Pole Position, Track Record Not Good Enough for d'Orlando
 September 9, 2021| 
  • Team News

HARTSDALE, NY - You’d think that in a poker game on a race track, having two pole positions and a track record would deal a pretty good hand for victory. But when mother nature plays her trump card, all bets are off.

That was the story for Michael d’Orlando at New Jersey Motorsports Park (NJMP) in the Cooper Tires USF 2000 Championship series with the Road to Indy driver development program.

D’Orlando ascended onto Thunderbolt Raceway at NJMP in Millville, NJ sitting within striking distance of the series drivers’ championship title, in second place by a mere 19 points.   Looking to take advantage of the home track environment, he looked poised in the qualifying session until other car placements on track impeded in his fastest lap. He would ultimately qualify in the sixth for the first of the three main events.

In the opening corner of Race 1, he made quick work to move up into the fifth spot, however Thunderbolt is famously known as a very difficult passing track and a long game of follow-the-leader. As the leader checked out leaving the next group behind, d’Orlando made every attempt possible to make forward progress, but his efforts were futile.  Aero wash at this circuit is a major factor and a key element to prevent passing in the downforce of an USF2000 car in dry conditions.  He would ultimately cross the finish line in fifth.

For the second day of racing action, he was prepared for redemption of the day before, and would take no prisoners in the second qualifying session of the weekend.   Safely securing the pole position for Race 2 later that morning, his lap time of 1.16.9 seconds would also earn him a new track record for the Thunderbolt circuit in the USF2000 class.  And even better than that, his second fastest Qualifying lap put him on the pole position again for Race 3 later that afternoon.

The results to qualify upfront were a huge benefit for d’Orlando considering the challenges of the circuit for passing previously mentioned.  But Mother Nature had a different plan.

Rain took over the circuit at the completion of the qualifying session but then cleared up with just enough time to let the track dry up in certain areas of the circuit before Race 2.  The mixed conditions made it a challenge for the main event. Series officials declared the event an official rain race which mandated that the entire grid were to start the race on treaded rain tires. As the track continued to dry up with each passing lap, d'Orlando's #4 DB Collaborative machine struggled to maintain pace throughout the 20 laps. Falling down the order lap after lap, he would ultimately be classified as 18th.

Once again shifting focus and starting on the pole position for Race 3, the d’Orlando-Cape squad were once again faced with Mother Nature’s challenges. The rains began shortly after Race 2 but stopped before the call-to-grid for Race 3, and once again the series officials declared the event as on official rain race. d'Orlando's pole position advantage went up in smoke.  The track conditions changed drastically and dried much faster than expected in the opening corners of the race, and that provided a window of opportunity for drivers starting in the back half of the grid.

After only a single lap, multiple teams took the chance for a pit stop to institute a tire change, from the treaded rain tires to racing slick tires. A decision like that is extremely risky for the drivers whom started the race up front since pit stops take some time and ultimately result in a driver being a lap down behind those on the lead lap. d’Orlando fought hard at the front to maintain his lead for the first nine laps before he slipped down to third, as the two drivers on his tail had the advantage to have him show them the way through the rapidly changing track conditions.    

While the lead pack did their best to maintain pace on their rapidly degrading rain tires, on a now completely dry track surface,  the drivers from the tail of the field who switched to racing slicks were making their way forward, at a pace of about seven seconds per lap faster.  d’Orlando held firm in the third spot throughout the duration of the race until the last lap when the first competitor whom made the tire switch, flew by him in the closing corners to steal the final podium position out from underneath him.  d’Orlando would ultimately be classified fourth.

“I was confident heading into the weekend, “ says Michael d’Orlando.  “The team and I were fast in some prior testing here, but I feel like we were chasing the weather all weekend.  We showed that we had the pace to qualify pole with a new track record, but it didn’t seem to hold for the races with the constantly changing track conditions. There’s a lot to learn from this weekend but I’m always super proud of the effort that Cape Motorsports and I put in every day. I’m going to keep my head high and get ready for the season finale at Mid Ohio. I still have a chance at this championship.”

D’Orlando remains second place in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Driver’s Championship with a 49 point deficit.  But he is not mathematically out of contention. He will return to racing action at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington Ohio on October 2-3, 2020 for the final round of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship series.  With a scholarship on the line valued up to $400,000, and the 2022 season, he will continue to prepare off track to bring his A-game to Ohio.  And maybe with him, a little luck.

d'Orlando Enterprises would like to extend their sincere appreciation and special thanks to their partners at DB CollaborativeFocused Project Management and MG Engineering for co-hosting the weekend's trackside networking and VIP hospitality event at the Road to Indy's Construction Contractors Club. As always, we'd like to further extend our appreciation to our additional season sponsors at UFC Gym - Mamaroneck NYDino Energy DrinkMotorMedia USA and Rising Star Racing. Additional thanks to the weekend's partners and friends who made the trip down to Millville in support of Michael, and his brother Nicholas, including BBH SolutionsPierpont MechanicalJVN SystemsJRM Construction and LMEC Electric. We'd like to also thank our two musicians for being a special part of our networking dinner hosted trackside, Samantha Spano and Carmen Sclafani/Wiser Time Music for the wonderful performances and entertainment.

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