Solid Run for Cape Motorsports at Barber
 April 20, 2021| 
  • Team News
Cape Barber 2021 Web 2

Kohlbecker leads rookie standings, joins d’Orlando in the top 10 in points exiting the first race weekend of the year

LEEDS, Ala. – Cape Motorsports began the 2021 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship season in solid form last weekend, earning four top-10 finishes in two races at Barber Motorsports Park.

Michael d’Orlando (Hartsdale, NY) earned two top-10 finishes while Spike Kohlbecker (Kirkwood, Mo.) came away from the weekend with the lead in rookie points. Thomas Nepveu (Oka, Quebec, Canada) added an eighth-place finish in the second race while Evan Stamer (Glen Carbon, Ill.) saw his charge through the field in race two stalled after a trip to pit lane for a wing repair caused by a competitor who spun in front of him.

After weeks of team testing, Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires Spring Training and a day of pre-weekend testing, the team was more than ready to get the USF2000 season underway. Famous for its scenic setting but notorious for its fast, blind corners and elevation changes, Barber Motorsports Park yielded two close, exciting races to start the season. All four Cape Motorsports drivers battled hard throughout the two 20-lap contests in the ultra-competitive series and at the end of the weekend, came away with solid points and an increased knowledge base.

The turnaround time is short this week, as the USF2000 series heads straight to the second race weekend of the season in St. Petersburg, Fla. Before the Cape Motorsports team moved to its current location in Brownsburg, Ind., they were based in the St. Pete area, so the weekend will have a homecoming feel.

“Barber has afforded the team a great opportunity to learn from and grow as a group,” said Dominic and Nicholas Cape. “Everyone worked really hard and it all started to come together during the final race. As a team, we will work as hard as we can to make sure we keep the team moving in the right direction this weekend. We are all super excited to be back racing at St Pete, where we lived for the last 20+ years, and see all our friends. The Sunshine State, the streets of St Petersburg, and a weekend of racing – how awesome is that?”

Contesting two races on Saturday – one at 8:00 a.m. and the second scheduled for 3:50 p.m. – meant that the team and drivers had to be primed and ready for an extended period, which turned out to be much longer than planned. At the drop of the green in race one, d’Orlando, who started fourth, engaged in a battle with the leaders ahead vying for a podium position. But d’Orlando could not focus completely on the task ahead, as fellow series sophomore Christian Brooks filled his mirrors and tried to force a mistake. Working to stay with the leaders, d’Orlando deftly fended off Brooks’ charge to bring the car home in fourth.

The three Cape rookies, Kohlbecker, Nepveu and Stamer, held their own in the early going, battling the cold racetrack as much as his fellow competitors in his first USF2000 race. Kohlbecker joined d’Orlando in the top 10, capturing an eighth-place finish. All three drivers ran a smart and steady race, conserving their equipment for race two later in the day.

Race two had been scheduled for 3:50 p.m. Saturday, but as the teams and cars left their transporters, an area-wide outage took down power at the entire racetrack – including timing and scoring and race control. As organizers worked feverishly to restore the timing equipment, the time window expired and race two was postponed until after NTT INDYCAR SERIES qualifying. Drivers reapplied their game faces and headed to pit lane just after 6:00 p.m. local time.

In a repeat of race one, d’Orlando found himself stalled behind slower cars at the green flag, losing positions to the leaders. Then, into Turn Five, with cars in front bunching up on the inside, d’Orlando swung to the outside, and went off course as he and another car ran out of room. Recovering quickly, he got three spots back on the restart after a caution period. Stamer also had issues early in the race, incurring front wing damage when a driver ahead spun and clipped his car. Making a quick trip to pit lane for a new nose, he returned to the fray and regained much of his lost ground to finish 22nd. Nepveu, who had started 12th, made several skilled passes and earned a top 10. Kohlbecker again drove a steady race to bring home an 11th-place finish.

Next up for Cape Motorsports and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship will be the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, with both races to be held Saturday, April 24. Tune into for all the action!
MICHAEL D’ORLANDO – No. 4 Focused Project Management/UFC Gym
Race 1: Start / Finish – 4th / 4th
Race 2: Start / Finish – 7th / 4th
Championship standing: 6th
“The first race was really fun. It was difficult to hold off Christian Brooks, he was trying to make something happen out there. I just kept my confidence, tried to put down as many fast laps as I could and anticipate his moves. He races fair and I was happy to pull off fourth. The start of race two was difficult because we had the buildup, but then the race was postponed. We weren’t sure exactly when we were going to start so it was hard to prepare, so that was a bit unsettling. I got back into the mindset for the actual start, but it was a bad start for the cars in front of me and I lost several positions. I had the issues in Turn Five which put me back, but I recovered well.
“I’m looking forward to next weekend. St. Pete is a difficult track, it’s very different from any of the road courses. The walls are very close, which can be nerve-wracking, but I feel completely prepared so I’m looking forward to putting down some fast laps and going for the win.”
SPIKE KOHLBECKER – No. 5 Ignite Autosport/Raceway Gives/Tierpoint
Race 1: Start / Finish – 6th / 7th
Race 2: Start / Finish – 11th / 11th
Championship standing: 9th (leading rookie)
“It was definitely different, to see how everyone stacked up in the first race. I felt I did well. It was great to get the first race nerves out of the way. It’s a difficult balance here, since some parts of the track are really tight and some parts are really wide so you have to choose your spot wisely. As always, staying out of trouble was key. The second race was difficult, with the postponement. Honestly, we came into this weekend hoping to do better than we did and I don’t think we completely maximized what we had so I know we can improve. I came here to win the championship so we’ll stay focused and get after it at St. Pete. I’ll have my good luck charm, my grandma Sandy, with me at St. Pete – I’ve won at every race she’s been at so I hope to continue that streak!”
THOMAS NEPVEU – No. 2 Cromwell/Karting Excellence/Home Hardware
Race 1: Start / Finish – 16th / 13th
Race 2: Start / Finish – 12th / 8th
Championship standing: 12th
“It was a good weekend. We struggled a bit in practice and qualifying but it was good to finish on a good note in the second race. My goal this weekend was to get a top 10 and we did that. I learned a lot in my first starts. I made some good passes early in the second race and on the restart, though I made a mistake and lost a place. The Cape guys gave me a great car and helped me on and off track. I’m happy with my pace, it was a good race. I feel a lot more confident now, especially getting this weekend in ahead of St. Pete, with the walls so much closer. I’m looking forward to it.”
EVAN STAMER – No. 3 Ignite Autosport/Margay Racing
Race 1: Start / Finish – 23rd / 19th
Race 2: Start / Finish – 21st / 21st
Championship standing: 20th
“It was a great experience, to get my first races under my belt. I got as high as 17th in the first race and learned pretty quickly how much the aero wash affects the cars here. I went into Turn Two early and locked it up, which allowed a few guys to get around me. I was a bit timid early on, a bit tense in the car, but I got over it quickly. I was much more relaxed for race two and got back to my usual form, getting a good start and gaining a few positions at the start. It was unfortunate, getting the wing damage but the team made the repair and got me back out quickly. Once I got back out, it was great, racing hard and getting good experience. I was happy with how it turned out; it was two clean races, I brought the cars home, and it was a great learning experience. I’m looking forward to next weekend, I’ve only raced karts on street courses, but I’m really excited for the weekend.”
About Cape Motorsports: Cape Motorsports campaigns cars in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship. The team is the winningest operation in USF2000 history, having won nine of the last 10 Driver Championships and 13 titles in total, with drivers such as Matthew Brabham, Petri Suvanto, Scott Hargrove, Florian Latorre, Nico Jamin, Anthony Martin, Oliver Askew, Kyle Kirkwood and Braden Eves. They have also won seven of the last eight USF2000 Team Championship titles.

The goal of Cape Motorsports is to provide unmatched driver development both on and off the track. It is difficult for a young driver to jump into a professional series and win, regardless of talent. Through coaching and mentoring, Cape Motorsports provides young drivers with as much knowledge of motorsports to become as successful as possible.

Twitter: @capemotorsport
Instagram: @capemotorsports

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