Cape Motorsports Captures Rookie Title and Vice Championship
 October 5, 2021| 
  • Team News
Cape Final Recap 2021

D’Orlando finishes second in the title chase as Kohlbecker secures rookie of the year honors

LEXINGTON, Ohio (October 6, 2022) – Cape Motorsports capped off another successful Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship last weekend, securing the vice championship in the driver title chase and taking rookie of the year honors as the season came to a close at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The team’s quartet of drivers – Michael d’Orlando (Hartsdale, NY), Spike Kohlbecker (Kirkwood, Mo.), Thomas Nepveu (Oka, Quebec, Canada), and Evan Stamer (Glen Carbon, Ill.) – scored four wins, 10 podiums and 38 top 10 finishes in 2021. Kohlbecker took home rookie of the year honors while d’Orlando took a hard-fought second place in the driver’s championship, leading the most laps during the season and setting two new track records.

“It was another strong performance by the team and drivers,” said Dominic and Nicholas Cape. “This season can be put down to missed opportunities really. Michael had a hard fought second place in the championship with most laps led, Spike won Rookie of the Year, Thomas won at Road America and Evan improved each weekend. We are looking forward to next year and fighting for another championship. We'd also like to say great job to all the teams and drivers competing in the USF2000 Championship, it's always a hard-fought competition from some fantastic teams. See ya'll in 2022!”

The Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires season finale moved to Mid-Ohio when the Toronto rounds of the championship were canceled due to pandemic travel restrictions. Two races were on the docket for the USF2000 series, with d’Orlando coming into the weekend needing to capture maximum points to catch DEForce Racing’s Kiko Porto in the championship chase.

With weather on the horizon for Sunday, Saturday’s lone practice session took on an added urgency, with each driver trying to maximize pace ahead of qualifying and race one later that afternoon. D’Orlando kept his title hopes alive by taking his fourth pole of the season while setting a new track record, with Nepveu ninth, Kohlbecker 11th, and Stamer 15th.

But on lap one, Pabst Racing’s Yuven Sundaramoorthy – third in the title chase – made a move on the first lap and captured the lead, though the caution flag flew before the end of that lap due to cars off course. Kohlbecker and Nepveu both made moves only to see another caution period stall their progress. In the end, the checkered flag flew with d’Orlando in second position and Porto in third, securing the championship title.

Cool temperatures and a steady rain greeted the competitors in Sunday’s season finale. Qualifying for race two took the green flag at 8:00 a.m. but after 30 minutes, the numerous on-track incidents meant that the required 20 minutes of green flag running had not been achieved, so race control set the starting grid based on the second quickest laps from Saturday’s qualifying session. That put d’Orlando into the pole position for the fifth time this season, with Kohlbecker starting eighth, Nepveu 11th and Stamer 15th.

After two pace laps, the field took the green flag in single file, on wet Cooper Tires as a steady mist continued to saturate the racetrack. D’Orlando aimed for the outside line, only to see Josh Green charge from sixth into the lead in the extremely slippery conditions. A full course caution flew before the end of the lap, with several cars off in Turn Two.

After two laps of yellow, the green flag came back out – but not for long, as another car went off, once again in Turn Two, halting d’Orlando’s move on Siegel ahead. Further back, Nepveu was able to make the pass stick on teammate Kohlbecker, taking over seventh position. Stamer was also on the move, taking 14th.

The green flag returned at the start of lap 9, and d’Orlando recommenced his attack on third place. Despite the treacherous conditions, he remained glued to Siegel’s rear wing, hoping to pressure him into making a mistake. On the restart, Nepveu and Kohlbecker both struggled in the slippery conditions, falling to ninth and 10th, respectively, as Stamer fell to 18th. But before the quartet could get into a rhythm, the yellow flag flew once again, on lap 12. On the restart, Porto and teammate Nolan Siegel were able to (literally) slide past d’Orlando for the final two podium spots, as the race was checkered after 15 laps when the allotted time had been reached. At race end, d’Orlando came home fourth, with Kohlbecker seventh, Nepveu eighth and Stamer 11th, equaling his best finish of the season.

QUOTEBOARD

MICHAEL D’ORLANDO – No. 4 Focused Project Management/UFC Gym

Race 1: Start – 1st / Finish – 2nd

Race 2: Start – 1st / Finish – 4th

Championship standing:  2nd

“In that first race, Yuven started on new tires so there wasn’t anything I could do. In the second race, I put the power down just a little too soon and washed out into the dirt and two cars got by me. I made a small mistake on the final restart and with my rear tires just gone, I couldn’t get off the corner and went off. In Sunday qualifying in the rain, I went off and while I didn’t cause a red, it wasn’t fun. Obviously I wasn’t unhappy when it reverted to the second quickest laps from quali one! The race was fun, trying to find the grip on track and really working for it, but as the pole sitter, you’re kind of the guinea pig! You just don’t know what the conditions are going to be, so on that first lap, I put two wheels off in Turn One and ended up back in third. I made a minor mistake on a restart and finished fourth but considering how crazy the race was, I was happy with fourth. We fought hard with Kiko and Yuven all year long and I’m really proud of the vice championship title, proud of how the entire Cape team performed.”

SPIKE KOHLBECKER – No. 5 Ignite Autosport/Raceway Gives/Tierpoint

Race 1: Start – 11th / Finish – 10th

Race 2: Start – 8th / Finish – 7th

Championship standing:  7th

“Saturday qualifying was just okay – the track gets better toward the end of the session so the second set of tires helped. I made some good passes early and there were a few incidents ahead of me, which helped in the points. On Sunday, it was all about minimizing mistakes in the wet and making smart changes to the car. I had Rain-X® on my visor but that wore off before the end of the race, so visibility was unbelievably bad. It was a challenge. But it was a good season, I learned a lot. We had good consistency and I’m happy to get rookie of the year. Everyone with the Cape Motorsports team has been great, and a huge thanks to Ignite Autosport as well – what they’ve done for me and my teammate is incredible. I can’t thank them enough.”

THOMAS NEPVEU – No. 2 Cromwell/Karting Excellence/Home Hardware

Race 1: Start – 9th / Finish – 7th

Race 2: Start – 11th / Finish – 8th

Championship standing:  9th

“With only 30 minutes of practice, it was difficult to get back into it, after a month off. I had a good first practice, but I wish I could have done a better job in qualifying. The car was really good but I could have done better. I was ready for the first race and was pretty happy, especially finishing ahead of my teammate, since we were fighting for rookie of the year – it’s so hard to pass at Mid-Ohio, with everyone doing such similar times. Sunday was so wet; visibility was not good, you could barely see the rain lights of the car in front. It was challenging to find your reference point. I went off in the Keyhole mid-race, but I was happy to get back into the top 10, with the car in one piece.”

“Every time you go on track, the guys you want to beat the most are your teammates, because they have the same car as you, the same resources as you. That was the main goal this year, to be as quick as Michael, and then to fight for rookie of the year. Spike was so consistent this year, which is what made it hard for me – I had three bad races at New Jersey. But I’m happy with my season, especially with the win at Road America. I learned a new car and all new tracks, though I would have liked to have more podiums. Big thanks to the Cape brothers and to the Andersen family for making this possible.”

EVAN STAMER – No. 3 Ignite Autosport/Margay Racing

Race 1: Start – 15th / Finish – 22nd

Race 2: Start – 15th / Finish – 11th

Championship standing:  19th

“At the start of Saturday’s race, everything got so jumbled up, with no one sure when anyone else was going to go. The driver in front of me went and so did I – but I was fully committed and the guy in front of me really wasn’t. He backed off and I didn’t have time to react, and that was that. Sunday’s race was my first real rain race, which wasn’t optimal. Mid-Ohio has so much sealer on the track that the oil just comes right up, making it so slick in the rain. So that, combined with no experience in the rain – other than the abbreviated qualifying session – and not having raced Saturday, made for a tough race. But we had a good setup and I got some good experience in how everything goes down in the rain, how to do a good restart. It was a strong result, so I’m happy. This season was a lot to take in, coming straight from karting, but we were with the right team with the Cape brothers. They shared all their experience with me. I loved working with my teammates as well, I hope I can do it again next year. Thanks as well to everyone with Ignite Autosport for making it happen!”

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