SPEEDWAY, Ind. – Brazil’s Kiko Porto this morning became the fourth different winner of a Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship race this season, coming from behind for DEForce Racing to narrowly head home championship leader Christian Brooks (Exclusive Autosport). It was the second career victory for Porto, from Recife, Brazil, and came in the 400th race in USF2000 history dating back to the championship’s debut, under USAC sanction, at Willow Springs International Raceway in California in 1990.
Michael d’Orlando, from Hartsdale, N.Y., posted another spectacular drive for Cape Motorsports, rising from 11th on the grid to overtake the battling Pabst Racing pair of Yuven Sundaramoorthy and Josh Pierson on the final lap to complete the podium.
After winning both races yesterday, university student Sundaramoorthy, from Delafield, Wis., earned another Cooper Tires Pole Award as a consequence of posting the quickest second-best lap of all 26 cars during qualifying on Friday.
The first few laps this morning were run under caution due to incidents further down the field, after which Sundaramoorthy was unable to prevent Brooks, who started second, from drafting past to claim the lead at Turn One. Porto, having jumped up from sixth on the grid, also made a fine early charge and was soon hot on Sundaramoorthy’s tail. The Brazilian made his move on Lap Seven, then quickly latched onto the tail of Brooks.
Two laps later, Porto relieved Brooks of the top position, while behind them Pierson, from Wilsonville, Ore., also made a move on Sundaramoorthy which enabled the two leaders to make a slight break.
There was precious little to choose between the top two in terms of pace, although Porto was able to maintain his position and claim another championship point for leading most laps. His eventual margin of victory was a tick less than half a second – enough to earn his first win of the year and a PFC Award for David and Ernesto Martinez as the winning car owners.
Pierson and Sundaramoorthy remained locked in combat, with Sundaramoorthy claiming the extra championship point for fastest race lap and finally finding a way back past his 15-year-old teammate on the final lap with a bold outside-line pass at Turn One. Pierson, though, wasn’t going to give up without a fight. The pair battled side-by-side through Turn Seven, which gave a perfect opportunity for a close-following d’Orlando to overtake both of them under braking for Turn 12. It was another hugely impressive performance from d’Orlando, who overcame some gremlins in qualifying that saw him start all three of this weekend’s races mid-pack to secure a trio of top-four finishes and keep his championship aspirations well and truly alive.
Thomas Nepveu, from Oka, Que., Canada, once again was the top rookie finisher in sixth – the best result to date in his young career – just ahead of Californian Prescott Campbell (DEForce Racing), Spike Kohkbecker (Ignite Autosport w/Cape Motorsports), from St. Louis, Mo., and Josh Green (Turn 3 Motorsport), from Mount Kisco, N.Y.
Jackson Lee, from nearby Avon, Ind., also impressed for the Jay Howard Driver Development team, overcoming a disappointing day yesterday and rising from 19th on the grid to 10th to claim the Tilton Hard Charger Award.
There will be little respite for the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship contenders who will remain in the area for the eagerly anticipated lone oval track event of the year, the Cooper Tires Freedom 75 at the famed Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis on the evening of Friday, May 28.
Provisional championship points after 7 of 18 races:
1. Christian Brooks, 163
2. Yuven Sundaramoorthy, 149
3. Kiko Porto, 141
4. Josh Pierson, 132
5. Michael d’Orlando, 120
6. Prescott Campbell, 100
7. Spike Kohlbecker, 96
8. Josh Green, 80
9. Thomas Nepveu, 85
10. Billy Frazer, 73
Kiko Porto (#12 Banco Daycoval/Petromega-DEForce Racing Tatuus USF-17): “I have had poles here in the past but I have never won here, so to finally get the victory feels so good. We made some mistakes in qualifying this weekend which cost us, but we made some changes to the setup and the car was so good today. I had the pace to catch the guys ahead and make the pass for the lead. It was so comfortable, no mistakes. Thank you to the DEForce team, my family and everyone who helped make this happen.”
Christian Brooks (#44 Hot Wheels/Chaco Flato/Bell Helmets-Exclusive Autosport Tatuus USF-17): “We had a really good start and I was able to get by Yuven on the restart. I was the only one in the top three without new tires so that made it difficult to find pace in the beginning of the race. But the car was the best it has been all weekend. The Exclusive guys gave me the best car I could have asked for, it was so fast. We were a little caught out by the tire strategy but we’re bagging the points and we extended our championship lead. We just have to keep getting these consistent results and keep our eyes on the long game.”
Michael d’Orlando (#4 Focused Project Management/DB Collaborative-Cape Motorsports Tatuus USF-17): “What a last lap! We had that issue in qualifying, so I had to pass so many cars, chasing guys down. I lost some grip when I got close to Yuven; he had the draft from Josh in front of him. But I got side-by-side with him in Turn 12, he broke late, I tried to carry the speed in and we made a little bit of contact, but I was able to hold the position. The entire weekend was great, especially being in multiple battles with my teammates. It’s very respectful, like we are with all the drivers, but maybe just that much more so.”