Myles Rowe scored a dominant win today for Pabst Racing in the first of three races that will comprise the Cooper Tires Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio. A third victory of the season for the 22-year-old moved him back atop the point standings in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship after an early incident restricted previous leader Michael d’Orlando (Cape Motorsports) to a 14th-place finish.
Australian Lochie Hughes initially crossed the finish line in second place, although his impressive debut for Jay Howard Driver Development came to naught when his car failed post-race technical inspection. Rowe’s Pabst Racing teammate Jace Denmark thereby inherited the position ahead of Billy Frazer (Exclusive Autosport).
Rowe started the 20-lap race from the inside of the front row after claiming his second Cooper Tires Pole Award of the season during an intense qualifying session Friday morning which ended with the top 10 drivers separated by less than three tenths of a second.
Rowe immediately took off into the lead, although he was placed under intense pressure during the first couple of laps by d’Orlando, who started on the outside of the front row. Rowe fought off several challenges before being given some respite when Hughes, who had overtaken Denmark on the opening lap, made an opportunistic pass on d’Orlando for second place at Turn 9.
After a brief full-course caution following an incident farther down the field, the race was restarted with Rowe leading from Hughes and Denmark. D’Orlando and Frazer should have lined up fourth and fifth, but d’Orlando instead made for the pit lane to change a damaged wing, while Frazer fell to 12th place as the green flag waved.
Rowe immediately asserted his superiority as he pulled rapidly away from a tremendous battle for second place between Hughes, Denmark and 14-year-old Nikita Johnson (VRD Racing). Johnson rose as high as third before ending his race due to contact after 14 laps.
Rowe, by then, was long gone, earning a fifth PFC Award of the year for winning team owner Augie Pabst as he took the checkered flag some 8.7031s clear of Hughes, who remained just ahead of Denmark. The eventual one-two sweep for Pabst Racing enabled the Wisconsin-based team to extend its lead in the Team Championship to 33 points over Cape Motorsports.
“The race today was good,” Rowe said after the checkers. “It was fairly simple; there was only one restart, which was good. I was afraid there was going to be another restart at the end after I had a huge lead but luckily I didn’t have to do that. The original start — it wasn’t plain and simple. I had to defend several different corners over the first two laps from Michael d’Orlando but it went well. We banged some wheels a little bit but it was all clean racing. Michael and I go way back (to karting) so I’m pretty sure he enjoyed that, I hope, too. After that it was just about making consistent laps and making sure I could get to the end, and that’s what we did.
“Pabst Racing gave me a great car and my support system, Penske Entertainment, Sparco and Bell, I couldn’t do it without them so all credit to them for this one.”
Frazer provided one of the drives of the race as he fought his way back from 12th to third, followed by Jagger Jones (Cape Motorsports) and fellow New Zealander Jacob Douglas (Exclusive Autosport), who recorded his best result of the season in fifth.
Danny Dyszelski earned the Tilton Hard Charger Award after rising from 19th on the grid to 10th.
The second race in this triple-header weekend will start at 10:45 a.m. EDT on Saturday, July 2, with the finale also Saturday at 5:00 p.m.