SPEEDWAY, Ind. – Yuven Sundaramoorthy is taking full advantage of his three years of experience in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship – the first rung of the Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires open-wheel development ladder. After claiming his first victory in the season-opening race at Barber Motorsports Park last month, Sundaramoorthy, of Delafield, Wis., enjoyed a sensational day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Grand Prix road course to win both of the first two legs of this week’s USF2000 Grand Prix of Indianapolis Presented by Cooper Tires triple-header for Pabst Racing.
He was chased home this morning by Cape Motorsports’ Michael d’Orlando, from Hartsdale, N.Y., who drove a spectacular race to climb up from a lowly 12th on the grid, and polesitter Christian Brooks (Exclusive Autosport, from Santa Clarita, Calif.). A few hours later, Sundaramoorthy led throughout a second all-green 15-lap race to win from Pabst Racing teammate Josh Pierson, from Wilsonville, Ore., and Kiko Porto (DEForce Racing), from Recife, Brazil.
After securing his second Cooper Tires Pole Award during qualifying yesterday, championship leader Brooks took off into the lead at the start of this morning’s opening 15-lap race, but it was immediately apparent that he would be unable to pull away from a snarling pack that was snapping at his heels. The Pabst pair of Pierson and Sundaramoorthy, who had qualified second and third, both comfortably within a tenth of a second of the polesitter, clearly appeared to have a little more speed on the long front straightaway in race configuration.
Brooks was forced to spend much of his time checking his mirrors for attacks instead of being able to focus on the clear track ahead of him, which in turn allowed Josh Green (Turn 3 Motorsport), from Mount Kisco, N.Y., and Cape Motorsports teammate Spike Kohlbecker, from St. Louis, Mo., and leading rookie Thomas Nepveu, from Oka, Que., Canada, to join the lead battle. They in turn were eventually joined by a third Cape car in the hands of d’Orlando, who was making up ground after a disappointing qualifying session.
Sundaramoorthy used his experience to nip ahead of teammate Pierson at Turn One before setting his attention on Brooks, who was striving to hold onto his lead. But the task was hopeless. On Lap 11, Sundaramoorthy drafted cleanly around Brooks and left his braking as late as possible into Turn One to snatch the advantage. The USF2000 veteran then eased clear in the closing stages to score his second win of the season.
Brooks looked set to hold onto second until the final lap when d’Orlando capped a brilliant performance by out-braking Brooks into Turn Seven to wrest away second place. Brooks and Pierson followed him across the line with Green completing the top five.
As impressive as d’Orlando’s drive from 12th on the grid to second, even that wasn’t enough to claim the Tilton Hard Charger Award. Instead, it went to Exclusive Autosport’s Grant Palmer, from St. Charles, Mo., who progressed from 25th on the grid to 11th during a cleanly fought, all-green race.
This afternoon’s race was altogether less eventful, at least for Sundaramoorthy, who earned the Cooper Tires Pole Award by virtue of having posted the fastest second lap in the lone qualifying session from among the intensely competitive 26-car field. Sundaramoorthy put his head down from the start, and even though Pierson loomed large in his mirrors after finding a way past Brooks on the opening lap, he made not the hint of a mistake to score another accomplished victory. He also ensured a second PFC Award of the day for team owner Augie Pabst.
Pierson continued his fine form by finishing second, while Porto moved up from sixth on the grid to displace Brooks from the final podium position with three laps remaining.
Brooks also slipped behind d’Orlando, who posted another impressive charge from 11th on the grid to maintain his own championship hopes.
New Zealander Peter Vodanovich took home the Tilton Hard Charger Award after progressing from 24th on the grid to 15th at the finish.
The USF2000 Grand Prix of Indianapolis Presented by Cooper Tires will conclude with a third 20-lap race tomorrow morning at 9:40 a.m. EDT.
Provisional championship points after 6 of 18 races:
1. Christian Brooks, 138
2. Yuven Sundaramoorthy, 130
3. Josh Pierson, 113
4. Kiko Porto, 110
5. Michael d’Orlando, 98
6. Prescott Campbell, 86
7. Spike Kohlbecker, 83
8. Josh Green, 78
9. Thomas Nepveu, 70
10. Billy Frazer, 65
Yuven Sundaramoorthy (#22 S team Motorsports-Pabst Racing Tatuus USF-17): “It’s so fun to race here! This is the same podium where I won my first car race four years ago, so it feels great to take two wins today. For both races, all I kept saying to myself for the last few laps was ‘don’t throw it away!’ It’s hard being out in front like that – when I’m leading, I’m more nervous. When I’m second, I have someone to chase and I’m focusing forward. When you’re leading, you have to know how much to push without going over the edge.
“In race one, I knew I was faster than the two guys in front of me but I didn’t want to do anything too rash too early, so I waited for them to make a mistake. I thought I blew it all, going off into the run-off, but I was able to get back in it. I had so much help from my spotter (driver coach Bob Perona) coaching me through it and keeping me calm. In the end, it worked out! But this one is for Hank, the Pabst dog. I hope he’s watching us from doggie heaven.”
Michael d’Orlando (#4 DB Collaborative/Focused Project Mgmt.-Cape Motorsports Tatuus USF-17): “What a great race! It was absolutely crazy. I’m so happy to have come back and earned a podium. We had some issues in qualifying so I started back in the field, which left us with some work to be done. I was going to go for whatever I could, make some moves and be smart about it. After a few laps, I had good speed and was catching my teammates. While the leaders were battling so hard, we took advantage of that. It was fun.”
Christian Brooks (#44 Hot Wheels/Chaco Flaco/Bell Helmets-Exclusive Autosport Tatuus USF-17): “We made a wrong change to the car and just didn’t have the balance we wanted, or the pace. I tried to defend the entire race and tried to do my best to late brake and not let them around me, but eventually my front tires were done from all that defending and I lost all pace. It was great to be able to hang on for another podium finish, and we’re still leading the championship so we’ll keep pushing and hopefully be better in the next race.”
Josh Pierson (#24 TransUnion/iovation-Pabst Racing Tatuus USF-17): “It’s so good to race here – since my first time here last year, I wanted to come back and get a podium. Yuven and I set a strategy to get out in front together and we did that. You can race hard; the trick is not to crash each other! Augie (Pabst) made it very clear before the race not to do anything dumb or get in trouble. I couldn’t get close enough today, but even if I had been able to, we would always give each other room because at the end of the day, I have to see him in the trailer. Hoping now to get Jace Denmark, our teammate, up here – he’s a rookie this year, but he’s been very impressive!”
Kiko Porto (#12 Banco Daycoval/Petromega-DEForce Racing Tatuus USF17): “It’s very difficult to start P6 here. We had a great battle at the start, moving up to fourth but there was a big gap to Brooks in third. I tried to push to the limit and with five laps to go I got him. It was a hard battle. He’s very fast and very strong, and we had two laps side-by-side. It’s good to get a podium here. We’ll push even harder tomorrow.”