Kyle Kirkwood drove a textbook race to win from the pole for Cape Motorsports in this morning’s incident-packed Royal Purple Synthetic Motor Oil Grand Prix of Indianapolis supporting the Lupus Foundation of America.
The 26-car Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda field once again provided plenty of thrilling action at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Grand Prix road course, especially for yesterday’s winner, Anglo-Frenchman Alex Baron, who recovered from a spin on the second lap and drove all the way through the field to finish second and maintain his championship challenge for Swan-RJB Motorsports.
Swedish rookie Rasmus Lindh finally earned a result commensurate with his speed as he finished third for Pabst Racing.
After starting from the pole for the second straight day, Kirkwood drove immediately into the lead, which he maintained throughout the 20-lap race. Even a couple of full-course cautions failed to interrupt his rhythm as last year’s Formula 4 U.S. champion claimed his second win of the season – and the second PFC Award for brothers Dominic and Nicholas Cape as the winning car owners.
“To come here and win in the USF2000 series is unbelievable,” Kirkwood said. “Oliver [Askew] swept the weekend last year, so I’m disappointed I didn’t do that, but it’s amazing to win here. I could see Alex, Jamie [Caroline] and Rasmus fighting behind me, which gave me a good-sized gap.
“I didn’t realize what had happened to Alex; I thought it was him behind me, but it was his teammate. I was a bit annoyed to see that last yellow when I had a big lead. He got pretty close to me in Turn 1. It’s great to get the win and the points, so now I’ll start thinking about my first oval race.”
Behind, though, there was drama aplenty. It began on the third lap when contact between the second and third-placed cars of Baron and Jamie Caroline (BN Racing) at the exit of Turn 7 sent Baron spinning all the way to the back of the field.
Caroline, who won last year’s British F4 Championship, continued in second, chased by all four Pabst Racing Tatuus-Mazda USF-17s running initially in the order of Brazilian Lucas Kohl, Lindh, Guyanan Calvin Ming and Potomac, Maryland, teenager Kaylen Frederick.
Greenfield, Indiana, native Zach Holden (DEForce Racing) and Irish debutant James Roe (Swan-RJB) also were in the midst of a fraught battle which saw positions shuffling on a regular basis until Lap 10, when Holden’s fine run ended following some contact in Turn 1. Moments later in Turn 4, another coming together between Caroline and Frederick ended with suspension damage for the Englishman and the unfortunate Frederick deposited into the gravel trap. Cue a full-course caution.
Shortly after the restart, with Kirkwood maintaining a much reduced advantage over Lindh, the yellows waved again following more contact further down the field.
The track was cleared in time for a one-lap dash to the checkers. At least, that was the plan. Unfortunately, another spate of incidents – including one even before the green flag was flown when Brazilian Bruna Tomaselli (Team Pelfrey) was punted into a spin at Turn 12 – caused the caution flags to wave once again and the race to finish under yellow.
It made little difference to Kirkwood, whose fine drive was rewarded with the win. Behind, a magnificent charge by Baron saw him pass Lindh for second place at Turn 1. A strong run by Keane was rewarded by fourth, followed by Roe, Kory Enders (DEForce Racing), Kohl, South African Julian Van der Watt (Team Pelfrey) and Mexico City’s Manuel Cabrera (Exclusive Autosport), who, after starting 22nd, took home his second Tilton Hard Charger Award in as many days.
Kirkwood’s second win of the season enabled him to extend his championship lead to 13 points over Baron as the USF2000 contenders head next to Lucas Oil Raceway in nearby Brownsburg, Indiana, for their only oval race of the season on May 25.