One year ago, Oconomowoc, Wisconsin-based Pabst Racing claimed pole position for both Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship races at its home track, only to fall short of the victory on each occasion.
Today’s Cooper Tires Grand Prix of Road America Powered by Elite Engines turned out rather better for the local team as New Zealand’s Hunter McElrea worked his way past pole-sitting teammate Colin Kaminsky and went on to score a well-deserved maiden victory.
Kaminsky chased McElrea home for the best result of his career to date, while Cameron Shields followed up his own spectacular maiden victory in the most recent race at the Lucas Oil Raceway oval by completing the podium for Newman Wachs Racing.
The leading pair quickly separated themselves from the main pack after an incident at the first corner saw contact between several cars jostling for position. Second and fourth-fastest qualifiers Alex Baron (Legacy Autosport) and the perennially unfortunate Darren Keane (Cape Motorsports) were the biggest losers.
Keane rejoined a distant last after he was sent spinning off the road, while Baron incurred two flat tires and bodywork damage which sent him to the pits and out of contention.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Denmark’s Christian Rasmussen (Jay Howard Driver Development) emerged in third place having started in seventh. Behind him at the end of the first lap were a squabbling pack comprising Mexico’s Manuel Sulaiman (DEForce Racing), Shields, and championship leader Braden Eves (Cape Motorsports) who had started back in eighth.
Kaminsky maintained his lead for the opening two laps, but McElrea remained glued to his gearbox, anxiously looking for a way past. A fast exit from Turn 14 at the end of the second lap gave him the chance to tow up alongside Kaminsky on the front straight and make the decisive pass into Turn One. McElrea never looked back, inching away little by little to take the flag fully 3.5352 seconds to the good.
Rasmussen was shuffled back to sixth after the first few laps, where he remained until just two laps shy of the finish when he was punted from behind in the braking area for Turn 12 by DEForce Racing’s Jak Crawford. A subsequent 30-second penalty dropped Crawford from seventh to 14th in the final results.
Sulaiman ran third for a while before being demoted firstly by Shields and then by Eves, who continued their battle to the finish line, separated by less than half a second and having closed up almost onto the tail of second-place finisher Kaminsky in the closing stages.
Brazilian Bruna Tomaselli (Pabst Racing), the only female in the field, also drove a strong race by rising from 11th on the grid to sixth, making several incisive passes as the race progressed. She was chased home by the fourth Pabst car, driven by Oconomowoc-born Yuven Sundaramoorthy; while Reece Gold (Cape Motorsports) secured the Tilton Hard Charger Award after battling his way from 15th on the grid to eighth at the finish.
Augie Pabst took home the PFC Award as the winning car owner.