Story Credit: Road to Indy PR
Photo Credit: Road to Indy Photo
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Christian Brooks has made tremendous progress throughout his rookie Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship campaign with the Exclusive Autosport team. Today in the USF2000 Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Presented by Cooper Tires, Brooks led confidently throughout the 20-lap season finale to secure a hard-earned maiden victory.
Yesterday’s winner, fellow rookie Kiko Porto (DEForce Racing), from Recife, Brazil, capped an excellent weekend by finishing second ahead of countryman and close friend Eduardo Barrichello (Pabst Racing), for whom a ninth podium finish of the season was enough to clinch second place in the championship.
Brooks, 20, from Santa Clarita, Calif., set the ball rolling yesterday morning in qualifying by claiming his first Cooper Tires Pole Award. The lap of 1:11.9662, an average speed of 90.042 mph, eclipsed Alexandre Baron’s qualifying record set in 2018.
Brooks took full use of that hard-won advantage by leading the field into Turn One at the start, with fellow front row starter Porto in hot pursuit.
Barrichello made up one position to follow in third ahead of already-crowned champion Christian Rasmussen (Jay Howard Driver Development), from Copenhagen, Denmark, and Michael d’Orlando (Cape Motorsports), from Hartsdale, N.Y., who made a bold move from eighth on the grid. Next up were Australian Cameron Shields (DEForce Racing) and Reece Gold (Cape Motorsports), from Miami, Fla., who needed to finish ahead of Barrichello to keep alive his hopes of finishing second in the final championship points table.
Aside from d’Orlando forging past Rasmussen for fourth place on Lap Two, the leading positions remained unchanged until the race was neutralized by the Pace Car after the unfortunate Shields ground to a halt – for the second time in as many days – after eight laps.
Brooks maintained his advantage at the restart, and even though Porto never gave him any respite, Brooks held on confidently to take a narrow victory. Porto had to be content with second, although he also took home The Ticket Clinic Fastest Lap Award after posting a new USF2000 race lap record with a best of 1:12.2279, an average speed of 89.716 mph.
Fourth place was taken by d’Orlando, who earn the Tilton Hard Charger Award as he remained narrowly ahead of Rasmussen. Englishman Matt Round-Garrido rounded out the top six for Pabst Racing.
Jack William Miller (Miller Vinatieri Motorsports), from Carmel, Ind., also was involved in a close battle, just edging Prescott Campbell (Exclusive Autosport), from Newport Beach, Calif., a disappointed Gold, who slipped to ninth at the finish, and Wyatt Brichacek (Jay Howard Driver Development), from Noblesville, Ind., who claimed his first top-10 finish of the season.
Brooks’ fine effort ensured the USF2000 PFC Award for the winning team owner, Michael Duncalfe.
Brooks also secured the season’s Hyperco Rookie of the Year honors, which will be acknowledged in an abbreviated awards ceremony to be held trackside at the Mahaffey Theater later this evening.
Provisional championship points after 17 of 17 races:
1. Christian Rasmussen, 394
2. Eduardo Barrichello, 353
3. Reece Gold, 341
4. Michael d’Orlando, 295
5. Christian Brooks, 284
6. Josh Green, 245
7. Matt Round-Garrido, 228
8. Jack William Miller, 215
9. Cameron Shields, 214
10. Kiko Porto, 197