Second-generation racer Eduardo Barrichello scored an impressive maiden Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship victory this afternoon for Pabst Racing at the Indianapolis Grand Prix road course. In front of his former Ferrari Formula 1 race-winning father Rubens, the 18-year-old Barrichello worked his way methodically from fourth at the completion of the opening lap to secure top honors in the first of three races that will comprise the Cooper Tires USF2000 Indy Grand Prix.
One day after celebrating his 16th birthday, Reece Gold moved up to second in the points table following his fifth podium finish in succession for Cape Motorsports, while pole-winning Brazilian Kiko Porto had to settle for third for DEForce Racing.
After dominating the first six races of the season for the Jay Howard Driver Development team, Denmark’s Christian Rasmussen qualified a relatively disappointing fifth and could manage no better than sixth at the finish after being shuffled all the way down to 13th place on the opening lap.
This morning’s opening practice session was portent of things to come as no fewer than 17 drivers were blanketed by less than one second. It was Porto, from Recife, Brazil, who led the way, and the former F4 race winner continued his good work in qualifying to claim his first Cooper Tires Pole Award by just under a tenth of a second from Gold.
Barrichello lined up third on the grid but was quickly ousted by Jack William Miller, who continued his strong form for the Miller Vinatieri Motorsports team by leaping from fourth on the grid to second on the opening lap.
Porto took full advantage of his pole position – and the in-fighting behind him – to open up what seemed to be a commanding lead in the early stages of the 15-lap race. But after the unfortunate Miller slipped back into the pack and then retired to the pits with a broken rear wing mount, Gold soon began to whittle away at a deficit that had reached as high as 2.6 seconds.
By lap 11, not only were the two leaders back together again, but Barrichello had joined in the fight, with top rookie Josh Green (Cape Motorsports) also moving into contention to set the stage for a thrilling final few laps.
Next time around, after the three leaders approached the heavy braking area for Turn 1 running absolutely side-by-side, it was Gold who briefly snatched the advantage, only to run wide on the exit and slip all the way to third place behind Porto and Barrichello.
Porto tried his hardest to defend the lead but to no avail. On lap 14, Porto again clung to the inside line at Turn 1, only for Barrichello to perform a classic over-under maneuver, turning in late from wide on the outside line and making a much faster exit to sweep ahead before Turn 2. Gold also took advantage of Porto’s loss of momentum to snatch second place.
From there, Barrichello concentrated on hitting his marks to claim a fine victory and a first PFC Award of the season for Pabst Racing.
Gold finished just 0.2834 of a second behind in second place, with Porto and Green also in close attendance at the checkered flag.
Nolan Siegel took home the Tilton Hard Charger Award after rising from 10th on the grid to fifth, just ahead of Jay Howard Driver Development teammate Rasmussen, with Englishman Matt Round-Garrido (Pabst Racing) taking seventh.
Yuven Sundaramoorthy (Pabst Racing) finished eighth after a protracted battle with Christian Brooks (Exclusive Autosport), while Max Kaeser claimed his first top-10 finish for Miller Vinatieri Motorsports.
One more qualifying session at 8:00 a.m. Friday will set the grid for the next race, due to start at 11:00 a.m., with each driver’s fastest race lap then used to determine the starting order for the third and final race which will begin at 2:45 p.m.