Kirkwood on Top Again at Road America in Scrappy USF2000 Race
ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – There’s no stopping Kyle Kirkwood. The latest rising star from the Cape Motorsports camp led only one lap during this morning’s incident-filled Cooper Tires Grand Prix of Road America Powered by Mazda, but, importantly, it was the last one as he overtook Pabst Racing’s Lucas Kohl at the final restart to secure his fifth win of the season and fourth in succession.
Potomac, Md., youngster Kaylen Frederick also found a way past Brazilian Kohl on the final lap to ensure a frustrating two-three finish for Oconomowoc, Wis.-based Pabst Racing team after Kohl had run up front for 11 of the 12 laps.
The action in this morning’s seventh round of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda began almost immediately after the start when two cars tangled in Turn One and then two more were eliminated in an incident even before the braking area for Turn Five. Cue the first of no fewer than three full-course cautions… but not before Kohl already had jumped from third on the grid to the lead ahead of Pabst teammates Rasmus Lindh, who had started on pole, and Frederick.
The restart, with three laps in the books, was relatively clean, despite some intense wheel-to-wheel action in Turn One. Kohl managed to cling onto his advantage over Lindh and Frederick, with championship leader Kirkwood lurking menacingly in fourth.
On Lap Five, Kirkwood moved up one position when he passed Frederick cleanly under braking for Turn Five. Soon afterward the caution flags were waving again after another incident, this time in Turn 12, which required removal of the stricken cars of Darren Keane (Newman Wachs Racing) and Kyle Dupell (Team Pelfrey).
The green flags flew again after a couple of laps behind the Mazda Pace Car, and once again the action at the front was intense. Kohl successfully fended off his pursuers to maintain the lead, while in his wake Frederick took full advantage of the draft to vault briefly from fourth to second. It didn’t last for long. Minor contact between himself, Lindh and Kirkwood at Turn Three resulted in Kirkwood moving back to second, whereupon Lindh found himself on the outside line at Turn Five and with nowhere to go but the escape road.
A major stack-up and some opportunist maneuvers saw yet another Pabst car, driven by Calvin Ming, who had started a lowly 15th after problems in qualifying, suddenly emerge in fifth, only to be unfortunately harpooned in Turn Six by Kory Enders (DEForce Racing), who had already lost his front wing following an incident during the previous caution period which resulted in the unfortunate retirement of Team Pelfrey’s Julian Van der Watt.
The latest carnage ensured yet another full-course caution, which left time for only a one-lap dash to the checkers. This time Kirkwood timed his restart to perfection, drafting past Kohl cleanly before Turn One to assume the lead for the first time. He duly sped away to claim yet another PFC Award for the winning car owners, Dominic and Nicholas Cape.
Frederick also managed to find a way past the unfortunate Kohl, who had to be content with third. The pair of podium finishes provided some consolation for Augie Pabst as his locally based organization is now tied on points for the lead of the Team Championship.
Colin Kaminsky, from Homer Glen, Ill., secured his best-ever result by finishing a strong fourth for DEForce Racing ahead of Japanese-born Brazilian Igor Fraga (Exclusive Autosport). Michael d’Orlando, from Hartsdale N.Y., survived an eventful race for Team BENIK in which he started a career-best seventh, fell as low as 12th and then rose again to a well-earned fifth by the finish ahead of Anglo-Frenchman Alex Baron (Swan-RJB Motorsport), Mexican Manuel Cabrera (Exclusive Autosport) and Dakota Dickerson, from San Diego, Calif., who largely steered clear of the drama for ArmsUp Motorsports on his return to USF2000 after a one-year hiatus.
Oscar DeLuzuriaga, from Bromley, England, claimed his career-best finish, 12th, for Newman Wachs Racing. He also earned the Tilton Hard Charger Award after starting a lowly 26th.
Now midway through the 14-race season, Kirkwood has extended his championship lead to a commanding 94 points over Baron as the series heads next to the streets of Toronto, Canada, for another pair of races in support of the Verizon IndyCar Series on July 13-15.
Kyle Kirkwood (#8 Firstex/SAFEisFAST.com/Bell Helmets/Sparco-Cape Motorsports Tatuus-Mazda USF-17): “I knew I would have to work for it, starting fourth, and it worked out perfectly. The cautions actually played in my favor – I was able to pick guys off one by one on the restarts. We had a really fast car, it was absolutely amazing. But on the last restart, I knew I would have to get it done in Turn 1, and our cars can pass on either the inside or the outside there. Then I would just have to hold them off for the rest of the lap. I had a gap coming across the finish line and it feels really good to come from behind and take the win. And I only have one more win to go before I match Oliver (Askew) with five straight wins.”
Kaylen Frederick (#24 Pilot ONE Racing-Pabst Racing Tatuus-Mazda USF-17): “It was a really hectic start. I tried to give my teammates a bit of a gap to Kirkwood but that didn’t work out with the cautions. I was able to make my way through the field, but there was a lot of side-by-side and passing – a lot to think about out there! I’m happy to get up to second from fourth. We would have liked to be on the top step for Augie, at his home race, but two spots on the podium is good.”
Lucas Kohl (#22 Belko Trading/Kohltrade/IVI Vision-Pabst Racing Tatuus-Mazda USF-17): “I had a really good start – I had it planned in my mind and it went pretty well. That part of the race was fine. Going into the last restart, I knew I was stuck out front and that Kyle would get my draft all the way up the straight. I tried to defend, but it wasn’t enough, then I locked up in Turn Five trying to get back around and lost the position to Kaylen. We always want to win, and it’s especially hard when you lead so many laps but not the last one. But I didn’t finish yesterday, so this is definitely a better way to end the weekend. And we’re happy to get a good finish for the team – it means the world to them, to do well at their home race.”
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.