@USF2000 •@MazdaRacing •PALMETTO, Fla. – The balance of power in this year’s Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda – step one on the acclaimed Mazda Road to Indy which provides Mazda scholarships to assist talented drivers in moving from the grassroots of the sport to the Verizon Indy Car Series and the Indianapolis 500 – shifted during the two most recent races. Wisconsin-based Pabst Racing had grasped the early initiative by dominating the opening two rounds in St. Petersburg, Fla., despite that being home territory for perennial force Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing. But the Cape team bounced back with a vengeance at Barber Motorsports Park as 18-year-old Parker Thompson, from Red Deer, Alb., Canada, scored a well-deserved maiden victory in Race One, then repeated the following day to wrest away the advantage.
“It feels great to have taken over the points lead, especially given the circumstances of how far back we were headed into Alabama,” said Thompson, who qualified strongly in St. Petersburg but experienced some difficulty in the races. “There is still a very long way to go in the championship, so consistency will be key headed into the midway point of the season. I know my competitors will be coming back stronger than ever but I think together with Cape Motorsports we will be in the hunt for wins at the Indianapolis Grand Prix. I do enjoy the Indy GP circuit. It is fairly simple at a first glance, but when you start racing on it you realize that it is probably the toughest circuit for race craft on our calendar because of the draft.”
Only three drivers have finished among the top 10 in all four races held to date, and none has been more consistent than fellow second-year USF2000 competitor Luke Gabin. The native of Perth, Australia, has guided his JAY Motorsports Van Diemen-Mazda to four consecutive top-five results, highlighted by second place in the most recent race. Gabin, who in 2014 won a Skip Barber/Mazda Scholarship to move up into USF2000, currently lies second in the points chase, 11 markers shy of Thompson heading into this week’s pair of races on the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course which will comprise the Cooper Tires USF2000 Grand Prix of Indianapolis Powered by Mazda.
Fellow Aussie Jordan Lloyd and Pabst Racing teammate Yufeng Luo, from China, both struggled in Alabama but will be looking to regain the form which saw them each claim a win and a second from the opening weekend of the 16-race season.
One of the pre-season favorites after finishing fourth in his rookie USF2000 campaign in 2015, Anthony Martin (Cape Motorsports), also from Australia, and Los Angeles-based Russian teammate Nikita Lastochkin are the only other two drivers to have finished among the top 10 in every race this year, but both are still searching for their first wins.
Other likely contenders from an extremely competitive field will include Team Pelfrey’s Robert Megennis, from New York, N.Y., already twice a podium finisher, 14-year-old English teammate Jordan Cane and 2013 New Zealand Formula Ford champion James Munro, plus Brazilian Victor Franzoni (ArmsUp Motorsports), Norwegian Ayla Agren (John Cummiskey Racing) and American Garth Rickards (Pabst).
Eric Filgueiras (Spencer Racing), from Cocoa Beach, Fla., will be looking to remain unbeaten in the National class, but will face opposition from Fat Boy Racing’s Brendan Puderbach and Charles Finelli, plus Californian Robert Armington (Tomasi Motorsports), who already has one Pacific F2000 Championship victory to his name this season, and Dale VandenBush of Arms Up Motorsports.
The USF2000 contenders will have plenty of track time this week, starting with a pair of 60-minute test sessions at 9:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, May 11, then two more 30-minute practices on Thursday at 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Qualifying will be next at 9:30 a.m. on Friday, followed by Race One at 1:00 p.m. Race Two on Saturday, May 14, will take place immediately after the Verizon IndyCar Series warmup at 12:15 p.m. Live streaming shows of all sessions will be available on the Road To Indy TV App, as well as the series’ website, www.usf2000.com, and indycar.com.
About USF2000: The Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda debuted in 2010 and is a continuation of the highly-regarded USF2000 series which ran from 1990 through 2006, launching the careers of many of today’s top drivers. Sanctioned by INDYCAR and managed by Andersen Promotions, the series is the first official step on the Mazda Road to Indy ladder system. The top driver in the Championship class will earn a scholarship package from Mazda to advance to the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires. Additional information can be found at www.usf2000.com.
About Mazda, Mazda Motorsports: Mazda Motorsports boasts the most comprehensive auto racing development ladder system of any auto manufacturer in the world. The Mazda Road to 24 program offers a number of scholarships to advance drivers up the sports car racing ladder, beginning with the Global MX-5 Cup series and culminating with the Mazda Prototype team. The Mazda Road to Indy is a similar program that includes Mazda-powered categories of USF2000, Pro Mazda and Indy Lights. In grassroots road racing, more Mazdas race on any given weekend in North America than any other manufacturer. Mazda is also the title sponsor of the renowned Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif. Follow all of the latest news at MazdaMotorsports.com, @MazdaRacing on Twitter, and MazdaMotorsports on Instagram and Facebook.
About Cooper Tire & Rubber Company: Cooper Tire & Rubber Company, together with its subsidiaries, is a leading designer, manufacturer and marketer of innovative, great-performing tires that people depend on for all of life’s road trips, whether on city streets, off-road adventures or high-speed tracks. In fact, Cooper Tire is proud to sponsor and race in all three levels of the Mazda Road to Indy development program within the IndyCar racing series. Cooper tires can also been seen on the track as a sponsor of the IMSA Prototype Lites Series, and competing in the short course off-road TORC Series. Headquartered in Findlay, Ohio, Cooper, together with its subsidiaries, has manufacturing, sales, distribution, technical and design facilities in 11 countries around the world. This year, as we head into our second century in the tire industry, Cooper is looking toward a future where innovation will continue to drive our products and our products will continue to drive the world. To connect with Cooper Tire, visit www.coopertire.com, www.facebook.com/coopertire or www.twitter.com/teamcoopertire.
Tamy Valkosky, Public Relations
Diane Swintal, Public Relations Coordinator