Burkett shows improvement with two top-fives, while Jamin perseveres for good points LEEDS, ALA. – When the Belardi Auto Racing squad unloaded at Barber Motorsports Park last Wednesday for the second weekend of the seven-event Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, they were focused on making sure that their driver duo rolled off the truck with the speed to run in the top-10 and challenge for podium finishes. Canadian sophomore driver Daniel Burkett and French rookie Nico Jamin entered the event coming off solid results at the opening round of the series at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, highlighted by Jamin’s third place finish in Race #2. At Barber, Burkett raised his game with a pair of stellar fourth place finishes, while Jamin ran well despite the track’s lack of passing opportunities to card a pair of top-10 results.
After qualifying eighth for Race #1 on Saturday morning, Burkett was the driver to watch when the green flag flew, attacking the field on the opening lap, moving to fifth before making a great late-braking move into the hairpin Turn Five at Barber to steal fourth. The Winnipeg, Manitoba driver was coming off a stellar weekend running a Formula Atlantic at an SCCA Majors event at Road Atlanta back in mid-April, where he swept the event with two wins. Using the confidence and experience gained from this outing, Burkett stormed to the top-five and held the position through the 18-lap event, holding off challenges after an early-race caution. The performance was punctuated by Burkett’s running the race’s second fastest lap, which put him on the outside of the front row for the start of race two, which took place less than four hours later.
In the second main of the doubleheader, Burkett got a great start to defend his position, running second for the opening laps behind Race #1 winner and polesitter RC Enerson. The challenges arrived quickly in the form for Victor Franzoni and then Aaron Telitz, and after another early race caution, Burkett was able to hold his position. The fight would come to a head with five laps to go, when Telitz made an aggressive move for the position in Turn Five, making contact with Burkett at the apex. Daniel did a stellar job in keeping his Belardi USF2000 car on the racing surface, but lost the position to Telitz and then third to Franzoni, as he took advantage of Burkett’s loss of exit speed. While disappointed with the contact, Burkett remained buoyed by his pace and the completion of back-to-back top-five finishes.
"Belardi gave me a great car and I couldn't ask for much more out of those guys,” offered Burkett, who jumps to fifth in the overall USF2000 standings. “This is my first solid weekend in USF2000 and it feels good to prove that I can consistently be a top-five driver in this ultra competitive series. I believe that we would have gotten my first podium had the contact not happened, but that's racing and I'm looking forward to Indy."
Nico Jamin had a rougher time in Barber, struggling to gain the best balance on his racecar, qualifying seventh. The track is definitely a place tough to pass, and the close competition makes it extremely difficult to overtake. You need to be significantly quicker than the driver in front of you to overtake, and when you’re close, the aero-push that occurs in Barber’s long sweeping corners also decreases the advantages of the draft. In the opening race, Jamin lost a couple positions on the opening lap, but he fought his way back to a strong sixth place finish. In race two, he maintained his starting position and crossed the line in 10th.
"I had a frustrating weekend at Barber,” Jamin admitted. “I ended up sixth and 10th, which was clearly not my goal. We didn't find the right balance with the car. We still have a lot of work to do on it. We have a common goal, which is to win, and we have a lot of determination. I believe that our work will pay off soon.”
The Belardi USF2000 drivers will now look forward to the month of May, where they will run in two events in the state of Indiana. The inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis on May 7-9 will give them the chance to run on the road course of the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway, before they head to the short oval at Lucas Oil Raceway in Brownsburg on May 24 for the ‘Night Before The 500’ event.
About Belardi Auto Racing:
Belardi Auto Racing is an organization comprised of experienced individuals in the racing industry with an aggressive growth strategy and a strong commitment to finishing up front. No stranger to winning, team members having been achieving success in both the amateur and pro ranks for over a decade, winning numerous junior formula car races and championships. Based in Brownsburg, Ind., Belardi Auto Racing contests multi-car efforts in both the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires and Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda series. Goal-oriented and focused on developing the next stars of motorsports, Belardi Auto Racing won in both Indy Lights and USF2000 Championship in 2013.