Kyle Kirkwood underscored his dominance in this year’s Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda by taking another flag-to-flag victory in this morning’s Cooper Tires USF2000 Mid-Ohio Grand Prix Powered by Mazda. He posted a new record fastest race lap for good measure on his final tour around the 2.258-mile Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
After putting the championship crown beyond the reach of his rivals on Friday – and clinching a $325,000 Mazda Scholarship to progress onto the next step on the Mazda Road to Indy, the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires in 2019 – Kirkwood has now won nine consecutive races for the Cape Motorsports team.
James Raven capped an impressive first weekend in USF2000 by finishing second for DEForce Racing, while Swedish rookie Rasmus Lindh strengthened his grip on second place in the championship by finishing third for Pabst Racing.
Raven started on pole position by virtue of posting the fastest lap – fractionally slower than the existing USF2000 lap record set in 2012 by current Verizon IndyCar Series driver Spencer Pigot – during yesterday’s second of three races this weekend. But his hopes of translating that into a victory were thwarted on the drag race away from the start line when outside front-row starter Kirkwood edged ahead into the first corner. Raven remained tucked underneath the newly crowned champion’s rear wing for the opening eight laps, only for Kirkwood to seemingly kick into another gear as he edged away to an eventual winning margin of 6.1014 seconds after 20 laps.
“I got a little bit of a jump on James after the green came out at the start and had the momentum going into Turn 1,” Kirkwood said. “I had two tires onto the preferred line so I slid a little, but I was able to hang on and keep the lead. We have the sweep and the championship, so this is the best weekend of the year.
“I’m glad that I’m able to get in the car and forget everything happening outside of the car and focus on the moment. I think that’s why we’ve been able to do so well this year. There’s so much swirling around me now that could distract me, but it doesn’t. Honestly, it still hasn’t hit me. I need some time to absorb everything that happened this weekend.”
Kirkwood’s final lap at 1m21.2979s, an average speed of 99.988mph, was fractionally quicker than Pigot’s previous mark of 1m21.328s.
Raven finished well clear of Lindh, who shadowed Irishman Keith Donegan (BN Racing) for the majority of the race before pulling off a fine overtaking maneuver in Turns 4 and 5 with three laps remaining to snatch the final podium placing.
Raven’s teammate Jose Sierra ran fifth until serving a penalty for a jump-start. F1600 Champion Julian Van der Watt (Team Pelfrey) then held the position until he was punted into a spin at Turn 4 by Kaylen Frederick (Pabst Racing) just after the halfway mark.
Frederick, who had charged up from a 22nd starting position following two separate incidents in yesterday’s race, was obliged to serve a drive-through penalty for avoidable contact, dropping him once again to the tail of the field.
Igor Fraga eventually emerged in fifth for Exclusive Autosport. He held onto the position despite the close attentions of Pabst Racing teammates Lucas Kohl and Calvin Ming, plus Team BENIK’s Michael d’Orlando Ming claimed the Tilton Hard Charger Award after starting in the 16th position.
Exclusive Autosport teammates Danial Frost and impressive 15-year-old rookie Yuven Sundaramoorthy completed the top 10, narrowly ahead of Jacob Abel (Abel Motorsport).
Although winning car owners Dominic and Nicholas Cape took home their 10th PFC Award of the season, the coveted Team Championship remains undecided. Pabst Racing currently holds a slender seven-point edge, 291-284, prior to the final two races of the season which will take place at Portland International Raceway on September 1-2.