Cape Motorsports maintained its stranglehold on the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship this afternoon by completing a sweep of the opening two rounds on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla.
Following up on an accomplished victory yesterday by Braden Eves, the team, which has won the last eight driver championships in succession, seemed to be moments away from celebrating another first-time USF2000 victory when pole-sitter and race-long leader Darren Keane lost control under braking for Turn 13 on the final lap while under intense pressure from Jay Howard Driver Development’s Christian Rasmussen.
Keane’s Cape Motorsports teammate Eves, who had been running third, took full advantage of the gift to grab the checkered flag, finishing ahead of Hunter McElrea (Pabst Racing) and Zach Holden (BN Racing) who completed the podium.
After proving to be one of the stars in yesterday’s season opener by carving his way from the back of the field (due to a faulty transponder in qualifying) to seventh, Floridian Keane appeared to have today’s Race 2 in complete control, despite the distraction of two full-course cautions.
On each of the restarts, Keane was able to keep his lead over Rasmussen — that is until Turn 13 on the final lap when he left his braking just a fraction too late, spinning broadside across the track and leaving Rasmussen with no chance of taking avoiding action.
With the two cars spinning to a halt, Eves was just far enough behind to be able to pick a clear line and emerge with his second win of the weekend.
McElrea and Pabst Racing teammate Colin Kaminsky, along with Frenchman Alex Baron (Legacy Autosport), Australian Cameron Shields (Newman Wachs Racing) and Mexican Jose Sierra (Legacy Autosport), also were embroiled in a battle for placings at one point or another. But as Shields and Sierra fell out of contention, McElrea, the winner of last year’s Mazda Road to Indy USF2000 $200k Scholarship Shootout, was able to join Eves on the podium for the second straight day.
Baron bounced back from his monster accident on the opening lap yesterday, rewarding his team’s hard work by finishing fourth, narrowly ahead of Kaminsky and impressive Mexican Manuel Sulaiman, who charged from 20th on the grid (due to an accident yesterday in qualifying) to finish sixth and earn the Tilton Hard Charger Award.
While claiming yet another PFC Award as the winning car owners for brothers Dominic and Nicholas Cape, Eves’ memorable weekend also ensured he has a commanding championship lead as the series heads next to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course for two races in early May.