Texan battles all weekend in Birmingham to gain experience and valuable points MINNEAPOLIS, MINN.
– The sprawling and beautiful Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala., played host to the third and fourth rounds of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda this past weekend (April 25-26) and JDC MotorSports was on hand to contest the event with its emerging young star Clark Toppe. The Texan was the sole pilot for JDC’s USF2000 effort at the series’ first official visit to Barber Motorsports Park, and he learned a great deal during the trip, working to find optimum balance in his car throughout the weekend. Toppe would bring home a best result of 10th in the opening round on Saturday before backing that up with an 11th in Round #2 later in the day. While the goal was for better results, the knowledge gained from the chase will prove invaluable as the year goes on.
The weekend officially began with practice on Friday afternoon, followed by qualifying later that day. The 30-minute practice session saw Toppe log a total of 16 laps, laying down impressive lap times. The 16-year-old Woodlands, Texas, racer ended the morning practice session fourth on the time sheet. As the afternoon came to an end, the USF2000 racers returned to the grid for their 30-minute qualifying session. Toppe used as much of the half-hour session as he could, but would be hampered by nagging red flags that shut the course down. As Toppe and the rest of the USF2000 pilots struggled to get on-track long enough to lay down a clean lap, the track heated up as the session went on. Once the track did open up and qualifying resumed, Toppe laid down a quick time but struggled to find the balance in his Mazda-powered JDC MotorSports entry, and was battling a slight oversteer. The qualifier ended with Toppe laying down the ninth fastest lap of the session, earning him an inside row five starting spot for the first race of the day.
Race number one began with Toppe being pushed off the course coming through turn three. After losing three positions to the off-track excursion on lap one, the race was slowed down quickly with an early caution. Upon returning to green flag conditions, Toppe searched the long flowing road course for speed, which he did find. Toppe bested his qualifying time by four tenths of a second. The improved lap times were indicative of the work that JDC engineers did to the #97 entry, but Toppe still struggled to find a suitable balance throughout the 18-lap event. The race progressed and Toppe continued to work until the checkers flew with the Texan crossing the line in the 10th position, a strong result in this year’s ultra-competitive field.
The second race began late that same day with Clark starting where he finished the first race, in the 10th position. With the second race getting the green at just after 1:00 p.m., the track remained extremely warm as ambient temperatures hovered in the 70s. After the 20-car grid flew down into the tight left handed Turn One before flowing into the fast Turn Two section, Toppe settled in and went to work. On older tires and a slick racetrack that tested driver’s ability to set-up and complete passes, Toppe had to make the best of a tough situation. The 16-year-old showed great poise and management skills as he narrowly missed out on a second top-10 finish, coming home 11th to end the second race.
“It’s very tough to pass here”, Clark explained on Saturday evening, going over the events of the day from under the JDC tent. “Race 2 was the same kind of thing, just really hard to pass. We had the same kind of pace as the guys ahead of us. But JDC gave me a really great car. We were close to perfect, as we were always leaning towards under-steer. I wanted more, but I’ll take these results and I’m looking forward to Indianapolis.”
Next up for JDC and Toppe will be a trip to Indianapolis, Ind., where they will contest rounds five and six on the road course inside Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 9-10. After the race weekend at Indy, JDC will join the rest of the USF2000 teams for a series test on May 13 at Lucas Oil Raceway, just up the road from IMS, which will prepare the drivers for Round Seven at the Indiana facility on Saturday, May 24, the popular ‘Night Before The 500’ spectacular.
About JDC MotorSports:
Involved in formula car racing since its inception in 1994, JDC MotorSports has established itself as one of the leading junior open-wheel teams in North America. Initially making its mark in the F2000 class of club racing competition, JDC MotorSports was soon a team worth watching in the pro ranks. Competing in the Formula Ford 2000 Zetec Championship, the team not only won races, but also helped develop multiple young drivers. In 2005, JDC MotorSports expanded its efforts, entering the Star Mazda Championship. Quickly becoming one of the top teams in the series, JDC captured both the driver and team titles in 2007, as well as Rookie of the Year honors, with Dane Cameron scoring a series-high three wins. In 2008, JDC MotorSports was the runner-up in the Star Mazda Championship and finished fourth in its inaugural season of F2000 Championship Series competition. The Minnesota-based team won the Star Mazda Championship title with Rookie of the Year Adam Christodoulou, and the F2000 Championship Series title with Chris Miller in 2009. The following year, JDC continued its winning ways, earning the Rookie of the Year award in the Star Mazda Championship with Connor De Philippi, and scoring a non-points win in the USF2000 National Championship. In 2011, the Minneapolis-based squad captured its third Star Mazda Championship title with Tristan Vautier, scored a win in the USF2000 National Championship, and made its Prototype Lites Championship debut, earning five podium finishes. JDC MotorSports added to its Star Mazda Championship win tally, USF2000 Championship podium total, and finished as the Prototype Lites Championship runner-up in 2012. Last year, the squad continued its run of Pro Mazda and USF2000 podium finishes, and was third in the Prototype Lites title fight.