Podium Finish for Cape Motorsports at Indianapolis
 May 23, 2021| 
  • Team News
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Speedway, Ind. – Cape Motorsports headed to the Indy Grand Prix as a hometown team for the first time, having moved the race shop from Florida to the Indianapolis area early last year. The team did not disappoint the hometown fans, scoring top 10 starting positions and a podium finish in three Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship races.

The USF2000 Grand Prix of Indianapolis Presented by Cooper Tires saw two races on Friday and one race ahead of Saturday’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES GMR Grand Prix. Drivers Michael d’Orlando (Hartsdale, NY), Spike Kohlbecker (Kirkwood, Mo.), Thomas Nepveu (Oka, Quebec, Canada), and Evan Stamer (Glen Carbon, Ill.) all looked forward to racing at the legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The story of the weekend could be written in two words: Turn One. The wide front straight at Indy, which leads into the tight first corner, impacted every driver’s race. Issues in the lone qualifying session put d’Orlando mid-pack in all three races, setting up an exciting charge to the front for the young New Yorker, while the team’s three rookies continued to impress.

“The Indy road course always produces great racing,” said Dominic and Nicholas Cape. “Our boys showed really good pace leading up to the races, and the races were good. Michael showed excellent race craft carving his way up to the front from a troubled qualifying, both Spike and Thomas did very well for their first time at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with three top 10s each, and Evan got his best result of the year. We now look forward to the only oval race of the year this week at Lucas Oil Raceway.”

Race One

Both Nepveu and Kohlbecker made moves toward the front in the first corner, with Nepveu moving up from seventh to fourth, while Kohlbecker was held up on the outside and fell from fifth to sixth. But by the third lap, Kohlbecker had regained the position, moving into fifth with Nepveu slotting in behind. Meanwhile, d’Orlando had begun his steady charge to the front, moving from 12th to seventh by lap four, and Stamer gaining from 20th to 17th.

Lap five saw three of the four Cape cars nose-to-tail, with Kohlbecker, Nepveu and d’Orlando running P5 to P7. On lap seven, d’Orlando pulled alongside Nepveu at start/finish, and made the pass for sixth going into Turn One. The pair continued their dual charge, grabbing fourth and fifth respectively at the midway point, but on 11, it was Nepveu’s turn to run afoul of the pack going into Turn One, falling back to eighth with Kohlbecker moving up to sixth.

In the closing laps, it was d’Orlando who was able to push his way forward. Aiming for pole sitter Christian Brooks, who had fallen to second, d’Orlando fended off a block in Turn Four, got a run on the back straight, and made the pass around the outside in Turn Seven to take second place. Kohlbecker came home sixth, Nepveu ninth and Stamer 17th.

Race Two

Later Friday afternoon, the team once again took the green flag with Kohlbecker and Nepveu both starting in the top 10. Kohlbecker was forced three-wide heading into Turn One, getting pinwheeled from fourth back into sixth position. Nepveu took advantage to move into sixth from eighth, as d’Orlando, starting 11th, slotted comfortably into sixth by lap eight.

Stamer was also working his way through the field but was hit from behind in Turn One late in the race. Nepveu’s charge was hampered as his tires fell off late in the race as he settled for eighth, with Kohlbecker seventh and d’Orlando fourth.

Race Three

Once again, three of the four team cars started in the top 10. Kohlbecker took the green in fourth and headed into Turn One setting up on the outside but was caught up behind several cars who tried to shoot up the inside. He but kept his foot on the gas and held onto sixth position as an incident with three cars in the middle of the field brought out the yellow flag, with Nepveu up from sixth to seventh and d’Orlando from 11th to eighth – and Stamer with the big move, from 20th to 14th. After seven laps of yellow Kohlbecker, Nepveu and d’Orlando lined up six-seven-eight on the restart as they once again headed for Turn One, with the field managing to stay clean. Continuing his charge to the front, d’Orlando powered to fifth by Lap 9, with Nepveu right behind. Kohlbecker, mired in traffic on the restart, slotted by into line in ninth, but made a slick pass in Turn Two to take eighth.   

The final lap of the race proved pivotal for d’Orlando. Starting the lap in fifth with Pabst Racing teammates Josh Pierson and Yuven Sundaramoorthy ahead, d’Orlando set up his moves. With Sundaramoorthy and Pierson running side-by-side, with Sundaramoorthy taking the advantage before the pair rain wide through the Esses. Drawing next to Sundaramoorthy, d’Orlando slid in front as the two made contact. When the checkered flag flew, d’Orlando had the position won, but was relegated to fourth in a post-race penalty for avoidable contact. Nepveu earned his top finish of the season to date in fifth (as the top finishing rookie), with Kohlbecker seventh and Stamer 19th.

Next up for Cape Motorsports and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship will be the Freedom 75, the lone oval of the season at Lucas Oil Raceway, May 27-28.

QUOTEBOARD

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

Race 1: Start – 12th / Finish – 2nd

Race 2: Start – 11th / Finish – 4th

Race 3: Start – 4th / Finish – 4th

Championship standing:  5th (117 points)

“What a great race weekend! That first race was absolutely crazy. I’m so happy to have come back and earned a podium. We had some issues in qualifying so I started back in the field, which left us some work to be done in every race. I was going to go for whatever I could, make some moves and be smart about it. It was great to battle with my teammates in all three races. You have to be aggressive, even with your teammates, because if you’re not, they’re going to take advantage of that. At that point, they’re just another competitor, but you’re never going to be so aggressive that you would risk too much.”

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

Race 1: Start – 4th / Finish – 6th

Race 2: Start – 4th / Finish – 7th

Race 3: Start – 4th / Finish – 7th

Championship standing:  7th (97 points)

“Overall, it was a good weekend. We were the top rookie, and that’s always a good spot. The starts were definitely a bit interesting, something to practice on the simulator at home. I tried going to the outside of Turn One the first two races and the third, I went inside and got bottlenecked four-wide and I thought sure we’d all be off! That was scary.

"It was cool to get to race at Indy – I’ve been going there with my family since I was a little kid, since we only live four hours away in St. Louis. I’ve watching the support series like USF2000 in the past so to drive in the races was great. We had so many people who came to watch me and that was awesome. To get good points and good experience here was the priority and I feel as though we accomplished that. I’m looking forward to Lucas Oil Raceway next – I’ve never raced on an oval before!

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

Race 1: Start – 7th / Finish – 9th

Race 2: Start – 8th / Finish – 8th

Race 3: Start – 8th / Finish – 5th

Championship standing:  9th (87 points)

“It was a really great experience to be able to race at one of the most famous tracks in the world. The track was awesome and it made for some great racing! I’m looking forward to coming back here in the future. Congratulations to my teammate Michael, who ended up on the podium. Overall, I’m happy with the weekend, finishing with three top 10s, so big thanks to Cape Motorsport for their hard work. I have a few things to work on, on my side and I will be back stronger on the oval at Lucas Oil Raceway!”

EVAN STAMER – No. 3 Ignite Autosport/Margay Racing

Race 1: Start – 20th / Finish – 17th

Race 2: Start – 21st / Finish – 23rd

Race 3: Start – 20th / Finish – 19th

Championship standing:  25th (12 points)

“I’m really happy with the experience I got this weekend. I did a ton of passing, more than I’ve had in any race since I moved up to race cars from karting. I had some good battles and was able to work on my defending skills as well, so my race craft is really improving. Now I’ll work on my driving style and working with the car, things that should be easy to work on. The results don’t show how much I learned this weekend, how much I’ve progressed, so I’m looking forward to continuing that!”

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