After four races for the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Presented by Mazda, Dakota Dickerson sits sixth in the standings, which isn’t quite what he envisioned pre-season.
“Going into the season, we had a little higher expectation than where we’re at right now,” he told POPULAR SPEED. “I think there are a couple of aspects that have been out of our control that has sent us further back than we are, but definitely need to step up the pace for the next couple of races. We know as a team what we need to do moving forward to improve where we’re finishing.”
The 20-year-old raced for Afterburner Motorsports in 2016, posting eight top-10’s to close out the season en route to finishing ninth in points. Though this year, he entered the lowest tier of the Mazda Road to Indy with a new team, joining Newman Wachs Racing.
“It’s been great working with these guys,” Dickerson said. “When I first talked to Brian last August, it was just a really good connection. I spent a lot of time with the guys over the winter, and I feel like we’ve all bonded very strongly really quick through the beginning portion of the season, which has been great, and having a full-time teammate like Andre Castro has been a really big help. So I think the chemistry between the team is really strong so far – especially signing the two-year deal. It has a little bit of relief for everybody knowing that our program is still going to be continuing into a second year.”
While most of his competitors have a current one-year deal, the American signed a two-year contract with Newman-Wachs, including the possibility of moving up to Pro Mazda next season.
“It’s a really strong commitment for the team,” he said. “I mean, obviously a lot of things change within racing. So to have that commitment, to be able to say that they’ll stick with you through the rough and we’ll be with you no matter what happens, that helps us work together as a team. We’ll be able to have a little bit more knowledge and trust between each other moving from this year to next year.
“I mean, we’re hoping to move up to Pro Mazda next year. That’s the goal for the team. It’s just a matter of being able to complete the task this year to move up.”
Although not reaching pre-season expectations, he scored three straight top-six finishes, followed by a 10th to kick-off the 2017 campaign. Admittedly, it is hard to compare last year to this season with registration numbers doubling and the series debuting the brand new Tatuus USF-17 chassis.
“That’s been a whole new process in the learning curve that we have,” he said. “It sent everybody back on an equal playing field, so the first step this year was learning the new car and developing strategies in how to tune it, and things like that. Obviously, last year, I was just coming up and learning to drive in the series. So learning the new car is something that is pretty new to us.”
His attention will now focus to Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which didn’t go as planned last year with an 11th and 20th. However, Dickerson is confident based on the speed he showed during the Chris Griffis Memorial Test driving for ArmsUp Motorsports and Pabst Racing, and how his current team NWR topped the final session with Dickerson’s rookie teammate Andre Castro.
“I’m pretty hopeful going into Indianapolis,” he said. “So I think we’ll be entering that weekend with a fast car. Everybody has done a lot of work during the off-season, but I know the team will be strong.”
Beyond Indianapolis, he is looking forward to Toronto in July, due to enjoying the atmosphere the street courses produced. The streets of Ontario’s capital treated him well last year, with a season-best fourth place finish.
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