Story Credit: Road to Indy PR
Photo Credit: Road to Indy Photo
LEEDS, Ala. – Today’s opening two rounds of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship at Barber Motorsports Park saw honors shared as Yuven Sundaramoorthy (Pabst Racing) and Prescott Campbell (DEForce Racing) both claimed well-deserved maiden victories. But a second-place finish in the opening leg of the Cooper Tires Grand Prix of Alabama enabled 20-year-old Campbell, a mechanical engineering student at Oxford Brookes University in the United Kingdom, to take an early championship lead.
After starting on pole position for Race Two, Campbell’s teammate Nolan Siegel, from Palo Alto, Calif., had to be content with second, while Josh Pierson, from Wilsonville, Ore., also enjoyed a tremendous day, earning a pair of third-place finishes for Pabst Racing.
Sundaramoorthy made a dream start to his third full season of USF2000 in qualifying yesterday by claiming his first Cooper Tires Pole Award. The lap of 1:21.1201, an average speed of 102.071 mph, comfortably eclipsed the old track record set by Englishman Michael Epps way back in 2014.
The 18-year-old college freshman took advantage of his pace and his experience to maintain his advantage at the start. He remained under intense pressure from Campbell for a few laps following an early full-course caution but refused to become distracted. Instead he turned a series of 10 ultra-consistent laps, all within a couple of tenths of a second, to eke out a little breathing space and ensure a finely judged maiden victory by 2.3321 seconds.
Campbell, from Newport, Beach, Calif., also secured his best-ever USF2000 result after joining DEForce Racing for his sophomore campaign, although rather than being able to sustain his challenge for the win, instead he had to focus on the challenge from behind as Pierson remained seemingly glued to his gearbox.
Michael d’Orlando (Cape Motorsports), from Hartsdale, N.Y., finished three seconds farther back in fourth after fending off a race-long challenge from Christian Brooks (Exclusive Autosport), from Santa Clarita, Calif., and impressive teammate Billy Frazer, from Pukekohe, New Zealand, who was the top rookie finisher and also earned the Tilton Hard Charger Award after working his way up from 12th on the grid. Fellow rookies Spike Kohlbecker (Cape Motorsports), from St. Louis, Mo., and Jace Denmark (Pabst Racing), from Scottsdale, Ariz., also finished close behind, although Denmark had run as high as fifth before making a couple of small errors.
Siegel, who finished a disappointing 10th in the opening race – but showed his speed by claiming the fastest lap of the race, worth an extra championship point – had another opportunity to shine in Race Two for which he had earned the Cooper Tires Pole Award during a second qualifying session on Friday.
The start was delayed until after NTT INDYCAR SERIES qualifying by a power-outage, and began with the DEForce trio of Siegel, Campbell and Brazilian Kiko Porto holding the top three positions. Significantly cooler conditions and a couple of brief early caution periods brought some shuffling of the order as Pierson jumped from sixth to fourth and then, more significantly, Campbell managed to take the lead when Siegel slid a little wide at Turn One following the second restart on Lap Seven.
From there, Campbell never looked back as he maintained a narrow edge over a pack of four pursuers for the remainder of the race. He finally took the checkered flag just over a half-second clear of Siegel with Pierson, Porto and Brooks virtually in his wheel tracks.
Myles Rowe, from New York, N.Y., also impressed on the debut both for himself and the Force Indy team, part of INDCAR’s Race for Equality & Change. Rowe, who started fourth, slipped as low as ninth before making some fine passes in the closing stages to finish hot on the heels of Brooks.
Rookie Jackson Lee (Jay Howard Driver Development), from Avon, Ind., took home the Tilton Hard Charger Award by virtue of climbing from 23rd on the grid, following a problem in qualifying, to 14th.
Augie Pabst and cousins David and Ernesto Martinez of DE Force Racing each earned a PFC Award as the winning team owner.
The USF2000 protagonists will experience an entirely different challenge in less than a week’s time when they take on the unforgiving streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., for another pair of races once again held in support of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES.
Provisional championship points after 2 of 18 races:
1. Prescott Campbell, 56
2. Josh Pierson, 44
3. Yuven Sundaramoorthy, 43
4. Nolan Siegel, 37
5. Christian Brooks, 34
6. Michael d’Orlando, 31
7. Kiko Porto, 30
8. Josh Green, 26
9. Spike Kohlbecker, 24
10. Billy Frazer, 23