LEEDS, Ala. – Thomas Nepveu, from Oka, Que., Canada, claimed bragging rights after topping the timing charts during today’s one-day Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship test at Barber Motorsports Park. Just. In fact, four different drivers from four different teams emerged with the fastest time during each of the 40-minute sessions, and the top 17 drivers out of the total of 21 who turned laps today were blanketed by less than one second on the challenging 2.3-mile road course.
The test gave teams and drivers an opportunity to fine-tune their cars in preparation for the third and fourth rounds of the championship which will take place at Barber Motorsports Park the weekend of April 30/May 1 in conjunction with the Grand Prix of Alabama NTT INDYCAR SERIES event.
Nepveu’s time in the final session, 1:22.122, was good enough to edge DEForce Racing teammate Bijoy Garg, from Atherton, Calif., by just 0.007 seconds, with Pabst Racing’s Myles Rowe, from New York, N.Y., a scant one-thousandth further back in third.
“It was a good day for us,” said Nepveu, who qualified on pole position for the opening race of the season last month on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., and led almost the entire race until colliding with Rowe on the final lap. “Today we managed to try different things on the car to prepare for the Grand Prix here (next month), so super happy about finishing first. It was not the goal but we’ll take it. We just wanted to learn more about the car so I’m happy about that. We (DEForce Racing) finished one-two in the last practice with Bijoy so super happy with this and we’re looking strong for the next races here.”
Garg also carried forward some momentum from St. Petersburg after earning his first-ever podium finish in the opening race.
Rowe, who won the second race at St. Petersburg, set the pace in the third of four sessions today, edging Pabst Racing teammate Jace Denmark, from Scottsdale, Ariz., by less than a tenth of a second. Their times remained good enough for third and fourth on the day. Denmark currently leads the championship on the strength of a win and a second-place finish in the first race weekend of the season.
New Zealander Billy Frazer, who also claimed a breakthrough first podium finish at St. Petersburg for Exclusive Autosport, ended the day fourth fastest having been the pacesetter in the second session with a time of 1:22.316.
Simons Sikes, from Atlanta, Ga., led the charts in the opening session of the day for Legacy Autosport. His time of 1:22.345 stood up as sixth fastest overall ahead of third-generation racer Jagger Jones (Cape Motorsports), from Scottsdale, Ariz.
Turn 3 Motorsport’s Christian Weir, from Naperville, Ill., Dylan Christie (DEForce Racing), from Princeton, N.J., and Michael d’Orlando (Cape Motorsports), from Hartsdale, N.Y. completed the top 10.
Drivers on the second rung of the acclaimed Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires open-wheel development ladder, the Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, also are testing this week at Barber Motorsports Park, with two sessions today and three more tomorrow. Pakistani Enaam Ahmed was fastest today for Juncos Hollinger Racing with a time of 1:17.807. Colin Kaminsky (Pabst Racing), from Homer Glen, Ill., set the best time in the second session, 1:18.073, and was second quickest on the day.
The new USF Juniors Presented by Cooper Tires series’ contenders also will be testing tomorrow in preparation for their opening races of the season next month at Ozark International Raceway in Gravois Hills, Mo.