The final round of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship in wet conditions at Mid-Ohio this morning ended with Josh Green out in front to claim his first series victory and a first win for Turn 3 Motorsport.
Sixteen-year-old Nolan Siegel finished second ahead of DEForce teammate Kiko Porto, who secured his 10th podium finish to cap a stellar season after clinching the championship yesterday.
A dramatic change in the weather conditions overnight led to qualifying this morning being held on a wet track, and unfortunately it set the tone for the day. Several incidents caused the session to be halted after all drivers had completed only two laps, which led officials to set the grid according to the second fastest laps turned by each driver during the first qualifying period yesterday.
Thus did Michael d’Orlando claim his fifth Cooper Tires Pole Award of the year with a time of 1m20.3453s. Necessarily, it wasn’t quite as fast as his time on Saturday which finally eclipsed the USF2000 qualifying record set in 2012 by Matthew Brabham, but it did extend d’Orlando’s remarkable streak of consecutive poles to four – a fine way to round out a strong season for the lead Cape Motorsports driver.
D’Orlando led the field into Turn 1 on a treacherously slippery surface, running a rim-shot around the outside line, but it wasn’t enough to prevent Green from scything past on the exit after starting in sixth. In fact, Green only arrived on the grid a few minutes before the start because his team had been repairing extensive damage that been inflicted when he was inadvertently taken out by another driver during the abbreviated qualifying session.
Moments later, the full-course caution flags waved due to a series of incidents around the 2.258-mile track.
Another caution followed immediately after the restart, but when the race finally restarted again with nine laps completed, Green quickly put some distance between himself and his pursuers, extending his lead to almost two seconds over Siegel, who had started fourth, before the caution flags waved again on Lap 12.
After one more aborted attempt to resume, during which Porto managed to scrabble past d’Orlando for third place, the 40-minute time limit expired for the Cooper Tires USF2000 Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio Presented by VP Stay Frosty and Green was declared the winner.
“We really cut it close to get the car ready after the crash earlier, so huge thanks to the team. I’m so happy to give them this victory,” said Green. “They’re such an awesome group. I got a good launch and I just got better traction than the drivers around me. I moved to the inside pretty early and saw that everyone was really washing out as they came through and got really tight on the exit. I saw Michael and Yuven drop tires and got in there — Nolan squeezed me pretty good, I think we were four-wide there for a moment!
“Once I got into the lead, it was just a matter of controlling the restarts. I had a really good car and was really confident, despite the conditions. They were constantly changing — one lap, I’d go through a turn fine and the next lap, I’d have wheelspin. We’ve been pushing so hard all year, it’s such an awesome feeling.”
Green became the ninth different winner on the season, picking up a first-ever PFC Award for Peter Dempsey as the winning car owner.
Billy Frazer (Exclusive Autosport) picked up his second Tilton Hard Charger Award in as many days, and his fourth of the season, after climbing from 18th on the grid to ninth at the checkered flag, one position ahead of Andre Castro (Legacy Autosport), who started 19th.
Porto this evening will pick up a check for over $400,000 at the Championship Celebration awards ceremony, after which he will head to the annual Chris Griffis Memorial Road to Indy Test at the Indianapolis Grand Prix road course at the end of this month, October 29-31, as he sets his sights on graduating onto the next rung of the ladder, the Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, in 2022.
Provisional final championship points after 18 races:
1. Kiko Porto, 412
2. Michael d’Orlando, 365
3. Yuven Sundaramoorthy, 329
4. Josh Pierson, 291
5. Josh Green, 280
6. Christian Brooks, 257
7. Spike Kohlbecker, 235
8. Nolan Siegel, 227
9. Thomas Nepveu, 220
10. Prescott Campbell, 215