Pabst Racing with Force Indy’s Myles Rowe once again displayed his immense capability this afternoon on the Streets of St. Petersburg by scoring a magnificent victory in the Andersen Interior Contracting Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
Rowe, who started fifth, immediately began to work his way forward, taking the lead on lap 10 and edging away to claim his first win in USF Pro 2000 Presented by Cooper Tires on his debut weekend. Rowe, a university student based in Brooklyn, N.Y., also won last year at St. Petersburg in USF2000 Presented by Cooper Tires.
Brazilian Kiko Porto finished second for DEForce Racing for the second straight day, while Rowe’s Pabst Racing teammate, Jace Denmark, from Scottsdale, Ariz., completed the podium.
After setting the fastest race lap in yesterday’s race, quicker even than the best lap time from official qualifying on Friday, Francesco Pizzi (TJ Speed Motorsports), from Rome, Italy, earned his first Cooper Tires Pole Award, which afforded him the opportunity to lead the 20-car field toward the green flag this afternoon.
The race start was delayed due to extensive cleanup following the NTT IndyCar Series headline event, and when the green flag finally flew, perhaps a few drivers were a little too anxious to get going. A couple of incidents in the midfield ensured a couple of early caution periods, but even with the limited running, Rowe already was on the move.
Porto initially took the lead with a bold late-braking move around the outside of Pizzi in Turn 1, while Rowe also made up a position on the opening lap at the expense of Albanian Lirim Zendeli (TJ Speed Motorsports) to run fourth behind Denmark, whom he passed on the very next lap.
Immediately after the first restart, Rowe also displaced Pizzi from second place before the yellow flags flew once more.
When the race went green again with nine of 25 laps in the books, Rowe lost no time in finding a way past Porto, then turned a series of increasingly fast laps to leave the field firmly in his wake. Rowe eventually took the checkered flag a tick over three seconds to the good.
“It was a blast, honestly,” Rowe said after he exited his car. “My opponents made it really hard for me. Coming from fifth, I had to get around Lirim, who didn’t make it easy at all that first couple of laps. Then I had to get by Jace, who always makes it hard on me, which is great. And then Francesco who made it very difficult and pushed me all the way down to the inside in the marbles, but somehow I got it done. I capitalized on a little error from Kiko and luckily ran away with it.
“Pabst just gave me an amazing car to keep the lead and stretch it out a bit. Credit to Bob (Perona), my driver coach, and all my sponsors – Penske Entertainment, Force Indy, Pabst Racing, Sparco, Bell, SimCraft. Without them, it wouldn’t be possible so I am just super blessed. I am really thankful for my family being here so they got to see it and I am looking forward to going home and enjoying it with them.”
Porto, who had secured his first USF2000 win in St. Petersburg back in 2020, chased him gamely in second, despite some pressure from Denmark in the closing stages.
After losing a couple of positions at the final restart, Pizzi battled hard with TJ Speed Motorsports teammate Zendeli before having to settle for fifth position behind the Albanian, with yesterday’s winner Christian Brooks, from Santa Clarita, hot on his heels for Turn 3 Motorsport.
Seventh place represented a fine result for Pabst Racing’s Jordan Missig, from Channahon, Ill., earning him the Tilton Hard Charger Award after having started in 14th.
Augie Pabst picked up the PFC Award as the winning car owner, while Rowe’s victory took him to the top of the driver points standings after two of the season’s 18 races. Pabst Racing also gained an early advantage in the Teams Championship.
Up next for the USF Pro 2000 competitors is another double-header event at Sebring International Raceway, just 100 miles or so southeast of St. Petersburg, on March 25-26.