Story Credit: Road to Indy PR
Photo Credit: Road to Indy Photo
LEXINGTON, Ohio – A thrilling third race to complete the weekend’s Cooper Tires USF2000 Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio saw Denmark’s Christian Rasmussen reassert himself at the top of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship following his seventh win of the season for Jay Howard Driver Development.
After scoring his first-ever Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires victory yesterday, Michael d’Orlando, from Hartsdale, N.Y., had to be content with second place this morning after leading for a goodly portion of the 20-lap race. Cape Motorsports teammate Reece Gold, from Miami, Fla., claimed yet another podium finish in third after forging past impressive early leader Simon Sikes (Legacy Autosport), from Athens, Ga., in the closing stages.
Rasmussen, 20, from Copenhagen, started from the pole position by virtue of posting the fastest lap in yesterday’s second leg of the triple-header weekend. The track was still damp following some heavy rain earlier in the day, and while Rasmussen was content to be a little cautious on the opening lap, mindful of his slender three-point championship lead, outside front row starter Sikes took full advantage by driving around the outside at Turn Two to grasp the lead heading onto the back straightaway.
Rasmussen also was under pressure from behind as the Cape Motorsports trio of Gold, who produced a fine opening lap to jump from sixth on the grid to third, d’Orlando, up from seventh, and rookie Josh Green, from Mount Kisco, N.Y., all jockeyed for position.
Once into his groove as the track dried out and lap times tumbled, Rasmussen took advantage of a better exit from Turn Two on the sixth lap to slip past Sikes and regain the lead before the braking area for Turn Four.
Behind Sikes in second place, Gold and d’Orlando traded positions several times prior to a brief full-course caution due to a spin for USF2000 debutant Josh Sarchet (DEForce Racing), from Phoenix, Ariz. D’Orlando took the restart in third but quickly was able to draft past Sikes entering Turn Four. Next in his sights was Rasmussen.
On Lap 10, d’Orlando repeated his earlier move to grasp the lead and seemed to be breaking away from Rasmussen until missing his braking point at the Carousel on Lap 15 and sliding wide. A grateful Rasmussen slipped through to regain the lead once more.
The top two traded fastest lap times over the course of the final five laps but it was Rasmussen who finally secured one more crucial championship point and The Ticket Clinic Fastest Lap Award on the very last lap. Rasmussen crossed the finish line 2.2626 seconds clear of a disappointed d’Orlando, who earned some consolation by claiming the Tilton Hard Charger Award.
Gold maintained his impressive tally of nine podium finishes in the last 10 races after slicing past Sikes with five laps remaining. Sikes, the current F1600 Championship Series point leader, held on to finish fourth ahead of Cameron Shields (DEForce Racing) from Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia.
Pabst Racing teammates Matt Round-Garrido, from Stourbridge, England, and Eduardo Barrichello, from Sao Paulo, Brazil, took seventh ahead of Christian Brooks (Exclusive Autosport), from Santa Clarita, Calif., who overtook the fading Green for top rookie honors in the closing stages.
Rasmussen’s performance earned another PFC Award for former series champion Jay Howard as the winning car owner. It also ensured he will head to the next trio of races at New Jersey Motorsports Park in Millville, N.J., on October 10/11 with a slightly more comfortable 14-point edge over Gold in the quest for the scholarship worth over $328,000 to graduate into the Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires in 2021.
Provisional championship points after 12 of 17 races:
1. Christian Rasmussen, 287
2. Reece Gold, 273
3. Eduardo Barrichello, 237
4. Michael d’Orlando, 214
5. Christian Brooks, 201
6. Josh Green, 176
7. Matt Round-Garrido, 175
8. Cameron Shields, 153
9. Jack William Miller, 149
10. Kiko Porto, 141