Earlier this week, difficulties in obtaining a new visa meant that Alex Baron wasn’t even sure he would be able to make it to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for this weekend’s Royal Purple Synthetic Motor Oil Grand Prix of Indianapolis supporting the Lupus Foundation of America. Thankfully, the 23-year-old – who holds dual French and English citizenship – was granted the correct paperwork on Wednesday. He immediately jumped on a plane from Europe – and ended up with a hard-earned victory this afternoon for Swan-RJB Motorsports.
Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda points leader Kyle Kirkwood finished a close second for Cape Motorsports, with Jose Sierra taking third for DEForce Racing.
After sharing the wins during the opening two rounds of the season on the streets of St. Petersburg, Kirkwood and Baron again proved to be the men to beat today by qualifying alongside each other on the front row of the grid. But there were plenty of other challengers who were clearly able and willing to mount their own challenge as the top four in qualifying all set times within one tenth of a second.
Swedish rookie Rasmus Lindh, who qualified third for Pabst Racing, made a move past Baron on the opening lap, which allowed Kirkwood to capitalize on a fine start and establish a clear advantage. It didn’t last for long as the full-course caution flags waved just a couple of laps later following an incident involving Lucas Kohl (Pabst Racing) and Darren Keane (Newman Wachs Racing), who had been battling over eighth.
The ensuing restart saw Kirkwood staunchly defending his inside line under braking for Turn One, but it wasn’t enough to prevent Baron from braking even later on the outside and taking the lead.
The Anglo-Frenchman remained out in front when the caution flags waved again after eight laps due to more contact, this time in Turn 8 between Oscar DeLuzuriaga (Newman Wachs Racing) and Michael d’Orlando (Team BENIK), whose car briefly flipped over. He emerged unscathed.
The race resumed again for what turned out to be an exhilarating four-lap dash to the checkered flag. On lap 13, Kirkwood drafted alongside Baron on the front straight and regained the advantage with a bold late-braking maneuver at Turn 1, only for Baron to fight back and redress the balance once again at Turn 7. The pair remained separated by barely a car length or two before Baron held onto the victory by 0.4344 second to an ensure a second win – and PFC Award – of the season for Swan-RJB Motorsports.
Sierra and 2017 British Formula 4 Champion Jamie Caroline (BN Racing) finished hot on the heels of the top two, with Kory Enders (DEForce Racing) crossing the line in fifth after Igor Fraga (Exclusive Autosport) slid briefly off the road with just a couple of laps remaining. Enders was chased home by Calvin Ming (Pabst Racing), Julian Van der Watt (Team Pelfrey), Fraga, Colin Kaminsky (DEForce Racing) and Manuel Cabrera (Exclusive Autosport), who completed the top 10 and earned the Tilton Hard Charger Award after starting in 20th.
Kirkwood will have another opportunity to go for the win tomorrow after securing pole position during a separate qualifying session this morning. The second 30-minute race of the weekend is scheduled to start at 9:15 a.m. ET. Coverage can be found on a series of platforms including Road to Indy TV, the Road to Indy TV App and dedicated broadcast channels on demand via Apple TV, Amazon Fire and Roku and, most recently, the Xbox One Official App as well as live streaming and live timing on usf2000.com and racecontrol.indycar.com.