Kyle Kirkwood needed only a modest few results from this weekend’s Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda triple-header at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course to put the championship crown beyond the reach of his rivals. The 19-year-old did better than that. Kirkwood qualified comfortably on pole position – for the fourth time this season – and was never remotely under threat as he cruised to a seventh consecutive victory for Cape Motorsports to lock up the $325,000 Mazda Scholarship which will allow him to graduate to the next level of the Mazda Road to Indy open-wheel development ladder, the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, in 2019.
Teammates Lucas Kohl and Calvin Ming locked out the podium for Pabst Racing to move the Wisconsin-based team ahead of Cape Motorsports in the battle for the coveted Team Championship with four races remaining – including one apiece on Saturday and Sunday.
Behind, there was all sorts of mayhem as a variety of incidents led to much of the 20-lap race being run under full-course caution. The drama started on the opening lap when the two other Pabst Racing entries, driven by Kaylen Frederick and Rasmus Lindh, who had qualified second and third fastest, collided at Turn 4. Frederick’s hopes of scoring an elusive maiden victory were ended as he lost a lap before rejoining, while Lindh, who continued in second place, was obliged to serve a drive-through penalty for avoidable contact immediately after the restart, which dropped him to the back of the field.
Kohl took advantage of the fracas to slip into second place ahead of Ming, while a bold move by Keith Donegan (BN Racing) catapulted him from seventh on the grid to fourth at the end of the first lap ahead of James Raven, making an impressive debut for DEForce Racing, and teammate Jose Sierra.
A series of additional full-course cautions failed to trouble Kirkwood, who on each occasion was able to jump clear of his rivals at the restarts. He took the checkered flag a comfortable 1.8275 seconds clear of Kohl to clinch the eighth PFC Award of the season for brothers Dominic and Nicholas Cape. Kirkwood’s performance also ensured a record-extending eighth straight USF2000 title – and remarkable 12th since 2000 – for Cape Motorsports.
Raven looked set for fourth until being adjudged to have jumped one of the mid-race restarts. The requirement of a drive-through penalty relegated him to an unrepresentative 18th at the finish. Donegan, who was struggling with a mis-handling car, salvaged fifth after a masterful display of defensive driving, while 2017 South African F1600 champion Julian Van der Watt claimed another fifth-place finish for Team Pelfrey.
Dakota Dickerson secured the Tilton Hard Charger Award for ArmsUp Motorsports by leaping from 24th and last on the grid (due to a non-functioning transponder in qualifying) to sixth ahead of Danial Frost (Exclusive Autosport), and 17-year-old Michael d’Orlando (Team BENIK), who qualified a strong fifth but fell far down the order due to a mistake on the opening lap. Kory Enders (DEForce Racing) and a recovering Lindh completed the top 10.
Qualifying for tomorrow’s 11th round of the 14-race season will be held at 8:45 a.m. ET, with the race due to start at 12:35 p.m. The fastest laps from tomorrow’s race will determine the starting order for the third of this weekend’s Cooper Tires USF2000 Mid-Ohio Grand Prix Powered by Mazda which will start at 12:10 p.m. on Sunday.