There’s no stopping Kyle Kirkwood. The runaway championship leader started only third for Saturday morning’s eighth round of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, but a well-executed pass on polesitter Dakota Dickerson at the first corner vaulted his Cape Motorsports Tatuus-Mazda USF-17 into the lead at the first corner and he never looked back.
Kirkwood, 19, was never able to relax, with Dickerson’s ArmsUp Motorsports car following just a few car lengths in arrears. He was nevertheless able to hold on for his fifth consecutive victory – and ensure the sixth PFC Award of the season for brothers Dominic and Nicholas Cape as the winning owners – to extend his championship advantage to a whopping 114 points over Kaylen Frederick who finished third for Pabst Racing.
Today’s first of two races which comprise the Cooper Tires USF2000 Grand Prix of Toronto Presented by Allied Building Products began with Dickerson on the pole for the first time in his career due to the two drivers who had qualified fractionally faster, Kirkwood and Frederick, being forced to forfeit their best laps after being adjudged not to have slowed sufficiently for a caution flag.
Dickerson tried his best to defend his position away from the start, but Kirkwood glimpsed the slimmest of gaps on the inside under braking and boldly made his move. It was judged to perfection. Dickerson had little option but to tuck into second, followed by the Pabst pair of Rasmus Lindh, from Gothenburg, Sweden, who had started fourth, and outside front row starter Frederick.
After an early full-course caution due to Jose Sierra (DEForce Racing) and Darren Keane (Newman Wachs Racing) colliding in Turn 4 while disputing fifth position, Kirkwood quickly established himself at the front, albeit with Dickerson hot on his heels. Frederick managed to fight his way past Lindh in Turn 5 soon after the restart, whereupon the top four soon began to edge clear of Keith Donegan (BN Racing) in fifth.
The leading quartet exchanged fastest race laps on a regular basis, with Kirkwood clinging onto his advantage. Try as he did, Dickerson was unable to find a chink in the leader’s armor and had to settle for second. The pair were separated by just 0.3613 second at the checkered flag.
“We started third but I timed the start perfectly and I was on Dakota’s gearbox the entire way into Turn 1. He left the door open just a little bit and I was able to take it,” Kirkwood related. “We had one caution but I kept that gap and honestly, it couldn’t have gone any better. Now that we have a big lead I can charge after wins as hard as I can. If we have a mishap, we don’t have to worry as much and it’s really nice to have that comfort.
“I look back on my first win at St. Pete and think of how much knowledge the Mazda Road to Indy has given me. My driving is so much better than it was at St. Pete – I remember feeling as though I was right on top of the walls, but here, I’m really pushing and I’m driving really well. This has been a huge year for me and I’m really happy to be in this position.”
Frederick barely managed to stay ahead of rookie Lindh, who gained the consolation of a new race lap record of 1m11.1234s, an average speed of 90.401mph, on his way to fourth place.
Donegan and Calvin Ming (Pabst Racing) finished a relatively lonely fifth and sixth ahead of Igor Fraga (Exclusive Autosport), who earned the Tilton Hard Charger Award after a magnificent charge from 17th on the grid following a mistake during qualifying. He was followed by teammate Danial Frost and Lucas Kohl (Pabst Racing), who also charged from the back after a crash in qualifying.
A second qualifying session this morning saw Frederick post the fastest time at a new record 1m10.7699s (90.852mph) to earn the pole position for tomorrow’s ninth round of the 14-race season which will start at 9:45 a.m. ET.