Afterburner Earns Runner-Up Position at Winterfest
 March 2, 2015| 
  • Team News
Brazilian Franzoni takes second in Road to Indy USF2000 standings with two race wins

Birmingham, Ala. – Afterburner Autosport has made known its intent to challenge for the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, scoring a pair of wins at this year’s Winterfest series at NOLA Motorsports Park and Barber Motorsports Park, taking second overall in the process. Team driver Victor Franzoni has emerged as one of the program’s most impressive drivers after topping five of the six official pre-season testing sessions, exiting the Cooper Tires Winterfest races with two wins and four podiums. The Brazilian won the penultimate race at Barber on Thursday morning, and then finished a solid second in the finale to take second overall in the championship standings. USF2000 rookie Michai Stephens made his debut with Afterburner at Winterfest and used the five races to improve significantly as he was up against a steep learning curve. Issues that were outside of his control plagued Stephens’ opening rounds at NOLA, but he used what he learned to come out of the gate strongly at Barber. The Team USA Scholarship driver improved his pace all day on Thursday and was rewarded with an impressive seventh-place result in the series finale.

“Winning the Winterfest title would have been sweet for the entire team, but we’re all focusing on the two great victories and the progression put in by both Victor and Michai,” commented Tim Walsh, Team Principal. “Victor won at both NOLA and Barber, which is satisfying as we know we have a great baseline set-up for when we return to these tracks for the official series races in April.  Michai showed us what he has, for sure, as he likely passed more cars than anyone at Barber. His seventh in the afternoon race was awesome, and we’re proud to have him on the Afterburner squad.”

Franzoni showed his skills in the challenging wet conditions for qualifying at Barber on Wednesday, topping the field to win the pole for the opening race of the tripleheader. The weather forced the cancellation of the afternoon race, which moved him to the front row for the first race on Thursday.  The sophomore driver did not put a wheel wrong and steered his #17 Afterburner entry to a 0.427-second win. Stephens got caught up in a first corner incident and expertly saved his car by choosing the gravel trap, although he would lose two laps as a result, When the race went back to green, the Illinois driver worked through the field to eighth on-track, finishing 11th overall due to the lost laps.

With the title essentially out of his reach, Franzoni bolted from his off-pole starting spot to lead early in the second race of the day. He would eventually finish a strong second, securing the runner-up position in the Winterfest standings. 

“Winterfest was good for myself and Afterburner,” offered Franzoni. “We were fast in every session, at both tracks, so this make us very confident for the season. We saw that we still have to improve but we are already very close. Starting the season with two victories is great for our confidence. St Pete is a track that I really love, and I won there last year, so I´m very excited to race there again.”

Stephens ran a stellar race, putting his considerable talents on display, advancing through the field to finish seventh.  It was a very positive cap to a program that was focused on giving him his first taste of a USF2000 race car.

“Winterfest certainly stayed true to its name but Afterburner didn't miss a beat,” Stephens enthused. “It was a genuine team effort that made for a tremendous learning experience. With my first proper introduction into the series behind me, I hope for nothing more then to stay within the series. It was an absolute treat working with Tim Walsh and his crew. We faced many challenges during the two events, each bringing on another chance to grow! I want to thank them from the bottom of my heart for all their efforts, along with the unbelievable people who helped get me there."

Afterburner will now look forward to the opening of the 2015 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, which will take place at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on Match 27-29 in Florida.  The team still two open race seats for the 2015 season, and these cars are prepped and ready to race at St. Petersburg to kick off the new year.

Additional information on Afterburner Autosport is available from the team’s website @ www.AfterburnerAutosport.com  For direct contact, please email afterburnerautosport@gmail.com or call Tim Walsh @ 612-581-2499. Keep up-to-date via Twitter @ ABautosport1 and the team’s Facebook page @ Afterburner-Autosport

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 two-time SCCA Formula Continental National Champion Brian Tomasi and fellow F2000 racer and engineer Tim Walsh, the team has over 20 years of experience in open-wheel competition. The Minnesota, Min.-based squad, having captured two podium finishes in its inaugural pro racing season in 2011, has continually developed and grown as it joined the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda. In 2013, Afterburner Autosport scored its inaugural series wins with rookie Alex Baron. Last year, the highly regarded team won again with Victor Franzoni and finished fifth overall in the series championship.
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