Race Recap

Rowe Sweeps USF Pro 2000 Cooper Tires Grand Prix of Sebring

SEBRING, Fla. – Myles Rowe consolidated his position at the top of the USF Pro 2000 Presented by Cooper Tires point standings following another impressive victory this afternoon at Sebring International Raceway. Rowe, from Brooklyn. N.Y., once again made a lightning start, jumping from third to first at the first corner. Even a couple of late full-course cautions failed to interrupt his dominance as he raced to his third USF Pro 2000 victory in just four starts for Pabst Racing with Force Indy.

Rowe now holds a commanding 42-point lead in his quest to win a Discount Tires Driver Advancement Scholarship valued at $664,500 to graduate to INDY NXT in 2024.

Albanian rookie Lirim Zendeli scored his best finish of second for TJ Speed Motorsports, while Kiko Porto, from Recife, Brazil, rebounded from a mechanical problem yesterday which prevented him from even starting the race, to secure his third podium appearance for DEForce Racing.

Last year’s USF2000 Presented by Cooper Tires champion, Michael d’Orlando, from Hartsdale, N.Y., looked to have put a sequence of unfortunate circumstances behind him this morning when he posted the fastest time in qualifying to claim his first Cooper Tires Pole Award. But after being beaten away from the start by Rowe, d’Orlando’s luck once again turned sour on the second lap when he lost control over the bumps in Turn One and gyrated luridly in front of almost the entire field. He was miraculously able to continue, despite another quick gyration at Turn Four, and eventually fought his way back to 11th at the checkered flag.

Fellow front row qualifier Francesco Pizzi, from Rome, Italy, also had a disappointing race for TJ Speed Motorsport. Pizzi lost two positions on the opening lap and later ran out of road at the exit of Turn One, losing several more places. He placed seventh after an eventful 15-lap race.

Porto, after starting eighth, fought his way past Mexico’s Salvador de Alba (Exclusive Autosport) for third position on the fifth lap, where he remained until the finish.

Two late cautions set the scene for a one-lap dash to the checkered flag. Rowe made an exemplary restart at the first time of asking, but had to defend rigorously from Zendeli on the final lap, especially at Turn Three, but was not to be denied as he sped onward to the victory.

De Alba looked set for fourth until, bizarrely, his car’s fire extinguisher suddenly discharged as he negotiated the tricky Turn 13 on the final lap. Reece Ushijima, directly behind, adeptly avoided the slowing Tatuus, whose driver was completely unsighted by a wave of foam extinguishant, but behind him, Jace Denmark (Pabst Racing) from Scottsdale, Ariz., and Sweden’s Joel Granfors (Exclusive Autosport) weren’t so fortunate, making contact which dropped both of them far down the order.

Jackson Lee (Turn 3 Motorsport), from Avon, Ind., took advantage of the melee to jump from a solid 10th to record his first top-five finish, narrowly ahead of fellow Indianan Jack William Miller (Miller Vinatieri Motorsports) and Pizzi.

Lee’s avoidance also enabled him to claim the Tilton Hard Charger Award after having lined up 12th on the grid.

Augie Pabst picked up his third PFC Award of the young season as the winning car owner.

The USF Pro 2000 teams and drivers will return to action at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Grand Prix road course for another pair of races in conjunction with the NTT INDYCAR SERIES on May 11-13.

Provisional championship points after 4 of 18 rounds:

1. Myles Rowe, 116

2. Kiko Porto, 74

3. Francesco Pizzi, 74

4. Lirim Zendeli, 64

5. Jace Denmark, 64

6. Joel Granfors, 63

7. Reece Ushijima, 49

8. Christian Brooks, 47

9. Jack William Miller, 44

10. Jonathan Browne, 42

Myles Rowe (#99 Penske Entertainment-Pabst Racing with Force Indy Tatuus IP-22): “It was the race of my life honestly. Now that it is all over, I have been trying to close out a weekend winning all of the races since I was 14. It’s been a long road to dominate a weekend and we finally did it today. I’m just ecstatic, my family is ecstatic, the team is ecstatic – I couldn’t be happier. It was also thrilling because it was so calm, cool and collected for 10 of the laps or so and then a full course caution came out when I had an almost five-second gap. Then here I am on the last lap defending three corners on the track to make sure I could hold my spot. Luckily, I kept my head down and we did it. I have to send a big thank-you to Pabst Racing, Force Indy, Penske Entertainment, Sparco, Bell, SimCraft and NXG – all of them. This wouldn’t be possible without them.”

Lirim Zendeli (#10 Vexavit/Ajdini Spedition-TJ Speed Motorsports Tatuus IP-22): “The race was tough. I had a great start and could get to P3 immediately and then d’Orlando spun out. It was very tricky, the first lap. We expected to have more grip and suddenly everyone was sliding around and I just caught it out of Turn One as I was struggling as well. I could hold P2 but Kiko was flying. I was happy the race was over because I just didn’t have quite the pace and maybe not even the right downforce setup. We were losing a lot on the straights. I didn’t have the slipstream because Myles was just so fast. But I could see Myles struggling on the first lap and even after the safety car and I could catch up but then making a move was too risky. I wasn’t quite there so I was happy with P2.”

Kiko Porto (#12 Banco Daycoval/Petromega-DEForce Racing Tatuus IP-22): “The race was crazy. Starting P8, I had a really good start. I went on the outside of Turn One and saw I was in P5, so three cars in one corner was awesome. After that, the guys in front of me had a good pace. I tried to manage and not really heat the tires at the beginning of the race. After that, there were two safety cars and it was so difficult to maintain the temperature in the tires so every restart was so difficult. Overall, a good race. Unfortunately, I had a lot of problems yesterday and in qualifying today so we managed to get the most points possible after all the problems.”


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