d'Orlando on the Podium and on the Move
 May 19, 2021| 
  • Team News
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HARTSDALE, NY - When it comes to open wheel car racing in the North America, there is no more a famous race track than "The Brickyard", the legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, IN. So when the Road to Indy driver development series joined the NTT INDYCAR SERIES at IMS for the Indianapolis Grand Prix last weekend, Michael d’Orlando and his Cape Motorsports team knew that this was an opportunity to draw attention to the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship. So when the qualifying session dealt some wild cards for the team and driver, d’Orlando followed up in the three main events with three outstanding recovery performances worthy of IMS notarity.

It’s not a secret that qualifying in the USF2000 car is a critical part of securing a strong final race result, so when some issues arose which resulted in a 12th-place starting position for Race One, d’Orlando refocused on the strategy to move forward and collect as many championship points as possible. But as the laps counted down in the opening main event, d’Orlando looked like more than a well-seasoned veteran, a driver on a mission, moving closer and closer to the leaders. Garnering the attention of the entire audience throughout the 15-lap event, d’Orlando put himself back on the podium for the fifth time this season in second place… a gain of 10-positions in a single race.

The determination of the grid lineup for Races Two and Three for the 2021 season are set from either of a driver’s second best qualifying lap or the driver’s best lap of Race One, and since race times are typically slower lap times than qualifying times, d’Orlando’s starting position for Race Two and Three still put him in a difficult 11th starting spot.  But yet again, he would not let that hold him back.

“Yes, it was a rough start to the weekend when we qualified in 12th place,” stated d’Orlando. “Some issues prevented us from getting everything out of the car that we could have. But when it came to the racing, we shined. The team had a great car and I was super confident moving through the field up to a second-place finish. What an incredible drive that was and I really enjoyed it.”

Race Two showed a very similar performance and notarity again for d’Orlando, methodically moving up through the field. The top three drivers pulled a gap on the rest of the field proving too difficult to overcome from the 11th spot, but a solid fourth-place finish would put him back on the radar again with another seven positions gained.

But it was Race Three that the heat was turned up. Once again starting from the 11th spot, d’Orlando went back to work moving forward one by one again. And as the front four cars were evenly spread, he was poised for another top-five finish in the final five laps. But when third and fourth place drivers found themselves battling for the final podium position on the closing corners, d’Orlando pounced. Seizing the opportunity in the final corners, heading three cars wide through Turn 10, d’Orlando held his position strong on the inside line, not giving up the podium spot. The spectacular move gave d’Orlando his sixth podium appearance of the season in third place, and again catching the attention of all spectators.  

“Showing what I did in Race 1, I knew I could do it again. For the next two races I was quite confident of how I could handle the comebacks. In every race I had the speed capable of leading, and although it wasn’t our goal to not start up front, I did everything I could possibly do to maximize the results from what I was given. Now I know the speed we have and all we have to do is take it to every event.”

Ultimately, after Race 3 post-race evaluations were done by Race Control, d'Orlando's move in the final circuit was considered “overly aggressive”, and additional evaluations resulted in the disqualification of the second-place driver for equipment non-compliance issues. When all is said and done, d’Orlando was ultimately classified fourth for Race Three but his performance throughout the weekend was quite the spectacle. At the conclusion of the Indianapolis Grand Prix, d’Orlando currently sits fifth in the Drivers’ Championship, with more than half of the season left to run.

The Road to Indy Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship will return to racing action with one of the most exiting events of the year, on May 27-28, for their only oval-track event. Drivers will hit the 0.686 mile oval circuit at Lucas Oil Raceway, just a stone's throw up the road from the infamous Indy 500 at IMS that same week and weekend.
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