The juggernaut rolls on. Denmark’s Christian Rasmussen produced another dominant performance Friday evening in the Cooper Tires Freedom 75 at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis, winning handsomely for the sixth race in succession for Jay Howard Driver Development.
Reece Gold extended his streak of podium finishes to four for Cape Motorsports, while local driver Jack William Miller overcame Michael d’Orlando (Cape Motorsports) to secure his first podium finish for Miller Vinatieri Motorsports.
After the initial attempt at a start was waved off due to outside front row starter Gold jumping on the throttle with a little too much alacrity, the race ran clean and green for the remainder of the 75-lap distance.
Rasmussen, who had claimed the Cooper Tires Pole Award during two-lap, single-car qualifying Thursday, withstood a strong early challenge from Gold. The 15-year-old in turn was chased by teammate d’Orlando, who had muscled his way past third-place qualifier Miller on the opening lap.
Josh Green also made a fine start, vaulting from sixth on the grid to fourth in a third Cape Motorsports Tatuus USF-17, leaving Miller having to slot into fifth ahead of Christian Brooks (Exclusive Autosport).
Gold set was to stand as the fastest lap of the race on Lap 6, but Rasmussen’s metronomic consistency soon enabled him to edge away from the continuing battle for second.
By the halfway point, the margin between first and second remained at less than two seconds, but as the leaders encountered some lapped traffic, Rasmussen was able to carve through more effectively and extend his advantage.
Rasmussen eventually took the checkered flag 6.4997s ahead of Gold to earn car owner – and former series champion – Jay Howard his sixth successive PFC Award.
“I had Jay in my ear the entire race, telling me to slow down because I had a six-second lead,” said Rasmussen. “He wanted the win as much as me and he has so much experience, but I always want to push. But it’s hard to get around traffic on the oval, compared to the road courses. It’s a different style of driving. It’s a lot more car dependent so overtaking and using the other lanes on the racetrack is really where the car’s balance comes in to play. It’s so important, so a huge shoutout to the team for making the car as great as it is. It’s amazing to drive, it’s so consistent.
“We’re six for six. I matched my boss’s win streak! Hopefully, we can beat it at the next race.”
Gold and d’Orlando edged away from Green through the middle stages of an intense race, with Miller and Brooks, seemingly inseparable in fifth and sixth, instead closing in.
Miller took advantage of some slower traffic to nip past Green with 10 laps remaining, and then pulled a similar move on d’Orlando just three laps from the finish to clinch his podium result after a fine performance.
Green, unable to work his way through traffic as clearly as his rivals, also slipped behind Brooks, who emerged as the top rookie finisher in fifth. Green just held on ahead of Matt Round-Garrido (Pabst Racing), with Kyle Dupell (Cape Motorsports) and two more Pabst cars, driven by Yuven Sundaramoorthy and Eduardo Barrichello completing the top 10.
Prescott Campbell also impressed for Exclusive Autosport. Starting 19th and last due to an infraction in qualifying, Campbell worked his way up to 12th place to secure the Tilton Hard Charger Award.
Up next for the USF2000 contingent is a return to road course competition and one of the most eagerly awaited events of the season, the tripleheader Cooper Tires USF2000 Indy Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Grand Prix Circuit, on September 3-4.