Afterburner Autosport: Dickerson Impresses at Road America
 July 5, 2016| 
  • Team News
Californian storms through field in Race 1 from last, posts two top-12 finishes

ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – One of the keys to the Mazda Road to Indy is providing young drivers with experience, and Afterburner Autosport’s Dakota Dickerson was served a Wisconsin-sized helping of it at Road America this past weekend (June 24-26) when he was forced to come from the back of the grid in the opening race of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda doubleheader. Issues in qualifying left the Californian without any timed laps but he would make up for it, putting on a show in the opening race on Saturday morning, storming from the tail of the field to 14th on the opening lap before the race went yellow for an incident. Dakota fought hard for the remainder of the race and ended up scoring an impressive 12th. The Mazdaspeed scholarship winner returned to the 4.014-mile, 14-turn track for the afternoon race, where he would improve his result with a strong 10th-place finish.

“Dakota continues to improve with each new event, getting more comfortable and more racy,” commented Tim Walsh, Afterburner Autosport Team Principal. “We were amazed and proud when we watched the in-car video of his opening lap in Race One. He was aggressive and confident but he also chose his path wisely and timed his moves. He’s maturing so quickly. We’re proud to have him in our car and we’re thrilled to have Mazda put their scholarship winner under our tent.”

A low oil pressure problem in the second practice on Thursday put the team to work swapping engines that evening, but the bad luck continued at the start of Friday morning qualifying when the Soul Red #18 Mazdaspeed Van Diemen broke a half-shaft. Dakota was not able to turn a lap during the timed session, leaving him 24th on the grid for the first of two races on Saturday.

At the start of the 30-minute race on Saturday morning, Dickerson attacked with purpose from his back row starting spot, taking five cars heading into Turn One, one more on the way down to Turn Three, one more on the long straight to Turn Five and then three cars at the top of the hill in Turn Six with a great move to the inside to advance to 14th. Over the remaining 10 laps he would battle for position inside the top 10 but ended up 12th after a thrilling one-lap dash following a late-race caution.

In the second race Dakota started 16th and pushed forward with more cautious aggression, making sure to plan his overtaking to stay out of trouble. Dickerson turned the sixth fastest lap of the race as he advanced into the top 10, finishing 10th at the end of the caution-free 30-minute event that capped the weekend. By the end of the day, Dickerson has passed a total of 18 cars during his best weekend of the year.

Dickerson now sits 11th in the championship standings and is closing fast on the top-10 and his goal of winning Rookie of the Year honors.

The team will now look forward to driving north of the border for the lone Canadian stop on the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda. The Honda Indy Toronto will be the second street circuit event on the year and will take place on July 15-17.

DAKOTA DICKERSON - #18
Qualifying
: 24th – No Time
Race #1: 12th
Race #2: 10th

“Race One was all about smart aggression. I knew I had to get by as many cars as possible without damaging the car. Whenever there was an opportunity, we capitalized.

"Race Two was also about making up spots as quickly as possible, but also keeping aware of any pending wrecks. We were right in the mix of things and I had to be more defensive than the first race.”

About Afterburner Autosport:
Afterburner Autosport was formed in 2010 with the sole purpose of leading the way in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda competition. Under the guidance of former F2000 racer and engineer Tim Walsh, the team has over 20 years of experience in open-wheel competition and can field up to four cars in competition. The squad, which is based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, has continually developed and grown since joining the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda and has multiple series victories, winning at least one race every year for the last three years.
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