Rowe, d'Orlando take Saturday USF2000 wins at Mid-Ohio

Gavin Baker Photography

Rowe, d'Orlando take Saturday USF2000 wins at Mid-Ohio

Road to Indy

Rowe, d'Orlando take Saturday USF2000 wins at Mid-Ohio

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Myles Rowe took a huge stride toward his goal of winning this year’s Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship with a pair of wins from this weekend’s Cooper Tires Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio triple-header at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Rowe swept the opening two races for Pabst Racing, although Michael d’Orlando (Cape Motorsports) kept himself in contention with a flag-to-flag victory in the final race.

Rowe and d’Orlando were followed home in Saturday morning’s first race, the second of the weekend, by Rowe’s teammate Jace Denmark. In the final race of the weekend Saturday afternoon, Denmark went one better to finish second ahead of Rowe.

A busy day for the Road to Indy contenders began at 10:45 a.m. EDT with the first of two USF2000 races, and d’Orlando snagging another Cooper Tires Pole Award – his fourth of the season – by virtue of posting the second fastest lap during the lone qualifying session on Friday morning.

Friday’s winner, Rowe, lined up on the outside of the front row, and once again it was the two prime title protagonists who battled head to head in the early stages. D’Orlando remained in front through a brief full-course caution after three laps, but Rowe made a bold move to the outside of Turn Five on the restart, which gave him the inside line – and the race lead – headed downhill into Turn 6. Rowe’s close-following teammate, Denmark, also was able to take advantage of d’Orlando’s slight loss of momentum to sneak up into second.

D’Orlando fought back a couple of laps later, making his own outside-line pass, this time at Turn 4, to resume in second. By this stage Rowe was already well out front, completing the eighth out of 20 laps with an advantage of 1.8 seconds. Undeterred, d’Orlando put his head down and gradually whittled away at the deficit until, with three laps remaining, he was back on terms. Unfortunately for d’Orlando, the yellow flags then waved again following a single-car incident in Turn 9, which meant the race would finish under caution.

Denmark came out on top of a tight battle for third with 14-year-old Nikita Johnson (VRD Racing), while fellow rookie Nicky Hays produced his best drive of the season by taking fifth ahead of Cape Motorsports teammate Jagger Jones. Hays’ drive also earned him the Tilton Hard Charger Award after having started 13th on the grid.

No. 4: Michael d’Orlando, Cape Motorsports, Focused Project Management, USF2000. Gavin Baker Photography

D’Orlando was again on pole for the three-race finale with the first four rows aligned identical to race two. This time, however, D’Orlando was able to hold back the advances of Rowe and remained fully in command throughout the 20-lap race, eventually crossing the line with a 3.3s advantage.

Rowe maintained a steady pace around 1.5s in arrears of d’Orlando with Denmark not far behind in third. The three leaders began to gap themselves from the field by lap 8. It was on lap 18, though, that Rowe made a rare mistake with a slight off-on in Turn 1, allowing Denmark to cement second-place and his third podium of the weekend.

Lochie Hughes rebounded from losing a podium finish yesterday, due to a technical infraction, to finish fourth for Jay Howard Driver Development followed by Dylan Christie, who also was on the rebound from an incident in race two, to round out the top five for DEForce Racing.

Evagoras Papasavvas (Jay Howard Driver Development) took home the Tilton Hard Charger Award after making up five positions from 20th on the starting grid.

Augie Pabst and the Cape brothers, Dominic and Nicholas, each claimed a PFC Award today as the winning car owners, although two wins and four additional podium finishes this weekend has allowed Pabst Racing to stretch its lead in the Team Championship to 47 points, 353-306.

Only two race weekends and five races remain until the outcome of this year’s USF2000 title will be decided. At stake is a scholarship valued at almost $407,000 to graduate onto the next step on the Road to Indy ladder, the Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, in 2023. Next up in two weeks’ time will be a return to the Toronto Indy in Ontario, Canada, for a pair of races July 16/17.

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