Kirkwood Wins and Baron Stars in Mazda Road to Indy USF2000 Thriller
SPEEDWAY, Ind. – Kyle Kirkwood, from Jupiter, Fla., drove a textbook race to win from the pole for Cape Motorsports in this morning’s incident-packed Royal Purple Synthetic Motor Oil Grand Prix of Indianapolis supporting the Lupus Foundation of America.
The 26-car Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda field once again provided plenty of thrilling action at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Grand Prix road course, especially for yesterday’s winner, Anglo-Frenchman Alex Baron, who recovered from a spin on the second lap and drove all the way through the field to finish second and maintain his championship challenge for Swan-RJB Motorsports.
Swedish rookie Rasmus Lindh finally earned a result commensurate with his speed as he finished third for Pabst Racing.
After starting from the pole position for the second straight day, Kirkwood drove immediately into the lead, which he maintained throughout the 20-lap race. Even a couple of full-course cautions failed to interrupt his rhythm as last year’s Formula 4 US champion claimed his second win of the season – and the second PFC Award for brothers Dominic and Nicholas Cape as the winning car owners.
Behind, though, there was drama aplenty. It began on the third lap when contact between the second and third-placed cars of Baron and Jamie Caroline (BN Racing) at the exit of Turn Seven sent Baron spinning all the way to the back of the field.
Caroline, who won last year’s British F4 Championship, continued in second, chased by all four Pabst Racing Tatuus-Mazda USF-17s running initially in the order of Brazilian Lucas Kohl, Lindh, Guyanan Calvin Ming and Potomac, Md., teenager Kaylen Frederick.
Greenfield, Ind., native Zach Holden (DEForce Racing) and Irish debutant James Roe (Swan-RJB) also were in the midst of a fraught battle which saw positions shuffling on a regular basis until Lap 10, when Holden’s fine run ended following some contact in Turn One. Moments later in Turn Four, another coming together between Caroline and Frederick ended with suspension damage for the Englishman and the unfortunate Frederick deposited into the gravel trap. Cue a full-course caution.
Shortly after the restart, with Kirkwood maintaining a much reduced advantage over Lindh, the yellows waved again following more contact further down the field.
The track was cleared in time for a one-lap dash to the checkers. At least, that was the plan. Unfortunately, another spate of incidents – including one even before the green flag was flown when Brazilian Bruna Tomaselli (Team Pelfrey) was punted into a spin at Turn 12 – caused the caution flags to wave once again and the race to finish under yellow.
It made little difference to Kirkwood, whose fine drive was rewarded with the win. Behind, a magnificent charge by Baron saw him pass Lindh for second place at Turn One. A strong run by Keane was rewarded by fourth, followed by Roe, Kory Enders (DEForce Racing), Kohl, South African Julian Van der Watt (Team Pelfrey) and Mexico City’s Manuel Cabrera (Exclusive Autosport), who, after starting 22nd, took home his second Tilton Hard Charger Award in as many days.
Kirkwood’s second win of the season enabled him to extend his championship lead to 13 points over Baron as the USF2000 contenders head next to Lucas Oil Raceway in nearby Brownsburg, Ind., for their only oval race of the season on May 25.
Kyle Kirkwood (#8 Firstex/SAFEisFAST.com/Bell Helmets/Sparco-Cape Motorsports Tatuus-Mazda USF-17): “To come here and win in the USF2000 series is unbelievable. (Close friend and fellow Cape Motorsports driver) Oliver (Askew) swept the weekend last year, so I’m disappointed I didn’t do that, but it’s amazing to win here. I could see Alex, Jamie and Rasmus fighting behind me, which gave me a good-sized gap. I didn’t realize what had happened to Alex; I thought it was him behind me, but it was his teammate. I was a bit annoyed to see that last yellow when I had a big lead. He got pretty close to me in Turn One. It’s great to get the win and the points, so now I’ll start thinking about my first oval race.”
Alex Baron (#19 Metalloid-Swan/RJB Motorsports Tatuus-Mazda USF-17): “I can’t be totally disappointed with what happened today because only a few days ago, I wasn’t sure I’d even make it here. The victory yesterday was a great reward for all the hard work to get me here, and the second-place today is a bit bittersweet because I thought it could be better. I had an unfortunate incident at the start, but I took advantage of the two safety car periods to show what I’m made of, and what the team is made of. I just focused on getting in front of everyone, to get the points back. Now the mindset switches to the oval in two weeks.”
Rasmus Lindh (#23 Chicago Pneumatic-Pabst Racing Tatuus-Mazda USF-17): “I was running second early in the race and got hit in the rear which put me back in the pack and made for a pretty interesting race. I knew Alex was there, but I tried to just focus on looking forward and trying to catch Kyle, rather than focusing to the rear, but he was able to pass me on the restart. We’ve been testing quite a lot and I’m happy with our progress in the early part of the season. It was so nice to stand on the podium at Indianapolis. It’s been great to race here and I’m looking forward to seeing the Indy 500 in person.”
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. Mazda is also the title sponsor of the renowned Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif. 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 in the short course off-road TORC Series. 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.