There’s no stopping Kyle Kirkwood. The latest rising star from the Cape Motorsports camp led only one lap during this morning’s incident-filled Cooper Tires Grand Prix of Road America Powered by Mazda, but, importantly, it was the last one as he overtook Pabst Racing’s Lucas Kohl at the final restart to secure his fifth win of the season and fourth in succession.
Potomac, Md., youngster Kaylen Frederick also found a way past Brazilian Kohl on the final lap to ensure a frustrating two-three finish for Oconomowoc, Wisconsin-based Pabst Racing team after Kohl had run up front for 11 of the 12 laps.
The action in this morning’s seventh round of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda began almost immediately after the start when two cars tangled in Turn 1 and then two more were eliminated in an incident even before the braking area for Turn 5. Cue the first of no fewer than three full-course cautions… but not before Kohl already had jumped from third on the grid to the lead ahead of Pabst teammates Rasmus Lindh, who had started on pole, and Frederick.
The restart, with three laps in the books, was relatively clean, despite some intense wheel-to-wheel action in Turn 1. Kohl managed to cling onto his advantage over Lindh and Frederick, with championship leader Kirkwood lurking menacingly in fourth.
On Lap 5, Kirkwood moved up one position when he passed Frederick cleanly under braking for Turn 5. Soon afterward the caution flags were waving again after another incident, this time in Turn 12, which required removal of the stricken cars of Darren Keane (Newman Wachs Racing) and Kyle Dupell (Team Pelfrey).
The green flags flew again after a couple of laps behind the Mazda Pace Car, and once again the action at the front was intense. Kohl successfully fended off his pursuers to maintain the lead, while in his wake Frederick took full advantage of the draft to vault briefly from fourth to second. It didn’t last for long. Minor contact between himself, Lindh and Kirkwood at Turn 3 resulted in Kirkwood moving back to second, whereupon Lindh found himself on the outside line at Turn 5and with nowhere to go but the escape road.
A major stack-up and some opportunist maneuvers saw yet another Pabst car, driven by Calvin Ming, who had started a lowly 15th after problems in qualifying, suddenly emerge in fifth, only to be unfortunately harpooned in Turn 6 by Kory Enders (DEForce Racing), who had already lost his front wing following an incident during the previous caution period which resulted in the unfortunate retirement of Team Pelfrey’s Julian Van der Watt.
The latest carnage ensured yet another full-course caution, which left time for only a one-lap dash to the checkers. This time Kirkwood timed his restart to perfection, drafting past Kohl cleanly before Turn 1 to assume the lead for the first time. He duly sped away to claim yet another PFC Award for the winning car owners, Dominic and Nicholas Cape.
“I knew I would have to work for it, starting fourth, and it worked out perfectly,” said Kirkwood. “The cautions actually played in my favor — I was able to pick guys off one by one on the restarts. We had a really fast car, it was absolutely amazing. But on the last restart, I knew I would have to get it done in Turn 1, and our cars can pass on either the inside or the outside there. Then I would just have to hold them off for the rest of the lap. I had a gap coming across the finish line and it feels really good to come from behind and take the win. And I only have one more win to go before I match Oliver (Askew) with five straight wins.”
Frederick also managed to find a way past the unfortunate Kohl, who had to be content with third. The pair of podium finishes provided some consolation for Augie Pabst as his locally based organization is now tied on points for the lead of the Team Championship.
Colin Kaminsky secured his best-ever result by finishing a strong fourth for DEForce Racing ahead of Japanese-born Brazilian Igor Fraga (Exclusive Autosport). Michael d’Orlando survived an eventful race for Team BENIK in which he started a career-best seventh, fell as low as 12th and then rose again to a well-earned fifth by the finish ahead of Alex Baron (Swan-RJB Motorsport), Manuel Cabrera (Exclusive Autosport) and Dakota Dickerson who largely steered clear of the drama for ArmsUp Motorsports on his return to USF2000 after a one-year hiatus.
Oscar DeLuzuriaga claimed his career-best finish, 12th, for Newman Wachs Racing. He also earned the Tilton Hard Charger Award after starting a lowly 26th.
Now midway through the 14-race season, Kirkwood has extended his championship lead to a commanding 94 points over Baron as the series heads next to the streets of Toronto, Canada, for another pair of races in support of the Verizon IndyCar Series on July 13-15.