Matthew Brabham scored a thrilling second place in Round 5 of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda held at the 0.68 mile Lucas Oil Raceway. The race was part of the traditional Saturday "Night before the 500" program.
In his first-ever oval race Brabham, 18, qualified on pole edging his Cape Motorsports with Wayne Talyor Racing teammate and championship rival Spencer Pigot. The two teammates were comfortably clear of the rest of the 21-car field, ensuring the continuation of the battle that they have waged all year.
The race did not disappoint. Brabham who chose the outside for the start jumped into the lead into the first corner. A massive pile up between turns One and Two on ap 2 eliminated eight of the 21 starters and brought out a lengthy pace car period. Heamin Choi who triggered the crash by losing control of his car was taken to hospital for precautionary checks.
On the restart Brabham and Pigot were side by side out onto the back straight, and for the next eight laps the championship contenders had the large crowd on their feet as they fought for the lead. Pigot was on the favored high line and Brabham was desperately trying to get in front on the tricky less banked low line. The lead changed hands several times depending who had their nose in front as they crossed the finish line, such was their advantage as the two pulled well away from the rest even though they were side by side.
Unfortunately, something had to give and contact between the two ripped the steering wheel out of Matthew's hands and, although he avoided hitting the wall, the front end was put slightly out of alignment. The third generation driver had to deal with a worsening understeer which just took the edge of the cars performance, forcing the disappointed "Brabs" to settle for second place.
“I am happy with my first oval race," Brabham said after the race. "It was lots of fun. I had a good battle with Spencer most of the race and we were running side by side. It was very exciting and, unfortunately, I made a little bit of contact and bent my steering and it was out for the rest of the race. I still had a pretty good pace and I am happy with second. It is good for the championship points and I am pleased with how it went but I am a bit disappointed about getting second. A big thank you to Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing for giving me a great car which definately made my oval debut much easier.”
Brabham is only six points behind Pigot leading into the summer break with the next event at the Mid Ohio road course as a support race to the IZOD IndyCar Series Championship on August 4-5.