D'Orlando Puts Up a Fight at Indy
 May 20, 2018| 
  • Team News
JB1_4569

HARTSDALE, NY - Only a week after announcing the partnership with UFC Gym - Mamaroneck, Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda rookie Michael d'Orlando brought the fight to Indianapolis Motor Speedway in only his second race of the Mazda Road to Indy series, at the Indianapolis Grand Prix. It would be a weekend of overcoming obstacles but the 16-year-old rookie from Hartsdale, NY dug deep, showed perseverance, and never tapped out!

USF2000 kicked off with an official test day on Thursday, providing only three sessions for the field of 26 cars to get up to speed, and d'Orlando took no time at all to prove he's there for the knock-out. So for the start of racing action on Friday in the two Qualifying sessions, d'Orlando took the fighting stance. He jumped out early to a top-6 position and looked promising for some great results. However, the strategies for Qualifying did not end up in his favor.

"We have very limited experience here at Indianapolis, and our ultimate plan for Qualifying 1 didn't work out as expected," explains Michael d'Orlando. "It's very common in racing for new tires to be their best around laps 3 and 4, so after the 4th lap on our first set of new tires, we pulled the car into pit lane to change into the second set of new tires. At this point, we were sitting comfortably in the top 10. Unfortunately, those drivers that stayed on track were gaining speed and momentum with each additional lap and by the time we changed tires and got back out there and into the groove, we'd simply ran out of time. It's an unfortunate result but it's all part of the learning curve."

Friday afternoon kept the competitive edge in Michael d'Orlando as he was focused and determined to recover from the disappointing 19th qualifying position. Although he worked his way through the field pushing into the top 15 early in the race, disaster struck. Contact from an inside move to gain another position resulted in direct tire-to-tire contact sending d'Orlando and his #51 Team Benik machine airborne and upside down in the third sector of the circuit. But once again, d'Orlando persevered. After a thorough medical review by the highly skilled medical staff at IMS, d'Orlando was cleared for race duty, and so the continued efforts and determination from the entire team at Team Benik worked tirelessly into the evening to put the car back together for Saturday's Race 2.

Saturday's strategy was simple. Since track positioning prevented a better starting position, and the Tatuus-17 machine had just been rebuilt, the focus was to ensure the performance of the car and give the driver valuable experience for the future. Starting the race from pit lane, in lieu of with the rest of the USF2000 field in formation, d'Orlando proved that no matter what racing luck may throw at him, he can perform. After a few laps to get the car dialed in, he had already overcome the 16-second deficit from the tail of the field and worked his way back up into the top 15, swapping fast lap times equal to the leaders. After the second safety-car of the race, and only two laps to go, the decision was made to stay out of trouble from the overly aggressive field and not push too hard to move forward, and after all post-race penalties were assessed, the 16-year-old rookie that started the race dead last from pit lane ultimately finished 15th.

"The second race was an eventful race all around but the car felt great and I just stayed focused to close the gap from the tail of the field and gain some positions." d'Orlando continued. "There was a lot of contact from multiple cars throughout the entire race and it was getting pretty crazy out there, and after the second safety car, we knew there were only two laps left so we just needed to come through safely. Ultimately it was the right decision to pull up on the throttle as there was another incident just a few cars ahead of me and the race ended under caution again. I am super happy with the car and look forward to getting her back on track again."

Michael d'Orlando will be back in action with Team Benik at the Road America circuit in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin in mid-June. d'Orlando Enterprises would like to extend their ongoing appreciation for the support and sponsors at UFC Gym in Mamaroneck, NY and White Plains, NY locations, Iona Preparatory School and Focused Project Management and for the continued leadership of the entire team at Team Benik.

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