In one week, it's finally that time again and the U.S. F2000 National Championship kicks off its new season. In this preview, we take a look at the teams and their drivers, all the race tracks, the race format and points system, as well as the pre-season testing, the so-called "Spring Training" at Barber Motorsports Park. Also, as usual, I'll give a little prediction on the drivers and teams championship at the end.
Thomas Nepveu, Michael d'Orlando
Cape Motorsports has two cars on the grid this year. Michael d'Orlando already drove for the team last year and was able to finish the championship in 4th place. Five podium finishes and a race win at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course were his haul. Thomas Nepveu joins the team this year. Last year he could already convince many with a brilliant single-seater debut in the FIA F4 NACAM. He won his very first race. This will now be his first year on the "Road to Indy".
Ignite Autosport with Cape Motorsports
Evan Stamer, Spike Kohlbecker
Ignite Autosport is a new team in the USF2000 series. The St. Louis-based team will be supported by Cape Motorsports. This is a new initiative to expand opportunities for top young racers from the region. Spike Kohlbecker and Evan Stamer join the team. Spike Kohlbecker raced in the F4 US Championship last year. He finished third overall and won two races. His teammate for this season is Evan Stamer, who has been part of the Ignite Autosport team for some time. Last year, he completed the Advanced Driver Training School at Sebring in the Lucas School of Racing, tested USF2000 with Cape Motorsports and won the "Battle at the Brickyard" kart race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Ely Navarro, Nolan Siegel, Prescott Campbell, Kiko Porto
This year DEForce Racing will again compete with four cars in the USF2000. Kiko Porto was the only one to compete last season. Four podiums and one race win are his tally from twelve races with the team. Nolan Siegel and Prescott Campbell are both racing their second season in the series this year. Nolan Siegel finished third twice on the podium with JHDD. Prescott Campbell also made the podium at New Jersey Motorsports Park with Exclusive Autosport. With Elysiah Navarro, DEForce Racing was able to sign one of the most promising young drivers in the USA. Last year, like his teammate Campbell the year before, he won the Lucas Oil Formula Car Race Series. He finished on the podium thirteen times and won six of 18 races.
Christian Brooks, Billy Frazer, Grant Palmer
Exclusive Autosport is fielding three cars again this year, just like last year. With Christian Brooks they have one of the biggest favorites for the drivers title in the team. Last year he drove consistently in the points, finished 5th in the championship and won the last race of the season with Exclusive. The two new additions to the team are New Zealander Billy Frazer and Grant Palmer. Billy Frazer is arguably one of the biggest New Zealand single seater talents. He finished third in the 2018-2019 season in the national Formula First championship and won the NZ Formula Ford championship last year. Grant Palmer competed in the British FF1600 Championship last year, among others, where he won one race and finished on the podium twice more.
With Force Indy a new team enters the "Road to Indy". African-American businessman and former team manager Rod Reid has founded Force Indy and is supported by Team Penske. The Force Indy race team will focus on recruiting and developing Black American men and women as mechanics, engineers, staff and drivers. For their debut year in USF2000, they have signed promising talent Myles Rowe. In 2017, he won the Lucas Oil School Formula Race Car Winter Series. Last year he tested the USF2000 and F4 US cars.
Jay Howard Driver Development
Bijoy Garg, Jackson Lee, Peter Vodanovich
Jay Howard Driver Development's reigning champions will start with three cars in USF2000 this year. After winning the title last year with Christian Rasmussen, the bar is set very high for this season. Bijoy Garg already competed in some races for the team last year. His best results in the race series so far were two tenth places. Jackson Lee will spend his first season on the "Road to Indy". In 2019, he finished fourth in the Lucas Oil Formula Car Series, where he won two races. Last year he won the Team USA Scholarship and won several races in the FRP F1600. New Zealander Peter Vodanovich recently made his single-seater debut in the Toyota Racing Series, where he finished on the podium three times. In 2019, he won the NZ Toyota Gazoo Racing 86 Championship and in 2018 he won the Elite Motorsport Academy in New Zealand.
Joe Dooling Autosports
Joe Dooling Autosports is another new team competing in this year's USF2000 Championship. Together with their driver Trey Burke, they already competed in the Lucas Oil Formula Car Race Series last year. Seven podium finishes and two race wins put Trey sixth overall in the championship.
Miller Vinatieri Motorsports
Miller Vinatieri Motorsports is competing in the USF2000 Series again this year. After joining the team for one weekend last year, Kent Vaccaro will now compete for the team from the beginning of the year. Kent has also competed in F4 US and F3, respectively FR Americas.
Yuven Sundaramoorthy, Jace Denmark, Josh Pierson
Yuven Sundaramoorthy will compete again this year with Pabst Racing. This will be his third year in USF2000 with the team. A fifth place finish at New Jersey Motorsports Park from last year is his best finish to date. Jace Denmark-Gessel makes his debut in the USF2000 series this year. In 2019, he won the Rotax Stars & Stripes Open in the Senior Max category. Josh Pierson was still competing for Exclusive Autosport last year. His best result was a tenth place finish from the third race at NJMP.
Turn 3 Motorsports
Josh Green, Dylan Christie
Turn 3 Motorsport has entered the USF2000 series for the first time this year. They were able to sign Josh Green, one of the strongest full-time rookies from last year. He was able to finish on the podium in three races and finished sixth in the championship. Dylan Christie will make his debut on the "Road to Indy" this year. Last year he finished runner-up in the FRP F1600 Championship, winning four races and finishing on the podium eight times.
Velocity Racing Development
Velocity Racing Development debuts Erik Evans in the USF2000 series this year. The team was very successful especially in the past F4 US Championship. Erik Evans was also able to win a race with them in his rookie year and finished sixth in the championship. He also finished on the podium three times.
Round 1: Barber Motorsports Park (April 17-18)
With testing having already taken place at Barber Motorsports Park, this year's season opener will also be held here. The last time the USF2000 was held here was in 2017. Oliver Askew won both feeder races of the Indy Grand Prix of Alabama with Cape Motorsports at that time.
Round 2: Streets of St. Petersburg (April 24-25)
After serving as the season opener for years, the race weekend at the Streets of St. Petersburg in Florida became the season finale last year due to the worldwide pandemic. This year, the weekend now moves to second on the calendar. Last year, both Kiko Porto with DEForce and Christian Brooks with Exclusive won a race here.
Round 3: Indianapolis Motor Speedway (14-15 May)
The third stop this year is the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Despite the pandemic, USF2000 races could take place here last year as well. Eduardo Barrichello could win the first two races with Pabst Racing. Victory in the third race went to Reece Gold with Cape Motorsports.
Round 4: Lucas Oil Raceway (28 May)
The first and only oval race for the USF2000 will be held on May 28 at Lucas Oil Raceway in Brownsburg, Indiana. The race could also take place last year. Jay Howard Driver Development driver and eventual champion Christian Rasmussen won the race from the pole position that year.
Round 5: Road America (19-20 June)
Road America hosted the season opener last year. Christian Rasmussen dominated the entire weekend, winning both races for his JHDD team. Cape Motorsports and Pabst Racing also won races here in the past.
Round 6: Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (3-4 July)
At the beginning of July, racing will resume at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Last year, due to the pandemic, they hosted two race weekends here. On the first weekend, Christian Rasmussen and JHDD won all three races. On the second weekend, Cape Motorsports' Michael d'Orlando and Reece Gold won the first two races before Rasmussen took another win in the third and final race.
Round 7: Exhibition Place (10-11 July)
After last year's race weekend in Toronto, Canada could not take place due to the global pandemic, the "Exhibition Place" is back on the calendar in 2021. The two feeder races of the 2019 Grand Prix of Toronto were won then by Darren Keane with Cape Motorsports and Christian Rasmussen with Jay Howard Driver Development.
Round 8: New Jersey Motorsports Park (August 28-29)
This year's season finale will be held at New Jersey Motorsports Park. Three races were held here last year as well. Eduardo Barrichello and Pabst Racing were able to win the first race at Milville then. Reigning champion Christian Rasmussen was able to win races 2 & 3 with JHDD.
The race format of the USF2000 series and the "Road to Indy" in general varies in the number of races from weekend to weekend. Usually, two or even three races are run on the same race track. The starting formation for the first race is determined by a qualifying session. The starting grid for the second race is then determined by the fastest lap time during the first race. If there is a third race, there will be a second qualifying session which will then determine the grid for race 2. The third race will then be started based on the fastest lap times from race 2.
Since the USF2000 is raced on street and city circuits as well as on oval tracks, there are two different scoring systems. On a street or city circuit the top 20 get points. The winner gets 30 points. The second and third place get 25 and 22 points respectively. In addition, there is an extra point for the pole position and the most lead laps.
(P1: 30, P2: 25, P3: 22, P4: 19, P5: 17, P6: 15, P7: 14, P8: 13, P9: 12, P10: 11, P11: 10, P12: 9, P13: 8 P14: 7, P15: 6, P16: 5, P17: 4, P18: 3, P19: 2, P20: 1)
On an oval there are also points for the best 20 drivers. However, since there are significantly fewer oval races compared to other races, there are more points to be won in an oval race. Again, there is one extra point each for pole position and most lead laps.
(P1: 45, P2: 38, P3: 33, P4: 29, P5: 26, P6: 23, P7: 21, P8: 20, P9: 18, P10: 17, P11: 15, P12: 14, P13: 12 P14: 11, P15: 9, P16: 8, P17: 6, P18: 5, P19: 3, P20: 2)
For the team championship again other points are awarded. Teams with only one car will receive three bonus points to compensate for teams with multiple cars. Furthermore, only the two best results count for all teams with more than two cars.
(P1: 22, P2: 18, P3: 15, P4: 12, P5: 10, P6: 8, P7: 6, P8: 4, P9: 2, P10+: 1)
USF2000 offered more than $433,000 worth of prizes and awards to its participants last year. This includes prize packages for each race, championship participation prize money, and end-of-season awards. The champion wins a prize package worth $313,800 and advances to the Indy Pro 2000.
As is the case every year, preseason testing sessions called "Spring Trainings" were held. The USF2000 was on the road for five one-hour test sessions at Barber Motorsports Park on April 4 and 5.
On Sunday, the first day of testing, the USF2000 completed two hours in two sessions at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama. Fastest in the first session at noon was Christian Brooks ahead of Yuven Sundaramoorthy and Josh Pierson. In the second session in the afternoon, Brooks was again the fastest. Josh Green and Nolan Siegel followed close behind.
Monday then featured three sessions. The first session in the morning was the fastest of the entire test. Christian Brooks once again set the fastest lap time ahead of Prescott Campbell and Nolan Siegel. In the morning in the second session Josh Green set the best time ahead of Nolan Siegel and Prescott Campbell. In the fifth and final practice session Nolan Siegel burned the fastest time into the asphalt. Second fastest was his teammate Kiko Porto ahead of Grant Palmer.
P1: Christian Brooks (Exclusive)
P2: Prescott Campbell (DEForce) + 00.1405 sec
P3: Nolan Siegel (DEForce) + 0.2948
P4: Josh Green (Turn 3) + 0.4660
P5: Kiko Porto (DEForce) + 0.5160
P6: Josh Pierson (Pabst) + 0.5267
P7: Jace Denmark (Pabst) + 0.5910
P8: Yuven Sundaramoorthy (Pabst) + 0.6319
P9: Billy Frazer (Exclusive) + 0.6566
P10: Myles Rowe (Force Indy) + 0.6792
As you already know from other race series, I will give you my predictions for the upcoming season also for the USF2000.
Drivers Championship Prediction
P1: Christian Brooks
P2: Michael d’Orlando
P3: Nolan Siegel
P4: Josh Green
P5: Billy Frazer
Last year Christian Rasmussen more or less dominated the entire season. I expect a much tighter field this year, yet there is a clear favorite for me. My money is on Christian Brooks as the USF2000 champion in 2021. However, it won't be a foregone conclusion for him, the competition is strong. His biggest rival will probably be Michael d’Orlando. And his teammate and rookie Billy Frazer should not be underestimated. Besides, DEForce Racing already looked pretty fast in the test drives. In most of the practice sessions they were able to establish themselves in the front part of the classification. Nolan Siegel, Prescott Campbell and Kiko Porto can definitely fight for victories. I am also convinced that Josh Green will be back in the top positions.
Teams Championship Prediction
P1: Exclusive Autosport
P2: DEForce Racing
P3: Cape Motorsports
Last year the team championship was won by Cape Motorsports. This year I see the team again at the top. However, I think the team championship will be won by Exclusive Autosport this year. And also DEForce Racing will fight with Cape Motorsports this year. I think that in the end they will be just a tiny bit ahead of Cape.
written by Claudio Graf (youngdriversmonthly) / 9th April, 2021