The Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda resumes its 2012 schedule this week with the popular “Night Before the 500” on Saturday, May 26, at Lucas Oil Raceway. The only oval event on the calendar will be preceded by a series of Mazda Road to Indy Summit activities at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway leading up to the Indianapolis 500.
A field of 21 Championship Class cars, which is the only class eligible to compete in a USF2000 oval event, will take part in Round 5 of USF2000 competition at the 0.686-mile oval. The series will kick off a full evening of racing which includes the Star Mazda Championship Presented by Goodyear and USAC Midget Series.
Following a Mazda Road to Indy Oval Clinic earlier this month, drivers had a chance to put the advice from a panel of experts – including Beaux Barfield, Gerardo Bonilla, Ed Carpenter, Steve Knapp, Bobby Rahal and Johnny Unser – to practice with a five-hour test day at Lucas Oil Raceway on May 5. While the top 18 cars were separated by a mere seven-tenths of a second, it was Matthew Brabham of Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing (#83 DTE Group Van Diemen) who emerged at the top of the timesheets with a lap of 21.824 seconds.
“The Oval Summit was incredibly helpful right before the LOR test,” said Brabham. “It was really cool to have such prestigious racing legends giving up their time to talk to us, and I am grateful for the knowledge they shared with us. It was also great to get a full understanding of the [Indianapolis Motor Speedway] track history from [historian] Donald Davidson.
"It was fantastic to come out on top of the timesheets at the Lucas Oil Raceway. It has definitely given me a lot of confidence leading up to the race. I am finding ovals a lot of fun to drive on, but I know racing on them will be a whole new learning curve. Overall we got a lot accomplished at the test here, so I feel we are in really good shape at the moment."
Hot on Brabham’s heels and only 0.086 seconds off his pace was 15-year-old RC Enerson of ZSports Midwest with Team E Racing (#10 Patriot Bank/Team E entry), a regular National Class competitor who will be making his Championship Class debut in the “Night Before the 500”. Belardi Auto Racing’s Roman Lagudi (#4 Champion Stone/Tool and Supply/ High Performance Distributors Van Diemen) rounded out the top-three with a lap 0.14 seconds in arrears.
An added incentive to win the “Night Before the 500” is the opportunity to join the Star Mazda and Firestone Freedom 100 race winners on the Indianapolis 500 Victory podium for an introduction and interview minutes before the start of Sunday’s race.
Before heading to the Lucas Oil Raceway, USF2000 drivers will participate in Mazda Road to Indy Summit activities in and outside the classroom including an autograph session, tour of Andretti Autosport, a fitness clinic with PitFit Training, track laps at the Speedway, spotter seminar and meet-and-greet with IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights team owners.
Points leader Spencer Pigot (#2 Team Pelfrey/Doug Mockett & Company/E-merging Technologies/Parathyroid.com/California Scents) will represent the series alongside Star Mazda leader Jack Hawksworth as the pair pace the Firestone Freedom 100 race at Indianapolis on Friday at 12:15 pm.
Also on Friday, USF2000 driver Michael Johnson – the first paralyzed racer on the Mazda Road to Indy – will share his inspirational story with patients at the Rehab Hospital of Indiana in a visit organized by newly-announced sponsor Coloplast North America from 9:00 am - 11:00 am.
The exciting weekend of racing will culminate with the inaugural Mazda Road to Indy Victory Celebration on Sunday evening at Sensu in downtown Indianapolis. In addition to celebrating the week’s Mazda Road to Indy race winners, the evening will honor and recognize Firestone Indy Lights stalwart Roger Bailey. The event is open to the public and more information is available at www.caracharities.org.
Fans can follow USF2000 on the new Mazda Motorsports Hour on Velocity each week. A schedule can be found at www.usf2000.com. USF2000 Mazda Road to Indy Summit/Lucas Oil Raceway Schedule Wednesday, May 23
11:00 am - 12:00 pm Mazda Road to Indy Autograph Session (IMS Plaza Chalet)
1:00 pm - 1:30 pm Mazda Road to Indy Q&A (IMS Coca-Cola Stage)
4:00 pm - 5:00 pm Mazda Road to Indy Andretti Autosport Shop Tour Thursday, May 24
11:00 am - 12:00 pm
Mazda Road to Indy Welcome Reception (IMS Pagoda)
12:15 pm - 1:00 pm
Mazda Road to Indy Track Laps (IMS)
2:20 pm - 3:05 pm
Mazda Road to Indy PitFit Fitness Presentation (IMS Gasoline Alley)
3:15 pm - 4:00 pm
Mazda Road to Indy Spotter Seminar (Pagoda)
4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Mazda Road to Indy Team Owner Meet-and-Greet (Pagoda)
5:30 pm - 7:30 pm
Mazda Road to Indy Autograph Session (Ray Skillman Mazda)
-with Shannon McIntosh, Zach Veach and Tristan Vautier Friday, May 25
9:00 am - 11:00 am
Michael Johnson Visit at Rehab Hospital of Indiana
12:15 pm - 12:30 pm Spencer Pigot paces the Firestone Freedom 100 Race
3:00 pm - 6:00 pm
USF2000 Testing at Lucas Oil Raceway
6:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Star Mazda Testing at Lucas Oil Raceway Saturday, May 26 LUCAS OIL RACEWAY – “Night Before the 500”
11:30 am - 12:00 pm
12:05 pm - 12:35 pm
Star Mazda Practice
12:45 pm - 1:15 pm
1:20 pm - 1:50 pm
Star Mazda Practice
2:00 pm - 4:00 pm
4:10 pm - 4:55 pm
4:55 pm - 5:40 pm Star Mazda Qualifying
6:00 pm - 7:10 pm
USAC Heat/Qualifying Races
7:10 pm - 7:40 pm
7:40 pm - 8:10 pm USF2000 Race
8:25 pm - 9:10 pm Star Mazda Race
9:30 pm USAC Feature Sunday, May 27
12:00 pm Indianapolis 500
7:00 pm Mazda Road to Indy Victory Celebration