Garcia Wins, Extends USF2000 Points Lead at Indianapolis
 May 11, 2024| 
  • Series News
Garcia BAnner
USF2000 Presented by Continental Tire championship leader Max Garcia stretched his points advantage with a somewhat fortuitous victory this morning at the Indianapolis Grand Prix road circuit. The youngster from Coconut Grove, Fla., took the lead on the final lap following a dramatic accident at Turn One involving erstwhile leaders Evan Cooley (Exclusive Autosport) and Nico Christodoulou (VRD Racing) to secure his fourth win of the season for defending champion team Pabst Racing.

Yesterday’s winner Max Taylor (VRD Racing), from Hoboken, N.J., inherited second place with Indianapolis native Elliot Cox rounding out the podium in his hometown race for Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Development.

A dramatic 15-lap race which included two full-course cautions and eventually finished under yellow due to the final-lap crash began with impressive debutant Cooley, from Frankfort, Ill., leading the field that was set according to each driver’s second-best lap during the lone qualifying session on Friday. Cooley’s was fast enough to claim his second Continental Tire Pole Award.

Cooley maintained his lead at the start and even pulled out an appreciable advantage on the opening lap as the rest of the field squabbled in his mirrors, only for it to be negated by an early incident further down the field.

Christodoulou, who had made a fine jump from fifth on the grid, overtook Cooley soon after the restart, but was unable to pull away. Instead, Cooley’s pressure paid off as he regained the lead into Turn One on lap 12.  The leading pair continued to battle hard as the race drew toward its conclusion.

Cooley still held the point as they began their final lap, whereupon Christodoulou drafted to the outside of his rival as they approached Turn One at the fastest part of the 2.439-mile Indianapolis Grand Prix road course. Both drivers were on the limit as they turned into the right-handed corner. Christodoulou boldly stuck to his outside line, but Cooley wasn’t about to give up easily. Unfortunately, after Cooley locked up his front brakes slightly as they approached the apex, contact was made which sent Christodoulou’s car tumbling into the grass at the exit.

Garcia, who had been close behind, gratefully ducked through to take the win ahead of Taylor who had also been part of the titanic battle for the lead.

Cox also profited to finish third, finally scoring a result commensurate with his speed this season. Behind, Cooley recovered sufficiently to cross the line in fourth, but was later penalized by Race Control for his part in the incident which relegated him to 15th in the final results.

Ayrton Houk, from nearby McCordsville, Ind., impressed while rising from 13th on the grid to fourth for DC Autosport, securing his best result to date in front of a large group of supporters, while last year’s USF Juniors champion Nicolas Giaffone (DEForce Racing), from Brazil, also recorded his best finish in fifth.

The Tilton Hard Charger Award went to another debutant, G3 Argyros, from Newport Beach, Calif., who overcame some problems in qualifying to rise from 22nd and last on the grid to 12th.

Augie Pabst took the PFC Award home to Wisconsin as the winning car owner.

A busy month of May for the USF Pro Championships will see the USF2000 contingent travel firstly to the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio, and then onward to Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis., for a pair of officially sanctioned test sessions over the course of the next two weeks. They will then return to the Indianapolis area for the only oval race of the season, the Freedom 75 at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park on the evening of May 24.

Provisional championship points after 7 of 18 races:
1. Max Garcia, 184
2. Evagoras Papasavvas, 144
3. Sam Corry, 140
4. Max Taylor, 121
5. Elliot Cox, 99
6. Joey Brienza, 95
7. Nico Christodoulou, 92
8. Ayrton Houk, 79
9. Hudson Schwartz, 78
10. Quinn Armstrong, 68

Max Garcia (#24 Advance Auto Parts-Pabst Racing Tatuus USF-22): “It was a wild race. It was crazy that my over-under for third ended up being for the win. I am glad that Nico [Christodoulou] is okay. It was a scary incident, but it just shows how much our sport has developed. It is just awesome to get a win here.”

Max Taylor (#3 PINK ETF/Susan G Komen Foundation-VRD Racing Tatuus USF-22): “Coming in (to the weekend) we knew the VRD car was going to be fast, winning the race (yesterday). (This morning) ended up being a salvage for damage limitation. I had no sixth gear throughout the race so I was struggling with that, but I found a rhythm and just capitalized on other people’s mistakes. I ended up getting second in the end after a massive crash and I am glad everyone is okay. Thank you to VRD again for an amazing weekend and an amazing car, and congrats to Max.”

Elliot Cox (#67 Drive Planning/Hartman Oil-Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Development Tatuus USF-22): “It was a strong race. I struggled with a little bit of understeer throughout the race, but I stayed strong and just held position. I drove a smart and consistent race. We got a little bit lucky with the crash, but still a podium in my home race which is amazing I am so happy for all of the Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Development team and Drive Planning.”
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