Podium finish for Cape Motorsports at St. Pete
 April 27, 2021| 
  • Team News
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Two Saturday races offer a roller coaster of emotions for the 13-time champions

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Cape Motorsports capped a wild Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Saturday with a podium finish, after a pair of races that saw three of the four team cars caught up in dramatic incidents.

The St. Pete round ordinarily starts off the Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires season, but the race was shifted back a month this year, giving series rookies the chance to get an event under their belts before tackling the daunting street circuit. Sophomore Michael d’Orlando (Hartsdale, NY) and rookies Spike Kohlbecker (Kirkwood, Mo.), Thomas Nepveu (Oka, Quebec, Canada), and Evan Stamer (Glen Carbon, Ill.) took to the streets hoping to move up the series point standings.

The three rookies had a steep learning curve in the lone practice session on Friday, getting up to speed as quickly as possible ahead of race one qualifying at midday, and race two qualifying late in the day. Veteran d’Orlando led the charge, qualifying third for race one and fifth for race two.

Race One

Misfortune struck nearly at the drop of the green, as Stamer was hit from behind and sent into the wall in the first turn. As the lap continued, an incident in Turn 7 left five cars against the wall and a significant debris field, prompting race control to call for a red flag to clear the racetrack. On the restart, d’Orlando and former teammate Josh Green came together in Turn 1, with d’Orlando taking a frightening tumble into the wall, landing upside down. In a testament to the strength and resilience of both the driver and the Tatuus USF-17, d’Orlando emerged unscathed.

Meanwhile, Nepveu was dealing with his own issues, as debris from an incident flattened a tire. Coming into pit lane for a quick change, the young Canadian returned at the back of the field. Determined to make up his lost positions, he made calculated passes and brought the car home in 12th. Kohlbecker was the lone Cape Motorsports car to come out of the race incident free, storming from 13th to sixth position at the checkered flag.

Race Two

The veteran crew repaired d’Orlando’s car in record time, getting him onto the starting grid for the late afternoon race. Starting fifth, he immediately engaged the fight with the lead pack, battling back and forth for position. Running fourth and with the white flag flying, d’Orlando darted to the outside of Matt Round-Garrido to gain third position. The pair touched wheels, but d’Orlando held his ground to grab his first podium finish of the season.

Kohlbecker continued to impress, once again leading the 15-deep rookie field by taking another sixth-place finish. Nepveu also fought hard through the race, falling back to 10th early but battling back to take seventh at the checkered flag. Stamer lost several positions in early jostling but worked his way through traffic to grab a top-20 finish.

"As usual, St. Pete provided a lot of excitement,” said Dominic and Nicholas Cape. “Our drivers all showed they have the pace to contend which should be good moving forward into the season. In race one, three of our cars got hit from behind with two of the four not finishing, and Michael ending up on his lid. The team did a great job rebuilding the cars in time for the last race. Race two went much better for our lads as everyone drove really well and collected as much points as possible. Now, it’s onto Indy!" 

Next up for Cape Motorsports will be the Cooper Tires USF2000 Grand Prix of Indianapolis at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, May 13-15. Tune into USF2000.com for all the action!

QUOTEBOARD

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

Race 1: Start – 3rd / Finish – 20th

Race 2: Start – 5th / Finish - 3rd

Championship standing: 6th

“Saturday was such an emotional roller coaster. In the first race, I was running third with Josh Green behind me and he went for the inside move and we collided, causing me to flip. So to finish third in the second race after finishing the first race on my head is pretty good! It was a hard battle with Matt, with all his experience he’s a tough guy to pass. You never know who’s going to come out on top. He made some good moves and pushing hard in the corners but on the last lap, I went inside and was able to make it work. It was super exciting to be back at the GP St. Pete and I can’t thank my supporters enough, especially everyone who came out. It was a super weird weekend in so many ways, but super awesome as well. We have a deficit in the points but we’ll keep charging. I know we can do it.”

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

Race 1: Start – 11th / Finish – 6th

Race 2: Start – 8th / Finish – 6th

Championship standing: 7th

“Coming into the weekend, I knew it would a difficult track to master, I’ve never been here before and we get so little practice time so there’s some guessing involved. We didn’t know what to expect at the start of race one and that showed, with so many drivers making mistakes. But I capitalized on those mistakes, kept my nose clean and played smart. I gave myself extra room in some spots and I think that paid off. But overall, it was a good weekend. There was a great atmosphere and there were tons of fans here asking for autographs, which made it fun.”

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

Race 1: Start – 14th / Finish – 11th

Race 2: Start – 9th / Finish – 7th

Championship standing: 11th

“Race one was a bit of chaos. I got hit in Turn 5 on the first lap and got a puncture so I had to pit which took me to the back of the grid. I was able to get around the crashes so that was the most important part. But it definitely wasn’t the race I wanted. The second race was better, even though I got a bad start and had to defend a bit. I lost a position but was able to get the position back. The lap times were so close, it was hard to get away from anyone. I had good speed after the restart but I was right behind Spike, so I wanted to make sure we both brought the cars home and have a good run for Cape. We got some good experience, and it’s so much fun here. It feels like a big race, with the fans in the stands.”

EVAN STAMER – No. 3 Ignite Autosport/Margay Racing

Race 1: Start – 21st / Finish – 23rd

Race 2: Start – 20th / Finish – 20th

Championship standing: 25th

“I went into the races feeling pretty confident, we had good race pace. Going into the first corner on the outside and another guy came flying in to make it four-wide. He missed the apex and hit another guy into me, so that was the end of my race in Turn 1. We got the car ready for race two and went out and got some good experience. It was fun. When things were right and you felt the rhythm of the track, it was a fun track to drive on. It was a fun atmosphere with all the fans and that was cool to see.” 

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