Kirkwood Extends USF2000 Points Lead with Road America Victory
ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Kyle Kirkwood, from Jupiter, Fla., extended his already substantial Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda points lead to a whopping 77 points following another victory, his fourth of the season for Cape Motorsports, in this afternoon’s Cooper Tires Grand Prix of Road America Powered by Mazda.
Kaylen Frederick, from Potomac, Md., finished second for the second straight time for locally based Pabst Racing, while Irishman Keith Donegan finished third for BN Racing in a race that ended under full-course yellow.
Swedish rookie Rasmus Lindh (Pabst Racing) impressed by claiming pole position for both of this weekend’s races during a pair of hotly contested qualifying sessions on Friday. He duly led the field to the green this afternoon, only for Kirkwood, who started second, to draft past into the lead before Turn One. Frederick, who started fourth, followed Lindh through into third place, sneaking ahead of yet another Pabst Racing Tatuus USF-17 driven by third-place qualifier Calvin Ming, from Georgetown, Guyana.
A pair of Brazilians, Igor Fraga (Exclusive Autosport) and Lucas Kohl (Pabst Racing), also were in the thick of the action until Turn 13, where incidental contact ended with Kohl spinning to the back of the pack. Fraga continued in fifth, right behind Donegan, who somehow negotiated his way from 10th on the grid to fourth by the completion of the opening lap.
Kirkwood seemed to have the measure of Lindh as he pulled out to a lead of 1.4 seconds inside the first three laps, only for his advantage to be negated by a full-course caution after Sabre Cook slid into the gravel at Turn 10.
There was more drama at the restart, when the slow pace caught out several drivers in the midfield. South African Julian Van der Watt (Team Pelfrey) was among the victims as he inadvertently made contact with another car, causing severe nose-wing damage which resulted in a pit stop for repairs.
Kirkwood maintained his lead over Lindh, Frederick and Donegan, with Kory Enders (DEForce Racing), from Sugarland, Texas, holding off a snarling pack of hungry youngsters in fifth.
Frederick’s pressure on his teammate paid off on Lap Eight when he took advantage of the draft to move into second. Later on the same lap, at Canada Corner, Donegan also managed to fight his way past the young Swede, who ran wide on the exit and immediately lost out to Enders, too.
Lindh battled his way back into fourth a couple of laps later, but any hopes of redressing the balance to Donegan were thwarted when Cook slid off the road in Turn Seven to ensure another full-course caution. With no time left for a restart, Kirkwood was duly declared the winner, with Frederick and Donegan rounding out the podium. Lindh had to be content with fourth ahead of Enders, Ming and Alex Baron (Swan-RJB Motorsports), who worked his way up from 13th on the grid to seventh at the checkered flag.
Fraga, Mexico’s Jose Sierra (DEForce Racing) and Floridian Darren Keane (Newman Wachs Racing) completed the top 10.
Russell McDonough, from Little Rock, Ark., earned the Tilton Hard Charger Award after fighting his way from 24th on the grid to 16th, while Cape Motorsports took home its fourth PFC Award of the season as the winning team.
The halfway point in the 14-race season will be reached tomorrow morning, with the seventh round due to start at 8:00 a.m. CDT.
Kyle Kirkwood (#8 Firstex/SAFEisFAST.com/Bell Helmets/Sparco-Cape Motorsports Tatuus-Mazda USF-17): “It’s truly amazing to be here, and to win here, especially given how well the Pabst guys have done here over the past few years. I couldn’t be happier with our result at this track and against these competitors. I had a really good start, timed it perfectly, fell into Rasmus’s draft and got in front of him going into Turn 1. From there, it was just a matter of staying in front. Fortunately, this track has a lot of high speed corners, so aero push comes into effect, especially in Turn 7 and in the Carousel. You lose a lot of time there, so it doesn’t allow other drivers to get to me. I was pressured on the restart, but that was it.”
Kaylen Frederick (#24 Pilot ONE Racing-Pabst Racing Tatuus-Mazda USF-17): “The start was really hectic! I made up one position at the start and spent the first half of the race figuring out what lines would work best. I finally got a run on Rasmus late but there wasn’t enough time to get to Kyle. But it’s such an important race for the whole team. Everyone is here from my family, and from the team members’ families, so it would have been nice to see all of us on the podium, and it was looking good early. Tomorrow will be a strong day for us, starting top three.”
Keith Donegan (#78 Drogheda Hire & Sales/Navan Hire-BN Racing Tatuus-Mazda USF-17): “I had a really good start. I’ve been working hard on them, because I had some poor starts early in the year. I just picked off drivers one by one, keeping my head down and doing qualifying laps. The move on Rasmus was good – he went one way and I went another a few times and it worked out. I’m delighted for everyone from BN Racing. Road America is amazing! I’m familiar with it from watching on television years ago. It’s very traditional and it rewards drivers. And it’s a relief to come over and get my first podium. We haven’t gone true to effort the first few races, so I’m getting to show my potential. Huge thanks to Mazda, Cooper Tires, Andersen Promotions, and everyone at the Mazda Road to Indy who helped me get here after I won the MRTI Shootout.”
About USF2000: The Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda debuted in 2010 and is a continuation of the highly-regarded USF2000 series which ran from 1990 through 2006, launching the careers of many of today’s top drivers. Sanctioned by INDYCAR and managed by Andersen Promotions, the series is the first official step on the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires ladder system. The top driver in the Championship class will earn a scholarship package from Mazda to advance to the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires the following year. Additional information can be found at www.usf2000.com and at RoadToIndy.Info.
About Mazda, Mazda Motorsports: Mazda Motorsports boasts the most comprehensive auto racing development ladder system of any auto manufacturer in the world. The Mazda Road to 24 program offers a number of scholarships to advance drivers up the sports car racing ladder, beginning with the Global MX-5 Cup series and culminating with the Mazda Prototype team. The Mazda Road to Indy is a similar program that includes Mazda-powered categories of USF2000, Pro Mazda and Indy Lights. In grassroots road racing, more Mazdas race on any given weekend in North America than any other manufacturer. Follow all of the latest news at MazdaMotorsports.com, @MazdaRacing on Twitter, and MazdaMotorsports on Instagram and Facebook.
About Cooper Tire & Rubber Company: Cooper Tire & Rubber Company is the parent company of a global family of companies that specializes in the design, manufacture, marketing and sale of innovative, great-performing tires that you can count on to last for thousands of miles, getting you where you need to go, and back again. Cooper is proud to be the spec tire for all three levels of the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires, a development program within the Verizon IndyCar Series. Cooper tires can also be seen on the track as a sponsor of the Americas Rallycross and short course off-road racing. Headquartered in Findlay, Ohio, Cooper, with its subsidiaries, has manufacturing, sales, distribution, technical and design operations in more than one dozen countries around the world. To connect with Cooper, visit www.coopertire.com, www.facebook.com/coopertire or www.twitter.com/teamcoopertire.