Wyatt Brichacek Jay Howard Driver Development 1:24.864 0.4656 39
12 23 Matt Round-Garrido Pabst Racing 1:24.979 0.5815 30
13 9 Nolan Siegel Jay Howard Driver Development 1:25.065 0.6667 36
14 7 Christian Bogle Jay Howard Driver Development 1:25.189 0.7906 42
15 8 Kyle Dupell Cape Motorsports 1:25.331 0.9329 45
16 10 Mathias Ramirez DEForce Racing 1:25.632 1.2337 47
17 40 Jack William Miller Miller Vinatieri Motorsports 1:25.851 1.4527 50
18 27 Ayrton Ori Legacy Autosport 1:26.288 1.8897 42
19 91 Manuel Cabrera Exclusive Autosport 1:26.507 2.1088 34
20 41 Max Kaeser Miller Vinatieri Motorsports 1:26.590 2.1925 51

Chris Griffis Memorial Test – Update #1 – Notebook from the two days of testing


By Steve Wittich

Consider tonight’s writings the first of two updates from the ninth annual Chris Griffis Memorial Test. For the seventh time, the road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway played host to all three steps on the Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires ladder.

TSO Ladder has made this point each time we’ve covered this event, but we’re going to make it again and go one step further. We won’t call testing times meaningless, but we will reiterate that they are one of the last things that we look at when the two days of testing are done.

Need proof? If you take nine previous years of the Chris Griffis Memorial Test and multiply it by three, you come up with 27 drivers that have led the annual end of season test. Of those 27 drivers, only five (that’s 18.5%) have won the championship the next year.

So, what do we pay attention to?

How well does the driver progress from day to day and session to session? How does a driver that is new to the Road To Indy acclimate themselves to the car and tires? How does a driver fit in well with a new team? How ready is a driver that makes the jump to the next level? How does a driver interact with their teammates? How seriously does a driver take the test? These are all questions we attempt to answer before looking at the timesheets.

We will be back with notes from each day along with timesheets tomorrow, but for now, here is a notebook of some of the other things we learned this weekend.

The ninth annual Chris Griffis Memorial Test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was blessed with wonderful fall weather (Photo Courtesy Of Andersen Promotions)

If you haven’t yet, make sure you watch Road To Indy TV Episode 11 from the finale at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

So, why is Rinus van Kalmthout (VeeKay) testing with Belardi Auto Racing?

It’s a win-win situation for all involved.

From the team side, the experienced VeeKay piloting the team’s car during the test makes sense on two fronts. First, the Dutchman helped move the Juncos Racing program forward last year and should help the Brownsburg, Ind. based team do the same. Second, VeeKay is the perfect driver to showcase how competitive your cars will be against Andretti Autosport.

Rinus VeeKay provides feedback to Belardi Auto Racing engineer Kent Boyer at the 2019 Chris Griffis Memorial Test (Photo Courtesy Of Andersen Promotions)

From the driver’s side, testing is so limited in modern racing that any extra seat time is beneficial.

VeeKay is coming off his second successful test with Ed Carpenter Racing. From all accounts that TSO Ladder has heard, the day-long outing at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course was very successful.

Look for news on the Dutch teenager’s future sooner than later.

Experienced newcomer?

TSO had a chance to chat with experienced newcomer Raoul Hyman, who is testing in Indy Pro 2000 with Exclusive Autosport.

Hyman was impressed with the PM-18’s torque and enjoyed the welcoming atmosphere in the paddock and especially with Exclusive Autosport. He hasn’t entirely made up his mind on where he will be racing next year but did tell us that he was leaning towards a switch to the U.S.A.

Raoul Hyman relaxes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway before getting in an Exclusive Autosport Indy Pro 2000 car for the Chris Griffis Memorial Test (Photo Courtesy Of Andersen Promotions)

Hyman spent this past season in the FIA Formula 3 Championship, finishing a disappointing 22nd in the championship. TSO doesn’t put much stock into that result. Last year was the first year for the new Dallara F3 2019 car, and the South African’s Sauber Charouz Racing System team didn’t have a handle on a car they’ve never run before.

The 23-year-old won the 2018 F3 Asian Championship, finished fourth in the 2019 Toyota Racing Series, and was a race winner in GP3 and BRDC Formula 4 Championship.

He’d be a great addition to the Road To Indy.

Lights car count and another test for the top rung of the Road To Indy

We’ve had some questions about why the Lights field is only five cars for the Chris Griffis Memorial Test. There are several factors. Brand new team Exclusive Autosport is still prepping their cars. HMD Motorsports is focusing on getting their restarted USF2000 and Indy Pro 2000 programs sorted.

Unfortunately, the FIA Formula 3 Championship post-season test is taking place at the same time in Valencia, Spain. That series, with a similar budget to Indy Lights, has 31 drivers entered across the three-days of testing.

Also, there will be another official Indy Lights test in a few months. The top level of the Road To Indy will join the Global MX-5 Cup and the Lucas Oil School of Racing Karting Shootout for a two-day test.

With surface changes, bumps, heavy braking zones, and 90-degree turns, the 1.6-mile, 11-turn short course does a great job of mimicking a street circuit.

Safety addition for the ‘kids’

Before next season, the USF-17, PM-18 and IL-15, will all be fitted with the Advanced Frontal Protection device. The AFP is designed to keep debris from the cockpit of the car and was added to the cars of the NTT IndyCar Series before the Indianapolis 500 last year.

IndyCar driver sighting

NTT IndyCar Series championship contender Alexander Rossi was in the USF2000 paddock on Sunday. Pieter Rossi, the 7-time IndyCar race winners father, helps guide the careers of several Road To Indy drivers. This weekend, the Rossi’s were working with Pabst Racing’s Yuven Sundaramoorthy.

The Oconomowoc, Wisc. is coming off a successful first year of USF2000 action where he was one of only three drivers to complete every lap.

Road To Indy alum making good

At last year’s Chris Griffis Memorial Test, Igor Fraga spent Saturday wrenching on the Exclusive Autosport program in exchange for an opportunity to get behind the wheel of the Canadian team’s Indy Pro 2000 car.

This year, the Brazilian was at Autodromo Nazionale Monza, where he won the final two races of the 2019 Formula Regional European Championship season. Fraga won four races and stood on the podium in ten races on the way to finishing third in the series that utilizes the Tatuus F3 chassis mated to a 265+ HP Alfa Romeo power plant.

Fraga earned his seat by winning the FIA Gran Turismo Nation’s Cup along with the McLaren Shadow Project by beating over 500,000 contestants around the world.

Fraga, who just turned 21-years-old spent the 2018 racing season with Exclusive Autosport, collecting three podiums and finishing fourth in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship.

New Town of Speedway denizen 

Juncos Racing, A.J. Foyt Racing, and Dallara will soon have more racing company in the town of Speedway. The walls are currently going up on the new home of Abel Motorsports. The building is being built by ABEL Construction and is a partnership between team owner Bill Abel and Bob Lazier.

Speaking of Laziers

Third-generation racer Flinn Lazier spent the test in the second Abel Motorsports PM-18 alongside Jacob Abel. The Vail, Colo. native experienced mechanical gremlins on Saturday but rebounded to turn a lap within one-second of the quickest lap of the weekend on Sunday.

The Chris Griffis Memorial Test was the first time the 20-year-old had been behind the wheel of an Indy Pro 2000 car, but he is not short of open-wheel experience. Lazier joined his grandfather Bob as a Formula B/Atlantic champion at the SCCA Runoffs, winning at Virginia International Raceway last weekend. The elder Lazier won the 1971 Formula B championship Road Atlanta in 1971.

Joining Lazier at the historic track where his grandfather, the 1981 Championship Auto Racing Teams Rookie Of The Year and his father Buddy, the 1996 Indianapolis 500 champion.

Third-generation racer Flinn Lazier on pit road at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the ninth annual Chris Griffis Memorial Test (Photo Courtesy Of Andersen Promotions)

That’s it for us tonight. I’ll be back with more tomorrow.

Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires at Laguna Seca – Saturday – Rasmussen wins exiting USF2000 race – McElrea extends points lead

By Steve Wittich

The penultimate USF2000 race of the 2019 season featured everything that makes the Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires great. Plenty wheel-to-wheel side-by-side action, a pass for the lead, and Road To Indy family helping each other.

Christian Rasmussen made a pass to collect his third race win in the last six races. Championship contenders Hunter McElrea and Braden Eves went side-by-side for a large portion of the circuit. And, Pabst Racing helped Jay Howard Driver Development get Rasmussen’s car on the grid.

Jay Howard Driver Development rookie Christian Rasmussen is all smiles after winning his third USF2000 race of the 2019 season (Photo Courtesy Of Andersen Promotions)

In the morning qualifying session, Rasmussen had a gearbox fail spectacularly, damaging the 2.0L power plant in the process. The Jay Howard Driver Development crew with help and a loaned gearbox from Pabst Racing was able to get the No. 6 ready to go in time for Saturday’s afternoon race.

“I’m always flat out, no matter what,” said the Dane, who thanked Pabst Racing for the help on the podium. “I’m always going for the win, always pushing. The second half of the season has been really good for us, and if I keep showcasing my talent, I hope I can get a career out of this. But I’m so happy to be racing here. I’ve been playing this track on video games since I was a kid. To drive the Corkscrew and feel the car get lighter, the compression at the bottom, it’s amazing.”

McElrea, who fell to third on the start was able to get past Eves daringly, finishing two spots ahead of his championship rival and growing his championship lead to 12 points.

The Pabst Racing Kiwi will start at the tail of the 18-car field for today’s finale after a non-team related issue meant he couldn’t set any laps in the morning qualifying. His rival for the advancement scholarship Eves will start on the inside of the third row.

“Today was super unfortunate (in qualifying), but that’s the way it goes sometimes,” said McElrea after standing on the podium for the 12th time this season. “I am so proud of the Pabst team, to get me back out on track for the race. They worked their tails off, from this morning until literally right before the race. It’s not a win, but with the scenario, we’re in now, it’s the best second I’ve ever gotten. I have new tires tomorrow but it will be a different type of race, going through the field, but it will be about coming through the field.”

For the fifth time this season, Pabst Racing veteran finished on the podium. The 20-year-old starts on the pole for Sunday’s championship decider and is looking for his first win and third place in the championship.

A win would help his teammate by keeping essential points away from Eves. It would also guarantee Kaminsky finishes the championship in third place. He leads that battle by four points over Rasmussen and five points over Darren Keane.

Eves was the first driver to arrive at Turn 2 and was the first to exit. Behind him, Rasmussen was able to get around McElrea for third after the Soul Red No. 22 dropped his right-side tires at the exit of the hairpin.

The running order at the end of the first lap was: Eves, Rasmussen, McElrea, Kaminsky, Jak Crawford, Eduardo Barrichello, Wyatt Brichacek, Sulaiman, Keane, Holden, Sundaramoorthy, Gold, Duppell, Bogle, Tomaselli, Siegel, Miller and Ori.

Leader Eves immediately came under pressure from Rasmussen who was able to make a textbook pass, out braking Eves while on the inside line in the Andretti Hairpin.

Christian Rasmussen makes a pass for the lead in the Andretti Hairpin at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca (Photo Courtesy Of Andersen Promotions)

“Pretty intense,” is how Rasmussen described the first few laps to TSO Ladder. “I managed to get by Hunter (McElrea) on the first lap. I set up Braden (Eves) coming out of (Turn) 11 going into (Turn) 2. I managed to get by with a clean pass. I knew that he was not going to fight me hard because he’s fighting for a championship. I had to do it. I want to win just as much as these guys even though I’m not fighting for a championship.”

McElrea immediately began putting pressure on Eves and at the end of the fourth lap, made a move to outside of his chief championship rival on the outside of the final turn. The pair went side-by-side up the front straight and through Turn 2 before McElrea was able to complete the pass with the preferred inside line in Turn 3.

“I have raced him (Eves) wheel-to-wheel a lot this year, and he’s usually pretty clean,” said the 19-year-old. “Obviously, there is a lot on the line. Our careers are on the line. It was pretty intense. I tried to go around him on the start and to be fair; I would have done that as well.

“I got alongside him at the last corner and drove alongside of him the whole way down the straight; then I outbroke him at Turn 2. I was along side of him for that turn. I got the move done.”

Hunter McElrea around the outside of Braden Eves in Turn 2 to grab second place in the first USF2000 race at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca (Photo Courtesy Of Andersen Promotions)

McElrea’s teammate Kaminsky was watching that battle closely and was able to take advantage, setting up Eves in Turn 4 before getting past him in Turn 5.

After the race, McElrea told TSO Ladder that Kaminsky is the best teammate he’s ever had, and Kaminsky said to us that getting past Eves to help his friend and teammate was “huge.”

By Lap 7, Rasmussen’s lead had grown to 3.5 seconds, but McElrea had just turned his quickest lap of the race. Over the next few laps, the points leader was able to shrink the lead to just under three seconds. The gap remained steady for the next five laps, but Rasmussen was able to pull a more significant gap over the final five laps winning by a significant 4.5 seconds.

Eves was not able to get close to Kaminsky, finishing over four seconds behind the last spot on the podium. The Cape Motorsports driver did have cover from behind with 14-year-old teammate following him for the final 16 laps of the race.

The top ten at the half-way point of the 20 lap race was Rasmussen, McElrea, Kaminsky, Eves, Crawford, Barrichello, Keane, Brichacek, Sulaiman and Gold.

Barichello spent the second half of the race defending the sixth spot, while also catching Eves and Crawford. Late in the race, Eves could be happy that he had the cover from Crawford as the three drivers behind him were separated by only 2.1 seconds.

Further down the order, Wyatt Brichacek had an impressive Road To Indy debut finishing in eighth place while piloting the JHDD, CSU | One Cure/Lucas Oil sponsored No. 5 for Jay Howard Driver Development.

Cooper Tires USF2000 Grand Prix Presented by Allied Building Products Race #1 Results

1 6 Christian Rasmussen Jay Howard Driver Development 20 LAPS
2 22 Hunter McElrea Pabst Racing 4.4573
3 23 Colin Kaminsky Pabst Racing 9.4027
4 8 Braden Eves Cape Motorsports 13.6619
5 4 Jak Crawford Cape Motorsports 14.6917
6 91 Eduardo Barrichello DEForce Racing 14.8641
7 2 Darren Keane Cape Motorsports 15.4156
8 5 Wyatt Brichacek Jay Howard Driver Development 17.0336
9 12 Manuel Sulaiman DEForce Racing 21.3742
10 14 Zach Holden Legacy Autosport 22.4607
11 3 Reece Gold Cape Motorsports 26.8713
12 24 Bruna Tomaselli Pabst Racing 32.6114
13 73 Kyle Dupell Newman Wachs Racing 34.3535
14 36 Nolan Siegel Newman Wachs Racing 36.0428
15 21 Yuven Sundaramoorthy Pabst Racing 38.7530
16 77 Ayrton Ori Legacy Autosport 39.9632
17 40 Jack William Miller Miller Vinatieri Motorsports 47.1341
18 7 Christian Bogle Jay Howard Driver Developmen 50.4385
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